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Comment Re:Really: launching is hard (Score 1) 117

Considering that a spare-time project to build a launchable satellite might take a couple of years, it's likely that within that time the landscape of launch companies will change. Somewhere along the way, he's going to figure out that the project is a go and a complete date is in sight. At that point, figuring out who will launch it for a price he can afford is going to be solvable (success = 0|1).

Comment Gizmag (Score 1) 211

Poke around on this website: www.gizmag.com. It's mostly short articles announcing new or future products, but maybe you can find something you think he'd like that's been released and get it for him.

They have sections, and some of these might be helpful:


Comment Re:Don't put things online you want to keep privat (Score 1) 346

As I said, I don't defend the hackers. However, I think people who use tools should understand the scope of the tools they're using, in the same way that people who own and use firearms should be responsible to understand how they operate, what the risks are, and what safety measures need to be taken.

Comment Don't put things online you want to keep private (Score 2, Interesting) 346

I'm not quite clear why anyone thinks that putting things online in any capacity is safe from prying eyes, particularly if they're a celebrity. I don't defend the actions of these "hackers" (pfft), but the photo owners should be smart enough to take some precautions or find someone that can help them do it.

Comment Re:Pay Us more! (Score 2, Insightful) 544

Frankly, technology is a much safer bet than human capital. Capital tends to have a fixed investment base with a relatively well-known maintenance schedule. Labor, on the other hand, is fraught with pitfalls: changing laws, rising insurance costs, performance variances. Not to mention, it's rare that machinery gets poached by your competition.

Creativity is the area that machines will suck at for the foreseeable future. Anyone in manufacturing should start looking toward a career in process design instead.

I may sound callous with this, but those with the money (certainly not me) only care about growing the money with as much guarantee as they can. The rest is annoying details. Given their position, it's unlikely you can say with certainty that you'd act any differently.


Submission + - Robert Zubrin Lambastes NASA Plans for Mars (spacenews.com)

jdray writes: "Noted space guy and founder of The Mars Society, Robert Zubrin has posted an essay lambasting NASA's plans for returning samples from Mars via a space station constructed at L2:

In recent weeks, NASA has put forth two remarkable new plans for its proposed next major initiatives. Both bear careful examination.

As the centerpiece for its future human spaceflight program, NASA proposes to build another space station, this one located not in low Earth orbit but at the L2 Lagrange point just above the far side of the Moon. This plan is indeed remarkable in as much as an L2 space station would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. We don’t need an L2 space station to go back to the Moon. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to near-Earth asteroids. We don’t need an L2 space station to go to Mars. We don’t need an L2 space station for anything.

The other initiative is a new plan for Mars sample return, which is now held to be the primary mission of the robotic Mars exploration program. This plan is remarkable for its unprecedented and utterly unnecessary complexity.


Comment Re:Do we need more Mars rovers? (Score 1) 79

you have to be absolutely damned certain that there's no local life to screw up.

Well, no you don't actually. We may want to, or choose to, but we don't have to. It's more likely that we'd find life there and use that as an argument in favor of moving there. If Mars is shown to support any kind of life, it will radically change the way we as a culture view our place in the universe, and likely touch off some sort of mass effort to spread ourselves around, alien bacteria, lichens, ichthyoids, and the rest be damned. It'll be Manifest Destiny all over again.

Comment Re:Look as much as I like Mars (Score 1) 79

Sorry, but while your rudimentary concept is reasonable, one practicality stops it: at a certain point, the ice around the tether is going to freeze up, stopping the descent of the probe, which will end up hanging in its own little bubble of hot water. Now, studying that bubble might have some value, as we would probably find residue from whatever is in the ocean (if there's fish, we might find the up-welled bones and scales, for instance). Better to figure out some wireless communication technology that will work through several kilometers of ice without getting swamped in Jupiter's radiation output.

Comment Re:Recycle (Score 1) 79

And how far apart are those existing vehicles? What's between them? How hard is the terrain to navigate? Are the components of one system compatible with another? It's cheaper and much more viable to just send fresh units, targeted for specific purposes and specific locations.

Comment Nuclear Program Reducing Plate Tectonics? (Score 1, Flamebait) 143


But the core isn’t our only heat source. A comparable contributor is the slow radioactive decay of elements that were here when the Earth formed. Without radioactivity, there wouldn’t be enough heat to drive the plate tectonics that maintains surface oceans on Earth.

I wonder... if we're pulling uranium out of the ground and refining it, are we slowly pulling out the fuel that drives our plate tectonics?

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