July 20, 2014

45 Years Ago


How far have we come as a nation since that triumph 45 years ago?
Well, for one thing, here is big chunk from the sidebar of the YouTube page linked above. 


A dark age does not come about because a society simply can't do something they did before. That can happen because of a setback, changing conditions or hard times. Rather, a dark age is when the members of a society no longer believe that the society's great accomplishments could have possibly been achieved by mortals. 

Dark ages are bad things.

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July 01, 2014

Well, THIS was unexpected



One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to the astonishing news that wild Chimpanzees have mastered fire.

A few individual apes seem to have originally developed a rudimentary technique of rather poor efficiency, but the group gradually improved it through experimentation and observation over the last few months. They are now able to create and maintain a fire, which they have been using mostly to scare off predators and cook some of their food. Some individuals in particular among the group, seem to have rapidly grown a taste for cooked foodstuffs, especially flying squirrels.  

That's really COOL!
On the other hand....yeah.....we're doomed. 

UPDATE: Doomed I say. 
 
Even Updatier:
In the comments Edward M makes some claims that seem to revolve around the indefensible theory that nicking a story from Ace's sidebar before rushing off to work with none of the regular second source checking is somehow not a blogging best practice. 

As"evidence" for this unsupported and scientifically dubious notion, he calls into question the veracity of other news stories on the site linked above. 

Given the obvious presence of the word NEWS in the url this means that Edward M is arguing against authority...worse, given that out of a focus group of two blogs, the story has been treated credulously by 100% of the sample, HE'S ARGUING AGAINST CONSENSUS which as we all know is a form of denialism (not to be confused with Denaliism,...the worship of Mount McKinley...which this blog does not have an official position on) 

Furthermore, his calling into question the accuracy of other stories is easily debunked by demonstrating the non-impossibility of the news articles. For instance, it is known that Dracula was based on a real person (Vlad Tepes) so it is entirely possible that a descendant of that individual could be a mass murdering cannibal.  Assuming they existed, the Knights of the Round Table have to be buried somewhere, and England would be a logical choice, which would make finding the tomb of one of them in the UK unsurprising. I do not find it in any way unlikely that a single set of quadruplets containing babies of 4 different races would surprise experts. In fact, this story would be quite unbelievable if the experts were NOT astonished. If anyone were to claim that Putin is the third Antichrist...it would as likely as not be a Nostradamus expert. Libertarianism is far more likely to appeal to squirrels, than, say, bees. The story about the Sauropod terrorizing a group of oil field surveyors in Nigeria is in the Paleontology section, where dinosaur stories belong. The site has no cryptozoology section which is an actual indicator of high idiocy.

So there you go. 
I think my rebuttal speaks for itself. 

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March 19, 2014

Dentistry and Rocket Science are Completely Different....

...until suddenly they aren't.


Via


Some people are immediately going to contemplate passing some asinine ordinance to ban this.

The rest of us however....

"Why didn't WE get to do that as kids?"

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February 24, 2014

F-1 in Huntsville!

My first F-1 post!

Two of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes report that Huntsville Alabama is home to the first F-1 test and quals since 1969 and the first F-1 ever since 1973!

Wait....

"Science Babes Moonlighting as Race Queens" is not the actual title of this piece by Tan-Tan.

If Formula One hasn't existed since 1973 what's this guy going on about?

"What?..."

"Oh!..."

The Science Babes are at their other job in Les Mans, which caused my confusion as they're actually talking about...

The Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engine!

The huge engines that powered the first stage of the Saturn 5 rocket which put 12 men on the moon and Skylab into orbit hasn't been built in 44 years. Contrary to popular belief the plans for these beast DO still exist, but they are in obsolete computer formats and of limited use.
You see, the Apollo program was so rushed that a lot of the little 'tweaks' that were found necessary to keep the rocket from failing. This was not fully appreciated until the '80s when NASA and USAF engineers noted that there were holes drilled and pieces added to some of the F-1s in museums...holes and fiddly bits that weren't on the plans. The engines were exploding during tests and the production crew did some trial and error modifications until the "splodies" stopped. Additional tweaks were added at the plant to facilitate production, so the F-1 plans are actually plans for an inefficient kerosene/LOX bomb.

Well, engineers in Huntsville have taken apart and are restoring some of these engines, which were discovered to be in remarkably good shape. This time making a note of Every.Single.Part. And. Hole. The plan is to do a computer model of the engine that is accurate, but they need to ensure that they are building it from a working engine...so.....



That's just a test of the engines gas generator from last year...
This project is the brainchild of Marshall Spaceflight center engineers who felt that they ought to DO something with the dozen or so F-1s lying around the research center. They've been calling in other rocketry companies to observe and consult. In addition they've been bringing in the few surviving Apollo engineers to work on this interesting side project...which has resulted in a tentative design and proposal for the F-1B 



 This is not as silly as it sounds. One of the things about the F-1 that was discovered back in the 60's was that, due to its very conservative design it was actually pretty re-useable and it was felt it could be made completely so with a few tweaks. F-1s were considered for several early space shuttle designs propelling reusable flyback boosters.



 The mighty F-1 may yet again spew pillars of fire for the chariots of explorers.



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November 16, 2013

Mount Aetna Showing Off


The Youtube heading oversells it a bit. But it's still pretty neat.

UPDATE: In the comments Steven points out that the video is from 2000. Aetna (or Etna as seems to be the prefered spelling now) pulled this off last week too, leading to my confusion...I guess Etna  is just habitually awesome.


more...

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July 20, 2013

The Changing Pace of Progress

Progress...
In 1803 the population of the entire planet was a hair over a billion people. World economies were agrarian. Slavery of one form or another was practiced in all but a handful of nations.  Transportation was powered by muscle or wind, though there were a few clumsy steam engines doing the sorts of work waterwheels had done for ages in more congenial locations.



One hundred years later, there were telephones, telegraphs, steamships that could cross the Atlantic with thousands of people in 5 days.  Trains crisscrossed continents and industry had blossomed. Brazilians, Frenchmen and Germans had been flying experimental airships for a decade or more and on a cold December day at Kitty Hawk North Carolina,  a machine that was heavier than air took flight.



Less than 66 years after that (and 44 years ago today) humans set foot on another wold.



And in the 44 years since then?....well....the youtube page that is on is littered with videos claiming that it never really happened. As the 12 who walked on the moon pass beyond the veil the possibility increases that we will once again live in an age where no living person has walked upon the moon. The solar system, a vast storehouse of resources lies untouched save for a few probes, some debris and 6 flags planted there by a people who once could accomplish things.

Perhaps our children will redeem us...we have no right to expect they'll forgive us.


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June 30, 2013

42 Years Ago Today


The crew of Soyuz 11 docked with the very first space station (Salyut 1) and stayed in orbit for 23 days, setting a space endurance record before they were forced to cut short their mission due to an electrical fire on the station.



During the re-entry of the Soyuz 11 capsule , there was a loss of radio contact, but the spacecraft landed quite normally in Kazakhstan.

Tragically, when the recovery team arrived however, they found that a pressure release valve had opened during reentry and exposed the crew to the vacuum of space. They were not wearing pressure suits. Despite the best efforts of the recovery team to revive them, Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolsky, Viktor Ivanovich Patsayev and Vladislav Nikolayevich Volkov had died on re-entry.

As terrible as this was, it bears remembering that if the boundaries of the future are allowed to be set by the, the timid, or far worse, those who would presume to forbid others from striving for great things...then our future will be a dark age. The human race is fortunate to have people such as these who will step into the breach and attempt great deeds.

They deserve to be remembered.

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June 02, 2013

The Other Commercial Space Capsule

Boeing's CST has completed wind tunnel testing. It's expected to launch it's first manned flight in 2016.



Interestingly, although big, it's light enough to be launched on an off the shelf Atlas 5

Now there are those who are getting their backs all bowed up and asking questions like "Why do we need ANOTHER one of these?" "Isn't this just a colossal waste that duplicates effort?"

We'll let one of our crack team of science babes politely respond to that.



...
...

'Kaay...

Well, lets try that again with added civility.

With the Dragon (which has successfully flown unmanned), The Dreamchaser and NASA's own CEV, this gives 4 competing manned space systems...which greatly increses the chances that at least one will work, and if multiple versions are successful it provides a good deal of redundancy in the event there is a problem with one system. Given that three of the projects are private enterprises, it means that there is potential for considerable downward pressure on prices via competition.

Additionally, both the CEV and the Boeing design are designed for use as afar afield as Earths moons and slightly beyond (Luna, Cruithne and some Near Earth Objects). The DreamChaser and Dragon designs are strictly near earth orbit taxis though they have the potential to be exceedingly economical to operate.  So we're on the cusp of complementary and redundant capabilities in manned spaceflight.

So...Wo0t! Go for it Boeing!

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April 23, 2013

Space X Grashopper on a Quite Breezy Day






One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings news of reusable launch vehicles from Texas. Space-X has, for some time been testing their launcher recovery system. We mentioned it in passing here.

This particular test is interesting because not only does it have accompaniment by Johhny Cash, it also took place on a very windy day, indicating that this really may be doable. Future launches will take place at White Sands Missile Range and aim for incrementally greater altitudes and speeds. Subsequent test rigs will be retracting their legs and it is planned late this year or early next to have the thing go hypersonic before returning!

HT: NBF

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February 01, 2013

10 Years


Great things are not easy.
They require great people to take risks.

While we mourn there loss we are fortunate to have had such people as this...


May we continue to be so blessed...

In happier days, Leslie Fish eloquently captured the hope so many of us had when the great ship first took to the sky.

 

'Foundation of our future, courier of dreams..'
We should let that be the epitaph of the ship and her brave crew; an inspiration to do still greater things, for if the boundaries of the future are allowed to be set by the risk adverse, the timid, those unwilling to take risks...or far worse, those who would presume to forbid others from doing so...then our future will be a dark age.

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January 28, 2013

27 Years Ago

Sharon "Christa" McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik, Commander Dick Scobee. Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Pilot, Michael Smith and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka smile for one of the last photos taken of them as they head to board United States Orbital Vehicle 099...better known as Challenger.



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January 27, 2013

46 years Ago Today



Apollo 1.


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December 25, 2012

Things of Beauty

One of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes has just rolled in with some space related news, both historical and current. She looks quite...um...we're just going to go with 'pleased'.

First comes some follow up on a previous post here, namely that the Horizons newsletter of AIAA Houston has completed the second and third installments of their fully restored (and annotated), high res reprints of the iconic Colliers series on space travel from the 1950's. The series, Man Will Conquer Space Soon was an extremely important work in that it brought to the public the realization that space travel was possible in the near term. The two most recent installments focus on lunar exploration and while they diverge greatly in both architecture and scale from the Apollo program, the expedition envisioned in the articles are still largely sound from an engineering standpoint (though the procedure for setting up the shelter is not entirely practical).  Von Braun and Ley worked out their endeavor in minute detail and provided sufficient weight margins for incorporating additional equipment should they be deemed necessary by subsequent discoveries. The Horizons team has provided high resolution versions which is especially important given that the articles were illustrated by Fred Freeman and Chelsey Bonnestell.

To wit...


OMG I'm having a retrogasm!

There's a lot more in both issues ranging from a helicopter-space-capsule to a newly discovered, highly accessible Near Earth Asteroid.

One of the advisers on this project is Scott Lowther , who publishes Aerospace Projects Review, one of the best journals available dedicated to obscure, or poorly understood chapters in Aerospace engineering history. He also has a wide selection of interesting articles and documents for sale...go check it out.

  The impressive architecture envisioned by the engineers who consulted for the Colliers symposium required the use of multi-stage reuseable rockets....
...which brings us to the current efforts by Space-X. That company, which has made great strides in low cost access to space, is now working on a reusable version of its Falcon launch vehicle. Rather than try for SSTO or recover stages in the ocean they plan on having the individual stages land vertically under power. This promises impressive cost savings with a more conservative design than most reusable rocket proposals if it can be made to work.

A test flight of their Grasshopper test rig with a Cowboy crash dummy on December 17 was completely successful. 



The future is finally beginning to arrive....

'Science Babe' with inscrutable expression is actually Emi from KatawaShoujo.

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March 24, 2012

Ogilvy Assures Me There is Nothing To Worry About

Regards this.

Amateur astronomers are puzzling over a seemingly anomalous cloud that has shown up on images of Mars taken over the past few days. Is it really a cloud, or a trick of the eye? Does it really extend 150 miles up from the surface, as some of the observers suggest? And what churned up all that stuff, anyway?



The chances of anything living on Mars are a million to one he said.

 


"Uuu-Laaa!"

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April 12, 2011

50 Years Ago A Human First Orbited the Earth

..which is why we celebrate this date as Yuri's night.


Thank you! Thank you all so much. I...wait, what?

There's an awesome recreation of Gagarins' flight here...



There is much more on Gagarin here.



This is also the 30th anniversary of the first flight of Columbia. With that ship now lost and the whole shuttle program being disbanded this year one might think this is a bittersweet anniversary.  Rand Simberg explains why that is not so.

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January 03, 2011

Engage Spinnaker Drive!

Brian Wang has a lengthy post on the potential of Drexler style solar sails. He also makes some important points about light pollution.... really impressive light pollution.


Official NASA art

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October 21, 2010

Space: Earthlike Worlds, Rocketry, Balloonery and Amusingly Quidnuncish Bureaucrats

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes takes a moment from enjoying a lab accident (entirely too much) to bring us news from the final frontier. As she will gleefully tell you, rocketry is all about controlling explosions.

There was quite a buzz recently about the discovery of a rocky planet orbiting Gliese 581. Now it turns out that this discovery has not been independently confirmed. This does not necessarily mean it isn't there, but given that it's the smallest exosolar planet yet discovered, the readings are necessarily very faint and hard to distinguish from background noise. Thus more study is needed. The star system in question is pretty interesting nonetheless with 5 other planets already confirmed, two of which are theoretically on the outer an inner edges of the so-called "life zone" (where water can exist in the open as a liquid). The presence of even two such planets is remarkable as a Red Dwarf has a very narrow habitable zone. The big news with this planet (if, indeed, it does exist) is that it is pretty much in the middle of the life zone. Even if tidally locked, as is likely, some estimates have the surface temperatures ranging from 160 degrees F. on the hot side to - 29 F. on the cold. This is not far above the highest recorded temperature on Earth (136 degrees Fahrenheit ) and well above the lowest so it could be quite hospitable.


In any event, the discovery of two and possibly three rocky planets in the life zone around a single example of the most common visible type of star vastly increases the likelihood for life bearing planets to exist.

SO LET'S GO!

Well we can't. We can't even get to the moon right now except with very tiny probes and 20 light years away is really close in astronomical terms, but its really really far. Light travels 186,282 miles per second. A light year is the distance it travels in a year, so 20 light years is...( carry the 2...) umm...real far. Voyager 1, and Helios 2, the fastest things we've ever launched, would take thousands of years to get there.

We'd need to start now on figuring out how to even determine the trade-offs and design needs to even begin to design a starship and it doesn't look like....oh wait.
NASA Ames Director Simon “Pete” Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has “just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,” with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA.

It's unclear if this is a design study for a starship with a mission time of a hundred years, or a design study aimed at seeing how we might go about building one a century from now. Still, it's nice to know that some thought is being given to these issues even if we can't afford to spend large ammounts of money on them now.

The above link also mentions new efforts being put into cheap access to orbit, including microwave beam propulsion.

In the nearer term, though not quite getting to orbit, Virgin Galactics suborbital tourist spaceship Enterprise recently made its first free flight and launch from its booster plane. Here is the video.




In other commercial space news. Armadillo aerospace has been doing a lot of tests with their Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing test beds to gain an understanding of how  to control such a vehicle. They've also been competing for the NASA Lunar Lander Challenge and doing various other things with rockets.



Their experiments are less polished but similar to the DC-X program of 20 years ago and they are working ultimately towards the same goal, a VTVL reusable spacecraft of 1 or two stages. However they are getting a good deal more experience with controlling such systems than that program did before it was cut short.


On an even smaller budget  and not quite into what the law defines as outer space space,  a father/ son team from Brooklyn nevertheless has achieved transcendental coolness by sending their iPhone to 100,000 feet and getting pictures of the curvature of the Earth.




Finally, at the opposite end of the social spectrum from the dynamic father son team of space balloonists,  we must take a moment and ponder the sheer silly asshattery of the UN and bureaucrats in general. You see, the UN is now poised to make it a crime to block out the sun. While this may at first blush seem  reasonable if a tad redundant decision, this is in fact potentially troublesome. While we here at BB think the Global warming issue is more than a bit over-hyped,  if the worst case scenarios were to come to pass a sunshade would be a very effective way of dealing with the problem and unlike other, kind of scary, geoengineering schemes, would be quickly reversible if it caused excessive unforeseen consequences. This is the cleanest, least disruptive short term solution to the problem these very people have a monomaniacal focus on, however...

[ quote ] ...But others, such as the ETC group, an environmental and social advocacy group, fear simply blocking the sun is a bandage, meant to cover up the problem, and allow humans to continue using fossils fuels... [/ quote ]

 ...in other words it could solve the problem they claim to see as a transcendental threat, but does not provide the solution in the way they want (which  tends to involve a lot of misery for us and making their buddies rich through carbon trading). Nothing would seem to be a better demonstration that the people hyping this problem do NOT believe it is a transcendental threat...which is actually NOT to say definitively that it is not...just that either way, these particular people are either liars or idiots.

Note that depending on how it is worded, such a ban could have deleterious effects on Space Based Solar arrays, which, while completely unworkable now, could be a very environmentally favorable solution to power problems in subtropical to tropical areas and cislunar manufacturing and settlement  if launch costs were to drop ( well...drop a whole HELL of a lot).

Oh well....silly season.

  Finally, a reminder. The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch to the ISS on November 1, at about 16:40 EST. This will be one of the very last opportunities to see one of these.  

Science Babe is Nice Holystone from Baccano! Because "expwosives is all about kemistwy" and chemistry is SCIENCE!

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September 21, 2009

WATER!?

This could be very big.

Via Rand Simberg comes word that NASA is planning a press conference on Thursday regards some analysis of the data sent back by India's moon probe.

It seems that a lot more water than expected seems to have been found.

This would greatly simplify logistics for all sorts of things.

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July 20, 2009

40 Years



40 years ago our parents and grandparents did this.
Then they gave up.
Let us not betray our children's birthright the way ours was.





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May 11, 2009

Godspeed Atlantis

Atlantis launched this afternoon on one of the last of NASA's shuttle missions. This is also the final repair and preventive maintenance mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.




Gahlran puts the task facing the astronauts in some perspective.

STS-125 is considered one of the toughest space missions in decades, repairing equipment that was never intended to be repaired in space. For context, imagine replacing a hard drive in your computer, while in a zero gravity environment, while wearing a space suit, while traveling at 17,500 mph, and oh btw you have to replace nearly 100 hard drives. Don't lose those little bitty screws either, because you have to use them to put the thing together when your done.


Difficulties beyond trying to repair items never intended to be fixed in space include the danger of debris from both the Chinese ASAT test and the possibly related breakups of two old Kosmos satellites.How dangerous? NASA estimates the odds of LOCV (that's loss of crew and vehicle!) on this mission at 1 in 185.
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of  the few things considered worth this risk. With its replacement not scheduled to be launched untill 2013...assuming no pragram slippage...the Hubble is one of the most important scientific space assets in existance.
The mission is considered sufficiently hazardous that Shuttle Endeavor is standing by in the event a rescue mission is necessary (and possible).


The STS 125 Crew:7 very gutsy volunteers

NASA's overview of the mission (STS-125) is here.
NASA TV is streaming mission control live here.
One of the astronauts is 'Tweeting' and can be found here. (lolwhut?)


Apropos of nothing, this is the 100th shuttle mission after Challengers last flight.

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