Space

#1

Old and busted:

New hotness:
Trappist 1 has 7 earth-size planets, 3 of which are in the habitable zone.

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#2
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#3

I happen to agree that “dwarf planet” is a dumb designation and they should all just be planets. Though if they make all our dwarfs official planets, I do cringe at how many people will intentionally mispronounce Makemake.

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#4

[quote=“Shycat, post:3, topic:505”]
if they make all our dwarfs official planets
[/quote]There’s like 10,000 of them. I don’t think they will.

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#5

@Starfox NASA officially recognizes only Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake. There’s some scientists who have petitioned for another handful to be added to the official list, but nothing’s been approved so far. I only did a brief search at the IAU’s website to see if they listed more and couldn’t find anything. All the estimates I’ve seen show a dozen to a couple hundred as the estimate, though? Even if there were 10,000, there’s no reason not to call them planets. Harder to teach to schoolchildren, but that obviously doesn’t have any bearing on the planets themselves.

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#6

Holy. Shit.

We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year.

Nobody’s been to the moon for 45 years.

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#7

By my reading we’re not looking to change that. No landing planned. And the return flight will (supposedly) be free thanks to a momentum theft.

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#8

The last dudes to orbit the moon were on Apollo 17. I think it counts.

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#9

Its crazy to think weve had the means to get the stuff together to do this the whole time. Its not like stuff isnt sent to Mars and the Moon today, just no ones done it with a payload that holds humans since Apollo. So, as long as the capsule is proven that would be the major innovation. And i bet a long Lunar flyby is not really much harder than an equal duration LEO as far as the capsule is concerned. Only difference is re-entry speeds, so more shield, better chutes. Otherwise, its just a matter of taking stuff that we have already been doing, and choosing to do it with a new payload.

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#10

Not chutes. Dragon 2 lands on rockets, with parachutes only for backup in case the rockets don’t restart.

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#11

Definitely, thats true. I only mention chutes, cuz I worked on the parachute system design and prototyping project for Dragon Manned capsule a few years ago. I specifically was doing drafting of the templates for the Drogue chute and its riser lines. The other guy i worked with was working on the mains. It was pretty interesting on one hand but most of the work is just adapting known values and geometry that was figured out back in the Gemini days and in use ever since. Now most all of the math and specifics is beyond me.

Now I don’t know if Zodiac Aerospace is still contracted to develop the chutes for Dragon, I left there about 2 1/2 years ago.

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#12

Right, Scott, let’s just give more money to NASA, because they are, of course, the best at spending it.

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#13

If you read the article you can see the failings are a result of bureaucratic control of decision making as opposed to scientists being in control. The concept of space travel and exploration being a public endeavor is not the cause of these problem. The way to solve them is to give NASA the support it needs, and letting the knowledgeable rocket scientists make decisions as opposed to politicians and bureaucrats.

You also have to imagine that this sort of government shenanigans cause the smartest and best people to leave and go elsewhere, like SpaceX. That doesn’t mean SpaceX is the solution. It’s actually a contributor to the problem.

As I said before this is a typical case of what we see very often in US government. Capitalists want to get rid of publicly owned things and privatize all things. They hate things like public schools, NASA, and the post office. They underfund, undersupport, and tie the hands of these agencies to ruin them. Then they point at them and say “See how much public projects suck? We must privatize!”

The solution to a shitty post office is not to shut it down and leave it to UPS and FedEx. It’s to make the post office stop sucking.

The solution to a shitty school is to make it a good school, not vouchers and charter schools.

I never claimed that NASA wasn’t shitty now. I’m saying the solution is not SpaceX. The solution is to make it not suck because space travel and exploration and research belongs to everyone, not some Silicon Valley douchebags.

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#14

I’m curious, what bothers you more: that private companies are doing what you think NASA should be doing, or that it’s specifically Elon Musk’s company that’s doing these things?

While I agree with you that I’d prefer NASA itself to be doing these things, the fact that someone is doing them at all is still inspiring and ok with me. From reading your posts though, you seem to have a marked dislike of Musk personally, which I don’t get.

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#15

There’s nothing specifically about Musk himself that makes me dislike him. I just hate ALL of Silicon Valley, and that’s where he comes from. I would be equally disapproving of ZuckerbergX or GoogleX or AppleX, Paul Allen Rockets inc., etc. I shoot all those fuckers down, Musk just happens to be the one who makes a target of himself the most often.

That’s not to say I would approve of Ford Aerospace or Procter & Gamble rockets. They can go fuck themselves also.

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#16

Again, I think you completely misunderstand what NASA is and how it builds its rockets. No matter what they plan to do, or where to explore, or what the scientists want to look at, they pay private companies to build the rockets. They don’t have a rocket factory that belongs to NASA. They pay money to Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. By the time the SLS launches, they will spend tens of billions of dollars on it. They are spending 2.6 billion per YEAR.

Meanwhile:
“the cost of a three-year delay is $7.8 billion… That $7.8 billion equates to 86 launches of the reusable Falcon Heavy or 52 of the expendable version. This provides up to 3,000 tons of lift—the equivalent of eight International Space Stations or one heck of a Moon base. Obviously NASA does not need that many launches, but it could buy several Falcon Heavy rockets a year and have the funds to build meaningful payloads to launch on them.”

And most important:

“In practical terms, NASA has paid nothing for the development of the Falcon Heavy rocket. In fact, by leasing its unused Launch Complex-39A to SpaceX for Falcon Heavy launches, the space agency has said it saves about $1 million in annual maintenance costs on the historical launch complex.”

We don’t live in world in which NASA has spare billions of dollars and DOESN’T pay that money to a for-profit company for rocket technology. There is no world in which NASA keeps that money and still launches things into space.

At the moment that money is going to Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. SpaceX is just another launch provider, who seems to be undercutting the competition to the tune of 200-600 million dollars per launch.

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#17

Same thing with the military. Who do you think builds fighter jets? Who designs them?

The military defines parameters required for a new type of fighter. Things like speed, armament, endurance, mission-specific needs, etc…

Private companies then bid on or build prototypes for competition. The winning private companies mass-produce the planes from their prototypes.

This is how it’s always been. It has been highly effective for much of modern American history. Look particularly at World War II. Read the story of how any particular fighter was designed and produced.

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#18

It’s not about making rockets. Rockets are just equipment. I mean, should the government make a pencil factory instead of buying pencils from a private company? Should they make a government truck factory instead of buying post office vehicles from Northrop Grumman? No. Obviously not.

The problem is not that SpaceX is making rockets to sell to us. The problem is that they are using them. If Northrop Grumman were making Delivieries of US mail that would be a problem.

Yet here we have an asshole putting his fucking car in space. That doesn’t seem like a space mission that is in the public interest. If he wants to sell rockets to the people of the US to use as we see fit, then that’s fine. As long as there is no control or say in how they are used.

Extreme example. Lockheed Martin sells us a jet, but they don’t tell the military where to fly it or if/who to bomb with it. And they definitely don’t fly them on their own private missions to stroke the CEO’s ego.

Or DO they?!

Also, again, space is a special case. Space has remained free this far, and we should not be in any rush to change that.

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#19

SpaceX is only different from the others in that it is relatively new, and it is only ‘commercial’ compared to Boeing or Lockheed or ULA or the rest, because it is funding its own initiatives and missions, vs only moving if and when the govt foots the bill.

If Boeing (which I think they in fact are) decided it wanted to do some launches for its own reasons vs waiting for a NASA contract, they would be exactly like SpaceX, other than having been in the game for a long time.

If Northrop Grumman decided it was going to start building new Lunar Landers for a joint private venture to go to the Moon to help some scientific mission, working with with some other companies to develop the boosters, because the shareholders were ready to go back to the Moon with or without NASA, would anyone complain?

As much as there should be an FAA of space to make sure there are rules and procedures and to enforce them, I do not want the govt to have a monopoly over space. Space indeed belongs to everyone, which means the govt should freely let anyone go up and do as they please, while obliging the rest of us to follow some rules. The rules can state that discoveries must be shared, that science data collected is public domain, or similar caveats. But, ultimately no govt should be the gatekeepers; only the stewards.

I do agree NASA or a similar agency could be setup to be a leader of science and exploration in space but I also believe it should be a global initiative and not a US-only one.

Of course today there are already plenty of missions to space that are not NASA led. SpaceX testing the Falcon Heavy with a car is no better or worse than any other test launch ever conducted.

Right now Lockheed will sell govts and qualified agencies a fighterjet. But when they were testing that jet, they probably had civilians (ex military likely) in the cockpit firing the missiles at the test range. When Grumman was building Hellcats, they had professional test pilots flying the prototypes. So if Elon Musk tests his new rocket with a fun payload, great. It wasn’t any official mission. But I’m sure NASA has plans to put stuff in that rocket. So do many many private companies that need stuff in space. It might mean life improves as a result.

Right now silicon valley types are the only ones besides govts with the economic and political pull and the desire and the access to skilled individuals to do this type of work. Given some time, those resources will seep out into the rest of society. Companies like SpaceX will have turnover. Companies that are not from Silicon Valley will start to see that there is a growing pool of experienced engineering talent looking for work with fresh ideas, and they’ll also see growing marketshare as the demand for cheaper and cheaper spaceflights grow because of the advancements that SpaceX is pushing for. You’ll start seeing aerospace companies hire up divisions worth of engineers and develop their own answers to the Falcon or BFR. Companies already in the game must be planning their next gen rockets and the success of SpaceX means they will have to adapt their plans. The success of SpaceX does mean NASA will ultimately have to stop making hundred-billion dollar rockets that have single-shot lifespans. They just cannot anymore. The new ways have been proven and I’m sure everyone at NASA is glad to see it.

The other problem with giving a company like NASA that authority is it means if NASA does not like an idea, even a good idea, who will do it? If NASA says we will never send a probe to Venus between now and 2060 because the focus is on Moon and Mars; but someone really wants to test some venetian airship drones, maybe a company like SpaceX will be willing to give them the ride they need to do the science they want.

If a company really wants to explore the ideas of a giant spinning ring habbitat in space but NASA doesn’t give a fuck about funding it, maybe they can hire ULA’s answer to the BFR to help them loft it.

If someone thinks we can really improve life on Earth by mining some asteroids for much needed heavy elements, but NASA has no reason to do that yet, who but a profit-driven company is going to answer the call?

I predict that as this technology matures, it won’t be long before we see countries all over the world playing host to firms developing payloads and launch equipment and organizing their own initiatives. Govts will have to play a role but if we try and hold them up as the only ones with the right to do so, we’re doomed.

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#20

This is such a ludicrous idea I’d swear you couldn’t be serious… but I have a feeling you might be. It seems to based on such a completely ignorant and impressively naive misunderstanding of how the world works, I can’t even begin to think about how to respond.

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