Hey, Guys, the Writer Brain Came in For A Landing

Someday

Which means I’m doing fiction, not you know blog posts.  Though I need to do some posts-for-money today, and have…. six topics on the board I use to keep track of such.  That will probably happen later in day, though.

I have at least one guest post, but I was busy with the MGC workshop and now it’s late to put a guest post up.

Therefore…  My circles were talking about this, yesterday, including some of you in the comments, when I skimmed.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch wows space experts, heralds new era of exploration.

The new, larger rocket is designed to hoist supersize satellites as well as equipment to the moon, Mars or other far-flung points.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment by the SpaceX team and a great day for space exploration,” commented Explore Mars CEO Chris Carberry, in a statement. “With this launch and other heavy lift vehicles slated to be launched in the upcoming years, we are truly on the verge the golden age of space exploration.”

It sure has been a LONG time coming.  But exploration rarely goes linearly.  I had to study the story of the discoveries (natch) growing up, and it’s amazing even under absolute monarchies, the stutters, set backs, and abandonment for years of the dreams of exploration.

And yet, everything alive on Earth is a colonist species.  We will go because we have to.  And we’ll take the species of Earth with us to the stars.

There are worlds out there that will resound with the voices of our descendants.  We will live under the light of unknown suns, eventually.  Our progeny will inherit the stars.

Ad Astra!  Go team human.

225 responses to “Hey, Guys, the Writer Brain Came in For A Landing

  1. Christopher M. Chupik

    Humans: They will send a car into space just to prove it can be done.

    • So much geek points with that whole payload. People are still squeeing over it. I know I am. 🙂

      • William O. B'Livion

        • Loved that entire opening scene and song when it came out. Still do, even with the cheesy, horribly dated animation.

      • Plus there’s a copy of THGttG in the glove box, and of course a towel.

        And Arizona and California got a view of the trans-helio-insertion (third) second stage burn last night, which I missed seeing, darnit.

        They were projecting over 100,000 people around Cape Canaveral for the launch yesterday. Every time the punditry says the American public does not support a space program anymore, I point at the crowds that showed up for every shuttle launch, landing, and now this.

        • Wait, really? 😀

        • Frederik Pohl, with a bunch of SF writers, watching the last Apollo launch. And the only one that left at night.

          http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com/2010/11/the-ship-of-foolishness-part-3-apollo-17/

          “Then it was T time.

          We saw something flaring around the base of the rocket. Then that whole precarious stack of thrusters and capsules began to ease itself upward.

          We all blinked and squinted as the five great rocket nozzles on the Saturn 5 savaged our eyes with the five blinding supernovas of hydrogen burning in air. The blinding flames began moving upward with the rest of the train, slowly at first, then picking up speed. Everything moved straight up together until the thrusters were level with the little bridge the astronauts had walked on, then higher and clear of the launch tower entirely.

          And then at last the sound of those five Saturn rockets reached us, over beach and water, from far away, but still making the ship’s lighting fixtures rattle and our ears hurt. Now the entire construct was overhead, the hydrogen fire stretching down toward us, but far away and getting rapidly farther. Now the departing assembly of space-going parts was vertically over our heads.

          Every head was craned back, every face aimed at the spectacle above. I turned around to look at my companions behind me. There were the upturned faces of Bob Heinlein and Isaac and Ted Sturgeon and others, clustered like blossoms in a flower-shop bouquet, starkly lit by that super-sun that was sliding across the sky above them. I could have kicked myself, angry at my dimwitted absence of forethought for failing to stick a camera in my pocket to capture a shot of those faces in that wondrous light.

          Then the light went out as the fuel to the great Saturn nozzles dried up. That whole bank of ponderous rockets was cut free and fell away. A moment later the next complex of rockets ignited, tracing the Apollo’s course in a great, but dwindling, arc across the sky.

          And then it was gone and we all began to talk again.”

          • I saw a night Shuttle launch once (STS-104). Unbelievable spectacle. Film and TV doesn’t really capture just how much light is being put out…it turns an entire 60-degree sector of the night sky daylight blue.

    • Household conversation:
      “Musk sent his car to Mars.”
      “What?”
      “Look.”
      “…He is really getting into that whole millionaire mad genius vibe, isn’t he?”

    • Somehow I do not think this is what people meant when complaining about the absence of flying cars in the 21st Cent.

    • AMERICANS
      I think a lot of the rest of the world is shaking their head at that bit.
      (And he *should* have played Radar Rider!)

  2. I read headlines recently that we’ve discovered planets outside out galaxy. I wonder what their inhabitants look like! Better not be Ploor!

  3. Turns out that the final burn for the Mars orbit was too powerful and they overshot Mars orbit and are headed to the asteroid belt! And that has the scientists even more excited because MORE POWER! We can go anywhere!
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/07/elon-musks-spacex-rocket-heading-towards-asteroid-belt-overshooting/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_fb

  4. Huzzah for bookzin workzin!

  5. Byzantine_Corporal

    There is little joy in Huntsville. Paradigm shifts are painful things.

    • True of the political upper management I’m sure, but the worker bees in Huntspatch are cheering Musk et al on.
      Of course see my later comment for some perspective.
      Personally, I retired shortly after they cancelled Constellation.

  6. Yeah… but it sucks when you are born in the wrong part of a century and due to that the important part of your life falls into one of those cracks when it is NOT HAPPENING! And even if things start moving again while you are still alive you are too old to take part when it finally does happen again.

    Oh well. I do kind of believe in reincarnation… I just hate waiting.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFDcoX7s6rE (or about 30 years ago, actually)

    • It seems always too early or too late. I’ve felt (and been accused of) both.

    • It’s never too late. It just costs more and requires more effort on your part. Believe me, even at 59, if I’d won that 500 million Powerball, I’d be going to space for real, and not just a 60 mile up and down.

    • No. Things are always happening. But they are often happening behind the scenes. I’ve been in the unmanned aviation business long enough, and have enough knowledge of history, to make that statement categorical. The Falcon Heavy is a triumph…but it builds on work that started 20 years ago.

      Never forget that of the men who gathered at the Rakenflugplatz in 1930, only Werner von Braun himself would see men walk on the Moon. Sometimes, you have to plant a crop that you yourself will not live to harvest.

    • Byzantine_Corporal

      I could have spent my life on fusion power. I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t ripe. But I’m glad so many others have ripened it. Deplorable, really.

      • All I can say to that is: Fusion. Ten years in the future. Always has been, always will be.

        Worth continuing research, but new generation safer fission plants can be built now.

        • Wait… it’s down to only TEN years away now? That’s progress. “Hang on the wall flat screen TV” was 10 years away in the 1950’s.. and 1960’s…and 1970’s.. and maybe a bit closer in the 1980’s… and now..

          But fusion was 20 years years away in the 1950’s…

          Though yes, fission is available now. Or ought to be.

          • Yup 20 year’s off. thats what the GE pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair promised when I was there in 1965. And Scientific American in the 1980’s, same thing 20 years off. If you talker to the Folks at ITER they’ll probably tell you the same thing :-).

        • Yep, small, modular, dynamically stable ones.

          If we really want a reliable, secure power grid, each small town or borough needs their own light water reactor.

  7. My writer brain is now in gear. See ya later–

  8. This is somewhat OT, however….I wrote in the 80s and never got published…never got feedback either and the stories are all gone now. I am gearing up to start again, but reading a lot of works both indie and not, recently, I noticed that a great deal of tension and plot are driven by either one character not telling another a crucial piece of information because good reasons, or people who are stated as being smart acting stupid after it is shown that does not work (think Wyle E Coyote).
    My experience with real life is that you do NOT hold back information – especially if you think someone will get upset when they hear it – and while i have worked plenty of places where management is dumb and repeats past mistakes, when the management is smart they DO NOT DO this.
    So, are my real experiences atypical or is this a writers method of making the reader feel smarter. (Some of the stories are YA….eh, I like superhero novels, some are not)
    IS there a niche for stories where people actually talk, are genuinely not stupid and do correct their mistakes (even the bad guys)?

    • That’s how they do it in TV shows, so that’s how people “learned” to tell a story.

      It takes work to have a solution that shows up organically, while “I know this important thing and haven’t told anybody” gives free drama. It can be done well– say, like in the Marvel movies where Cap doesn’t give the civi identity of the guy who was mind controlled into killing one of Cap’s old friends and his wife– but mostly it’s easy.

      If you are unwilling to judge folks as generously as yourself, it’s really easy to “prove” that most conflict is people holding back vital information, or refusing to stop doing something that simply doesn’t work.

      • Aye on the TV show bit. “Who has the Stupid Ball this week?” (the character that carries The Stupid Ball is the one that does something – perhaps out of character! – that is stupid… that drives the stupid plot of the stupid show.) It works… just enough that there is an audience. But if they could write… oh, sorry, dreaming again.

      • > It takes work to have a solution that shows up organically,

        That’s why Tim Powers’ “The Anubis Gates” is one of my favorite books. It starts by shooting off in multiple directions, jumping from subplot to subplot… and then he starts pulling them in and connecting them, one by one, turning “WTF?” into “well, of *course*…”

        The first time I read it, I finished it at 3 in the morning. And then flipped back to the first page and started again. Fortunately I fell asleep before getting far, because I had to clock in at work at 0700…

    • Also see “idiot plot.” As in, “the story only works if the characters indulge in idiocy.”

      • Yup. Seen that. Even in a cartoon. “Hey, this character wouldn’t DO that, it’s too stupid…. oh, new writer. Blargh.”

      • Some of us try to avoid writing them. In Romance they make a certain sense, though. NO ONE tells everything in early stage courting.

        • That’s not idiocy; that’s establishing levels of trust.

          • Early Dresden Files: Dresden could’t tell Karr in everything because A. She wasn’t ready to believe him B. The White Council would have had kittens had he told a civil (especially a cop) anything at all, C. He didn’t actually KNOW that much, and anything he did tell her would invite an Official Response.

            Those are all good story reasons for not necessarily telling her everything he knew. On the other hand, as the series evolved, as she saw more and began to trust him more, as she got more drawn into his world, (and as she got more disillusioned in her “day job”), he was able to tell her more. It all happened organically within the series, though, and the reader is drawn along with the journey through the trust levels.

            • Yeah, and there was the fact that he was still under scrutiny from the Wardens. Letting normals find out about the White Council – BAD, especially with Morgan pretty darned sure that he was still a warlock and itching at an excuse to chop his head off. And Dresden knew if he was dead, he would never be able to help Murphy again. Ever.

              “I can’t tell you because then we’re dead” is a valid reason for a while, especially if it’s true.

    • IS there a niche for stories where people actually talk, are genuinely not stupid and do correct their mistakes (even the bad guys)?

      Well, give it a try and let’s find out.

    • Yes – go back to the pulps and you’ll find a lot less “idiot ball” and more actual plot-work and secrets that are only kept for darn good reasons.

      • Beware of secrets, even for good reasons, be held too long. I read a novel once where the hero and heroine were at cross-purposes the length of it for those. I found it plausible but — monotonous. Secrets for good reasons work better if they come out after a time and immediately demonstrate the good reasons and so send the conflict off in another direction.

      • People talking and understanding at cross-purposes are valid, but it’s annoying and frustrating for the reader if kept up too long. (No, I don’t know why that’s a sub-genre of romance. Some women must get off on knowing more than both protagonists.)

        Valid reasons for people being silent or not understanding, can constitute suspense, especially if characters along the way do unravel bits of the information under silence. (The recent Threadbare duology features a golem who initially can’t talk, and later, who can’t understand enough or get in touch with the right people. But there’s constant progress and lots of people with secrets anyway, so it creates tension.)

    • William O. B'Livion

      For the last month I’ve been telling several people that this X thing we’re working on needs move to the new environment. That it is WAY dependent on old stuff that isn’t being maintained anymore, etc. etc.

      And today I was talking to a person whom I’ve told this several times. And today she sounded like she’d never heard it before.

      So no, the problem ISN’T that people hide information.

      It’s that…people don’t f*king listen.

      • But if they hear the very same thing from an outsider, like a consultant that they pay a bundle for, then suddenly it becomes real and important even though they heard it “from the floor” for ages (for ‘free’). There are times I wonder that h. sapiens manages without significantly more sapience.

        • The consultant isn’t part of the power plays. Also, gives you cover when you defend your chances.

        • I’ve experienced that with my kids. They would come home from some school or church program all fired up about some cool thing that I’ve told them a hundred times.
          A good buddy with the same problem would ask her kids “What am I, a soggy potato chip?” thus giving the principle a Universal Name.

      • “But she was thinking of a way to turn her whiskers green….”

    • I really hate that trope. I don’t want people getting into difficulties because they did something stupid, and it is later objectively easy to set right. I want them to run into REAL difficulties and OVERCOME them.

      I want competent heroes who have competent villains. Teams who work together and don’t spend half their time fighting with each other (some occasional friction is ok, I just don’t want that to be a major plot point All. The. Time.). I don’t want a bunch of grownups acting like they’re in eighth grade, and making kindergarten mistakes.

      • Dorothy L. Sayers addresses that problem directly in one of the Wimsey/Vane novels, where Harriet is trapped in a plot-line requiring her protagonists to do something stupid about not telling each other their suspicions, and Lord Peter convinces her to let the characters be true to their personality and re-do the plot properly.
        I’m fairly sure DLS was channeling her own preferences through Harriet most of the time.

  9. Lot to be said for a flying bird, and my hat’s off to Musk and company.
    But for a bit of perspective:
    Mass delivered to low earth orbit for former and current vehicles:
    Space X Heavy 140,000 lb
    Saturn V 310,000 lb
    NSTS 206,000 lb
    151,000 lb weight of orbiter
    55,000 lb cargo
    Soyuz/Progress 15,686 lb launch mass
    5,720 lb payload
    Ares V 414,000 lb
    Ares V design spec, cancelled with termination of Constellation program.
    And of course of these only Space X and Soyuz are currently operational.

    • But the SpaceX Heavy didn’t put its stuff in LEO. It’s on its way to past Mars.

      • Very true, but I picked mass to LEO in order to compare apples to apples. And mass to low earth orbit is the gold standard for launch performance.

        • gold standard
          Only because we honestly aren’t reaching any further than that, at the moment. This is the difference between one of those little single-step stools in your kitchen and a 4+ foot step-ladder.

          And, your last point in the original comment:
          And of course of these only Space X and Soyuz are currently operational.

          • No, because that first step is a doozy. Getting out of the one G well we live in is the hardest part. Give us a cheap path to useful payload in LEO and we can get just about anywhere in our solar system without any major breakthroughs in technology.

            • Yep. Fighting against gravity REALLY sucks up your fuel. In fact, the SpaceX information on the Falcon Heavy capacity illustrates that quite well. From this article, it gives the following:

              “The Heavy is capable of delivering, in one fell swoop, 140,660 pounds (63,800 kilograms) of cargo to low-Earth orbit, nearly 60,000 pounds (26,700 kilograms) to high-Earth orbit, 37,000 pounds (16,800 kilograms) to Mars, or 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) to Pluto. ”

              From Wikipedia, the launch weight is 3,132,301 lb. A little math shows that it gets a 22.26-to-1 launch weight-to-payload for reaching LEO, and a 3.8-to-1 ratio from LEO to Mars.

    • The last sentence is your crucial point.

      Ares V and SLS were supposed to be done by now. Ares V is cancelled and SLS is a Congressional earmark program by another name.

      I mean why not add:

      Nova C8: LEO payload of 662,000 lbs.
      N1: LEO 209,000 lbs…I mean, it has more test flights to date that Ares V and SLS combined.

      Shuttle I give a bit of a pass…it was a dead end in terms of cargo to orbit but it had a good throw weight and dead ends are something that happens in R&D.

      • Oh, fie on it. Dust off the Orion plans…the real one, not the thinly-warmed-over Apollo NASA is fobbing off on us. Do things right.

        • Momma nuke?
          No, Poppa nuke!

          • Nope, lots and lots of lil baby nukes one right after the other.
            Smoothes out that acceleration gradient don’t you know.

        • I’m good with that idea but that does require either:

          1. The Huns becoming a nuclear power (which I am open to).
          2. Revising various treaties to allow the US gov’t to do it.

          -or-

          3. Taking over North Korea, ruthlessly leaving its people alone, and using its nuclear capacity for the project.

          • Depends on how good our lawyers are: I understand the treaty prohibition is on placing nuclear weapons in space.

            The thingees we use in our Orion propulsion module are just contained-implosion propulsion expendable fuel submodules, which one could argue are simply somewhat more energetic variations of the plutonium RTGs that have a long history of use in spaceflight.

            • I think it would violate some treaties such as the ones against air detonations of nukes. Not so much the actual space-related treaties.

              • Although I believe there’s one against using nuclear engines, too.

                • Against nuclear detonations in space, I think. So Orion might be out, but something derived from the NERVA work might be viable.

                • Wayne, I don’t know of any treaty against using nuclear propulsion (doesn’t mean there isn’t one). Article IV of the outer space treaty says: “States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.” I’ll keep looking for that treaty.

          • I like #3!

          • Hell, use North Korea for the launch pad.

            • That has to be safer for its people than any current conditions.

              Of course, you’d have to make it pretty clear that you were launching peaceful vehicles. And you’d need to keep your powder dry, because Red China sucks as a neighbor.

    • well, since the shuttle-C derivatives were never built, any lifting capacity of the NSTS without an Orbiter isn’t really valid.

      It also carries more than double the Proton’s capacity…

      http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy

  10. So on a total tangential rant, I’ve just been locked out of Facebook. Voluntarily, mind you, but it goes like this: 1. Facebook logs me out, because they apparently decided that going months and month with the same login is a bad idea. 2. I have to reset my password because, again, this has been months and months and apparently no iteration of my usual cycle works. 3. I successfully create a new password, but Facebook says “It looks like your device has been infected by malicious software [probably because I retyped so many variants of the old password in], click here to download Facebook’s malware scanner.”

    NO. Nuh-uh. I don’t download free malware scanners from anyone, let alone a company known for its shady dealings. So I’m locked out now, because I won’t go for that—and the option to “use another device” is bogus, since it came up with the same information on another computer.

    And… yikes. There’s a whole lot of scenarios that go through my mind right now, and none of them are pretty as to how this sort of situation could be used. I can’t even post from WordPress to Facebook to let people know about my absence, since resetting the password broke the connection.

    Thanks, antisocial media, for removing the one contact I had with most of my family and friends.

    • FaceBook: Considered Harmful.

    • *pokes around* Apparently, it’s based of of determining that posts were spammy.

      And you’re wise to pass, it’s McAfee.

      • I’m going to be very Californian here and say “Yeah no.” That’s entirely based on nothing I’ve done unless my login has been entirely hijacked in the last two hours.

      • Any particular reason you say that?

        • About McAfee, or the spammy thing?

          FB’s claim is that they only do the “download this” thing when they think an account has been hijacked by malware on teh user’s computer.

          For McAfee, I have never had anything but trouble with it. Not quite as malware as some, but that isn’t saying much. I seem to remember they were alright on the malware scan for about two years in the late 90s, but that’s a long ways back and my memory isn’t awesome.

        • I second Foxfier’s distrust of McAfee, and would add Norton/Symantec to that list. Every time I’ve had to troubleshoot a strange technical issue that turned out to be caused by the virus scanner and/or firewall interfering with perfectly legitimate software, the virus scanner or firewall was one of three products: McAfee, Symantec, or the built-in Windows Firewall. Use other virus scanners, like the open-source ClamAV, or MalwareBytes, or AVG — but stay away from McAfee and Symantec. Those two companies are spending all their money on marketing and making deals with computer makers to include 30-day trials, instead of spending it on quality control.

          • Norton/Symatec has always been a horrible program. Was the “Tech Support” for my circle of friends way back around 20 years ago. Would always get complaints about slow computers and taking for ever to do minor stuff. Got to the point I had a copy of the “free” anti-virus software at that time. Every time, they had installed a copy of Norton that had been given to them. Every time it caused more issues than solved. Funny how slow issues disappeared whenever I removed the bad software.

            • Don’t say “always” if you’re only going back 20 years with Norton. It goes way back – more like 40 years. It was *the* security product back then. Unfortunately they’ve been resting on their laurels (and beat out by cheap/free) for the last couple of decades.

              • Never put Norton and McAffee on the same system at the same time, both operating. That way lies Computer Death.

              • Far as I can tell, Peter Norton was a good programmer who knew his stuff. But at some point before Windows 95, probably when he sold his company to Symantec and sold them the rights to use his name, but wasn’t actually involved in making the product any longer, products with the Norton name on them went from “good” to “crap”.

          • So far, Avast works better than anything else I’ve seen; I know it will block things McAfee won’t touch.

            • Forgot to mention Avast in my list of good virus scanners, but I concur: Avast is one of the good ones.

    • Try another browser. Zuckerbook sends me a “New Device Logged In! Warning Will Robinson!!” alert if I log in on Chrome instead of Safari from eth same hardware, so depending on how they are checking that might be enough to satiate those requirements.

    • Ugh. I very nearly got out of facebook once. Couldn’t quite recollect where the capitals were in my password. “Verify you are account owner by clicking on your friends’ pictures out of this set.”
      I finally guessed enough right to get in, and promptly sent a sternly worded complaint to facebook about their discriminatory against prosopagnosics policy.
      So, you know, your woes are probably my fault. Sorry about that.

    • Purging all your internet folders and cookie files ‘might’ cure the problem.

    • Switch to GAB….

  11. And we’ll take the species of Earth with us to the stars.

    And Humanity will take their myth and legends and stories with them, along with inventing new ones and adapting the old ones. And in a truly big universe where almost anything can – and eventually seems to – happen…. we might even meet.

    • Perhaps we shall, though Rigel is a ways off, and given its a B8 Ia super giant who knows how long it will be there.

  12. That feeling when you did something as God and Heinlein intended and made Han Solo proud at the same time.

    Yeah, that’s what it was like to work at SpaceX yesterday.

  13. I watched the video from launch to side-booster landing last night when I got home. I scared the dog with my excitement. 🙂 This was not the same-ol’-same-ol’. It was something a little new, not just an adaptation.

    Let’s get more of this. (Any chance we might get Soros to spend his money on something like this instead of bringing down the US? OK, yeah, I know.)

    • If only Elon Musk had stashed Soros in that spacesuit before the launch.

      • Story seed!
        In ~150 years the Mars colony *does* pull that car in to put it in a museum. And a worker happens to look through the faceplate and sees… not a mannequin, but a skull! Centuries-old murder mystery ensues. Maybe complicated by the fact that Musk had his head frozen or something and is therefore technically still alive. And there’s no statute of limitations on murder!

        Somebody run with that. I’d buy it! 🙂

    • William O. B'Livion

      This is 2018, it’s SUPPOSED to do that.

      10 years ago.

  14. It’s a Good Thing, but the real engineering is recovering the boosters. Which is a MAJOR accomplishment…and SpaceX paid the tuition in full with mishaps.

    Although if anyone thinks they’re going to the planets with chemical propulsion, they really don’t understand the challenge. Right now, nuclear/ion is the best bet.

    • I’m reading different stories on why the F-H core booster didn’t make it – one said “ran out of fuel” and another said “lost a couple Merlin rocket motors on landing burn” – interested to see the final explanation.

      • well, I guess if fuel got low enough, they might lose 3 of the engines. I read somewhere that 3 never refired though. so wait/see

        • Musk said what they think at this point happened in the presser after the launch, I just missed it the first time: They ran out of the nasty hypergolic “starter fluid” they use to relight the Merlins, so only one Merlin relit for the landing burn, and as a result the core did not have enough thrust.

          Not sure why they would have run out of the starter fuel after all these propulsive landings where they never ran short, but hey, rockets is difficult.

    • And as to Getting Out There – they should contract surface-to-LEO and build a real damn spaceship. The only heat shielding needed would be for aerobraking maneuvers once it gets somewhere before deploying lander shuttles.

      • Yep, we need that far-side-of-the-moon station, so we can build and launch stuff easy-like.
        It’s doable, dangit!

        • Why Farside? Near side, in a nice flat Mare would be much better for a first colony – far fewer communications complications. And the far side is much rougher.

          • Concur for a colony. I meant something not on the surface – entirely (for practical purposes) remove the gravity well issue. Build a space dock where you can put stuff together, transfer materials (up and down), etc. Maybe I should have said “past-the-moon”.

            • Right If I remember right L2 (lagrange 2 point) which is out past the moon a little bit and a great place to set up a fueling station/stopping point for exploration out to the rest of the system.

            • Ah, ok.

              Construction of actual large craft, I would agree with. Construction of components and structural members, I would say mostly should be done on the Moon, then launched to the construction facility via launch rail. I like either Lunar orbit or L4/L5 for the construction location.

      • William O. B'Livion

        The should send old men out there to do a lot of the maintenance work. We’re past breeding age, the gravity (lack thereof) will be good for our joints, we are more careful than youngsters, and we’re much wiser.

        Yeah, that’s the ticket.

        • Right on!

        • Hey! Goes for old women too! And we tend to live longer than men.

          • 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 Upper strength become less relevant & leverage becomes more. We gals are excellent at using leverage in place of strength (& other things, but whatever).

        • Excellent idea!

        • And, a co-worker points out:
          Given the common issue of joints complaining when a low-pressure area is moving in, we would make for good leak detectors.

          Old Guy: “Y’all should suit up. ASAP.”
          Younger Dude: “Why?”
          Younger Dudette: “What are you talking about?”
          Old Guy: “My knee’s acting up. We got a leak somewhere.”
          Younger Dudette: “But the alarm hasn’t gone off.”
          Old Guy: *muffled by helmet* “It will.”
          *WARNK WARNK WARNK WARNK*
          Old Guy: “Told you. And someone get Younger Dude out of the fetal position? He can’t get his helmet on that way.”

      • Musk says the BFR will be flying pretty soon. He may be a bit optimistic sometimes, but look at what they are doing almost routinely!
        Think about it, lighting off 27 big engines and getting 18 back intact the first time. The only thing better was flying the full stack Moon rocket and having all 3 stages work first time.

      • I agree in principle. Not sure if we can get stuff big enough lifted commercially.

        This was one thing that frustrated the snot out of me. The Augustine Commission pointed out that there was a lot of “X-plane” type research work that needed doing…stuff like demonstrating zero-G refueling methods. NASA tends to think purely in terms of Apollo – the Big Potlatch Project with an unlimited budget.

        Think of it like traveling by water from Europe to North America. You can row a Viking longship across the northern route, or build a sailing ship, work out the trade winds, and sail across the ocean with a tenth of the manpower. NASA thinks only in terms of a space rowboat.

        • Apparenlty, the Falcon Heavy reduces the cost of surface-to-LEO to under $1k/lb, which is an incredible reduction. The best price I’ve seen previously for the Government-based launches is the Russians at about $8k/lb.

          For that, you can build a heckuva lot of spaceship for $10 billion (and that’s including the components).

        • You might better say NASA thinks in terms of the steamboat clipper vs the longboat, missing the very doable in-between of the sailing ship.

      • Stall speed in the martial atmosphere is going to be hundreds of MPH for most of our preferred aerodynamic shapes.

        • *Martian*

        • It’s why landing stuff on Mars is such a bear. Its got enough atmosphere to bring up friction/load issues but not enough for parachutes (other than huge supersonic ones) or other landing techniques you’d use on Earth. Elon Musk’s riding the rocket down on its plume is about the only option unless you feel like some hybrid Rube Goldberg technique like curiosity used.

          • In the other direction, the gravity well is so shallow on Mars that a Martian SSTO is pretty doable – the delta-V required to get into low orbit are 2-ish for the moon, 4-ish for Mars, and 10-ish for Earth (I know, that’s using brief-the-Execs rounding, but those are in the right neighborhood).

            That RAH quote about “Reach low orbit and you’re halfway to anywhere in the Solar System” is really math-based.

            • I actually look forward to a space elevator on Mars. I haven’t worked out the math, but given the 1/3 gravity, I think it would require less than 10,000 miles, vs 40,000 miles for Earth. The stresses would be at least an order of magnitude lower, I think.

  15. Let’s take a moment to note the new “Gerber Baby” for the coming year:


    Down Syndrome be damned – that’s one handsome kid!

    • Good grief, SO MUCH HAIR!

      *looks at son, who is a good four months older and still needs to be styled with a wet washcloth*

      • reminds me of my cousin. he had the blonde hairy look going too.
        Although less than 5 foot tall, he does now look like he isn’t an 8 year old, although his scruffy 5 o’clock shadow just makes his face look dirty or spotted depending on the light.

      • Other articles I’ve seen say he is 18-months, so that may account for the added hair.

      • Pft. I (AND my older son) was BORN with nearly that much hair.

        • Now I’m really sorry for the ladies in your lives.

          (as I told RES– the “old wive’s tale” about mommy having heartburn and the kid having a full head of hair? When doctors actually checked, well….)

          • Huh. Never heard that one, thankfully missed that prelude despite fairly fluffy-headed newborn.

            • I hadn’t heard of it before… I think it was the Baron of Beef showed up with relatively a lot of hair, and one of the nurses was making small-talk when I mentioned that the peach fuzz was an amazing amount for our family.

              (First pregnancy I had any heart-burn at all– first time I’d had heart burn, actually.)

          • Both my mother and my wife had/have colitis, so it may have been hard for them to tell a difference. I don’t remember any significant increase, but I have the memory of a chicken-wire sieve, so that doesn’t prove anything, either.

            But the humorous part that I remember is that they had to give her a belly-band baby heart monitor, because the one that hooks into the scalp wouldn’t stay on.

            But the real difficulty for her was the fact that he was a good two pounds heavier than other babies of the same length.

  16. Christopher M. Chupik

    The worst part of course will be all the whining: “If we can send a car to space why can’t we solve Trendy Social Problem of the Moment?” takes.

    Because, as we all know, a society is only capable of doing one thing at any given time.

    • The ones I tend to run across seem to always have a hidden contradiction in the problem, which makes it insoluble.

    • “You should do something about health and disease instead of wasting your time looking at tiny animals in water.” somehow comes to mind.

    • Funny how its never “If we can mandate Obamacare, why can’t we mandate a gun in every household?” or “If we can run up a giant deficit, why can’t we deregulate?” or “If we can send a car to space, why can’t we explode a nuke over Pyongyang?”

    • William O. B'Livion

      Mostly because hard engineering problems have well defined end points and involve things that (generally) don’t have their own agendas. And you can prove an optimal strategy for solving them.

      Social problems–especially the trendy kind–have none of these characteristics.

  17. Re: idiot ball — The History Channel had an interesting show on what happened to the Templars.

    Unfortunately, every time they brought up something true, they countered it with ten to twenty dumb conspiracy theory things. So you can’t just say, “Elements of the Templars were included in Portugal’s Order of Christ, which fought the Moors, and that boosted Portugal’s economy too.” No, they have to make Blackbeard the Pirate a Knight Templar.

    Also, every wine cellar and sewer in Portugal is a Secret Templar Essene Initiation Chamber.

    • Did they talk about the pretext for the dissolution of the order and execution of its leaders?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Of course. The Templars have the Holy Grail, which is the reason why Blackbeard was so hard to kill. It all makes sense now.

      • No, it was Rasputin who was so hard to kill.

        Looks up poctures of the two men … incredible resemblance there … nobody ever saw them both in the same place, did they? So it follows that Blackbeard and Rasputin were the same man!

  18. http://archive.seds.org/spaceviews/9603.html#ultimate

    I wrote this years ago. Still worth doing. The Ultimate First Stage to Orbit.