Halfway to Success by Thomas Kendall

Halfway to Success by Thomas Kendall

               I think what’s dead clear at this point is that half the takes about the Starship launch indicate that people don’t know what Starship is for, or how the program around it within SpaceX operates. In 2021, Everyday Astronaut did a tour of Starbase guided by Elon Musk, and interviewed him the whole time. Even if you’re not a fan of Musk, the whole interview should be required listening for people who are serious about understanding Starship. The second part especially is the juiciest in terms of understanding some key points that I will condense down here. The below quotes by Musk are pull-quotes from the video. I have in some cases used ellipses to condense down some beating around the bush, and used bold to emphasize what I feel are critical statements, but you are welcome to hear the un-retouched statements and form your own opinions.

               First, Starship is designed to be a rapid prototyping program that throws things at the wall as quickly as possible. Musk sees it as explicitly a program designed around aggressive iteration to the exclusion of all else, describing it as the “polar opposite” of Dragon. He says:

“We have just a fundamentally different optimization for Starship versus say the polar extreme would be Dragon. Like Dragon there can be no failures ever, everything’s gotta be tested, to, you know, six ways to Sunday. (…) That’s like extreme conservatism. Then Falcon is a little less conservative, it is possible for us to have say a failure of the booster on landing, that’s not the end of the world. And then for Starship … is like the polar opposite of Dragon. We’re iterating rapidly to create the first ever fully reusable rocket… Orbital rocket. And fully and rapidly reusable, reusable in a way that is like an aircraft.” (5:34)

               Rapid prototyping is not a new concept and Musk did not invent it. While it is unusual to see something the size of Starship run through rapid prototyping, it’s a mainstay of engineering, and practical work of all kinds. Even people who follow makers and engineering YouTubers should be familiar with the process (But if you aren’t, watch any video by Stuff Made Here, Collin Furze, or even I Did A Thing. Or for that matter, CodeBullet, for the equivalent in coding. Or NileRed, for the equivalent in chemistry. This is a common process, commonly employed by people trying to do difficult things that don’t come with an instruction book. It is also a fundamentally scientific and empirical process. Empirical translates roughly as “guess and check while paying attention”.)

               Second, Musk knows that this will result in ships not coming back, and he is perfectly comfortable with that:

“But this is also a case where we’re intentionally iterating the design rapidly. And basically ships and boosters will either be amazing lawn ornaments which then have to be stored, and they look awesome, but you know, we don’t want 12 of them. It’s gonna look bizarre and where would we put them? So, since we’re making rapid iterations with each, almost with, basically every single ship and booster has had significant iterations. But you either want it to blow up or… The early ones… You want them to blow up or you’re going to have to find a place to store them. So we actually want to push the envelope. And frankly if you don’t push the envelope you cannot achieve the goal of a fully and rapidly reusable rocket. It’s not possible. You have to go close to the edge on margins.” (22:16)

               This goes to the question of whether the launch was a success. While I have somewhat more muted opinions than LaughingWolf (which I will get to in a minute, and explain why I think what I think) I think this article is an excellent and informed one. One point made in the article is that Starship is testing to destruction, and they are getting good data in the process. I concur, and I think Musk’s critiques of the shuttle program are extremely poignant to the discussion of the value in testing to destruction.:

Musk: “Space shuttle had almost no room for iteration because there were people on board, so you couldn’t be blowing up shuttles.”

Interviewer: “Well and they did very, very little iteration.”

Musk:”Very little. In fact a lack of iteration was the problem. Because they, a lot of the issues they were aware of, but people were too afraid to make change.”

Interviewer: “Cause the design froze.”

Musk: “Yeah ’cause (…) There was a risk reward asymmetry. So big punishment for… If you make a change and something goes wrong, big punishment. If you make a change and it goes right, small reward. So the issues with the “o” ring and then with the insulation coming off and hitting the wing were… They had seen this before. They were known issues. But it… Because it had worked before they were like ‘well, it worked before’. Eh. Russian roulette works before. So. ‘Look, I’ve pulled the trigger so many times and… There must be no bullets in this gun’. Anyway, it’s hard to iterate though when people are on every mission. You can’t just be blowing stuff up ’cause you’re gonna kill people. Starship does not have anyone on board so we can blow things up. It’s really helpful.” (7:05)

               Musk’s answer to the risk and difficulty inherent in making this rocket work is different from NASA’s. It is not to build in layers and layers of safety protocols. That was how Dragon was built, but Starship is a very different creature. Their plan is to fly the ship until they are familiar with every way it fails and have designed around it. This mindset is explained in more detail by Musk in a short conversation about launch escape and the lack thereof:

“Launch escape I think is… You basically just need to fly a lot and have a lot of redundancy. So if you lose an engine on the booster, it doesn’t matter, basically. If you lose multiple engines it shouldn’t matter. And you should be able to lose an engine on the ship and everything is okay. (…[substantial amount of technical discussion of launch escape] … ) you can’t have an escape system on the Moon or on Mars. You can’t have something pop off and then have chutes drop… there’s no atmosphere. And then Mars has a very low density atmosphere so it’ll just hit the ground supersonic. You know, it’s not going to save you. So the ship has to be safe enough for people without an escape system, because otherwise you can’t go to the moon, you can’t go to Mars. So it’s kinda pointless to do it on Earth. Just fly it a lot.” (8:51)

               To summarize all of the above—Starship is a program meant to rapidly prototype and iterate rockets. They are operating the rockets with thinner margin for error and as a result they consider rockets failing, and in particular, exploding, to be a necessary part of this work. In a sense they even consider it desirable, because the purpose of the testing is in large part specifically to determine how the rockets fail, since they are deploying them in circumstances where escape simply will not be an option and figuring out how to engineer around the ways they commonly fail is the only way to make them safe enough for use.

               There is an interesting and related side digression here I think is worth mentioning. The rocket that exploded doesn’t appear to be the most recent version. According to the wiki maintained by the SpaceX superfans who spend their lives staring at Starbase, the stack that blew up consisted of Ship 24 and Booster 7. For simplicity’s sake (and because I find it funny), let’s dub the now-vaporized test ship 24/7 for short (Which reverses the nomenclature actual SpaceX fans use. Then again, given its definitely-not-intentional launch date, and fate, I would accept “420 Blazin’ ” as an alternative name. Incidentally, and apropos nothing, the first ship ever stacked by SpaceX—and fueled, but not launched— was reportedly Ship 4 on Booster 20 according to the same wiki).

               The presumptive successor to Ship 24, Ship 25, is built. In fact it looks like it has been sitting on the test site since January. Technically even Ship 26 has been built (though it looks so different that there is still speculation on what it’s actually meant for. Starship has many planned variants.).

               Booster 7 was also a few iterations back. SpaceX is currently working on building Booster 10. For complicated reasons Booster 8 was scrapped before completion, so Booster 7’s successor is the already-constructed Booster 9, which is, even from external inspection, heavily redesigned from Booster 7. Also— semi-famously in some internet circles, there is at least one substantial and poignant difference between the Boosters—Booster 9 uses an electric servo to direct its engines, while Booster 7 was the last to be produced with hydraulics. Why is that relevant? Because there is speculation that a small explosion seen on the side of Booster 7 during thrust was the hydraulic system.

               It is possible that the use of the older hardware is intentional, to try to suss out any fixable problems with the ship and booster waiting in the wings before deploying what would theoretically be the 25/9 rocket (Which I would like to vote, if it ever get stacked, be referred to as “Odds Squared”.).

               In light of that possibility it’s worth noting that Musk describes SpaceX as intentionally running old hardware on missions where they might be expended:

               “For Falcon Nine and even like the block 5… So called block 5, which is more like version 7 really… But we don’t even wanna use the early block 5s. So, like even those are a pain in the ass and we would prefer to retire them. So like when we have like a mission that requires an expendable booster we’ll put an early block 5. Because the early block 5s are not as good as the later block 5s, and they’re more of a pain in the ass to get ready for flight.”(28:34)

               And as a digression within this digression, Everyday Astronaut—who you might have guessed follows SpaceX closely— speculated during the livestream of the rocket launch that the prototyping and variation extends down to individual engines. Which is to say, it was his opinion that even the individual engines on the booster may have differed from one another, just based on how SpaceX operates. Of course, that is pure speculation, but especially if you view launches as an opportunity to investigate a variety of failure modes rapidly, would make a strange kind of sense, and allow you to gather much more data, albeit at the cost of increasing the risk to the overall launch. It would also recontextualize the engine failures on 24/7 if the engines had subtle variations.

               So now that we have this context, the obvious question is—why do I have a more muted take than LaughingWolf? Well, while I agree that SpaceX did say on the day of the flight that it was a victory if the thing launched rather than blew up, Musk had also previously addressed the question in detail during the above interview. And, yes, this was remote from yesterday’s orbital test flight, but on the other hand, this was also a less guarded moment where he seemed to be just saying what he honestly thought, before he was under media and investor pressure to manage expectations as aggressively. In response to a question on the goals for the first orbital launch, he said:

               “I mean our goal with the first one is, for the first orbital launch, our goal is to make it to orbit without blowing up. That’s our goal. And frankly if we even get the… If the booster even does it’s job and something goes wrong with the ship I would count that as good progress. Like basically, actually, to be totally frank, if it takes off without blowing up the stand, stage zero, which is much harder to replace than the booster, that would be a victory. Please do not blow up on the stand. That’s the number one concern.” (16:20)

               Musk enumerated three additional goals there and the launch only achieved one of them, sort of. The booster did seem to do its job, depending on how you define its job. It seems to have “only” gotten about 24.2 miles, or about 1/4 the way even to low Earth Orbit. You could probably infer as much from the fact that it was visible on camera the whole time if faintly. But that’s still a decent chunk of the way. It’s not clear why the ship went tumbling or to what extent the booster was malfunctioning to cause that. SpaceX’s stream of the event live didn’t really report any problems until the attempted separation for the boostback. The rocket was described as nominal to that point. It’s possible that boostback was supposed to start that early in flight, and that’s why the ship flipped. If it wasn’t—which seems equally plausible to me, but then I’m not a rocket scientist— perhaps the maneuver was intentionally initiated to try to get some data on the process even though they didn’t get to the desired altitude. If either of those is the case, the separation mechanism seems to have failed. It may also be that the ship was just tumbling. Starship looked visibly angled seconds after launch. The engines out on the Booster seem like obvious potential culprits.

               But perhaps the most unfortunate of all these is that the launch site appears to have been seriously damaged. The launch tower looks intact, but it seems like in retrospect perhaps Stage Zero should have been more comprehensively considered the launch site in general rather than just the tower. Starship dug an enormous crater underneath itself. Retrospectively it seems obvious it would do this. The Falcon Heavy, which has six fewer engines and a lot less power overall, is seen in videos of its test flight being launched from Kennedy Space Center over trenches meant to divert flame and soaked in water. It’s not clear at the time of this writing why Starship launched off a flat, dry surface. Maybe SpaceX wanted to see if it was viable? They certainly have their answer! Some joke that they let the rocket demonstrate how big its minimum flame trench would be. This is an admittedly effective but kind of messy way of doing that. Whatever the reason, I would imagine— given the long term goal is to make the rocket rapidly re-useable, that maybe the biggest thing getting reworked after the launch is, strangely, the launch site, which at this point looks decidedly one-use.

               Some people are speculating the flying concrete chunks contributed to the engine outs and even to the failure of stage separation. While I’ll hold off on saying absolutely that that’s not the case until the final report is issued, to me it doesn’t seem very plausible. I just don’t think concrete chunks would be able to overcome the headwinds generated by 17 million pounds of thrust in order to strike the engines, no matter how they ricocheted. As for the failure of stage separation, well, forgive me for stating the obvious, but that’s way up at the top of the rocket. How exactly would that work?

               Lest I come off as too much of a negative Nancy, allow me to point out that a lot went right with the flight. It didn’t accomplish the things that Musk has described wanting it to in the past, and it only got through a limited number of mission milestones. But… they were big milestones. The biggest and most powerful rocket in history cleared the pad without exploding, in its first launch test as a full stack. It pushed through Max-Q relatively intact. It was also fairly stable (if canted) even with a few engines out, including being able to—presumably as a result of its onboard electrical igniter—relight an engine that went out in flight (it’s worth noting that Falcons have also had engine-outs on missions that were ultimately successful, and of course engine-out capability was specifically discussed as something the rockets should have by Musk above). And the biggest positive of all, SpaceX now has a ton of new data on what the rocket looks like when launched that it didn’t have before. And for a company that plans to fly the rocket until they know every way it’s prone to breaking, well, they now know several more ways it can break. And there’s a good chance those ways will be truly novel. Musk noted in part 1 of the interview:

               “If you look at like the various reasons why we blew up Starship and you looked at the risk list, none of the reasons they blew up were on the risk list. Maybe you could argue one of them, maybe, was on somebody’s risk list, but it wasn’t brought up beforehand, put it that way.” (32:58)

               I think we have good reason from the track record of the company to hope this test provided the necessary information to build bigger and better things. People forget that there was a time in the recent past that landing and refurbishing boosters was a pipe dream, and SpaceX blew up a lot of rockets learning how to do it, to the derision of the same idiots now perversely semi-celebrating the explosion of Starship and telling people this proves we should just stay on Earth. Now SpaceX is using re-useable rockets to beat all comers at launch costs. He who laughs last…

               In the final estimation, my own take on the Starship launch is that, honestly, it wasn’t a success, not on the day of the launch—but it could become a success. If SpaceX learns the things they need to from the 4/20 launch to either get closer to orbit in the next launch, or at least to discover a new and exciting failure mode, then the launch will indeed have been a success. As it stands today it is a potent seed for success. I hope we get to see it bloom. I hope that Musk isn’t being too optimistic—or overcome by bravado—in wanting another launch in a few months.

               But after all of the above, don’t be surprised if it blows up too. That’s what test flights are for.

               I will leave you with a final quote from Musk, from part 3 of the interview, because I think understanding what drives him may be the biggest reason to bet on SpaceX over other private aerospace companies.:

               “I think if we operate with extreme urgency, then we have a chance of making life multi-planetary. Still just a chance, not for sure. If we don’t act with extreme urgency, that chance is probably zero.” (13:11)

172 thoughts on “Halfway to Success by Thomas Kendall

  1. Definitely agree with the idea that it is better to find problems when human lives are not at risk.

      1. Yes, FAR away, and pointed away from the Earth and the solar system generally. Because what’s the result of a superluminal object contacting a sizeable rock? Nobody knows, but I’m going to guess it might not be good for anything in the neighborhood.

        1. I was thinking more of the “side-affect” of the Drive on the neighborhood.

          Oh, one Randall Garrett short story (Time Fuze) had Earth’s first FTL ship visiting a couple of other star systems.

          In each case, the star when nova and they barely escaped.

          They guessed that the drive itself caused the stars to go nova so started worrying about what would happen to our Sun when they returned.

          They had an idea about the range involved with the drive causing a star to nova so planned on arriving close to the Solar System while remaining outside of that range.

          Of course, somebody wondered “what happened to the Sun when the ship started the trip”.

          Then they arrive and realize that good old Sol had gone nova when they left the Solar System. 😈

          1. Well, in that vein, we notice there aren’t star ships blasting around out there in the dark, right? So if not, why not?

            In my books all space travel starts out slower than light, Bussard ramjets. Which seems stupid, because a warp bubble arrangement ought to be achievable, and Alcubiere thought of it already, so where is everybody?

            Well, it turns out that the answer to that question is rather important, and empires of artificial intelligence beings are organized around it.

            They become quite alarmed when the crazy monkeys show up with a fully working Alcubierre warp drive ship… ~:D

            1. “Humans! The criminals of the galaxy! Show me a law of physics those crazy humans haven’t broken! And they keep -winning- curse their shells…”

              “My fleet… ruined! How?”

              “High one, as near as we can discern, they somehow stole a fleet jump gate, and put it into the systems inner asteroid belt. We know it is impossible to move a gate once set, so again they cheated reality.”

              “Asteroids. So?”

              “Retrograde orbit.”

              “Aiaiaiaia….. there are jumpgates at the homeworlds!”

        2. After you finish the introductory stage of the video game ‘Ixion’, you activate the brand new untested jump drive prototype onboard the Tiqqun (pronounced ‘Tycoon’) space station. The idea is to jump to a nearby star system, and then jump back. The jump is to be initiated from lunar orbit.

          After the jump, you find that a considerable amount of time has passed, and you’re in orbit around a scarred and shattered Moon, that orbits an Earth that’s been stripped of atmosphere.


          When you initiate the drive for the first time, there’s a short video that plays that shows the CEO of the company that built Tiqqun giving a speech on Earth at the launch ceremony. And then the camera pans to show Tiqqun vanishing into FTL (or apparently not, given where she came back out…) from lunar orbit, and the after-effect on the Moon. The video in question can also be found on the Steam page for the game, iirc, for the curious.

    1. Thats a bit difficult. Although I look at Starship and think “I bet you a NERVA would really make that thing go…”

      1. It wouldn’t surprise the Reader if one of the variants of Starship includes plans to incorporate said NERVA in lunar orbit for use in the rest of the solar system.

        1. And if you think the “Stay on Earth” Luddites go nuts over current tech… 😉

          Of course, there’s always Orion.

          1. Inside Space X the Orion plans are marked ‘Burn Before Reading’.

  2. Where would aviation be if we had to build a new airplane for every flight?

    Would also mean that every flight is the test flight of a brand new airplane. Wanna buy a ticket?
    “Don’t open that!! It’s the original can of worms!”

    1. That’s called “being a production test pilot.” It can be mildly interesting, especially if you test homebuilt aircraft.

      But to your actual point, yes, let’s see what happens, learn from what goes “boink,” “bloop,” or “bang,” and then make reusable systems.

    2. And for a LONG time, that’s exactly what aviation was. Even Orville and Wilbur didn’t succeed on the first attempt, and didn’t succeed on all the subsequent attempts.

      And it applies everywhere; witness that military maxim “you learn more from defeat than victory.” The winners built the Maginot Line.

      1. And Orville nearly bought it (and a US Army officer did) during a demonstration of a Wright flyer to the U.S. Army. Lots of the Glider types from before (e.g. Lilenthial) also died. We have forgotten that moving technology and exploration forward is DANGEROUS. Apollo killed three astronauts in a ground test in Apollo 1 and nearly killed 3 more in Apollo 13. And the stirrer issue was luring in Apollo 7-12 the just didn’t hit it just right

        1. We have forgotten that moving technology and exploration forward is DANGEROUS.

          Similarly it requires effort. One of the angles people attack SpaceX on is that it consumes engineers because they can’t maintain that output for more than a few years.

          Well. duh

  3. So he’s – in writer parlance – throwing out a rough draft, finding out in practice where it needs editing, rewriting it, and then throwing it out in public again. And this time, it “bombed” – blew up – but he still has other successful manuscripts out there that work and he’s learned how and why this one didn’t work. So the next draft will be better than the last one.

    Okay, I’m impressed.

    1. Ma’am, this is how both the scientific and engineering process have ALWAYS worked, See Edison’s famous comment about finding 100 ways he couldn’t build a light bulb.

      1. Indeed. It’s an iterative process that coincides with and follows many others. An electrical engineer teaching us non-engineers some things at work a while ago pointed out that Edison didn’t actually invent the idea of creating light with electricity, as the means of making a resistive conductor emit light were already well known at the time. (Something I hadn’t really considered, but it makes sense on second thought; people had been experimenting with electricity for well over a hundred years at that point.)

        What Edison invented was not electric light, but the BULB: a way to cheaply and reliably keep an electric light lit for quite a long time. Not at all the ex nihilo invention usually implied in the “invented the light bulb” phrase, but a great and world-changing achievement in its own right.

        1. And to reply to myself by way of finishing the thought, Elon Musk and co. are trying to do a similar thing on a bigger scale. The challenge isn’t in getting something into orbit or even out into space; at this point any competent government or sufficiently funded company could gather the people and resources to do it. The challenge is in doing it reliably and economically…and it’s a good thing we’ve got a few people like Musk who are driven to do it.

      2. As I recall (recall not perfect, so) the two Big Quotations regarding Edison and the incandescent bulb are…

        “I have not failed. I now know 1,000 things that don’t work.”


        “I knew if I could get it to burn for 40 hours, I could get it to burn for a 1,000.”

  4. Engineering design seems to be an art of unknown design flaws, and incomplete information. Both tradeoffs and risks also.

    Design flaws include some combination of failure modes unknown to the designer, and of modes known to the designer, but incorrectly not included in the forecast due to a misprediction of operating conditions.

    Engineering test is partly about verifying function, partly identifying design flaws, and partly adjsuting design to mitigate flaws.

    How new is a design? Formulated differently, how far is it in ‘design space’ from other designs with failure modes well known to engineers? Well, with a truly new design, you do not really know. There may be aspects of ‘design space’ unknown to science, ‘dimensions’ that exist in ‘design space’, on which your design is very distant from previous designs, that when you exclude from your model of ‘design space’ makes your design seem much closer to previous designs.

    If you do ten tests to destruction, with design changes between each test, and the failure modes exactly identical each time, I would wonder at the level of progress. Unless the design is cheaper each and every time.

    But, one test with a bunch of failure modes? As novel as this design is? Yeah, I’m comfortable calling that a success.

    1. They blew up a shit ton of V-2’s in the forties and fifties. There was also a time when NASA couldn’t build a rocket without it blowing up. Right now NASA is letting Musk and the others work out all the kinks they couldn’t work out, or didn’t want to spend the budget on. They can always have the government confiscate it afterwards. The space shuttle was a baby step, but only a baby step, the black eye from two shuttles blowing up won’t go away anytime soon. Now with the wokie’s running everything in government NASA is back to being a dirt side remote control force, and that is not a space station, it’s a bigger Skylab. You can tell it’s not a space station, It has ‘International’ as it’s first lying name. This is from a kid who had all the Cloth Patches and Emblem Stickers from the cereal boxes for Mercury and Gemini, they quit doing it for Apollo, Bastards. Always Loved Freedom Seven, and Friendship Seven as names for capsules, but that’s the thing, those were capsules, not space ships. Right now I bet we could be one hell of an escape capsule maker, true space ships, not so much. But just watch us, it wont be long. We want to fly between the stars, and we will. Go ahead space aliens, or Wokie lefty scum, do your worst, we’ll just start all over again. Without you this time, just watch us Bitches…..

      Oh, and I can’t wait for the first LowRider or Pimped out Spaceship, oh the places we’ll go.

      1. “They can always have the government confiscate it afterwards. ”


        Or hamstring it; the license the FAA so generously let Musk have was valid for only ONE flight. This was it. Start over on that process too.

        And people wonder why Musk is building his battery plant in China? Same reason von Seekt started panzer development in Russia: where will I be allowed to do anything?

        1. the license was good for 5 years and included details about the 2nd and 3rd flights planned (where the 2nd stage was expected to break up at reentry, so the two they built without the tiles), so it’s not quite as bad as you make it out to be.

          That said, I am convinced that the environmental assessment a year ago kept getting delayed to make sure that the Starship didn’t fly before the SLS

          1. From section 4b of the actual license text:

            “b. Flight Operations:
            i. Using the Starship-Super Heavy vehicle.
            ii. From SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Complex, Boca Chica, Texas.
            iii. To Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean locations specified in its application.
            iv. For the first flight only, unless this license is modified to remove this term.

            Quoted here, with a link to the license at the FAA…. which has apparently been memory holed in the last 9 days.


    2. Yes, lots of examples in history. The initial failure rate for bombers in WWII was pretty dramatic. Initially the damage on the surviving aircraft was analyzed and fixes made. But then some smart folks pointed out that the surviving planes damage was not fatal – something else was causing planes to be shot down. The real beefing up was needed in the areas that didn’t show damage: the planes that were shot down were obviously hit in other areas. So they reinforced the undamaged places and the survival rate went up. Engineering is often the exact opposite of “common sense”.

      1. Little Boy had to be made arming capable in flight after the Enola Gay took off from Tinian, because the failure rate of take offs was high enough for the B-29s that the risk of the plane crashing and setting off the bomb by accident was too much of a risk.

        And as noted already, the early space program was a parade of rockets blowing up on launch.

        1. One of the quirks of the B-29 was that the engines generated so much heat, the pre-takeoff magneto check “start the engines with both magnetos, then cut each one off to ensure both magnetos work” checkpoint was almost guaranteed to start a fire.

          From one or more of my WW-II books, apparently the checklist was modified so that the magneto check was done during the takeoff run.

          The 509th bomber wing (Enola Gay, Bock’s Car and the others) were “silverplate”, built with the maximum amount of care to ensure reliability. Even so, Bock’s Car wasn’t able to get the fuel transfer valve to work correctly and they did an emergency landing in Okinawa, (I believe the radio was out, too), setting off all emergency flares. That must have been confusing (flares included “Wounded Aboard” and so on). I believe they had a few gallons of fuel available at the end of the landing. Not a lot when you have four 3300 cubic inch engines running.

          (I think most of this was from Rhode’s book on the atomic bomb, with other bits from a book titiled Enola Gay: The Bombing of Hiroshima. FWIW, Dad was stationed on Okinawa shortly after Nagasaki and got the story of Bock’s Car seriously wrong. The grapevine was a bit broken…)

        1. Yeah… I have seen several articles about how counterintuitive his survivorship bias observation was, but the first one I started reading I immediately thought they were looking at the problem wrong, before I got to the part about Wald’s ‘brilliant’ insight. Maybe he wasn’t some insightful genius, maybe a lot of people impressed by this are just not very good at thinking about these types of problems. And he was probably surrounded by a bunch of innumerate midwits in the military who thought they were all very, very smart. I had the exact same insight and I know I’m not some super genius; I just have engineering experience.

      2. I recently watched a video on the history of the B-26 and they mentioned that at the accepted failure rate of aircraft during WWII, we would have ~70 airliners a day crashing in just the US.

        1. the design space exploration in WWII was a bit amazing

          made a lot of fighters and bombers

          After the war, those experienced bomber designers were able to learn about supersonics, and come up with the B-52.

          Fighters were a bit more challenging.

            1. Don’t forget the B58 in that list of supersonic bombers. It is the Reader’s favorite.

              1. I love the B-58 Hustler too. But it was a serious widowmaker of a plane I think it’s loss rate over the life of the fleet was almost 30% with at least one kind of hairy Broken Arrow (nuclear weapon involved) incident. The XB-70 Valkyrie was gorgeous but only 2 were made and one was lost doing a Photo Op. Someday I’ll get to the USAF museum and get to see the Valkyrie and Hustler.

                1. The Reader spent a few hours there killing time one morning before an afternoon meeting on WPAFB. Absolutely worth it. Would like to go back but since I no longer have business travel reasons to go to Dayton it may be a while.

                2. Well worth the trip. My current Zoom background is a shot I took there during one of my trips, with the noses of an SR-71 and the XB-70 pointed at each other, with an X-15 in the foreground.

                  And, until I saw it, I really couldn’t appreciate just how HUGE the B-36 was.

                  1. Indeed the B-36 was immense. Long ago (c. 1977) what is now the New England Air Museum (https://neam.org/) had a bunch of outdoor unrestored aircraft displayed outdoors including a B-36. In the long ago no one really worried about lawsuits and they would undo a lock they’d put on the aircraft and you could look at (and fiddle with) the cockpit and controls. The throttle quadrant for the B-36 had 10 levers (for 6 pusher props and 4 jets, 6 turnin’ and 4 burnin’) and that was almost more impressive than the aircraft. Sadly almost all of those outdoor display aircraft including the B-36 were destroyed in an extremely rare for Connecticut F-4 tornado in fall of 1979. Should you end up at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks the museum is worth the time with lots of Sikorsky and Kaman rotary hardware.

            2. The B-47 isn’t supersonic, but quoth Wiki: “designed to fly at high subsonic speed and at high altitude”. Looks like it was the first swept-wing bomber.

              One (RB-47 recon version) was shot down (in international airspace) by the Soviets in July, 1960. Two (out of 6) crew members survived and were repatriated in 1961. (Older brother had a book The Little Toy Dog about the incident. Said doggo was a mascot for one of the survivors.)

  5. a couple items.

    They did a static fire at 50% power and the concrete held up without damage, so they thought they could get away with one launch with minimal damage (a few months ago they started building a water-cooled steel plate to go there, but it wasn’t ready in time). That static fire was more powerful than the Saturn 5 moon rocket. They learned they were wrong about it’s durability and the exhaust also lifted and shattered many concrete slabs for several hundred feet from the pad. Musk said they can fix it in 1-2 months, other people estimate 4-6 months.

    At the point in flight where it started looping, it had burned pretty much all it’s fuel and it was at the point of stage separation, to do that, the rocket was supposed to pitch up rapidly, then release the upper stage and have the rotational forces separate the two. We don’t yet have any word on why they didn’t separate (I’m guessing that the rotation wasn’t fast enough, which could have been the hydraulic power units not working)

    In a different interview with Tim Dodd (the interviewer and one of the people who will fly in a Starship around the moon in a few years), Musk said that if you never fail, you aren’t pushing hard enough.

    Ship 24 and booster 7 were built almost a year ago. For NASA, that’s a trivial amount of time, about the minimum for any launch (with the Orion capsules built back in 2014). For Starship this is several generations old. The 33 Raptor engines on the booster span serial numbers ~40-100, recently raptor serial 205 was spotted

    Yes, it would have been nice if things had worked better, and the launch site damage is a setback, but I still expect several more Starship flights this year. Compare this to the SLS which, at best, will fly it’s second time late next year.

  6. a couple items.

    They did a static fire at 50% power and the concrete held up without damage, so they thought they could get away with one launch with minimal damage (a few months ago they started building a water-cooled steel plate to go there, but it wasn’t ready in time). That static fire was more powerful than the Saturn 5 moon rocket. They learned they were wrong about it’s durability and the exhaust also lifted and shattered many concrete slabs for several hundred feet from the pad. Musk said they can fix it in 1-2 months, other people estimate 4-6 months.

    At the point in flight where it started looping, it had burned pretty much all it’s fuel and it was at the point of stage separation, to do that, the rocket was supposed to pitch up rapidly, then release the upper stage and have the rotational forces separate the two. We don’t yet have any word on why they didn’t separate (I’m guessing that the rotation wasn’t fast enough, which could have been the hydraulic power units not working)

    In a different interview with Tim Dodd (the interviewer and one of the people who will fly in a Starship around the moon in a few years), Musk said that if you never fail, you aren’t pushing hard enough.

    Ship 24 and booster 7 were built almost a year ago. For NASA, that’s a trivial amount of time, about the minimum for any launch (with the Orion capsules built back in 2014). For Starship this is several generations old. The 33 Raptor engines on the booster span serial numbers ~40-100, recently raptor serial 205 was spotted

    Yes, it would have been nice if things had worked better, and the launch site damage is a setback, but I still expect several more Starship flights this year. Compare this to the SLS which, at best, will fly it’s second time late next year.

  7. A lot of people on the left want SpaceX to fail because of twitter, and frankly Fuck them! I don’t want to jeopardize us being multi planetary because the left lost control of one of their narrative management systems.

    1. This is really the root of the matter. The American Left has decided Musk is the enemy, so they are calling down fire on him in all areas. It doesn’t matter to them what he’s done in life, or that he was on their side until recently, he’s the enemy and he’s going down.

      Given that, anything bad I hear about Starship I simply assume its Lefty propaganda. Pretty safe assumption, given how they operate.

      Space X just launched a ship bigger than the Saturn V moon shot. First time ever. It didn’t blow up on the pad. That’s a big freaking win.

        1. Turns out launching from a flat concrete pad is a no-go. I’ve read that landing the boosters on flat pads is a problem too, heat-spalling and flying concrete, plus the resulting pitting of the surface. More pitting means more trouble next time.

          One more thing for the team to figure out. I bet they come up with something better than huge bazillion dollar reinforced concrete trench flooded with 40,000 tons of water.

          1. Note that these dry flat concrete pad launches also are providing data for how the rockets will operate taking off the Lunar and Martian surfaces. Grant, they won’t be using the same stages that we launch from Earth with, but still valuable data. Want to bet Musk has a plan for a dirt launch somewhere down the line?

          2. the height of the Starship launch mount is taller than the depth of the Saturn 5 flame trench, plus the mount gives 6 directions for the exhaust to go instead of 2. (admittedly it didn’t have an angled diverter). note that one of the Shuttle launches tore up the bricks and concrete of the Saturn flame trench, imagine what the starship would have done to that (and to the man-made mound that is all the area surrounding the trench, the bottom of the trench and the concrete under the launch mount are both just a few feet above sea level)

            The concrete survived the 31 engine 50% throttle static fire with minimal erosion, so they calculated that it would be ok for the 90% power flight (both about the same duration against the concrete), they think now that instead of eroding the concrete faster, the force shattered the concrete, at which point it flung it everywhere, and the exhaust got under nearby slabs of concrete and sent slabs a hundred or so feet away from the launch mount flying.

            They already knew that the erosion problem would prevent them from reaching their goal (a launch every hour), so have been working for the last three months to build a water-cooled steel plate for future flights, it wasn’t ready yet, and they thought the special concrete would be good enough for 1 launch

            (insert rant about the difference between interpolation between two observed points and extrapolation outside any observed point where you can’t predict non-linear behavior)

    2. There are also the socialists who want Space X and indeed all space exploration to fail because they think spending money on space exploration and travel is “a waste of money that could be spent on Earth” for social welfare and redistribution programs…in their eyes it doesn’t serve “social justice” and is therefore to be made non-existent.

      1. Yes, the people who think every shekel in the world is their property to use as they see fit, and the rest of us had better think that too.

        I’ve heard the DemocRats crying poor since Kennedy said he’d put a man on the moon. Same old song, same old grifters singing it.

        I must admit it has been extremely funny seeing “Science Fiction Fans” talking shit about the guy launching the most powerful heavy lift rocket that ever flew.

        If Elon makes this thing work, we could end up being able to take a for-real vacation at a for-real orbiting hotel. How cool would that be?

        1. It goes all the way back to Judas Iscariot and probably farther. (“Why did you waste this valuable ointment on Jesus? It could have been sold for 300 (500?) denarii and the money given to the poor!” Said the guy who handled the money and, says John, helped himself to it.)

        1. If we are in space, or please heaven help us get there, on another planet. The less control they have over us. Not to mention their habit of making Man somehow not a part of the animal kingdom so he must be bad and unnatural. Man is an animal, just look at how we treat each other, especially in their utopian run liberal cities. Oh yes Man is natural, and can be an evil son of a gun as well. Just look at the lefties as an example.

          1. I think the Lefties are also afraid that if Musk gets permanent manned space status, that he also has the capability to drop rocks on them from orbit. After all, some of the Left do read science fiction too, and even a couple have enough brain cells to envision The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress scenario.

            1. One wonders if one out of every ten Starlink satellites happens to be a long pointy cylinder of suspiciously high mass.

        2. Have you noticed the number of “TrueFans” singing this anti-Musk/anti-space party line? Almost more revealing than Sad Puppies.

          Toads in human clothing.

          1. They don’t like success that’s not their success. Whatever that means.

            I remember thinking that most of the complaints about Virgin Galactic seemed to boil down to “It’s not fair for anyone to have the money to be able to do that, so we detest what he’s doing.”

            1. You know that’s not the right tone. You need to beat your hands and feet on the floor and scream, “It’s not FAIR!” to get the proper emotional overtone.

            2. They don’t like success at all. Successful people don’t need ‘help’ from the government, and that really grates on their gizzards. Which is why the government punishes success and rewards failure.
              “If your reputation can be ruined by the truth, it should be.”

        3. Worse, much, much eorse than “imprisoned”.

          They want us without hope, thus in need of -them- as Savior. And many would deny us even -that- false hope. Gleefully.

          All of -That- is the face of Evil.

      2. “Help the poor” is a convenient lie; they care nothing for “the poor”. What they want is for no one to escape their grasp. Ever.

    3. The Reader believes that the folks on the left wanted Space X to fail well before Musk bought Twitter. It stands for everything they hate – competence and freedom.

      1. Well, if you’re off the Earth you are out of their reach, aren’t you? They can issue a law, restraining order, declaration of war, and you can just give them the finger. Only one hand, because using two is more effort than they’re worth.

        Some few of the smarter ones realize that a company with private orbital production capacity can fly WHATEVER THEY WANT if they make it in orbit. “Whatever they want” covers a lot of ground when you”re talking about an aerospace engineering company. Telescopes, space lasers, flying telephone poles, big friggin’ mirrors, there’s a lot of things they could do.

        Hell, maybe they’ll even make money. Imagine the screams if they do that. ~:D

            1. They may operate at low altitude normally., but if you can loft 34 to a higher orbit, it’s a fairly cheap ASAT shotgun.

          1. I have Starlink. I’m typing this and it goes straight to orbit, then back down again to teh Intertubes somewhere.

            Beats DSL, let me tell you. Two thumbs way up for Starlink.

            1. If I ever move out to Tierra de Balzacq, where I get one bar on my phone on a good day, I’m definitely getting Starlink.

              1. Sister and BIL just got Starlink for their place east of Vancouver WA (Hockins). Immediate success. Normally bandwidth isn’t a problem, but when their daughter or niece have to work from their house, no one else can do anything (including watch TV because everything is streamed). Do not know where they are with getting the whole house setup with boosters, and tucking the wiring under the house.

                Meant to ask since we saw them today, but forgot.

                All about the niece, bride and her new bridegroom. Wedding was nice. Small gathering, about 60. Venue in Tualatin OR. Pup was really glad to see us back home. Long day for her. Also, very, very, nice day for a wedding. Most of the wedding was indoors, and a covered area for between wedding and dinner reception. But would have been very crowded in the covered area if it had rained. Hit rain south of Corvallis as we came home south into Eugene. (Traffic was horrible on I-5 for a Saturday. Moving. But a lot of vehicles.)

                1. Despite “the Net” being around, more-or-less, for the General Public, for about 30 years…. this IS STILL THE EARLY DAYS. Remember it took AGES (so it seemed THEN) to standardize the placement of automobile pedals – and transmission arrangements. “I had the silly thing in reverse.” seems crazy NOW, but once upon a time, it was a very real risk in an unfamiliar vehicle. Give the net a century or so, and maybe folks will begin to start to figure it out. That’s, right folks… YOU are pioneers, even now.

                  So may you don’t recall phone modems, and can’t tell connection speed from audio (I haz a storee…) but SO WHAT? Every few years, SOMETHING NEW still shows up. Maybe good. Maybe bad. Maybe “WHAT THE?”…. but… it’s a Big Deal for a bit – not like, “Oh. $FOUNDRY has some new steel variant… so..?” (A few metallurgist and materials scientist might go ga-ga.. or wonder why they are expected to, but… John Q. Public yawns, if even aware.) Right now? The latest pretenders to AI are a Big Deal. But… has an “AI” had an original idea yet? Declared itself sentient and demanded protections?

                  Aye, it’s Quantum Mechanics down in the silicon (or germanium, or….) and that might as well be magic, except magic might make MORE sense. And yet… so far.. despite it all… amazing and impressive as it is… it’s diodes and triodes and programming. REALLY bloody fast diodes & triodes and some Seriously Interesting programming…. but nothing more.

                  1. Oh. Sister, BIL, and I are all old enough to remember the days of nothing to original dial up to finally direct connects. Also knowledgeable enough that if what we each have now is in the category of “works for us but could be better” and something “possibly better”, especially if explicitly designed for our specific challenge (cough rural cough), that we’ll try it. That is where they are. Rural Xfinity/Comcast coverage not as good because on outer edge of coverage. Something, Starlink, came into their area that puts their location front and center? Why not try it. That’s how they/we got direct VS modems, in the first place. I have no reason to try Starlink, until if/when we need something traveling, or the costs drop dramatically. But I will listen to those who have made the leap on their experiences.

                  2. I’m old enough to have owned and used 300, 1200, 14.4k and 56k modems. (At least I skipped 110–had to use that at work on Teletype terminals on one underpowered minicomputer.) I’m currently on Dish (Hughes) internet, which works fairly well but is metered bandwidth. I have 50Gbytes/month available from 2AM to 8AM, but only 10 between 8AM and 2. Thus a bunch of peculiar timestamps on my posts.

                    The biggest block against going to Starlink is the bundled Dish TV. Not everything that $SPOUSE wants to watch is available via streaming, so Starlink or Telco fiber broadband options lose their cost effectiveness. OTOH, broadcast TV channels are getting much less attention at Casa RC.

                  1. They’re launching the house into orbit?

                    Please don’t give baby sister & BIL any ideas.

              2. We would have if the local communications co-op hadn’t gone to fiber just before Starlink really got going. (They were due for it and had been saving every extra penny for the inevitable ‘we need to upgrade’ since they started in the 70s. They’d been sounding out how many folk would pay what it would take to run and ran with it as soon as they crossed the threshold of willing folk.)

  8. In the early days of the Space program, NASA used an approach much like that of Musk. There were a lot of unmanned flights that failed, before the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. It was very frustrating, but each iteration solved more problems,

    However, there was no unmanned testing of the Space shuttle. From very beginning It had to be piloted. Each of the orbiters was too expensive to risk failing a test, which in the long run, practically guaranteed that eventually one of them would fail. Furthermore, it was a horse designed by a committee and tried to be all things to all people, doing none of them very well. A redesign to fix the known bugs that had surfaced would have involved…another committee.

    To those who have grown up in the Space shuttle era, Musk’s approach may seem bizarre. To those more familiar with the early days of the space program, it’s more like the way things always should have been done.

    1. One of the big problems designing the Shuttle wasn’t the engineering – it was Congress.
      The engineers wanted liquid fueled reusable boosters – but Morton Thiokol had proposed solid fuel reusable refurbishable boosters and they had facilities in districts with influential politicians.
      They would also cost less during development, but more for each flight.
      Also they had to have a smaller diameter than the engineers wanted because they had to be shipped by rail and the railroad tunnels from Utah to Florida didn’t have enough clearance to get larger ones through.
      Guess which Congress chose to fund…

      1. Congress being the committee I was referring to. The engineers were constrained by what Congress would fund, and what Congress would fund was driven by political compromise.

      2. Plus, Nixon never forgave Kennedy for the 1960 election fraud, and considered NASA to be Kennedy’s legacy. The space program was too popular to kill openly, so he had to stab it in the back.

    2. The shuttles were essentially hand-built prototypes, no two the same. Endeavor in particular was very different, benefitting from the prior experiences.



      Three out of five survived to retire to museums. Four of six, if you count Enterprise.

      That is actually fairly good for such.

      Musk will get a “big payload to orbit” design working in a small fraction of the cost and a small fraction of the time. Thus the bureaucrats must wreck him.

      I wonder if he has folks trying to reverse engineer those lovely F-1s from the Saturn V. They were way ahead of their time, and still rate as some of the absolute best. Pity some maniac scrapped all the plans.

      1. Bezos has two F-1 engines (he recovered them from the ocean), though that doesn’t appear to have helped Blue Origin catch up to SpaceX. It’s hard to say how much having the F-1 schematics would help Musk. On the one hand, it’s true that they were extremely powerful engines. On the other, SpaceX’s Raptor appears to be doing a good job. If Musk could replace the three dozen Raptors with a smaller number of F-1s, would he do so?

        I don’t know enough to say.

        1. The F-1 were amazing hardware, for mid 1960. But their Specific Impulse (measure of efficiency https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_impulse) was 264s (yes the unit is seconds, basically all the other units cancel, its weird) A Raptors Specific Impulse is 373/327 (vacuum/ sea level, I suspect the number for the F-1 is sea level they never ran in full vacuum). The raptors use far less mass of fuel for the same thrust/mass. Several things changed radically between here and the early 60s. First you can do a far more thorough simulation of the engine chamber than a 1960’s engineer could even dream of. Second we’re far better at igniting multiple engines (that was part of the N-1 issue, although crappy Soviet production standards didn’t help). Is there stuff to be learned from the F-1? Very Likely. Is it worth trying to monkey copy it? Probably not, it was a fiddly beast to start with.

        2. The Raptor is a technologically superior machine to the F-1 in every way except raw power output.

          And you get better results from lots of assembly line engines than a few larger ones.

          1. The Raptor is a technologically superior machine to the F-1 in every way except raw power output.

            After clicking post I realized that I understated this.

            The Raptor is a technologically superior engine to anything else out there.

      2. I don’t know how much reverse engineering is needed. There is a surviving Saturn V (which would have been Apollo 18 if it hadn’t been cancelled) and a few years back somebody took off dimensions and built a Catia model of the F-1. Catia is the CAD system used by Boeing, Airbus, and other large manufacturers.

        1. A quick search turned up an article about it here – https://tinyurl.com/2wrfrn5x

          A few highlights –

          According to the article, NASA does still have the blueprints for the F-1. But every F-1 was unique, and had improvements over its predecessors. Those aren’t in the blueprints.
          There are quite a few F-1s still around. The article mentions that there are even three Saturn V rockets – with engines – still intact and on display. The engine that got taken apart was one that was originally slated for Apollo 19, but was placed in storage when the Apollo missions were ended before 19 could be launched.
          They later conducted test firing the gas generator of an F-1 that was (until they got it for test firing) on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
          Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne has been working on the F-1B, which is based on an uprated but never used version of the F-1 called the F-1A. The engineers from PWR were appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the test firings so they could get data for their work.
          The sidebar mentions Soviet attempts to build a bigger engine. They encountered the same combustion instability problem (due to burning propellant swirling in the nozzle) that NASA did. But while NASA came up with a baffles system to resolve the issue, the Soviets were forced to use multiple smaller nozzles instead of a single large one.

          1. Also known as ‘Why did Energia have 36 rocket engines on the first stage?’

            Because when the Russians tried to build bigger engines, they blew up.

        2. There is an Apollo Saturn V rocket hanging from the ceiling at the Cape Canaveral Museum. It is huge.

        3. they have the blueprints, what they don’t have are the machinist notes that tell how they were actually built and where they deviated from the blueprints.

          That said, there was a project back int he 90s or so to build an updated version of the F1

          1. Probably the F-1A that I mentioned earlier. Rocketdyne was working on an upgraded version of that, the F-1B, in 2013, for the Pyrios Booster that was submitted for the SLS program. But Pyrios was liquid-fueled, and NASA decided to go with a solid-fuel booster instead (a very brief look suggests that it’s because NASA wanted to use old shuttle boosters). As a result, work on the F-1B was ended.

      3. The F1 produced a lot of power, but it was rather inefficient. Back then we didn’t have the computing power to manage large numbers of engines (see the N1 failures), flying the Falcon Heavy with 27 engines has satisfied most people that we understand how to fly with lots of engines.

        And this flight, that had 3 engines out from about the time we see it clear the tower and 6-7 out overall at the time of the stage separation attempt, shows that we can even handle engine failures reliably

        1. And that’s important. If you lose an engine on a Saturn V, you’re down 80% of your thrust. The Starship that just launched would have had to lose eight engines to suffer a similar thrust reduction. Further, losing one engine out of five on the Saturn V would cause a much greater degree of instability in the thrust (since you’ve essentially lost all thrust on one specific side of the rocket, and only that side; unless it’s the center engine, of course) than losing eight engines that are probably not all concentrated on the same side of the Starship.

          Now of course Starship nearly did lose that many. However, this was a test flight meant to identify the bugs that need to be resolved, and not a “serious” mission.

  9. The kids today don’t understand how many failures Atlas had (14 if I remember right) and that was a follow on program to an earlier development of the missile! And the Saturn program was beset with engine problems for years prior to their successful launches.

  10. I think the best point is that in the government run system there is a huge risk for making any change with very little (if any) reward. Having just retired from a big corporation I can attest that is the same mentality in a big company. You get promoted by not screwing up (or not getting caught). People who advocate change never get promoted because every change has a risk of not working; eventually something will break and all the past successes will be forgotten…

  11. We’re going to space because Elon wants to go and just a minute watching the video makes me so…I don’t have words. Hopeful is one word. Happy again, but that’s a phrase. I’ll even quit bashing twitter even though I’m banned because to hell with the rest, Elon reopened space. And BTW does anyone wanna read my paper on AGILE project management? Didn’t think so but this is AGILE on steroids. IMO.

  12. What is it about refugees from failed states and honkin-big American rockets?

    Elon Musk

    Werner von Braun

      1. Absent a strong stomach, avoid researching WvB.

        Once you see it, The Apollo program is never the same.

        1. I did a paper on him back in school. All the initial stuff I found made him sound like a horrible monster that had been whitewashed because he was useful. When I dug deeper I found that most of the “horrible monster” stuff was made up, exaggerated, or taken out of context by commies to smear him. For example, there was a Frontline expose on him just before I did my paper. It had some pretty damning excerpts from the Army’s Project Paperclip file on him. Then I got ahold of the rest of those pages and found that Frontline had cut off their quote just before the Army reported their investigation of those horrible accusations that showed they were false. Frontline had obviously read the whole thing and carefully picked where to quote and where to just put ‘…’ to make the report mean the opposite of what it did. I’m sure they aren’t the only commies who did that.

          I am biased, I guess. I went to the Space Camp in Huntsville that he campioned the development of and he sometimes shopped for groceries in my grandfather’s grocery store outside of Huntsville.

          1. Keep in mind that there was probably as much whitewash as redwash. And if not in quantity, then certainly quality.

            Most Germans were quite proud of their Reich. They were quite willing.

            Most Germans were well aware of the horror inflicted on “wrongfolk”. Perhaps they lacked some detail. But the vanishing of untermenshen was kinda obvious. So were the actions of the various SiPo/KriPo/GeStaPo. And “relocation in the east” in a country at war for “living space”?

            They knew.

            They -knew-.

            Lord have mercy, anyone downwind of a “Konzentrationslager” (KL properly or somtimes KZ = concentration camp” knew it was a horror. Even folks with a normal sense of smell would -know-.

            And we needed them to beat Russia, so we forgave a card-carrying member of the Allgemeine SS to get to the moon, and more importantly, get to credibly reliable intercontinental ICBMs that the Soviets could not reasonably counter, thus stopping -those- mass murdering schwinehund from ruling the earth.

            Not saying we should have wasted that talent. But I think we might have kept him on a more obvious leash. So not a nice guy either. I however, prideful perhaps, won’t claim ignorance.

            Soviets had their own version of paperclip. And far, far more blood on their own hands. Glad we triumphed. The alternative is horrific.

            Politics is usually filthy, often obscene.

  13. “I mean our goal with the first one is, for the first orbital launch, our goal is to make it to orbit without blowing up. That’s our goal. And frankly if we even get the… If the booster even does it’s job and something goes wrong with the ship I would count that as good progress. Like basically, actually, to be totally frank, if it takes off without blowing up the stand, stage zero, which is much harder to replace than the booster, that would be a victory. Please do not blow up on the stand. That’s the number one concern.”

    You present this as if it’s in contradiction to more recent statements, and I don’t see that. My interpretation of this is “Ideally, we want to get to orbit, but if it just clears the launchpad that’s a win.” Apart from stating the ideal outcome, which is a pie-in-the-sky statement, not a “somebody actually expects this” one, there is zero contradiction that I can see. And even that isn’t a contradiction, since getting to orbit is the goal.

      1. What, are the leftoids telling people to turn lights off for the planet or something? And is it Earth Day? I haven’t been keeping track. (Every day is an earth day; we have no other planet to go to, so what else could it be?)

  14. “I think if we operate with extreme urgency, then we have a chance of making life multi-planetary. Still just a chance, not for sure. If we don’t act with extreme urgency, that chance is probably zero.”

    This is troubling. What drives him is off-world colonies. He wants it badly, and it’s why he does what he does. But something is causing him to think that even if he goes full-tilt, it might already be too late. The window of opportunity might have already closed.

      1. Yeah, but that chance doesn’t always have just a narrow window of opportunity. For example, the ability for Europeans to reach the New World wouldn’t have vanished if Columbus had bungled his expedition. Someone else would have done it sooner or later. Musk seems to thing that there’s something breathing down the collective necks of humanity that will close the window if we don’t get off the ground very soon.

        1. You mean “something” other than progresivism that wants to kill off most of the planet’s population, and set almost all of the remaining population to being good little slaves for the Important People(tm)? 😛

          1. Well there’s always the Alien Overlords who think humans are icky. I agree with a certain author who once wrote, Danger Humans. It was on all the star maps, but curiosity got the better of them and they left one ship with the keys in it….

            1. Asimov.

              They took one captive to figure out what the issue was. He managed to escape.

            1. Yeah, this. Sigh. The modern version of John Milton. I liked his better.

              “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”

              1. But that isn’t the choice, of course. The choice is merely where one wants to go, not the role upon arrival.

          1. What if the lizards were actually from the Earth of 65 million years ago, they made it into space, but caused so much trouble the other aliens blew up the planet. And now after 65 million years the mammals are going for it as well. The other Aliens keep asking; “Dudes you came from there originally what about these hairless apes?”
            “Don’t lay that shit on us, we can’t figure the pesky little buggers out ourselves” Lizards reply.
            What must they think of this pesky little blue ball?

            Oh and to all those who say what about God?
            I don’t believe for a moment God would make all this universe and not give us someone else to play with, God just hopes we place nice.

        2. There ARE some resource constraints on materials required to construct spaceflight capability, especially if we are wasting them on climate change and other boondoggles.

          In addition, our lizards may manage to do enough damage that we will have to spend our available resources of skills and willpower fighting them off. Kind of like trying to run a marathon with pneumonia.

    1. Engineering is not just a set of textbooks, and turn the crank to turn school kids into engineers.

      One, you need to have kids.

      Two, the culture they come from can’t be too screwed up.

      Three, it may be difficult to really practice the art while hamstrung by totalitarians.

      1. The Reader once (after a couple of drinks at a Christmas party) attempted to explain engineering to a noted artist. He tried to describe it in terms that the artist would understand, starting with the ‘idea’ that was basically the same as the artist’s vision and going though design and problem solving and ending up with a product (artwork in her case). The differences being the tools were computers and the timescale months to years. And oh by the way – engineering is a team sport with a team that is formed out of mostly introvert loners. The artist’s eyes closed for a few minutes and then she went “I get it but why would anyone do THAT?”.

        1. “Because it’s COOL!”

          You get to create something useful that never existed before. It’s hard to understand the feeling of accomplishment you get from placing that last trace on a circuit board unless you’ve done it.
          Complex questions never have simple answers. Hell, most simple questions don’t have simple answers.

          1. If you only knew how many young software developers I’ve had to haul up by the collar and remind them that “Of course it’s COOL,but is it USEFUL to the customers who are paying for it?”

  15. “Only a chance…”. Jerry Pournelle wrote about this a few decades ago in “A Step Farther Out”. He opined we only had a few decades with sufficient societal wealth, ability and willingness to try. Depletion of critical resources, political driven restrictions (Heinlein’s “bad luck”), or something else would eventually get in the way.

      1. they are not that scarce, but exploiting them takes more technology over time. IF we backslide, we may have a really hard time getting started again (depending on how much knowledge survives)

      2. Political stupidity …. will pass?

        (Joker Laugh)

        What, like a bad case of constipation?

        (Joker Laugh)

        Pol-Lax, vote it in today!

        (Joker Laugh)

        Oh, Bravo. You have made my day, and it isn’t even six am yet.

  16. I want to see thriving civilian colonies on the Moon, Mars, larger astrroids, etc…

    Musk is the only one with a plan that looks feasible.

    1. There might be others. But Musk is certainly the only one that’s gotten far enough along for it to possibly work. And he has other industries that would also be useful. For example, while I have zero interest in owning a Tesla, I have to admit that electric vehicles would be pretty much a requirement for an off-world settlement. After all, there are no fossil fuels on Mars. And shipping oil would be very expensive.

      1. I have no interest in owning any of the Tesla cars (I admit being intrigued by the cybertruck and the idea of an RV based on a Tesla Semi sounds fun. But I am unlikely to every spend their purchase price on any vehicle)

        But I really respect the fact that he is building cars that people like and want, not just cars that people are forced to buy. Tesla doesn’t turn down the free money that is subsidies and sales of regulatory credits to other companies, but they have said repeatedly that they would be happy if all such payments were to disappear across the board

        1. The problem with the Tesla semi comes down to the range/weight issue that all electric vehicles have. Put a load on an electric vehicle, and the range drops dramatically. Even PepsiCo, which received the very first commercially sold Tesla semi, isn’t using theirs for long-haul heavy load stuff. It’s mostly the lighter stuff (Frito-Lay bags of chips), and short or medium range hauling.

          It’d be nice if Tesla could figure out a solution for it. But I don’t think that’s going to happen soon.

      2. Fossil fuels are the easy part. There are entire moons covered in them.

        It’s the oxygen to react with the hydrocarbons that causes the problem. So far Earth is the only planet we know of that has enough free oxygen to run open cycle engines, but not so much that it turns global-firestorm and locks it up in ash.

          1. And?

            That hydrogen is still being reacted with oxygen. You had better either be in a oxygen atmosphere or be carrying around your own bottled oxygen.

            1. And apparently it exists even in moon rocks (in various forms), so maybe life is more possible than we imagined a few years ago…

                1. Yeah. You better just stay on earth. Pkenty of air for you here.

                  Let the people willing to solve problems do so and stay out the way.

                  1. ?

                    The problem’s already been solved. Use electric vehicles off-world instead of ICE. Given the way off-planet settlement will likely develop, the drawbacks to electric vehicles probably won’t be an issue for some time.

      3. There is insufficient atmospheric O2 on Mars to support ICE vehicles. So no Hemi-powered Jeepish dune-buggy adventures on Mars, drat.

  17. Just a quick note, Sarah – you might want to repeat the link for Holly’s fundraiser with the promo post. I know that people (like me) forget when they aren’t able to donate right away.

    (Finally got to where I wanted to be on funding this today. Money is still flowing in, and, at last, just dribbling out. For a while…)

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