Back to Space!!
Obola made a mistake when he killed NASA’s manned spaceflight capability.
But perhaps not in the way you’re thinking.
We’ve been having to hitch rides to the ISS on Russian boosters ever since the Space Transportation System (the “Space Shuttle”) was decommissioned in 2011. At the time Obola said it was to encourage private enterprise to take up the slack, and NASA should concentrate on exploration…Lunar and Mars missions, unmanned exploration; the sorts of things NASA excels at.
This is actually a stated rationale I can agree with. (Settle down…I know it wasn’t the real reason.) If we are to become a truly spacefaring people…should we be leaving regular transportation to the government? The same government that couldn’t build an Obolacare website or that takes twenty years to widen an interstate?
And let’s face it, when Trump is no longer in charge, that’s the government we’ll have–grossly incompetent or grossly slow and cautious.
No. Get out of the way, and let innovative companies take it on. And so we have SpaceX and Boeing building transportation systems, the Dragon and the CST-100 Starliner, respectively. NASA contracts with them for ISS transportation. But unlike past NASA contracts, where they buy the equipment (Atlas, Delta, or Titan boosters, etc) from somebody but then manage it themselves, NASA is letting SpaceX run the show today.
It’s the same structure as buying airline tickets.
If space travel is ever to become routine and common–if we are ever to become a spacefaring species on anything more than an ad-hoc basis–this is the way it’s gotta be. Private companies running a service, that the government can buy–or not. They expect to have other customers.
This is what Obola dangled in front of us as he canceled the Space Shuttle [Edit–no, he canceled the system that was supposed to replace the shuttle]. He was almost certainly pulling a bait-and-switch of some sort. There’s be some reason not to put people on the SpaceX Dragon2 and the Boeing Starliner, some excuse…delay, delay. Just like how we knew he wanted to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline but had to clothe it in ordinary procedural bullsh*t.
In neither case did he bargain on his successor being a loyal American.
But that happened, and now we stand on the threshold of private manned orbital spaceflight. People are even booking tourist flights with companies planning to use the Dragon2!!
Alas it’s still only for people with huge amounts of cash…but it’s happening nonetheless.
The Dragon2 capsule that (we hope) will go into orbit today can hold up to seven people, but typically is set up for four, with the remaining space given over to cargo that can’t be exposed to vacuum. It can run autonomously, or it can be controlled by astronauts. (Some of the space tourism flights are slated to have no human pilot.) Shots of the interior look “clean” rather than crammed full of instruments and controls–imagine the cabin of an airliner, not the cockpit, though even the passenger space on an airliner can look a bit “busy.” It does look a lot more spacious than cattle class on an airliner.
That’s the pressurized capsule. There’s an non-pressurized “trunk” right behind it, a cylindrical section that can carry cargo that need not be pressurized, in other words, cargo that can withstand vacuum. The trunk is abandoned before returning to Earth.
The Commander of the flight will be Douglas Hurley, joined by Robert Behnken as Joint Operations Commander. Hurley was also the pilot on the very last Space Shuttle mission, on the Atlantis. I’ll bet he’s looking forward to this! The spacecraft’s name should be announced today (if the mission is not again scrubbed).
They’ll dock with the International Space Station on Sunday. Before then they will test the spacecraft in orbit. The mission is otherwise expected to be automated, with the crew only taking over if something goes wrong.
The stage lifting the capsule will return to earth and land on a barge out in the Atlantic ocean, ready for re-use. This is something SpaceX has been doing for a few years now.
Once at the ISS, the crew will spend 30 to 90 days up there, and return in the same capsule for a splashdown in the Atlantic. The capsule, too, is intended to be reused.
If this launch doesn’t happen, (and the weather does look about as iffy as it did on Wednesday) then the next window is on Sunday, shortly after 3 PM ET. As in seven seconds after 3 PM.
These launch windows are exact, because the ISS is moving at 4.75 miles per second, 17,100 miles per hour, and it does little good to get to orbit when the ISS isn’t in the right location. Missing by a minute means missing by 285 miles, about the “height” of Colorado on a map. Fuel would have to be expended to change the Dragon2’s orbit, then change it back once it has synced up with the ISS. And that fuel would cut into payload. And it’s called a payload because it, and only it, is what the customer is actually paying for.
The estimates are that there is one chance in 276 that the crew won’t survive the mission, and one chance in 60 that the mission will fail with the crew being safe. (This is actually a better safety record than the Space Shuttle had–let’s hope that in the years to come we exceed it by a huge margin.)
It has been nine LONG years, but we’re going back to space, in a way that long-term will be vastly better than clunky government projects that take decades. It was painful, but I believe 20 years from now we will look back and say “it was worth it.”
So what was Obola’s mistake? As I alluded to before, he was probably trying to kill US manned spaceflight permanently. Turning NASA into nothing but an SJW advocacy organization.
Instead, he has done us some good.
Which can’t possibly be what he intended.
Oops! Sorry, Shithead! And no do-overs, not while in prison.
Space travel is expensive, and will continue to be expensive. We’re no longer throwing away the entire spacecraft after every flight, but they must still go through expensive refurbishment after every flight–and then the launch vehicle has to be re-assembled. SpaceX is doing this more cleanly than NASA, but even so, it’d be soooo much nicer if we could get to orbit with one stage. “Single State To Orbit” (SSTO) is the holy grail of space travel. It’s just out of our grasp, but close isn’t good enough.
Imagine if that spacecraft could be turned around and reused in a week…or a day.
That was the aim of this program…a valiant effort that fell short.
Add to that the fact that if you can get into and out of orbit…you can go anywhere on Earth in less than an hour, because a round trip in orbit is about ninety minutes. Imagine the Space Force delivering commandos to…well, fill in the blank! On an hour’s notice. Of course, that’s a lot harder, because you’re unlikely to be able to gas the sucker back up in hostile territory. Doing TWO orbits and reentries on one tank of gas is well beyond us. So far. But assuming a friendly destination, imagine what we can do if we can deliver something to (say) Diego Garcia in an hour.
And actually going to orbit will be significantly cheaper. As routine as the Pan Am flights in 2001? Maybe!
Of course the real answer is the space elevator, but that’s totally beyond our capabilities right now. We basically need SSTO before we can even think about building something that ambitious in orbit. The fundamental problem is we’re stuck “down here,” and have to get not just ourselves but everything we need to function, “up there.” But with a space elevator…it takes nothing but electricity to get “up there.” And once in orbit, the rest is easy.
I wrote this on Apollo 11, for the 50th anniversary of the first landing of men on the Moon.
Honestly, I wanted to focus on something positive today…so I’ll say nothing beyond that I’m sure this will not have the intended effect of bringing Trump down…or long distracting him and us from the quest for Justice.
But I will post my by-now standard quote, just to keep us “centered.”
Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American People...Our campaign represents a true existential threat, like they’ve never seen before.Then-Candidate Donald J. Trump
By one interpretation (the likeliest one, I think), the current unpleasantness is just yet another tactic by that corrupt political establishment, to prevent the President from doing to them, what they badly need to have done to them. (Though I doubt POTUS really intends to use 12 gauge wire bore brushes on them.)
Memorial Day (Traditional)
Memorial Day wasn’t always the last Monday in May (sliding bears and all), it was once the 30th of May and did not move. So Saturday/Today is the “real” Memorial Day, if you want to look at it that way.
Lawyer Appeasement Section
OK now for the fine print.
This is the WQTH Daily Thread. You know the drill. There’s no Poltical correctness, but civility is a requirement. There are Important Guidelines, here, with an addendum on 20191110.
We have a new board – called The U Tree – where people can take each other to the woodshed without fear of censorship or moderation.
And remember Wheatie’s Rules:
1. No food fights
2. No running with scissors.
3. If you bring snacks, bring enough for everyone.
4. The gun is always loaded.
4a. If you actually want the gun to be loaded, like because you’re checking out a bump in the night, then it’s empty.
5. Never point the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
6. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
7. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.
(Hmm a few extras seem to have crept in.)
Now it wouldn’t be one of my posts without a coin, would it?
And yes, there’s one appropriate to our theme…a coin that depicted, allegorically, one of our proudest achievements. We put men on the Moon. So far, no one else has. And maybe we will again, soon. Unfortunately Eugene Cernan, the last man on the Moon, who surely must have hated holding that record, passed away in 2017 and did not live to see us go back. But soon, I think. During Trump’s third term.
Obligatory China Truth Bomb
Just one more thing, my standard Public Service Announcement. We don’t want to forget this!!! The President sure hasn’t. With the Chinese full takeover of Hong Kong…I sure hope this guy is doing OK.
Zhōngguò shì gè hùndàn !!!
China is asshoe !!!