NASA loses keys

Imagine you’re taking two dogs to the mountains for the weekend.  It might snow, and you want your dogs to have a jacket in case they duel a grizzly bear and need to keep warm.  Both your dogs need medium sized jackets.  Do you:

a) Make sure you have two medium jackets, and if not, buy one or two

b) Not bother to check at all and hope it somehow all works out

c) Panic

d) Ask your dogs for money

e) Skip your mountain trip and sit on your floor playing with your dogs as you drink beer

Most normal people would choose option (a).  But apparently not NASA, you know, those people who are geniuses and make things go into space.  Last week NASA announced that it would have it’s first all female spacewalk.  Because apparently these diversity things matter to NASA when it currently doesn’t have a functional space vehicle with which to get it’s astronauts into orbit so we rely on the Russians.

But as it turns out they cannot conduct this two female spacewalk because, wait for it, they don’t have two medium sized spacesuits.  This is not a joke.  This is legitimately happening.  Apparently NASA planned a complex dangerous spacewalk but didn’t bother to make sure they had two appropriate spacesuits.  I mean how hard is this?  One of the flight engineers could have asked her five year old to look at an inventory list and see the word ‘medium’ next to ‘spacesuit’ and make sure the number said at least two.

In related news, Boeing (that company that has problems lately), has now burned through north of $5B, yes billion, to produce a rocket that hasn’t flown once (and will probably never fly) and will take longer to produce than it took NASA to get to the Moon.

Man, this organization used to be the pinnacle of technology and awesome.  But that was five decades ago.  Now these folks probably lose their keys on their way to the parking lot.

Just disestablish NASA and give its entire budget to help fund STEM scholarships for poor kids.  Let the commercial sector have a go at space awesomeness.  They’ll do a cheaper, probably safer, and at least remember to look at an inventory list before planning a mission.

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Have fun!  Make sure you remember your airlock keys to get back into the station!

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we prepare to do battle with the Moon

Apparently this large thing in the sky is called a “Supermoon”. I don’t really understand why it has to be Super. Other than that in today’s culture everything has to be epic. For example, I now generally hear on the news several different ways to describe various weather phenomenon or patterns when we used to simply say, “It’s going to be cold tomorrow.”

But hell, I’ll go along with this. It’s a Supermoon. Got it. It’s harmless, right? Wrong. For you see, the Moon is not to be trusted. It has powers. Super powers. Why else would they call it a Supermoon?

This is the closest the Moon has been to Earth since 1948. The thing about astronomy is it has the power to cause you to briefly consider your own forthcoming bleached skeleton state. The Moon won’t be this close again until 2034. Think of all the things you could endure between now and then. Halley’s Comet won’t be back until 2061. Which means just about every person alive on this planet today has (at most) one more shot with Halley’s before their pending commute to Valhalla.

Last night said Supermoon was in the rise phase as I drove home at dusk. It certainly did look bigger. But according to the BBC, this is mostly an optical illusion:

“To observers, it will appear about 7% larger than normal and about 15% brighter – although the human eye is barely able to discern that difference.”

I tend to give us humans a little more credit than that. The Moon doesn’t just look bigger because folks are calling it a Supermoon. I think our brains and eyes can inherently detect that it’s 7% bigger and 15% brighter. We look at the Moon all the time. When it’s that different, our brains will tell us, even if it’s subtly.

I was thinking, that it looked so close and clear last night you could almost reach out there and touch the darn thing. That from my eyes to the Moon’s surface was one clear line, one straight shot. 221,524 miles is a long way, unless you can imagine that it’s not.

The Moon’s always been up there like that while we humans mess around down here. Some Roman Senator or Chinese Imperial bureaucrat pretty much saw the same thing. Some of us have actually been up there. When you really think about it, it’s quite special that a few of us have actually reached out there and touched it. We’ve made that journey. And it really does say something about how little we dream anymore or how much we’ve lowered optimism in our collective psyche that we haven’t been back in five decades.

Where’s our promised Moon colony or Bond villain Moon Base? I mean, technically I guess the Moon Base could have existed without us knowing it. And Bond already blew it up. But I’m betting that didn’t actually happen.

Anyways, either way, I’ll do battle with this Supermoon tonight. I’ll arm myself with a decent coat, a beer, and my camera. My dogs will wield a knife, handgun, or belly full of kibble, whichever they prefer. And we’ll get a shot (camera) at taking on this Supermoon. Moonrise is shortly after my return from work. So it’ll play out well.

If I survive, I’ll try and remember to post a picture on this degenerate blog. I might get distracted, because I have to do a ton of work for second job after I get home tonight. But I’ll try and make it happen. But if I don’t make it, make sure to take your revenge on the Supermoon for me. For you see, the Moon is not to be trusted. It has powers. Super powers.

Update: The Moon was obscured by clouds and light rain.  We couldn’t get a shot.  What does this Supermoon have to hide?  We’re on it.  We’re on the case to find out.  We’ll get right on it.  [cracks beer]  [sips]  [stares blankly at bare wall]

apparently we need to clarify what an explosion is

Samsung has rightly gotten a bad rap lately for shipping countless smartphones to customers that otherwise should have been classified as controlled live ordnance.  And now there’s news this morning that Samsung washing machines are also apparently exploding.  Maybe this is the start of the apocalypse that lunatics (and my Guests) have been waiting for all these years.  It starts with exploding phones and appliances, and the next thing we know folks have to wield shotguns just to cross the zombie infested streets safely.

But hold on for a moment, what does an exploding Samsung phone actually look like?  Well, here’s an example:

fail phone.jpg

Eh, sorry folks, that’s not an explosion.  If the phone had actually exploded it’d be in a million pieces.  In fact, I do believe the phone rather “caught fire”.  Hey, words matter, kids, except on this degenerate blog, and the presidential campaign.

I know the media prefers to use the word explosion because it’s more dramatic and they get a bunch of clickbait.  I too was guilty of this.  When I was a young lad I broke my arm playing sports and I told people that my bone was “shattered” instead of “broken” because I thought it was more dramatic.  Nobody was impressed.  In fact, they were always quite confused.  I’m an idiot.

If you want to know what an actual explosion is, here’s a video of the recent Falcon 9 explosion on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.  Video here.

Falcon-9_explosion_A-2016-09-01-879x485.jpg

Now we’re talking!

Proxima Centauri awaits our divine rule

Great news! We’ve likely discovered the closest possible planet near our own star system that could potentially host life, even intelligent life. It’s a long shot due to Proxima being a red dwarf, and thus very different from our own yellow dwarf, but still worth getting excited about. The smart goons at The Economist lay out the details:

Proxima Centauri b, as it is known, probably weighs between 1.3 and three times as much as Earth and orbits its parent star once every 11 days. This puts its distance from Proxima Centauri itself at 7m kilometres, which is less than a twentieth of the distance between Earth and the sun. But because Proxima is a red dwarf, and thus much cooler than the sun, the newly discovered planet will experience a similar temperature to Earth’s. It is not the only Earth-sized extrasolar planet known to orbit in a star’s habitable zone. There are about a dozen others. But it is the closest to Earth—so close, at four light-years, that it is merely outrageous, not utterly absurd, to believe a spaceship (admittedly a tiny one) might actually be sent to visit it. Before this happens, though, it will be subjected to intense scrutiny from Earth itself.

So what’s going to happen over the new few decades is we’ll point various visual, radio, and spectrum telescopes at Proxima b to determine if this rock contains life as dumb as we are. But I say why wait? Why stop with just looking at Proxima b? Now that we have a known target, we can get around to the job of doing what Humanity of Earth does best: Destroying things!

You heard it here first, Proxima Centauri awaits our divine rule. They too need to experience the joys of democracy, freedom, Adele, endless religious wars, Coca-Cola, social media hatred, Netflix, genocide, The Zoo, electric guitars, and whatever else we can shove down their throats. What better way to unite humanity than by establishing the common goal of enslaving another? And we could take all their stuff too. They most assuredly have oil, rare metals, bluefin tuna, or other tasty stuff that we could take. We could strip mine the entire planet and nobody would care.

And at only four light years away, they’re well within conceivable range of starships we could build. Sure, this technological feat is a bit much seeing as how we haven’t been to the Moon in five decades, and we still have billions here in poverty, but we can still make it happen. Think of all the fun scenarios we could experience:

– We enter Proxima’s orbit bringing peace and love and yet somehow end up burning the planet using 438 fusion bombs within the first three years

– We show up bringing death and destruction and yet somehow end up getting our asses kicked by Proxima because they aren’t distracted by who said what on social media

– We land, and atop Proxima’s tallest mountain we find Jesus, King Arthur, and Dracula sitting around a campfire; and Jesus pulls on a cigarette and wryly states, “What took you so long?”

– We find a benevolent, wise race horrified by our planet’s thousands-of-years of death and mayhem, but who agree to at least “Give you stupid barbarian assholes a shot,” after we offer to teach them the art of brewing; and in an unrelated matter, they end up burning their planet using 438 fusion bombs within the first three years

– Having spent 37% of Earth’s GDP for two decades to get there, we find Proxima b is just a barren vacant rock

– The mission fails because 2/3 of our troop transports break halfway there because Lockheed Martin skimped on engine quality to increase quarterly profits in FY34 by 0.07%; and in an unrelated matter, Lockheed Martin’s CEO just bought his fifth boat

– Proxima actually holds a vicious Klingon like race that raids our ship’s computers to determine Earth’s location; but they abandon the conquest of Earth after three decades of grinding counterinsurgency, Earth being the quagmire that started the long decline of their Empire, and remarking, “What the fuck were we thinking?” as they meekly retreat to Proxima b

proxima centauri

Eh, maybe we stay on our side of the room, and they on theirs?

“…well, then that would be even better.”

Life is not a dream. It’s really not. I know this because right now I’m drinking an awesome beer surrounded by my dogs. This is real. So are we. And so are the ideas that keep us going.

Leonard Nimoy knew this. Better than most I suspect. It bled through his art. And if Nimoy was anything, an artist in the old sense he was. He wrote books and poetry, he took photographs, he mastered the craft of the motion picture.

It is this reason, not just because people love Spock, that made him a household name. He had the power to tell us who we are. He made it seem like he wasn’t one of us, when he was actually among the best of us.

More than anybody else, Nimoy made Star Trek. Everybody thinks it was Priceline Senόr Bancό de Rόbber Bill Shatner. It wasn’t. In the beginning, nobody working on the show really liked Shatner or Gene Roddenberry. Although folks don’t talk about it openly, except perhaps George Takei, you get the idea that things tended to almost fall apart because Shatner and Roddenberry were arrogant jerks.

Later, Nimoy and Shatner would actually build respect and ultimately a deep friendship. When you read about how Nimoy tried to help Shatner with the troubles and ultimate tragic death of his wife, it brings tears to your eyes. It’s rather strange but poetic, that two men who were friends only on screen for so many decades would actually find friendship later in life when they needed each other the most.

Don’t get me wrong, Bill cleaned up his act and I really like the guy. A lot of people still call him a bad actor. Mostly those who have never watched all of Star Trek or one episode of The Practice. But it’s clear to me, that without Nimoy, Star Trek would have been an unknown bad hack science fiction nothing.

I have the idea that Nimoy kept everybody together. Everybody else on set showed up because Nimoy was there. And the idea that was Star Trek, it was his as much as Roddenberry’s. Nimoy’s view of what Star Trek was is best exemplified by his goal with The Voyage Home where he said:

“…no dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy. I wanted people to really have a great time watching this film and if somewhere in the mix we lobbed a couple of big ideas at them, well, then that would be even better.”

This was Star Trek. A fun show the whole family could watch, but also riddled with big ideas that could melt the brain of any serious adult. When I was a young idiot, I couldn’t stand The Voyage Home. I’d be like, “what’s with these stupid whales, man, when is somebody going to get cut in half.” But when I rewatched it last year, I couldn’t believe what a joy it was. It’s a masterpiece. I breathed in the happiness.

In a modern storytelling age where the fog of doom is pervasive, it’s comforting to go back and watch a view of the future not owned by failure and bleached skeletons. Nimoy’s future of a still flawed but noble humanity with a bright existence remains inspiring, and a future worth fighting for.

So here’s to Nimoy and the hopes that he’s embarked aloft alongside DeForest Kelley and James Doohan and they’re off to Valhalla at whatever warp factor they prefer. Kelley’s chuckling, Doohan’s got a glass of scotch, and Nimoy comments offhand as they blast into the stars, “Life is but a dream.”

leonard_nimoy

farewell shipmate, fair winds

Orion – erasing a 40 year gap

We’re picking up where we left off.  Back in 1972.  That’s the last time we flew a crew-capable spacecraft this high in orbit.  Will it work?  We’ll know in about five hours or so after/if splashdown occurs as scheduled.

What have we been doing the last forty years?  Determining if ants can be taught to sort tiny screws in space.

I’m sure there are a lot of smart people doing cool things aboard the ISS, but it bores me.  It also bores all of humanity.

It’s also apparently been a waste of time.  Because after 40 years Orion looks exactly like a large Apollo.  So what’s NASA learned in the last 40 years?  Apparently very little, because we’re just using the same improved design.  But whatever, better to pick up after a 40 year gap then never again.

So fly Orion.  Do your part.  You’re exciting and are going boldly.  Our degenerate race needs such things now more than ever.

orion 1 launch