That was then, this is now

As he prepared for Apollo 11’s lift-off, Neil Armstrong thought he had a 10 per cent chance of dying during the mission, and a 50 per cent chance of not walking on the Moon. “There was still a debate about if you stepped on to the Moon, would you step into 10ft of dust?” says former Nasa official Scott Hubbard.

The entire mission was vulnerable to a single-point failure: if the service module’s engine had failed, for example, there was no back-up.

Nasa’s whole attitude to risk has now changed. Until recently, each system was built to tolerate any two faults. This is now seen as a blunt approach, treating all components as equally important. So Nasa instead tries to limit the probability of failure. The chance of losing SLS and Orion on its first mission is one in 140, according to the agency’s analysis.

That is by Henry Mance and Yuichiro Kanematsu, in the FT, from their splendid look at the current attempt to drive a moon mission.  And this:

“We do not have time or funds to build unique, one-of-a-kind systems,” William Gerstenmaier, a senior Nasa official, said recently. The agency’s biggest rocket — Boeing’s troubled Space Launch System (SLS) — will use some of the same engines as the Space Shuttle. Blake Rogers, an engineer at the Aerospace Corporation, a government-funded research agency, told the FT: “2024 is really soon. So there’s not a lot of brand-new technology…Today, Orion’s processing power will still be below 500MHz — significantly less than a MacBook.

Recommended, gated but of course you should subscribe to the FT.


Well... now that NASA has $10 to $20 billion (real) dollars a year less than it did during the 1960s and with the current budget being split over more priorities, it seems only prudent to minimize the risk of failure.

NASA needs to conserve money in order to fund other missions, like global warming. They have to fly fancy planes over lakes and test cow farts for methane.

They have bigger fish to fry.

There predictions are rated AAA!

Naturally, Moody's didn't put that scare number in context. It's potentially $69 trillion in costs over the next 80 years.

Whereas, MIT says:

"Switching from fossil fuels to low-carbon sources of energy will cost $44 trillion between now and 2050,"

$44 Trillion over the next 30 years is more expensive than, $69 over the next 80 years. So, it would be cheaper just to deal with he changes.

However, the whole argument is pointless. The world will be switching to Solar/Wind/Hydro and battery in any case, because it's going to be the cheapest source of power.

Sure, we'll still burn Natural gas & oil, but they won't contribute enough Carbon to make up for the loss from all the coal plants. Furthermore, the percentage of electricity produced by Natural gas will decline, though the base will expand. The same will be true for oil. However, if the production of Carbon Dioxide remains a constant Global Warming drifts to a stop.

The fact is we beat Climate Change over the last 10 years when technology made wind/solar combined with power storage the cheapest source of power. It will just take another decade of progress to make those fundamental factors clear and for the hard heads on both sides to see reason.

Reference: LA just bought a fairly substantial amount of solar power with 4 hour battery backup for 3.3 cents/kwH ($0.033/kWh).

Costs are always labor costs!

Thus Trump is creating future jobs by making climate change worse.

Its like going to war to create jobs and wealth by ending the war having plundered the enemy, plus being funded by government to build capital, whether war ships that can carry the cargo of plunder, and thus engage in global trade with the knowm world.

Spain might have funded Columbus to opem a trade route with old assets and minimal cash, but once it was discovered their was plenty to plunder, the funding to build capital and fund wars of plunder unleased so much spending, Spain experienced high inflation.

Trump does not like ordering people to die in a war. Much easier to wage war on climate with Wall Street paying coal miners to die, knowing he can blame liberals for coal miners dying in poverty by waging war on coal. And vulture capitalists are Trump's friends, reaping personal profit, then depending on Federal government bailouts in Federal bankruptcy courts, which put the burden on the workers who are taxpayers. Another war of plunder Trump wages, without sending anyone to kill and die.

Of course, Trump won't be around to pay any part of the $69 trillion in labor costs. Which he's trying to double by making America white again by keeping out the darkies who are the first to suffer from the war on climate Trump wants to win.

And without global warming Venus becomes much more habitable. It's win-win!

NASA was distracted for awhile - 8 years - but hopefully it is back on track.

"Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars" - Trump in May

"For all of the money we are spending, Nasa should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!" - Trump in June

Think a little harder or maybe follow the link. If you don't get it, and you think Trump is stupid, maybe that says something about yourself.

Trump Approval 43%
Trump Disapproval 55%

2016 - Before election
Trump Approval 34%
Trump Disapproval 62%

2016 After Election
Trump Approval 42%
Trump Disapproval 55%

More Facts

We need to be more magnanimous. Can you imagine how hard it would be to be a mouse pushing against all those big cats? You would have to post numerous messages all day under multiple fake IDs.

Otoh, the mouse could have a lot of time on his hands.

"pushing against all those big cats? "

Whoa there! That's a pretty nasty word to describe the ROUS's (rodents of unusual size) among us.

If you don't know how to control a rocket using a 200 MHz processor, the problem isn't a lack of controller processing power.

Yeah, that was a stupid point.

Not nearly as stupid as worrying that a man will disappear under 10 feet of dust after stepping out of his multi-ton lunar module.

When Apollo 11 launched, public pools still had diving boards. And not just diving boards, but high boards (usually ten feet above the water). Playgrounds had jungle gyms built over hard asphalt. The swing sets in public playgrounds had slippery, flat stainless steel seats. From which one could launch oneself into a spectacular parabolic trajectory.

There's been a sea-change regarding the toleration of risk, yet the best that can ever be done for human spaceflight is to mitigate that risk as there's just no way to eliminate all those potential single-point failures.

You could keep a "lifeboat" ready in case the ascent stage (or service module) rocket failed to start (or re-start), but you probably couldn't rescue an astronaut whose spacesuit suddenly developed a bad air leak. Or do much about a spacecraft re-entering atmosphere if its heat shield failed. Or even a faulty rocket that launched a moon-bound spacecraft into a solar orbit (instead of the "free return" orbit it was supposed to have).

So, perhaps the USA will return to the moon. But, seeing as we've been there, perhaps a better challenge would be to reduce the per-flight cost to less than 10% of Apollo?

As for Mars, there are so many things that can go wrong that it's just impossible to think a risk-averse NASA would risk it. And, really, if it's going to be a one-off (or < 10, anyway) then why bother?

Then again, perhaps NASA could ditch the "No $bucks without Buck Rogers" attitude, and get the public interested in robotic missions. There is, after all, no reason why video from robotic spacecraft could not be streamed over the internet, perhaps with intelligent commentary on what was happening, in real time (or as close as one can get with lightspeed time delays).

At some level it's hard to shake the believe that NASA has degenerated into yet another government agency that inevitably promotes careerism above its mission.

The Apollo program cost 25 billion dollars, in the 1960s, which is about 150 billion dollars today according to the CPI, with that amount they paid for a dozen missions.

If NASA decided to send about 10 missions to the moon now I guess it would cost around 500 billion dollars.

Holy moly! $500,000,000,000?

Think of what we could do with that much dough! We could build 200 feet of NYC subway extensions, import 200,000,000 third world illiterates and give them free health care, food, house, and a car. Heck we could let all government employees retire at 29 with 90% of their highest salary!

We gotta prioritize!

We could give out yet another tax cut to the rich. We could start a war with Iran. We could bailout another TBTF company. These are popular with today's GOP.

We could pay for 1/3 of the F35 program!

I don't think even the NASA of today could get the number that high for a moon program. That's something like 50 years of NASA's human spaceflight budget.

Don't get me wrong, I'm the last to argue they're efficient - indeed I often argue they should be shut down - but that number is fear mongering.

Redoing Apollo today would cost roughly half of the cost of Apollo in today's money. Presumably, it would also be done more safely. Of course these kinds of things carry the risk of megaproject cost blow out so there is a real risk it could cost more than Apollo.

Of course, the real question is, send people to the moon to do what? Bounce around for the cameras? Because that's going to be some expensive bouncing. Then there's the risk of something going wrong with their EMU (spacesuit). I'd suggest having a robot standing by ready to bag them and pressurize them if something goes wrong.

You silly humans should wait for me to arrive in 2048 (there has been an unfortunate delay) when popping off to Mars will be far cheaper, safer and faster.

I like the potential of this MR character. Right now it’s kind of MEH but there is something to work with there.

Perhaps in 2048, he'll seem kinda cool.

Kind of like Max Headroom seems cool today?

Exactly like that, well said

When I was young, the date for the Mars mission was set to 2015. It is like for the return of Jesus on Earth, the date keeps being pushed back.

00110100 00110010

In 1970, the date was 1985, accoding to von Braun, but only if the 60s commitment/spending rate was continued.

But that faced two opponents.

Conservatives didn't want to pay taxes to pay workers, but instead pocket the money while still selling as much or more to the workers who were no longer paid by tax and spend.

Progressives thought not paying for military and NASA would mean all that cash paying workers would become cash paying to pay for the poor spending like NASA and defense industry workers.

The cuts in spending by government to workers turned into spending by government to those not working or paid a lot less, and for bailouts when debt defaults followed.

Faulty zero sum thinking.

Real zero sum thinking would realize its governments that ensure the growth of empire. Governments tax workers requiring they produce more to pay the taxes.

Conservatives think that if they aren't taxed, workers, paid less because government spending isn't driving up wages, will pay them more so they can pocket even more due to lower taxes.

"Then again, perhaps NASA could ditch the "No $bucks without Buck Rogers" attitude, and get the public interested in robotic missions."

That would be counter to its mission, and pretty much render the entire operation of space exploration pointless.

This notion that geology and planetary exploration can be conducted remotely is pervasive outside the geology community, but those of us inside that community find it funny. Ground-trothing is absolutely critical to understanding remote sensing data, of ANY kind, and there is data that we have yet to build a machine to collect. There's a reason that companies spend billions putting boots on the ground on Earth in the gold, oil, and environmental industries: no robot can do what a trained geologist can, and no robot can compete with a trained geologist in terms of speed in making these determinations.

I can't think of any other field where the idea "We don't need the experts, let's just send robots out to do the work" would even be taken seriously. And yes, that's what you're proposing--data collection IS data analysis, so "They just collect the data, the experts analyze it" doesn't fly. If you doubt this, look at soils studies sometime. Or just look at what it takes to do an accurate and precise lithology. These are important, because subtle differences (often only identifiable once the dirt is in your hand) can indicate very different process of deposition or weathering.

I'm sorry, but there's no substitute for boots on the ground. Not in terms of doing geology, anyway.

I suspect something analogous to this was written about welding seventy years ago.

That you are comparing the whole of geology and paleontology to welding demonstrates how little you understand of the issues involved.

Why do we want to send a paleontologist to the Moon?

I was thinking Mars. We've found evidence of stromatolites (a type of trace fossil) on Mars. There are a few other potential explanations for these formations, though most are very unlikely; a paleontologist would be able to tell, in about five minutes, which explanation is correct. Pretty much no one else is going to be able to do so. And unfortunately we can't do so from pictures and probes. The issue is, the data we obtain with boots on the ground dictates what data we're going to look for and therefore what techniques we need to use--easy with people, impossible with probes.

You know the dirt isn't going to be in your hand, right? Because of issues with fines getting everywhere we can't even let you bring that stuff into the mars rover. Maybe if you're good we'll let you bring it into the rover in a sealed container and you can touch it through a thin glove. Maybe someone can come up with a waldo that can accurately transfer the tactile feel to you. But if we sent you to mars you would not be directly on mars, you would be in a sealed bubble of earth on mars, whether that bubble is a spaceship, habitat, mars rover, or space suit.

Touching the dirt through a thin glove is holding it in your hand, jerk-off

This is how we do it. Notice the lack of gloves. Also, no jerking off. (I'm so proud of them!):

Yeah, yeah, I know there's going to be a barrier between me and Mars. However, the difference between a glove and a rover several light-minutes away is so tremendous that to compare them is to confess a complete ignorance of the topic at hand.

Besides, there are all kinds of ways to mitigate the issues you're talking about. Fines can be dealt with via various resins--if you think we're going to miss the chance to make thin-sections, you don't know geologists! You can build rooms to handle the fines; any geology lab has that issue, and we handle it perfectly well. Etc.

(The condescending tone is pretty telling as well. "Maybe if you're good" my ass--the geologists are going to be the main point of the mission. Geology is the science of studying planets, after all.)

The problem with virtual reality is that it can only tell us what we think we'll need to see. Ever hear a geologist and engineer argue over soil descriptions? I have. It got violent a few times. Point is, we look at soil VERY differently--and if you give a geologist a VR environment built for engineers, you're severely limiting the geologist's capabilities. That's assuming we CAN build a VR environment that can provide the sites, smells, tastes, sounds, tactile sensations, and other features that a geologist uses to interpret their environment, which I find tremendously unlikely.

? Still lots of high-paid welders out there

And until you try to learn welding for construction or industry, you will never understand how costly a robot welder is, and how skilled the operator will cost.

Welding was so much harder than I thought it was.

Hey Mr. Geologist, how do you manage to put your fancy boots 8000m below the surface to characterize an oil reservoir?

Disclosure: I work with geological models done by geologists that rely 80% on seismics and 20% on fooling around measuring bedding angles =)

There's a two word answer for that: Core samples. The models provide a working hypothesis, of varying degrees of accuracy, and the core samples confirm or refute that hypothesis. (If the reservoir is 8000 m down, you're drilling 8000 m down, and even if you don't grab samples the material has to come back up somehow.)

Plus, on Earth we've ground-trothed a lot of this data. We've ground-trothed essentially nothing on Mars. This is significant, because Mars has a different geological history to Earth, including things we simply don't see on Earth. While some assumptions can carry over (original horizontality, cross-cutting relations, etc), there are a lot that aren't going to be able to do so.

Core samples are representative only in the vertical axis, they give the thickness of layers and physicochemical properties of rock. 5 meters around the borehole you could assume that properties are almost the same. 100 meters away things start to get complicate. if two wells are a kilometer apart, core samples from both don't tell much about flow properties, hydraulic tests are more useful without sending someone several kilometers below the surface.

As you said, for sedimentary layers it is assumed they were originally horizontal. But, what if Mars is really different? Data will be interpreted with the wrong assumptions. In spite of that, remote sensing is great

I don't disagree with your last statement--remote sensing has revolutionized geology. My contention is merely that it has not, will not, and cannot replace field geologists, on Earth or on any other planet. It's a tool, not the whole of the field, something that the "Let's just send robots, they can do it all" crowd refuses to understand.

Regarding core samples, I agree that there are limitations. There are for any sampling method. My contention is that core samples are a necessary component of any subsurface analytical plan, because they provide direct evidence about the subsurface. If all you've got is remote sensing information (seismic, GPR, whatever), you miss things. I can't tell you how many utilities we've hit drilling wells in residuum, AFTER all the remote sensing utility locate work was done. These often weren't small utilities, either--banks of electrical wires, water mains, 48"+sewer lines, and the like. Remote sensing is fantastic, but each method has its limits, and no combination can match a field geologist.

"Today, Orion’s processing power will still be below 500MHz — significantly less than a MacBook."

If your process is so bureaucratic that you can't validate and upgrade to a better processor at least once a year, you've failed. You are a dinosaur of an organization that will only survive by having a deep moat to protect you. Of course, guaranteed tax payer money is indeed a deep moat.

Or you have priorities other than getting the newest, shiniest technological toy. Is there any reason to think that the Orion's processer needs to be above 500 MHz? Is there any reason why the power of a MacBook is necessary? If not, the time, effort, and money can be better-spent.

There are more things on Earth, Horatio, than are contained in your pocket-computer.

Sure, I agree with the philosophy of not fixing something that's good enough.

Finding processor flaws years after the fact isn't that uncommon. New processors every year are great for managing sales or supply chains, not so great in applications where "surprises" can be deadly. For that type of application, processors that are years or even decades old are preferable, since they're far less likely to suffer from as-yet undiscovered weaknesses. There's a reason things like airplanes and nuke launch systems use old, or even ancient processors; they're safer than the shiny new stuff.

'If your process is so bureaucratic that you can't validate and upgrade to a better processor at least once a year, you've failed.'

Or Intel simply does not come out with radiation hardened processors on an annual cycle.

'Space is a dangerous place, especially when it comes to sensitive electronic components like microprocessors, solid-state memory, and network interfaces. The problem is radiation; space has a lot of it, and most modern electronic components were not designed to operate in a radiation environment.

Levels of radiation that occur in space can cause a variety of problems for electronic components, ranging from complete burnout to the occasional bit flip that can corrupt some data and render the reliability of even untouched data open to question.

There are ways to specially design radiation-hardened electronic parts to resist the effects of radiation, but it's expensive to do this. Moreover, overall demand for rad-hard electronic parts is relatively low, which can drive up their costs even more.'

"Or Intel simply does not come out with radiation hardened processors on an annual cycle."

Well maybe they can buy a German made CPU, since they are far ahead of the US in industrial manufacturing?

You did not read the link, did you?

The Germans would likely buy the Cortex CPU, made by the UK based ARM, owned by a Japanese company. Well, not the Germans, precisely, but ESA.

And maybe it would be worth reading about ARM, considering that considerably more of its CPU technology is in your smart phone than anything from Intel - 'Arm Holdings is a British multinational semiconductor and software design company, owned by SoftBank Group and its Vision Fund. With its headquarters in Cambridgeshire, in the United Kingdom, its primary business is in the design of ARM processors (CPUs), although it also designs software development tools under the DS-5, RealView and Keil brands, as well as systems and platforms, system-on-a-chip (SoC) infrastructure and software. As a "Holding" company, it also holds shares of other companies. It is considered to be market dominant for processors in mobile phones (smartphones or otherwise) and tablet computers. The company is one of the best-known "Silicon Fen" companies.

Processors based on designs licensed from ARM, or designed by licensees of one of the ARM instruction set architectures, are used in all classes of computing devices (including in space). Examples of those processors range from the world's smallest computer to the processors in some supercomputers on the TOP500 list. Processors designed by ARM or by ARM licensees are used as microcontrollers in embedded systems, including real-time safety systems (cars' ABS), biometrics systems (fingerprint sensor), smart TVs (e.g. Android TV), all modern smartwatches (such as Qualcomm Toq), and are used as general-purpose processors in smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops (even also for running, traditional x86, Microsoft Windows programs, servers, and supercomputers/HPC, e.g. a CPU "option" in Cray's supercomputers.'

And honestly, since when did 'industrial manufacturing' include something like CPUs? Or is this part of the changing definition of how Americans use the term 'tech'?

"And honestly, since when did 'industrial manufacturing' include something like CPUs? "

Well someone that has actually done engineering work in an automated factory would realize that CPU's are integral and common in modern industrial manufacturing.

You should google PLC, and realize there's more that you don't know than what you do know.

Wait, you mean the sort of units that Siemens makes (well, sells - Infineon is the semiconductor manufacturer split from Siemens), and which are programmed using SCADA? Since I already knew that without looking at the link, let me check the link now.

Ah, SCADA is mentioned in the overview. So, do tell us about the leading American manufacturers of the chips and programming tools for such systems. This is an English language offering of Siemens, by the way - That sort of tech is not exactly ground breaking for Germany, after all.

CPUs, on the other hand, were not really part of what Infineon did, though I assume you are familiar with them. 'Infineon Technologies AG, in Neubiberg near Munich, offers semiconductors and systems for automotive, industrial, and multimarket sectors, as well as chipcard and security products. With a global presence, Infineon operates through its subsidiaries in the USA, from Milpitas, California, and in the Asia-Pacific region, from Singapore and from Tokyo, Japan.

Infineon has a number of facilities in Europe, one in Dresden, Germany, Europe's microelectronic, and emerging technologies center. Infineon's high power segment is in Warstein, Germany; Villach and Graz in Austria; Cegléd in Hungary; and Italy. It also runs R&D centers in France, Singapore, Romania, Taiwan, UK and India, as well as fabrication units in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. There's also a Shared Service Center in Maia, Portugal.'

Of course, Europe still lacks all the sort of American tech highlighted at this web site. And there is no question that 30 or 40 years ago, the U.S. was more than competitive with German or Japanese companies.

Things change.

And this is self-evident, and obviously applies to everyone - 'and realize there's more that you don't know than what you do know'.

"and which are programmed using SCADA? Since I already knew that without looking at the link"

No, that's wrong. SCADA's and/or HMI's are not used to program. They are the GUI that operators use for plant operations overview and machine control. They used to be used for data collection , though that tends to be reserved for dedicated servers now. Hence SCADA is an old term and HMI is a more accurate and modern term.

Here's a list of the biggest industrial automation companies in the world.

"Major players operating in the industrial control and factory automation market are Emerson (US), ABB (Switzerland), Siemens (Germany), General Electric (US), Schneider (France), Endress+Hauser (Switzerland), Yokogawa (Japan), Honeywell (US), WIKA (Germany), Azbil (Japan), Fuji Electric (Japan), 3D Systems (US), HP (US), FANUC (Japan), STRATASYS (US), Progea (Italy), Hitachi (Japan), Vega (Germany), Danfoss (Denmark), Tegan Innovations (Ireland), Krohne (Germany), Rockwell (US), Chaos Prime (US), and Dwyer (US)."

You are correct that both Japan and Germany are both major players in industrial automation. You are completely wrong in thinking that America isn't also a very big player in the global industrial automation market.

'No, that's wrong. SCADA's and/or HMI's are not used to program.'

Sure - and SQL isn't used to program either, technically. Here is a description of SCADA - 'Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a control system architecture that uses computers, networked data communications and graphical user interfaces for high-level process supervisory management, but uses other peripheral devices such as programmable logic controller (PLC) and discrete PID controllers to interface with the process plant or machinery. The use of SCADA has been also considered for management and operations of project-driven-process in construction.'

'You are completely wrong in thinking that America isn't also a very big player in the global industrial automation market.'

Well, when talking to the managers of a small robotics attachment company in this region (only a couple of thousand employees), their only real concern for competition in the U.S. involved the Japanese. The robot is only part of the picture - the attachments that actually allow the robot to do work are a separate aspect.

However, to me, 'industrial automation' is at this point involves more than a single plant, much less individual stations. But that might just be because of the German development of the ideas surrounding Industrie 4.0. You are welcome to read some marketing hype here - The ideas behind it (which one is welcome to dismiss, of course), are intended to go quite far beyond the description/definitions found in the report link.

I think we can agree that global companies like GE and Honeywell play in the global market, just like Siemens. However, what American company is the equivalent of Yaskawa (which, amusingly, was pronounced 'Ya -ska -va') by the German speakers at one of its software suppliers)?

"No, that's wrong. SCADA's and/or HMI's are not used to program.'

Sure - and SQL isn't used to program either, technically."

That statement is completely wrong. To the point of you clearly not understanding anything you are talking about.

SQL = Structured Query Language. It's a programming language. I routinely write code in SQL.

I also routinely program SCADA/HMIs and PLCs.

You're don't know what you are talking about and you are arguing with somebody who's an expert. The touch screen GUI on the front of a gasoline pump is an HMI. You aren't programming when you swipe your credit card and fill up your tank with gas.

Says a guy that has never integrated a highly complex, safety critical system, subject to high levels of radiation. There is a tremendous amount of testing involved in certifying a system like this. Some of it is bureaucratic, but a lot of it is simply required in order to develop a reliable system. It requires a lot of special process to make a CPU rad-hard. Switching to a new CPU means retesting and recertifying everything that the CPU touches. A new CPU probably means new RAM, new I/O controllers, new drivers for all of the new hardware, new versions of operating systems, new compilers, and then the whole system has to be tested to ensure that a higher speed processor doesn't somehow introduce problems.

That 500mhz processor can probably execute about 1,000,000,000 arithmetic instructions per second. We went to the moon with the AGC, which can do 40,000 additions per second. There's simply no reason to chase the fastest processors for navigation/guidance/spacecraft control. When astronauts want something more powerful for experiments, etc, they simply bring laptops or ipads with them. These will periodically malfunction due to radiation.

Oh pfft. Please.

The reason it's not an off-the-shelf part in a redundant installation is because an aerospace major can't charge $300m for it that way. As is oft pointed out when this comes up, commercial laptops and tablets work fine in low earth orbit, and while the environment going to the moon is worse, it's not that much worse.

Isn't low Earth orbit shielded by the magnetic field (the van allen belts play a role, as I learned it). The Moon lacks such shielding, and interplanetary space certainly does. That's not including random solar hickups, burps, and other cosmic events that would turn most electronics into very expensive paperweights.

There are a few issues here: There's a difference between LEO and the Moon, but it's not huge. Shielding is much cheaper than custom design. Redundancy and attention to error handling can cover many faults. And aerospace off-the-shelf hardware is much cheaper than rolling your own for Orion, even if it's more expensive than regular embedded systems. Bricking electronics is pretty unlikely, although long-term doses might eventually be an issue, I don't think that's likely for Orion.

I didn't mean to suggest you could run Orion off your iPhone, just that Orion's choices were not generally made with good engineering design at the top of the criteria. Other considerations dominated.

Google "soft memory errors" and read the Wikipedia article, and some of the others listed.
The more modern the circuitry, the smaller the transistors and memory cells, and the more vulnerable they are to radiation-induced soft errors. Note that the neutron flux from cosmic rays increases rapidly with altitude. Ten thousand inches of air at sea level pressure is equivalent to one inch of lead in shielding against radiation.

I have two computer engineering degrees and a professional background in high-performance/high-reliability hardware design. I'm aware of the issues.

Where I'm going to far is in my confidence of Orion's internals. It's conceivable, though I think pretty unlikely, that they did use COTS parts for this sort of thing.

'The reason it's not an off-the-shelf part in a redundant installation is because an aerospace major can't charge $300m for it that way.'

You really might want to read that Military & Aerospace Electronics link before making such comments. At least it would give you a bit of background for why no one is using a normal smartphone processor on a geosynchronous satellite with an intended lifespan of 15 years, and a cost of 100 million dollars.

The gating would matter not a fig if you had the decency to quote the headline in the FT.

1. You mean "Why Nasa’s next Moon mission can’t be an Apollo retread"

2. "you should subscribe to the FT"
Right?! $760/yr. Not likely.

I doubt prof. Cowen pays for any subscription or any book he reads (or skims). Maybe not even for his travel or exotic meals. Of course, everyone could become a tenured university faculty member.

'Of course, everyone could become a tenured university faculty member.'

That is just his day job, and as a state employee, well, the perks concerning things exotic meals are basically nil.

However, he also moonlights as the chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center, and in that context, the generosity of the center's supporters is the effective limit of his travel or exotic meals - at least as long as one can come up with a plausible reason why.

Why don't you just get a subscription, you cheap wanker.

Because I am retired and the FT is not that valuable to me.
I read articles for fun, not to make money.


I pay ~$350 per year. Unless you need the paper version too, which means you also get the paper version of Marginal Revolution delivered at your home every morning =)

America doesn't invest in real technology because America has been captured by the easy money of so-called tech. Not much innovation in rocket engines and not much innovation in transit and not much investment in productive capital. But lots of investment in appreciating assets - thanks Fed.

"Not much innovation in rocket engines"

Some people are goddamn stupid.

Let us be blunt: there was a time we, Americans, used to build things, but now our elites decided all Americans must make a living by trading Pokemons and junk bonds or designin apps. We traded our freedom for Red Chinese trinkets. It is a shame.

The elevator on the right opened, and a man with hair to his shoulders and streaked part, a feather boa over a John Stockton jersey, and shorts that were torn at the bottom skipped out with a miller lite bottle and stopped with his hands on his hips.
“Hello Chauncy,” he said, lifting his hand to a sumptuous, presumptive smile with a hint of teeth.
“John, I don’t want to talk about it,” Chauncey said.
“I heard it was the right call,” John said. He had mustard bottle for a nose, and spatula-like eyebrows.
“It wasn’t even close,” Chauncy said.
“Had you caused someone break their racket before?”
“On the first hit?”
“You called the Agassi final?” I interjected.
“Chauncey’s the oldest line judge at the Cincinnati Open.”
“Mr. Hewitt claimed he was blocking my view, but I actually saw through his backswing an abstemious plot of the hardcourt’s green.”
John lifted his hands in front of his face, despite the bottle dropping between his Purlicue, he extended every finger in a fluorescent type of pose. “But,” he said, dropping to pick up the bottle with a gallant leg kick before placing the bottle one knee. “It was love forty, two-one in the second set. Why break your racket?”
“Chauncy waited to call it out. It was a delayed response,” I said.
“I heard he wouldn’t look you in the eye after that,” John said in a rubbery accent, equal parts from his throat and his nose. His eyes moved apart from his voice. Chauncy had resumed his slithering, his thumb in his pocket, the cup was at his waist, the bill of his cap covered his eyes.
“Hewitt ran around his backhand the third set,” I said.
“He played two steps up on his return. Agassi ceded the baseline. He stopped spitting, went downhill.”
“Yet he won.”
“What’s your name?”
“Andrew, you aren’t from around these parts.”
“Can’t say I am.”
“You want to know the thing about alcoholism?”
“It’s got the highest conversion system known to man. It’s a one size fits all solution.”
“There’s my silver lining.”
John chuckled and skipped past Chauncy. “I keep an open mind and go on learning.”

I admire your ability to keep the format while cut/paste. More effort than I’m willing to put in.

Right on, Thiago.

Frank agrees with you.

Such is life in Trump's America. Sad.

Such is life in Brazil, too. Nobody is giving their cheap Chinese goods.

It is not that simple. Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro opposes Red China.

definitely forever.

Brazil "opposes" China by buying cheap trinkets and supporting slavery. Bolsonaro is no angel.

Yep the Fed is the real reason why the rest of the world is still lagging way behind 1969 American technology and still cannot send a manned mission on the Moon 50 years later. You nailed it.

Well, it is the reason why WE, Americans, cannot send a manned mission to the Moon (or just the space) 50 years later. That and Red China. But eho cares about the Moon. We have Twitter and iPods.

One day, the rest of the world will catch up with the American technology from 1969 and send someone to the Moon. Until this day, the rest of the world has to admire and show deference to these almighty American heroes. Hum.

"One day, the rest of the world will catch up with the American technology from 1969 and send someone to the Moon."

I'm remotely hopeful that 2020 Americans can manage to catch with American technology from 1969.

Nope too many bureaucrats nowadays. In the 1960s it's well known that the US administration was run by true patriotic efficient entrepreneurs.

as a person interested in astronomy since approximately the vintage years of amateur telescopic observers of the ancient canals on Mars, I am , right here right now in 2019, still overwhelmed by the success of the Hubble Space Telescope, the LIGO gravity-wave detecting spaceships, and dozens of other uses of robots in space, including the interplanetary missions.

People, real people born in real towns on earth, like Armstrong and Buzz and Collins, in space is very impressive, too, but seriously, who needed a few dozen more military vets tromping around the lunar surface in the 70s and 80s and beyond ...

think of it this way:

if you had two alternative futures, back at the end of the Apollo programs, and one of those futures included lots of trips to the moon with people walking on the surface, but no interplanetary or space telescope missions with more than one or so exponential levels of greater accuracy than we had in the 1960s ---

and the other future was what we actually got from the amazing space telescopes in visual, UV, IR, and other ranges, and the successful planetary missions we got , which were successful (who would have believed in) in observing in great detail, close up, every single classical planet and dozens of asteroids - of which missions, only a couple, to an asteroid here or an asteroid there, could plausibly have been manned by human beings .....
if you had the choice between all those lucky people walking around on the moon, in alternate world where we had kept shooting Saturn rockets at our fellow planet in our biplanetary system, on the one hand, or getting what we actually got, from the Hubble telescope to the views of Pluto which described a planet that was unlike what almost any of us had guessed ----- you would take what we got, I guess

The Russians and Americans who went into space showed great bravery and that makes for a good story but science is not only about stories

science is about (insert quote from George MacDonald or

or a quote from Galileo ...
We cannot teach people anything we can only help them discover it within themselves

Great post. I think few people realize the golden age of astronomy we are in right now, fueled in no small part by space telescopes that would probably never would have seen the light of day if a serious human space flight program beyond LEO was running.

Our ability to send robotic probes all over our solar system is utterly awesome. That doesn't mean we can't also send people to the moon and Mars. "Embrace the power of 'and'."

If we doubled NASA's budget and spent half of the total on robots and half on people, the impact on the total US budget would barely be noticed. It is a matter of will, not of actual difficulty in doing both. In fact, they are complementary. The Hubble telescope, for example, was repaired by humans from the space shuttle. Not a unique event, either.

"In fact, they are complementary."

Exactly!! We see the same thing on Earth: we have a fleet of remote sensing satellites, and boots on the ground. The result is that both groups complement each other. I've used satellite imagery to target areas for surveys, and I've used results from field surveys to target areas for satellite analysis. There is every reason to think that the same thing would happen elsewhere in the solar system when we start exploring it. Rovers would do recon, satellites would provide additional info as well as positioning data (if you think that's minor, talk to a surveyor!), and the researchers, colonists, and whoever else would arrive with home-court advantage.

To put this in perspective: NASA's budget is 0.5% of the federal budget. We are not, as a culture, pushing this very hard. Space exploration is a back-burner thing, and they're still doing fantastic things.

or a quote from Galileo ....
We cannot teach people anything we can only help them discover it within themselves

Now does anyone have any inkling what the survival probabilities were for Columbus's first voyage? I want to compare with Apollo 11 to see how soft we have become.

Instead of a subscription to the (SJW infested) FT, pick up Rand Simberg's great little book "Safe is Not an Option". The kindle version is four bucks.

NASA has long had an addled, incoherent safety strategy. The same agency responsible for a 1.5% shuttle blow-up rate was willing to risk the $100 Billion ISS in 2011 because ThePreciousAstronauts couldn't be trusted aboard Soyuz rockets. Boo-Freakin'-Hoo.

Space is risky. Give each mission a lethality index and allow astronauts to bid on the jobs. Recruit from Special Ops commands if you can find enough perfumed flight and science "experts".

Heck, the National Science Foundation, During the Antarctic winter, will often leave seriously ill people at the South Pole station rescue risk. Why are ThePreciousAstronauts so much more important?

Related breaking news: Gerstenmaier is out as Associate Administrator of Human Exploration and Operations. Long overdue and perhaps indicative of Bridenstine and Pence being somewhat serious.

Under Wernher von Braun, NASA designed, built, and flew without fatality three new and different manned orbital spaceflight systems in a period of ten years.

In the ten years since his retirement, NASA designed, built, and flew exactly one new manned orbital spaceflight system, with a record that includes 50% of all fatal accidents in orbital spaceflight and 77.8% of all fatalities in in orbital spaceflight.

In the 38 years since that system's first flight, and the 33 since that system's first fatal accident, NASA has designed, built, and flown exactly zero new manned orbital spaceflight systems.

And yet the article took a shot at Elon Musk for missing deadlines, while explaining that NASA has to recycle the RS-25 engine design that first flew in 1981 because there just hasn't been time to develop anything since.

OK, but designing one system that carried out an order of magnitude more missions and hours in space than all the rest put together has to count in the balances as well as the deaths.

Let's see what the counts were.
Mercury: six manned launches, 54 hours
Gemini: ten manned launches, 970 hours
Apollo: eleven manned launches, 2466 hours
Space Shuttle: 135 manned launches, 31747 hours

Yes, I agree you do really need to look at the entire picture. It does indicate that the Space Shuttle wasn't as bad as it might seem at first glance.

But the part that makes NASA looks bad, isn't the shuttles two disasters. It's that the shuttle was first flown in 1981. That's nearly 40 years since NASA has designed and used a new system.

If I were to bet on it, I would bet that the next time a NASA astronaut sets foot on the Moon, she'll have ridden in a space craft designed and built by someone else.

Any debate about the depth of the lunar dust was settled by the unmanned Surveyor landers a few years earlier. They didn't sink.

And anyways, if the lunar module didn't sink into dust when it landed, then neither would an astronaut who stepped out of the lunar module and onto the Moon. So that quote made no sense.

Because obviously every square foot of the Moon is exactly like every other square foot? There were legitimate worries that some areas might have 10' or more of collected fines, and therefore be dangerous to walk on.

"And anyways, if the lunar module didn't sink into dust when it landed, then neither would an astronaut who stepped out of the lunar module and onto the Moon."

I believe the sinking into the dust was an early concern that was mostly settled by the results of the Ranger (NASA) & Luna (Soviet) missions in the early 60's. However, NASA was worried that dust blowing up into the engine might cause an explosion.

I was surprised and charmed by this interview with Armstrong.
He talks about some of the engineering challenges (how to sleep in space for example) and gives a great guide with graphics on the final descent to the lunar surface.

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