Nov 302014

Christmas is coming up, and what better gift is there than a high-quality, high dollar amount spaceship?




NOTE: If you can’t see the Amazon links above, the problem is probably in the Flash or Java settings or some such on your browser. If you have ’em shut off, you can’t see the little Amazon thingies.

 Posted by at 3:38 pm
Nov 302014

One of the items that has fallen into my hands is a pretty good map of cape Kennedy as of 1969, showing USAF and NASA facilities:

KSC map 1a

I have posted the full-rez version over at the APR Patreon, available to all $1.50/month and greater patrons.

If you would like to access this item and support the cause of acquiring and sharing these pieces of aerospace history, please visit my Patreon page and consider contributing.



 Posted by at 1:09 am
Nov 292014

I’ve been rethinking “Interstellar” of late, especially in light of Kip Thorne’s “The Science of Interstellar.” A lot of my science objections were actually explained away in terms that made sense… but only in light of facts that were not presented on screen. The fall past the event horizon? Obvious nonsense, nothing could survive the tidal stresses… till you find out the black hole is a two Hundred MILLION solar mass monster (somewhat counter intuitively, those are safer to approach than itty-bitty one solar mass black holes). Maneuvering in close? Far beyond the delta-V capability of the ship… till its explained that the ship does a slingshot maneuver – offscreen – around a 10,000 solar mass black hole in a convenient orbit around the big one. Stuff like that. Kinda cheating, but I guess it mostly works.

But one thing that still bugs me: once again, spaceflight is depicted as depressing, and the reason for the spaceflight is depicted as depressing. It’s not as uplifting as it should be. Once again, the movies let me down.

And then…

[vimeo 108650530]

Holy crap. Ho. Lee. CRAAAAAAAP. Someone get this guy $150 million to flesh this out into a three-hour epic NOW.

The basejumpers of Miranda? The folks walking across Europa? Floating through the rings of Saturn? The Saturnian airship? Long forgotten goosebumps came back to life.



 Posted by at 7:25 pm
Nov 292014

Before “Voyager” meant “a flyby probe of the Outer Solar System,” it meant “an orbiter and lander for Mars.” It was, essentially, a bigger, more ambitious version of what became the Viking missions. big enough that the Saturn V was the launcher, sending two craft at a time.

A number of companies put in bids to design and build the spacecraft. Below are images of the TRW concept. The conical section is the capsule holding the lander; the propulsion section is derived from the Lunar Module descent stage.

trw voyger

 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Nov 292014

Listening to NPR yesterday, there was a discussion of a problem in medical ethics that is only possible due to advances in medical technology.

It has long been generally accepted that there is doctor/patient confidentiality, that what the doctor find out about a patient cannot be released to other folks without the patients consent. And that concept usually works well enough, and doesn’t pose problems for the doctors; after all, if you’ve fallen and busted your hip, or if you’ve shot your eye our with a BB gun, it doesn’t matter to others… your condition doesn’t threaten them. Now, if you have Ebola or smallpox or some such, such that you are a direct threat, then things get different, and alerting the authorities makes sense. That’s where the change in policy makes sense…. where your medical info means that you are a danger to others. Without that danger, it’s just accepted that your diagnosis remains between you and your doctor, unless you specifically authorize him/her to tell others.

But modern medical technology provides a whole new class of patient. Doctors and researchers in medical trials often use gene sequencing to find that a subject has a genetic predisposition for, say, breast cancer. The thing is, a lot of these genetic problems are inherited traits, and if you have ’em, chances are statistically pretty good that your parents/children/siblings have them too. And form a medical standpoint, a lot of these genetic flaws mean that you should get checked out ASAP. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital. For example, Angelina Jolie some time back underwent a preventative double mastectomy because she had the gene for breast cancer. That may be extreme, but it’s not wholly unreasonable, and it’s an option that should be available to anyone with the gene in question. But a person obviously wouldn’t get that done unless they knew they had the gene.

So… you have a patient who turns out to have Mutant Gene X. This gene is known to commonly reside in parents and siblings. It’ll sit there for decades, doing nothing, then suddenly spring to life and kill the patient in the worst way possible. But if caught and treated early, it need be not risk at all. But the patient *hates* his siblings and parents, and has disowned his own children, and speaks to none of them and will tell none of them what has been found. What’s the doctor to do?

On the one hand, confidentiality. On the other, the duty to save lives. One suggestion that was made was to contact the family members and give them a *vague* “Y’all need to get checked out,” without referencing either the patient of the specific condition. But I’m pretty sure that an out-of-the-blue warning from some Mystery Doctor would rarely be well taken.

Let’s say the doctor did nothing, falling on the side of confidentiality. And then a family member falls ill, suffers greatly, and the family goes broke in a vain effort to treat the illness. And then they find out that the doctor knew, and knew early enough that he could have prevented the whole thing. Such a doctor might find him on the receiving end of a *lot* of anger, threats, violence and lawsuits.

As yet, there is no accepted policy here. But I suspect there had better soon be one.

 Posted by at 8:49 am
Nov 282014

With the unveiling of the teaser trailer today, for a m0vie that won’t be out for more than another year, we get our first look at live-action Star Wars footage in more than thirty years:

[youtube OMOVFvcNfvE]

There have been some fan-films over the years (I recall some really big-budget fan-films from ten, fifteen years ago that pretended to be prequels, but they didn’t really work), but it’s nice to see the Real Thing.

 Posted by at 8:48 am
Nov 282014

Assuming that this analysis is remotely close to accurate, there could be interesting times in Russia.

Is Russia Preparing to Ban Islam?

The argument goes that Russia is working away on banning the hijab because where the hijab goes, sharia law, Muslim supremacism and terrorism go. Further, a ninth century text apparently revered by Sunni Muslims has been banned because it promotes “exclusivity of one of the world’s religions.” And considering that the Koran does as well (and I imagine the Bible does too…), people are wondering how long it’ll be before the Koran is banned in Russia.

I’ll be over here popping some corn.

 Posted by at 1:40 am