Mar 012017

If you’ve been wondering how the party of fear-mongering and authoritarianism was going to respond to the idea of private American companies going to  space and the moon, I believe we have us an early test balloon:

Congressional candidate: Moon-colonizing companies could destroy cities by dropping rocks

One “Brianna Wu” scientifically embarrasses herself, but likely improves her standing with the Luddites, by claiming that “Rocks dropped from there have power of 100s of nuclear bombs.”

Now, on one hand this is true. If you fling a big enough rock from the surface of the moon, it could hit the Earth with kinetic energy similar to the total energy of a nuke. But there’s the thing: in order to do that, you need to *impart* damn near a nukes worth of kinetic energy in the first place. Simply chucking a rock  from the lunar surface at lunar escape velocity (about 2.4 km/sec) will not put that rock on a trajectory to the Earths surface, but rather just in a very wide  orbit , basically the same orbit the moon has. You’d need to cancel out the orbital velocity, another kilometer or so per second. From there the rock would “fall” to Earth, picking up speed and smacking down with no more than Earth escape velocity, or no more than 11.2 km/sec. So, by accelerating a rock to about 3.5 km/sec, you get it to hit the Earth at about 11 km/sec.

Sounds great for a weapons system. At 11 km/sec, the kinetic energy of one kilogram of rock (or anything) is 60.5 megajoules. One single kiloton of yield is defined as 4.184 terajoules. So to get a kiloton of bang out of a lunar rock, you’d need to launch (4.184 terajoules/60.5 megajoules) 69,157 kilos of rock. Lobbing a seventy-metric ton rock to 3.5 kilometers per second is a non-trivial act. Plus, you have to assure that the rock not only hits the target via accurate guidance, but survives passage through the atmosphere.

But Wu didn’t just say that a rock would have the power of a nuke, but “hundreds” of them. So… let’s say 100 times Fat Man, or 1.5 megatons. That would require the launch not of 70 metric tones, but 105,000 metric tons. The USS Nimitz displaces about 100,000 metric tons. So according to Ms. Wu, the threat posed by the likes of Elon Musk is that he will toss aircraft carriers off the surface of the moon.

Ms. Wu then went on to claim that any criticism of her rather unrealistic fearmongering was due to sexism, and to then decry the militarization of space. Because apparently a few tourists going around the moon will be able to grab chunks of moonrock the size of a carrier battle group and hurl it at Earth.

Silly as her fears are, I won;t be the least bit surprised if they gain traction, and this is used as the basis of an attempt to shut down private spaceflight in the US… or at least to nationalize it “for the children.”

Thanks to blog reader SE Jones for heads-up on this miserable little story.

As always, feel free to check my math.

 Posted by at 7:43 pm
  • Jeffersonian


  • se jones

    The Lunacy (pun intended) from Democrat shills is to be expected, but it’s disturbing to see the senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Paul Spudis Ph.D, going all nutzoid on Elon Musk for proposing a mission to . . . the Moon.

  • se jones

    FYI: “Capsule” is on TMCeHD DirectTV.

    The most gawd aweful space movie ever made, because it’s one of the most realistic space movies ever made. You know, hours of mind-numbing boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.

  • Robbie

    These kinds of stupid people almost make me wish for concentration camps to keep them from gaining any kind of political power that could harm our space programs.

  • Dave Salt

    Maybe someone should get her to read ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’, which would likely send her completely over the edge… and into La La Land 🙂

    • Dean Fox

      Heh. As I was reading the article, all I could hear in my mind was Mike Holmes saying, “We *can* throw rocks at them, Mannie. We will!”.

      To Scott’s point, though — in TMIAHM, the Holmes IV “threw” the rocks at Earth in “grain barges” via a magnetic induction catapult, thus imparting those serious kilojoules of energy needed for the rocks to release kinetic energy on impact similar to low-yield nukes. But I doubt Ms. Wu would notice that little detail. She’d see “rocks” and “Moon” and “nukes” and be off to the races.

      Sometimes, it’s too bad that works of fiction don’t happen in the real world. I was also thinking of elsewhere in that Heinlein classic where a half-wit on Earth claimed that the Lunies couldn’t hit anywhere they claimed they were aiming at…and stood on the big “X” he claimed was one of the targets. Mannie’s line of “don’t remember hearing anything more from that stupid cobber later” seems to point out an excellent way of improving the breed by inviting such fools to stand directly under several tons of lunar regolith arriving at a specific point on Earth…

      Maybe Elon & team will use some Hyperloop tech to build a lunar catapult. Hmmm…

    • Peter Hanely

      My impression is someone had read that book, and completely missed both the political subtext and technical details.

      • publiusr

        That’s most likely the case. We are a long way off from getting any mass drivers up there. That won’t be paid for by private interests.

  • Bob

    Dumb as a Democrat.

  • Retro Rockets

    I hate to admit that I have heard that name before. He/She/It is a trangendered/Transvestite/transsexual or what ever the cool name de jur is who may or may not have had a sex change operations. He/She/It. is notorious for blaming sexual harassment/transphobia/homophobia/ and every other ism and phobia under the sun when people disagree or say bad things about He/She/It.

    He/She/It. was a big name in gamergate kerfuffleand may or may not have suffered considerable internet harassment as well has may or may not have instigated harassment.
    So she is the perfect democratic candidate.

    • Peter Hanely

      Just call them “gender confused”.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Scott should learn to pick and choose his battles. People as famous as Brianna Wu should never be criticized directly, if you know any better.

  • James

    ” In 2003 she enrolled at the University of Mississippi, studying journalism and political science.[citation needed] At the age of 19, she formed a small animation studio to create an animated pilot episode. The venture was unsuccessful, resulting in her withdrawal from college and a move to Washington, D.C. to work in political fundraising for several years.[”

    So this tells me she was always going to be a political journalist.