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Rodney Reid

Hi Elaine,

Always thought the 'lets go to mars' speech by Bush a couple years ago was the stupidest speech in a long time.

A side note:

The first mission to the moon since European Space Agency's SMART-1 crashed into the moon last year is approaching:

China launches their Chang’e I lunar probe in mid April. (And Japan this summer too!)

Elaine Meinel Supkis

All of which are robots. Space is friendly to robots. Not humans. Case closed.


Now you sound like me!

Elaine Meinel Supkis

What? You and Bender are the same thing? Heh. I do have more than one eye. So far. I think.


I have kept a close eye on technology for a long time. (I fixed a dozen different kinds of electronics gear, microwave, x-ray, satcom, biometrics, etc.) When I first saw the plans for the shuttle, I got very angry. I had the ability to spot a crummy technology a mile away. It was a complete joke. By hands-on experience, I had been trained to understand that the cardinal property of all technology is failure. You would just not believe the million things that can go wrong on a circuit board.

And this space shuttle was such an obvious lemon to anyone like me. Ask any one with my kind of experience. Solid technology must involve qualities of redundancy, graceful failure modes, and robustness — and the shuttle was catastrophically lacking in all of these and more. The only thing the shuttle could do well was allow the main (hydrogen/liquid oxygen) engines to be recycled. It was monumentally stupid.

The only kind of peacetime rocket that makes any sense is the kerosene/liquid oxygen type, such as the Saturn Five. It would have made some sense to bring the main engines back on a ceramic tile re-entry vehicle, and the rest on a much safer ablative shield re-entry vehicle. And the gimbling rocket nozzles used to control trajectory seem pretty glitchy in a system that only runs for ten minutes. Why not just use simple side thrusters?

We have a tendency to allow crucial systems to become ultra-complicated, and then we crash and burn. This same disaster syndrome exists in all of our infrastructure, such as it is. If hackers want to take down the internet and demolish all of our computers, you can be sure that there are at least a thousand groups out there that can get that done in about a day.

Elaine Meinel Supkis

Note that the system used by the Chinese to toast satellites is fairly simple unlike our Star Wars systems.

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