Posts Tagged ‘Television’
For a long time scientists and science fiction writers have postulated using an asteroid as either an orbital base or a non-FTL starship. Books like Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow use spacefaring asteroid ships because it appears to be a monumental problem to lift enough material out of Earth’s gravity well to build a starship from scratch. John Ringo’s Troy Rising series uses an asteroid, melted and inflated, as a fortress to defend Earth from aliens entering through a hyperspace gate.
SPOILER AHEAD! In fact, Ringo goes farther and, using an Orion-style nuclear bomb drive, turns his fortress into a mobile battle platform, taking it through the gate and to the battle.
I just finished Dr. Travis Taylor’s new book, A New American Space Plan, and I was struck by something that I never really considered much before. Maybe we can get to Mars using current, or near-future technology. NASA is now setting its sights on a mission to a Near-Earth Asteroid. (Or it was last I looked. NASA plans change every day.) Beyond that – let’s say we want to go to Jupiter – it’s going to be orders of magnitude more difficult. When the AE-35 antenna pointing unit failed in “2001″ – OK, Hal did it, but still – they happened to have the parts or whatever to fix it. They didn’t have to, but were prepared to.
So let’s say we’ve got a Discovery-class ship, three crew in suspended animation, two minding the store on the Long Trip Out. Something breaks, or the classic Dramatic Meteor Impact happens and breaks something – something that is not available on the ship. We’re basically screwed. Don’t tell me 3D printing technology will save us. It won’t build a microchip for a really, really, long time. And a whole antenna, say 20 feet in diameter? Probably not. We don’t have Ringo’s fabbers, and if we have to wait for those, we won’t go to Jupiter for a long while.
We could do it by what Robert Zubrin, author of the “Mars Direct” concepts, derisively called the “Battlestar Galactica” approach: a gigantic fleet of ships, traveling together for mutual aid and protection. But if lifting one ship’s parts out of the gravity well is hard, lifting 20 is a lot harder.
So let’s see…maybe we can grab a Near-Earth Asteroid, bolt a bunch of stuff on it, drill it out or blow it out with nukes, and build a habitat inside. Maybe not for hundreds of people – let’s say, 50 or so. That’s a lot of lifting but not as much as the other alternatives. Ion drive, solar sail, Orion or Orion-derived nuclear pulse drive – any of them would probably work. It would just take a while to go someplace.
Look at it as if you are driving your motor home cross country and have to take your machine shop along because nobody stocks parts for your vehicle. The bigger the vehicle, and the more people, the more likely it is you can fabricate what you need. And most of the mass is nickel-iron asteroid, which is also providing a lot of radiation shielding. Instead of thinking of a trip to Jupiter as taking a few years, maybe you’ll take decades. Running a closed environmental system like that isn’t easy, but it’s easier than a lot of the alternatives. Eventually we’ll have some better drives, and we can get around the system faster.
Has anyone ever calculated how much toilet paper is needed for a five-year trip?
I don’t see this happening in the next 10 years, but it could be done a lot sooner than most every other idea I’ve heard for deep space interplanetary travel as long as we lack a superdrive. Those are based mostly on magic and good intentions right now.
Once we know how to do that, we can build bigger ones and send people to the stars. By then we should have a pretty good idea which ones have planets we could live on.
I wasn’t a fan of the NASA asteroid mission scenario until now. Now I hope we can get there. We won’t just be learning how the solar system is put together, but how to build a better spaceship.
A pity, though. I kind of like the Blake’s 7 Liberator as a spaceship design. Of course, it was built by aliens…
I just did a piece on Fox News being the only news outlet to really cover what happened in Benghazi over on Keep Americans Free! I invite you to check it out.
Paolo Attivissimo and a team of volunteers have taken the imagery from the 16mm film camera attached at the window of the lunar module Eagle, merged it with CGI of the LM’s orientation and intercuts of the Mission Control team, and synchronized the whole works so to show the last 16 minutes of Eagle’s descent, with all the radio exchanges by the crew and mission control, occurring in real time. They also subtitled it because some of the transmissions were not very clear.
Then went on to do the same with all the work on the surface, digitally restoring the camera work. The whole documentary may be found at moonscape.info and is broken into parts that are streamable through vimeo in 720p. It is stunning work.
The landing, which is all I have had a chance to watch all the way through, is a nail-biter even though you know they land successfully. From exchanges with Mission Control and Mike Collins in orbit about antenna problems to inquiries about warning lights, there is a drama here I never expected. Through it all Armstrong and Aldrin are amazing, as are the Mission Control folks. Steely-eyed missile men, indeed!
Through the window camera you can plainly see the craters Armstrong had to avoid in the last seconds before landing. It is pretty well-known that he landed almost bingo fuel, but he calmly maneuvered the LM around obstacles and put it down gently among the craters. Since all we had at the time was a very limited amount of data from the Surveyor unmanned probes, we didn’t even know if the surface would hold the Eagle. They could have landed in several feet of lunar dust…there were so many unknowns!
Whenever we go back to the Moon, we will of course have far more advanced communications links and automated landing systems. No one need ever land on the Moon manually again…but Neil Armstrong did it, with Buzz Aldrin handling most of the communications chores as well as a host of other things necessary by the state of the art of the time. Truly a triumph not just of American techology, but of Americans.
It has taken Mr. Attivissimo, an Italian, to remind us of this. Thank you sir, and thank you to all who assisted you!
This is the perfect time to watch this. And please, donate if you can.
I almost forgot! Here’s some of the restored video of the Apollo 11 flight that put Neil and Buzz on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
I watched Armstrong’s first steps on a little black and white TV (not that it mattered), outside, at Farragut State Park in northern Idaho. I was a participant in the Boy Scout Jamboree that week. The whole thing was kind of surreal, somehow…knowing I was far from home, but these guys were…as alone as you could be. No, Mike Collins, in orbit, was as alone as could be. There has been a lot of talk about the close thing the landing actually was, before the LEM ran out of fuel, but what was it like to be in orbit in Columbia?
At the time I thought we were living in the future. Looking back, I am amazed at what was accomplished without all the high-tech enhancements we have today. Mini mp3 players have more computing power today than Apollo had!
Here’s to you, Neil, Buzz and Mike; and to everyone who was a part of that national dream given form.
Jake Tapper is the ABC News Senior White House Correspondent. He has been one of the few in the While House press corps to ask serious questions instead of sucking up to the press secretary as he spoons out the disinformation week after week. So, I have more than a little respect for him.
I have a weird love-hate relationship with Aaron Sorkin’s work. I’ve not seen his Facebook movie, but I watched all of “The West Wing” and “Sports Night” and even the few episodes of “Studio 60″ that made it to air. I liked “A Few Good Men” and I liked a lot about “An American President,” even if I didn’t like the politics (and as I got older the whole plot about the President’s girlfriend sleeping over at the White House made me more uncomfortable).
I felt Sorkin’s handling of liberal and conservative sides of issues in “The West Wing” was more even-handed than I ever expected. Sometimes he actually wrote something that got me to think. And his writing style was captivating. Not so much the walk-and-talk dialogs that became his trademark, but the rapid-fire exchanges between characters that always left me wishing I could be that clever that fast. (Of course, the characters only are because Sorkin and his writers spent hours and hours writing that kind of dialog, but you know what I mean.) Once Sorkin had fallen out of favor with NBC and he was taken off the show, I felt the dialog lost its sparkle and the show lurched harder left.
Anyway, when I saw HBO had a new Sorkin show coming out, another of his “behind the scenes” ideas, I sort of looked forward to it. I didn’t like the promo I saw of it…but I couldn’t separate if I really didn’t like the promo or just Jeff Daniels, who has never been one of my favorite actors.
Jake Tapper just posted a review on the website for The New Republic and it makes me sad. I was hoping it would be a good show, at least somewhat even-handed politically. But from the way Tapper tells it, we’re going to get more conservative-bashing instead. If I want that I can look for Nancy Pelosi speeches on YouTube.
I may still watch it, just to see if I perceive it differently. But if Tapper thinks it’s partisan, I tend to believe him. Oh, well. Back to reruns of “NCIS” for me, I guess.
Comments on a bunch of topics, since I haven’t had time to weigh in and I’m sure you all are concerned about that…
I didn’t continue reviewing/commenting on “Smash” because I found I had nothing to say that I already hadn’t. The crisis of the ending of the show – that is, in the musical, “Bombshell” – was resolved in the very last scene of the last episode of the season. (Or, almost the last scene, but this downward Ivy spiral has been done many times before, and better.)
Actually, the whole problem the characters had with finding a suitable ending for the show is more the kind of thing I had hoped to see. I hope real-life Broadway composers (most of whom do not arrange their own music for the stage) don’t have to get a closing number done at the very last moment, orchestrate it, and get it to the pit before the finale! Some of that you could almost do with Finale or Sibelius, but the musicians and conductor wouldn’t like it. Nor would the star, who is trying to tie the whole show up in a bow and needs to be very expressive.
Anyway, suspend your belief and go with it. The number works pretty well, I think, for finding a way to deal with the fact that Marilyn dies at the end. The show seems to demand a “down” ending, but an uplifting message for the audience seems to be a satisfying conclusion to me.
Also, the scene in the church was delightful.
Enough of “Smash.” Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, did a victory lap at SpaceX in Hawthorne last week. I hope he told them, “Hey, you guys have work because we are spineless weasels and can’t work with Congress.” Because, of course, it’s the truth.
If NASA doesn’t like Dragon Rider, or Orion, or Liberty aka Orion composite-materials version, I suppose we could make a deal with the Chinese. They seem to be launching people successfully. And we buy all kinds of other stuff from China, so no worries, right? Probably doesn’t even take a lot of extra import paperwork. Ship it in a container labeled, “Apple iPhone 5,” or something. Of course, the operating manual will be in industrial-strength Chinglish.
And could you launch a Chinese Shenhzou on a Delta rocket? The Delta IV is supposed to be able to handle payloads of 8600 to 22,000 kg. The Chinese vehicle is listed as weighing 7,840 kg, so it should be possible to get it into orbit on a Delta, or without question on an Atlas. (Dirty little secret – the Falcon 9 could launch it as well!)
I got to thinking today that Elon Musk says he wants to go to Mars.According to the video SpaceX ran last year, the Dragon Rider escape engines are powerful enough to land on Mars and apparently they think it would be able to take off again. That means landing one on the Moon should be easy, right? And the cargo version has shown its maneuverability already so maybe they could land one of those on the moon for extra supplies, then a manned mission could be a land nearby. If that one Dragon couldn’t handle enough fuel for the liftoff again and the burn to get out of Lunar orbit, imitate Apollo by sending two and only bringing one back, the one that had remained in Lunar orbit while the crew are down exploring. I would think the trunk could be modified into an equivalent of the Apollo service module, or the extended second stage of the Falcon Heavy might be able to do the translunar injection like the S-IVB, then only send three or four crew instead of the seven that is supposed to be the max capacity for Dragon Rider. Lighter vehicle, fewer consumables, most propellant, easier to get out of Lunar orbit.
You know what? They could do this by 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
I can dream.
A gentleman who calls himself “BTE Dan” has put up a very deep web site called BuildTheEnterprise.com. He envisions building a spaceship capable of reaching Mars in 90 days, within 20 years, for roughly $ 50 billion per year. That works out to a trillion dollars! (But that’s in today’s money, and I expect that $ 50 billion even ten years from now might not have the same buying power.)
I’m not going on a rant about how we spend billions each year on stuff not nearly so awe-inspiring, or any of that. I just wanted folks to see what Dan was doing. He has a somewhat unique vision, I think: would it be more inspiring to build a spaceship that could travel throughout our solar system if we named it “Enterprise” and made it look like a TV spaceship from 50 years ago? How would you do it?
While his Enterprise is not warp-capable – he’s basing it completely on technology already in place or in development today – he may have a point. I remember the elation in the “Trek community” when the first Shuttle to be rolled out was named Enterprise. Then we found out that it would never go into space – that it was a “test article.” We watched it fly around on the back of a 747 and do some glide tests, but I know many of us felt our dream had been crushed again – held out, then snatched away by realists at NASA.
The name Enterprise has a history unique in our culture. Of course Gene named his after the aircraft carrier, the first nuclear carrier in the world. By the time “The Next Generation” rolled around, rather than trying to use a different name, it was updated but called the Enterprise-D; the continuity of the name was deemed important.
And it is; symbols mean things. I’ll be “Star Trek” inspired hundreds of thousands of young people to become scientists and engineers over the years. (I think “Star Wars” is looked at rather differently, but I’m not ready for that argument!)
And I think Dan is right: the ability to build an “Enterprise-like” spaceship is now technically within our reach. Getting to orbit is getting easier, and over the next three or four years it should get easier still. By the time components need to be put in orbit – and that’s where you build it, J.J. Abrams, not on the ground! – access to orbit will be easier and more reliable, and somewhat less expensive. Such a program might even encourage the commercial space access companies to move faster. Part of the reason they aren’t moving faster now is that the market is too small and too variable. Does any other company have a backlog of 20 missions or more, like SpaceX?
So read through Dan’s pages. I would love to think this would be the start of something really big!
Trailer is here.The following is expanded from an email I sent Bogus after he tipped me off to this:
Heh. It’s soooo Sorkin! So…the character’s a Republican, sort of?
Sam Waterson and Jane Fonda! He’s identified with TV viewers as a big lib from “Law and Order” – i have no idea what his real politics are. He does TV commercials for that Evil Wall Street, after all.
Jane Fonda – probably nobody has stronger nutcase-liberal street cred this side of Bill Ayers. Of course, her former husband Ted Turner probably gives her a little insight into how a network president would behave. Especially if he is cutthroat and a bit nuts.
And around it, the classic Sorkin “below decks” young staff people. It’s a formula of his since “Sports Night,” but it works. I swear that show was one of the best ever on TV. And “The West Wing” was darned close, until the suits threw Sorkin under the bus.
I’m going to have to watch it, I guess. And Sorkin has apparently learned what JMS learned while writing “Babylon 5″: “Hey, we’re on cable! We can use swears!”