only the insane have strength enough to prosper. only the prosperous truly judge what is sane.


Cool, Clear Water...

Exciting news (if you're into that sort of thing) from the ESA Mars Express mission--a large patch of water ice has been found in a crater near the Martian north pole.

Send in the rovers...


Grounded again...

The shuttle fleet has been grounded again, after a large chunk of material was spotted falling off the external tank during the launch.

Key quote:
"Since the Columbia tragedy, NASA has spent over $1 billion on making sure shuttles would be safe from falling foam debris."

That figure doesn't include the enormous cost of the ISS, which is a mere shadow of what its planners hoped it would be...and is probably the primary reason why the Space Shuttle still limps its way into orbit. Now we discover that $1 billion has been spent to improve safety, yet a piece of foam (warning: links to large hi-res photo) as large as three feet peels off of the external tank. NASA admits that it's basically 'good luck' that it didn't strike the shuttle.

To me, the issue is not whether NASA is competent...I'll leave that to others. I'm more concerned with the fact that the shuttle is looking more and more like an obsolete hunk of failed space race dreams. How long have we been reading about replacements for this aging beast? X-this, X-that, aerospike engines, launch costs so low that you can send grandma to the moon for her birthday. When? "The near future. 2000 at the latest. Maybe 2005. When you get to 2005, make it 2010. I mean 2020..."

The risks simply seem to outstrip the rewards. I could live with the shuttle if it could do something other than spin around our planet in a low orbit. So much risk, for what? Science that robots could do cheaper and more safely. We spend billions so the Canadarm can poke around looking for holes with a new sensor stuck on the end of it. This isn't the stuff of dreams, it's a snoozer. It's the equivalent of reading the dictionary from cover to cover while standing on top of a metal tower in a thunderstorm. Terribly boring, and oh so dangerous.

It begs a comparison to a few recent space missions:

  • Mars Pathfinder: $280 million (including launch vehicle and operations)
  • Mars Exploration Rovers: $820 million (including the launch and initial 90-day missions of both Spirit and Opportunity)
  • SpaceShipOne: ~$20 million (development costs and suborbital flight)

The robots sent to Mars captured the world's imagination, and have returned enormous amounts of useful science. They create a sense of wonder, they appeal to our sense of adventure. We really are boldly going where no man has gone before. If we had more money for robotic missions, we could take even bolder risks--dropping rovers into the Valles Marineris, or on top of Olympus Mons...the possibilities are endless.

SpaceShipOne serves a different purpose--it puts the Buck Rogers back into spaceflight. There's something thrilling about seeing a bunch of plucky rich guys blow a small (very small, by NASA standards) fortune to cobble together a spacecraft capable of suborbital flight. Even though it achieved nothing "new" (save the fact that it's privately built), it still had that critical quality--it captures our imagination. The design says it all--SpaceShipOne looks *cool*, like it wasn't simply designed to be functional. It's Buck Rogers in real life--so what if it's not in orbit? SpaceShipOne and its mothership, the White Knight, look like something a 10-year-old boy with an overactive imagination would design....

Robots for exploration. Private spacecraft for manned flight.

Cheers to the brave Shuttle astronauts, nevertheless. They're heroes without a cause, I fear.

UPDATE: Mike's Noise (via Instapundit) details some very interesting information about the type of foam used for insulation. This line really jumped out at me: "After the new foam was used on Columbia mission STS-87 in November 1997, post-flight examination of the craft found that 308 of the special heat-absorbent ceramic tiles that cover the Shuttle's outer skin were damaged. The average number of damaged tiles for previous missions was 40."


Blasts in Sharm el-Sheik

A series of blasts in Sharm el-Sheik, an Egyptian resort on the southern tip of the Sinai, has killed at least 36 and wounded 150. The resort is popular with Europeans, Israelis, and Egyptians.

It should come as no surprise that many of the dead were Egyptian. Animals don't worry about distinctions like that. Besides, I'm sure they'll argue that the murdered Egyptians were guilty of "consorting with the infidels". Perhaps they had the nerve to stay in the same hotel as Europeans (oh, the horror) or Jews (*gasp*). Perhaps they were guilty of the crime of sipping coffee with friends at a cafe that happens to be in an area popular with infidels.

Sadly, Norm Geras will be able to add yet another entry to his summary of the many ways the enemies of humanity fight their "war". They murder sleeping tourists on holiday. They murder Egyptians out for a cup of coffee with friends.

At times like this, I wish I was British. They are simply unsurpassed in their ability to express their disdain for cowardly death-obsessed murderers like these bastards. Americans simply lack the centuries of refinement that have allowed Brits to raise profanity to an art form.

WW2 RTS Chat

LOL to this. World War II summed up in l33tspeak...
(via Chrenkoff)


Police have shot a suspected suicide bomber at Stockwell station this morning. Nosemonkey is liveblogging the events again.

It's sounding more and more like the police acted in the only way they could considering they were chasing a potential suicide bomber. After the suspect (who was wearing a long, heavy summer) ran onto a train, the police had a split second to decide. If they hesitated and he was able to set off an explosive device, any number of civilians (not to mention the police themselves) could have been killed. They acted decisively, and eliminated any possibility of the suspect setting off a device.

I'm sure this sends a message to the wannabombers as well. We're not particularly afraid. We know who you are, we'll find you, and we'll bring you to justice, one way or another.

Cheers to the Metropolitan Police.


London Liveblogging

Nosemonkey liveblogged the wannabomber "attacks" in London today. Excellent coverage as usual.

A sure sign that the "attacks" were an abysmal failure? *I* was more interested in the cricket result today. Let me spell this out for the wannabombers, since they don't seem to be too bright. An American living an ocean away from London was more interested in watching the opening day of the Ashes series than he was in following the terminally boring news of your sad little misadventures today.

You know your life amounts to nothing when Americans would rather watch cricket than tune in to coverage of your failed little plot. Read a few sites like Europhobia, and you'll see just how little of an impression you've made on Londoners. You could barely hold their attention through the afternoon. On this day, the Aussie cricket squad caused far more terror in the UK than you!!! Pathetic.