Sunday, December 21, 2008

(N)eed (A)nother (S)enior (A)stronaut?

The Emperor's Agency's acronym has found yet another interpretation in another newspaper op-ed piece. While the current crop of astronauts has not been know for blowing away intelligence tests, we would hope for better from the current head astronaut. Perhaps his arm was twisted by the Emperor in a tortuous manner which no mortal could resist? Perhaps BroomHilda cast one of her last spells over him? Or perhaps he is just plain dumb?

Flyboy Lindsey tries to convince us that ARES-1 "... consists of a two-stage launch vehicle based on an upgraded shuttle solid rocket booster and an improved upper-stage engine from the Apollo program. Both are proven, reliable, human-rated components." We might believe him, except for the fact that the ARES-1 SRB is entirely new save for the cases that surround the new propellant, grain pattern, avionics, oscillation damping system, and software. When you change something, anything really, on a space vehicle you are opening the door to a new set of potential failures. Upgraded, improved, whatever is not "proven" by any means.

Lindsey goes on to say that "Ares I also has the unique advantage of using the same components that will serve as the baseline for an ultra heavy-lift unmanned Ares V rocket needed to carry supplies, hardware and equipment to the moon." Except for the fact that the ARES V has an extra 1/2 segment, avionics, software....need we continue?

The capstone of the story is that Lindsey says that "NASA spent several years studying architectures and researching every available commercial rocket to find the design that could best accomplish those dual mission objectives in the safest, most reliable way." Einstein's time dilation must have really taken hold of ESAS's 60, er 120, day study as that duration now appears to be turning into Lindsey's years.

For the Emperor to use his commander-in-space-chief status to lord over the astronaut corp hard enough to publish yet another set of half-truths (most of the rest of the country would call them "lies") is, to use a timely phrase, "abominable."


Ben the Space Brit said...

Mr. Lindsey is most likely either totally out of the loop (i.e., he has no idea how totally Ares-I has changed since its ESAS days) or he is doing what all good corporate drones do and kissing up to the boss.

With this in mind, the cynical observer in me would like to see something radical to come out of the change of administration. We could all then laugh at all the good little drones standing and declaring in unison their eternal support for the new plan and that they never believed in the old Emperor's heresy anyway.

Anonymous said...

Taken individually, the recent Ares I press conference call, the letting of study contracts for Altair, Horowitz's article, the suggestion of removing LON for STS-125, and Lindsey's letter are all interesting. Taken together, all coming in a couple of weeks, it's clear there's panic. I wonder what the next 3 weeks will bring?

Anonymous said...

The local paper was full of rah-rah about Ares 1 this morning. It is just 'alike but different' was the message. To counter the obvious dicotomy it was offered that there will be problems but we have plenty of smart people around to solve them.

If it is just alike and it worked before, why the huge cadre of people? If the problems were worked out before and the operations were well understood, why do we have this huge cadre of people around this time? The logic keeps bringing one around to the same conclusion - with every argument 'for' comes the obvious question of why this huge cadre of people is needed to solve problems that obviously didn't exist before?

Could it be that the previous design is being altered in some ways that are obviously not understood? The fact that there is one engineer assigned to every temperature sensor in second stage certainly strains the credibility of the argument that all is well. That is truly a lot of effort being placed upon a single thermocouple isn't it? A full time engineer for several years? That could be over 6000 man-hours devoted to something as simple as a thermocouple or thermistor.

I am beginning to understand the problem!

Ben the Space Brit said...

@ Anonymous, 12/22 @ 7:53am:

The mainstream media, in general, has little understanding of the real issues and relies entirely on NASA press releases for information. This naturally means that they accept NASA's mendatious claim that the Ares-I is 'shuttle derived' despite the fact the only commonality is the material of the booster casing and the insulating foam on the cryo tanks.

It is this intellectual laziness that really goes to show how low manned spaceflight has sunk in the eyes of the opinion-former community. The media no longer have jounalists fact-check NASA's claims, they simply cut and paste NASA's press releases into whatever free space they can find (if even that) and move firmly back to discussing real national priorities like the line-up in this year's "American Idol".