Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hatfields vs. McCoys (The Sequel)

One of the first American family feuds inflamed after an 1878 dispute over the ownership of a pig. Floyd Hatfield found it on Hatfield property. Randolph McCoy had a different opinion citing the marks on the pig's ears as his brand. As per the recourse of the day, the local Justice of the Peace was consulted. In a twist of irony, the JP was none other than Anderson "Preacher Anse" Hatfield and the testimony of a relative of both families carried the day. Guess who won? With resulting enraged tempers, on a hot summer day in June 1880, Staton Hatfield was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris.

And the feud was on.

Fast forward to the hot summer of June 2009. The pig in question is a launch system to replace the ill-begotten Ares. This time, the families in Huntsville have been hauled up in front of JP Hawes to plead their case. And just as eventually transpired with the Hatfields and McCoys, today's hearings are just a precursor for the supreme court of Norm.

The Hatfield/McCoy feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy began an affair with Johnse Hatfield, leaving her family to live with the Hatfields in West Virginia. Similarly, the fellas and gals in Huntsville quietly started an affair with the Direct/Jupiter launch system. Working under cover of darkness, using the Italian Waiter's own tools, the adulterous clan fell in love with an alternative for the defect ridden Ares.

Back in 1888, feudal escalation reached its peak during the infamous New Years Night Massacre. Several of the Hatfields surrounded a McCoy cabin and opened fire on the sleeping family. Here in the 21st century, the Direct folks are being indiscriminately shot at by their neighbors as well. The neighbors say that their sweet Ares has worked out its problems. All other solutions could not be as far along and would set back the clock. Just keep the money coming and all will be well. A branch of the family in Houston thought they saw their shuttle-C brand on the pig's ears and entered the fray. They, too, had to duck for cover when the shooting started.

As the years went by and the killing continued, the governors of both Kentucky and West Virginia eventually sent their state militias to make peace. Wall Hatfield and eight others were arrested in 1888 and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy. The Supreme Court became involved because of the extradition and punishments were meted out.

It wasn't about the pig anymore.

Between 1880 and 1891, the infamous battle claimed more than a dozen members of both families. While the fighting mostly stopped in 1891, it took until June 14, 2003 for a peace treaty to be signed by later day representatives of the two families. The family minions in Huntsville and Houston should make note of this recent turn of history least their Vision be buried in vain as well.

And they, like the Hatfields and the McCoys, should look for ways of remediating the gap between them.

It isn't about the pig anymore.


Anonymous said...

It's always about the pig!

Anonymous said...

Direct is just as flawed a vehicle concept as Ares, it is merely flawed in new and undemonstrated ways.
The Team leading Direct is just as inexperienced and arrogant as the Ares team, they just don't know it yet. The Direct concept has insufficient margin, is asking the vehicle to do things that are beyond the capabilities of the subsystems and designers. Sadly, NASA lacks the systems engineering capacity to do a lawn mower most days, let alone, a booster. Perhaps ULA can, it depends how many people transferred from Boeing and Lockheed.

Expect Direct to fall apart if given any study money.

Chuck said...

I think you are underestimating the ability of pigs to fly. Just keep tacking more segments onto their wings...

Anonymous said...

"Direct is just as flawed a vehicle concept as Ares, it is merely flawed in new and undemonstrated ways."

Dr. Griffin, PLEASE quit being the troll.

Anonymous said...

The only option that has any chance of succeeding in the current budget environment is something that looks much more like a space shuttle stack and uses most of the existing infrastructure and team.

Mr. X said...

It's impossible to know how "flawed" DIRECT is without exploring it in greater detail than it's currently received. But it does create the potential for "unknown unknowns" to bite you on the backside. While DIRECT will not likely have to deal with any issues as nasty as thrust oscillation, massive LAS systems or non-survivable catastrophic failure of the first stage, its development will not be hassle-free.

Mark S. said...

@Anonymous - "Expect Direct to fall apart if given any study money."

You know, denial ain't just a river in Egypt...

Anonymous said...

And shuttle derived heavy lift launch vehicle that throws SSMEs away by the dozen will be totally unaffordable.

The development costs alone almost overrule any heavy lift design. I'm sure the reason the committee is airing this interview early is so they can get it off the table and move onto more productive avenues.

Anonymous said...

So if ISS flys out to 2020, and Obama's budget sticks to where it is today, just where is the money for any heavy lift DDT&E going to come from? Wake up people. The emperor's cathedrals will never be built. Better learn to live with what you got.

Anonymous said...

The "SSME's are unaffordable" argument is untrue. PWR studies show an expendable SSME cost is $37 million, lower than J2X, and comparable to RS-68. That is why the Direct guys switched...
Plus, you have 16 flight engines ready to go that don't cost anything (real test flights anyone?)

Anonymous said...

My understanding is there are exactly one dozen available SSMEs. The lead time for the nozzles is at least four years, and there is no such thing as an 'expendable' SSME. that's an imaginary engine that does not yet exist. Even at $40 million the engine is unaffordable as an expendable, and throwing them away by the half dozen is nutty. Even tossing them by threes is so ludicrous as to be almost insane.

Expendable heavy lift is off the table, you'll just have to trust me on that - this is a whole new game.

Matthew Raymond said...


You're obviously arguing for no heavy-lift vehicles or missions at all ("Goodbye Moon"), but let's ignore that temporarily for the sake of argument.

The SSME is already human-rated and regeneratively cooled, so the entire time and expense would be to simplify the design to make it cheaper and expendable, then requalify it for flight. The simpler expendable version, when produced in sufficient quantity for the moon missions, would be cost competitive with any other engine out there.

What's more is that, because of base heating issues, it's probably the only game in town for a heavy lifter. NASA has already been looking at using them on Ares V for this very reason.

So, realistically, if we're going to the Moon any time soon, it will be with Expendable SSMEs.

Anonymous said...

so the entire time and expense would be to simplify the design to make it cheaper and expendable,

How much time, and how much expense? Channel wall nozzles? Billions. Years. Or do you intend to just throw an ablative on there?

After that much time and expense, you won't be throwing these things away, you'll just have to trust me.

What's more is that, because of base heating issues, it's probably the only game in town for a heavy lifter.

After the insanity of Ares I, there will be no heavy lifter. Again, you'll just have to trust me on it.

So, realistically, if we're going to the Moon any time soon, it will be with Expendable SSMEs.

Says some guy on the internet, with a capital E on expendable no less.

And guess what, I have no desire to return to the moon using expendable launch vehicles. That's not my idea of a real good time in America.

I'm more interested in there being an America in the future where we can entertain ideas like returning to the moon, with rationality, not delusional and irrational thinking.

This program was a failure from the start, it only got a whole lot worse when they named it : Ares.

Or did you miss the reasons that this program is under review now?