Posts Tagged rocket ships


Posted by on Friday, 17 September, 2010


Image credit: NASA


You and I have been using rocket ships as our basic transportation into orbit for as long as we can remember. Could say they’re the cruise liners of the IPad era. But they’re a bit rich at 1.3 billion dollars per cruise, aren’t they? They’re also inefficient and they’re not exactly “Environment Green”. Also, since each launch is a boo boo  away from a “big bang”, you would be right to conclude they’re dangerous as crap!


Wasn’t it  Werner Von Braun who said that rocket ships give the Law Of Diminishing Returns a bad name, requiring, as they do, that the passenger list include the fuel tank, itself, which has to be dragged into orbit even as the stuff in it is being consumed? The tank (filled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) weighs about 1.7 million POUNDS and you gotta bring it along each trip if you hope to escape the pull of SOL (Stupid Ol’ Earth).

Well it’s not as inefficient as democracy but it’s close.

So, where was I? I had a point here..

(MISTERScienceAintSoBad shuffles his papers).

Ah.. I think I was telling you that NASA’s having a change of heart about this idiocy of flying 10 story buildings into orbit. If a rocket scientist’s THAT smart, he.she oughta be able to think him.herself right outta business. Least, that’s the theory.

So Stan Starr, Chief of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Flight Center has been scratching together a proposal to combine some existing technologies and then throw lots of money at them to see if the bills’ll stick. The idea seems to be a three phase system where the first phase is some kind of track or sled (could be electromagnetic propulsion or something else) which would accelerate the craft faster and faster, horizontally.  Then, after reaching some horrifying number of machs, scramjet engines (phase two) would cut in to fly the beast up to the point where, in phase three, a relatively dainty “second stage” type rocket would boost it on its way to its mission. And, instead of jettisoning the usual singed and dented crap to be hauled back for retrofitting, the launch vehicle would simply return to base and land.


Really, really, elegant.

And fictitious.

None of this exists. But all the basics are there. Rail guns exist. Rocket sleds? check. Neither is anywhere near “up to spec” as a space launch platform but, in astronautics, hope springs eternal. Ramjet supersonic spaceplanes? Che… well, coming along, anyway. Point is, that each phase has advanced technology to build on and could, with appropriate guidance and a humongous “stimulus check”, become part of an entirely new vision of space transport.

ScienceAintSoBad greets this proposal with lots of enthusiasm.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10 big ones. Go for it, guys!


How do I introduce Stephen Hawking?

Monumental.  The best of the best in Physics. Creatively brilliant. Reaching up, out of an ALS destroyed body that barely keeps him alive, to the highest order of accomplishment in one of the most difficult fields of endeavor.


How could anyone ignore the most profound handicaps to accomplish what he has?

As for God, what can I say?

Really he needs no introduction.

Like Hawking, he stands alone and his very existence seems filled with miracles. He is beloved  and admired by billions who look to him for comfort and guidance.

G_d (Image suffers from the usual deficiencies of trying to capture an ubiquitous being)

So what is one to make of the current clash between the two?

Hawking says God’s role in the creation of the universe  has been overimagined. In his new book, The Grand Design, Hawking asserts that the laws of physics provide a perfectly adequate explanation  for the beginnings of the universe and that, therefore, God’s role is redundant,  unnecessary, and suspiciously convenient for the religious establishment which benefits from the widespread belief that nature needed a hand from the Big Guy (the Big Guy, being God, by the way,  not Hawking).

He confronts, directly, the argument that only God could create something from nothing, discussing the quantum mechanical implications of doing that very trick.

God, on the other hand, has chosen to ignore Dr. Hawking.

So far, at least.

A guy as smart as Hawking will surely appreciate the advantages of leaving things that way.