Friday, May 31, 2013

Uh oh! QE2 has satellite

QE2 will not hit us as it passes us today, but what about its satellite?

October after next, it's mars turn.

Humans to Mars

Rand asks for, "What We Need To Get To Mars" with reference to two articles.

"How We’ll Fix That" so we can send colonists to mars is the subject of the first article covered (similar to my three steps to mars) by the following subjects:
  • But how real is it?
  • Getting Off the Earth
  • Fuel Storage
  • Advanced Propulsion
  • Landing on Mars
  • Keeping the Crew Healthy
  • Living Off the Land
  • Protecting Ourselves and the Planet
  • Dealing with Dust
  • Making the Plan
But how real is it?
NASA has annual funding so the assumption is that NASA will do the job... someday. But government does not spend money efficiently (or wisely.) Private companies, being in competition with other companies, have to spend wisely in order to survive. NASA also has no driving reason to do this where private entities do: settlement.

But this section doesn't really discuss this fundamental point about funding being the main road block other than to say it would be expensive leaving it to the last section to talk about hundreds of billions of dollars for a NASA mission. Instead focusing on technology:
We currently lack the technology to get people to Mars and back ... there’s nothing technologically impossible about a manned Mars mission.
Getting back is a major part of the problem because NASA is not going to colonize. Private companies will; not just at a tenth the cost but perhaps even at a hundredth ($2b vs. $200b.)

Getting Off the Earth
The NASA way: NASA’s Exploration Missions and Systems Office, estimated it would take 70 or 80 launches to assemble a Mars mission spacecraft. This would be on the SLS which is another example of the government spending unwisely to send one massive ship to mars.

The commercial way: 9 launches for just $1.32b all using the least expensive trajectories and dual ship redundancy on the 6 mo. voyage. Supplies would be waiting on the surface of mars for an additional $195m for every 2500 kg. we choose to send. The more we send the greater the mission success probability. Sending four would bring the mission cost to about $2 billion.

But that's not really an apples to apples comparison. NASA proposes sending four while I propose sending twelve. Sending only four the commercial way only requires four launches (one lander in mars orbit, one modified Sundancer in earth orbit, one fueling mission, one crew to Sundancer) costing only $545 million (not billion.) Extra supplies would still be $195m/2500kg but we would not need to send as many. However, having many small launches is likely to be the greatest factor in bringing costs down.

Fuel Storage
Doing it the NASA way fuel storage is a big issue. Doing it the commercial way it isn't. Even NASA knows they could be doing things in a better way. In all cases, zero-g fuel transfer is required.

Advanced Propulsion
Is not required. It's in the nice to have category.

Landing on Mars
NASA is doing all sorts of research (producing lots of paper.) SpaceX is bending metal, preparing a modification of its Dragon (that has proved itself) that Mars One plans to use by 2016. They will need to land within a reasonably sized landing ellipse. They prepare for that by supply landings near the edge of that ellipse surrounding one close to the center. None of these landings need be more precise than those we've already done. They just need to be within reach. When the colonists land, after the supplies, they should have with them an electric tow vehicle and light trailer (both together no more than 250 kg) with a range that can be extended with solar panels they will also have with them. Fully charged they should have no problem reaching supplies. They would have enough supplies with them to last two weeks to make this less than two hour journey. The vehicle would have a safe top speed of 20 kph. They would have one of these vehicles for each four crew. Later they could use parts from these vehicles for other purposes.

Keeping the Crew Healthy
Radiation is not a showstopper. We can mitigate but even if we did nothing sending non smokers would balance the 5% greater lifetime risk of cancer. As Elon points out, for solar radiation we only need a column (not massive shielding surrounding your ship) which means orienting the ships during the voyage. Apollo did nothing to mitigate cosmic radiation. With informed consent we could try that. Once on mars radiation mitigation is almost a non issue. Zero-g during the trip and psychological factors? Not showstoppers even if we did absolutely nothing to mitigate.

Update: Prepare to be scared!
...just the trip to and from the red planet could expose travelers to an accumulated dose of radiation that would approach – and in some cases exceed – the maximum allowable career limits for a NASA astronaut.
So if they only go one way that would be about half that right? So what is that career limit? It's 3% lifetime risk of fatal cancer. Why don't they give it to us in numbers (mSv) we can compare?

The real number: 1.8 mSv per day or 657 mSv per year. Anything less than 100 mSv in a year has no measurable cancer risk. 657 mSv all at once would not kill and might not even show radiation poisoning symptoms (which may start to be seen with as little as 400 mSv if exposed to it all at once.)

Living Off the Land
For the first 5 dozen (my proposal for the first two missions: 12+48) we could completely supply them if needed but it would require 36 annual missions at $195m per mission. However, we have learned that water will be easy to get from mars so that reduces the requirement to only 9 annual missions. Growing their own food with many possible options (Zubrin's 50m hobby farms at 10psi being my favorite) eliminates the need for any resupply missions except for non essentials. Industry on mars is possible because all the essentials are already there but one... people with the right skills and knowledge. We send chemists and machinists. Perhaps young marines? Scientist can wait until we've made them a nice safe cushy place to live.

Protecting Ourselves and the Planet
These guys can go sit in a corner and play with themselves.

Dealing with Dust
Even assuming the very worst about mars dust it is easily mitigated. It does require awareness and precautions but not alarm. Solutions are known and easy to implement. Put this in the same category as worrying about a B movie monster eating them.

Making the Plan
In the grand scheme of things, engineering challenges are easy.
Finally, some wisdom I can completely and absolutely agree with. This in no way means belittling the challenges; Just an acknowledgement that humans are good at this (when not prevented.)
The plan would also have to be flexible.
Hey, we're starting to hit them out of the park.
The U.S. is not going beyond low-Earth orbit without international partners.
...and then they fall flat on their faces. By U.S. I think we can safely assume they mean NASA. International partners being counterparts in other countries. Yes, people from all countries should be able to go and Mars One takes the lead here with their plan (which has its own problems.)

If you want flexibility, colonists need to be individuals** with their own resources and not employees. If you want solutions to living on mars issues, you need people with experience dealing with those issues. Not planners. You can plan all you want, but experience trumps planning. No plan survives the first battle. Plan, by all means, but not paralysis by analysis. For any problem we should NOT come up with a solution; We should come up with ten potential solutions and include them all. For example, we send a wide variety of plant seeds (seeds are made for space travel) and a bag of live soil. This soil isn't enough for farms and most of the seeds may never get planted anywhere, but we include them anyway. Don't make the mistake of trying to protect the seeds more than we do the crew. I can just see us destroying all the seeds from secondary radiation because we decided to protect them in some radiation box.

We are talking about settling a new world. Does anybody get this?

Update: Somebody gets it right: progress is opportunistic, not deterministic. Also see Elon's 'forcing function.' "It is not a given that things improve."

**Think family farmers. If you don't know any I recommend finding one that will allow you to live with them for a few weeks if not longer. It will be a real eye opener in regard to self sufficiency. Especially if something breaks down while you are there and you see that they don't call anybody in to fix it. They fix it themselves (like the axle I broke on a friends tractor.)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dead Aid

Don't know anything beyond this article about his book, but I know we give billions of dollars to other countries for both no purpose and adverse purpose. It is an indication of government dysfunction.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Now that's what I'm talking about. No more digging for info on something that doesn't work.

15 minutes after finding and installing Gambas I've got a form compiled.

It seems to have everything I need so I can just focus on making my project.

I'm tired and I need to sleep. Tomorrow I get a SQL db working.

Tyranny out of left field

Rand is a great writer in my opinion and his latest should be read by anyone interested in space settlement. But I am compelled to take issue with a number of his conclusions. This is especially unexpected (out of left field) in light of his book (which I've been plugging shamelessly at every opportunity) and generally pro-liberty stance. Never would I have expected him to come out on the side of the elites against the common person. Is that fair? Is that what he's doing? He denies it and concludes that we do not understand his position (and he can't understand it for me. This is Rand.) I say we because I am not alone in being disturbed by this contradiction. He's just expressing an opinion, he says, which sounds to me a lot as if Jon Stewart were saying, "Hey, I'm just a comedian, not a news reporter. I can't be held responsible if I mislead and people believe me." He's not just expressing an opinion, he's trying to influence people to take a position. A position I disagree with and would like discussed on it's merits rather than by attacks against character.

Ok, so let's examine what he says in the article...
"based on what we know right now about the planet Mars, it would be irresponsible to even attempt [having children]"
Right off the bat (to continue with baseball analogies) he contradicts his own previous statements that he's repeated many times.
The issue isn’t that we know that it’s impossible, but that we don’t know that it is possible, or how to do it yet. ... There is no data whatsoever. But I wouldn’t propose to do an experiment on someone who didn’t volunteer for it.
Even in the article itself he points out, "...absolutely none at the 0.38 gravity..."

When pointed out that we are talking about volunteers, instead of acknowledging that, he claimed they have no right to make these choices since other people would be footing the bill. Astounding!

But perhaps we just misunderstand. Perhaps he wasn't talking about the colonists themselves? Perhaps it's the babies that are not volunteers? Let's get to that point in a bit.

“We are not in the business of telling people what to do...,” Lansdorp said in response to Rand's question of him. Rand, I would ask you directly... Why did he choose those words? Is this not a reference to a very disturbing elitist attitude, that you appear to be expressing, that those choices are not theirs?

Then Rand, an extremely logical person, quotes a non sequitur: it would be unethical to allow conception in weightlessness.

We're talking about 0.38g which you have agreed has zero data. He also misstates this...

"We’re agreed that [having kids on mars] would be irresponsible" but Lansdorp said, "at this point." For anyone else this point might have been missed, but Rand doesn't make mistakes like this. I've known, respected and liked him for part of two decades now. I know that he won't take this rebuttal kindly and that saddens me greatly. But one of the great things about Rand's character is that the truth does matter to him where others seem to have just a slight acquaintance with it.

The issue[s do go] beyond gravity. Yes, so what about that reference to the scary article about hexavalent chromium? Knowing the enemy is half the battle. We send chemists and engineers. With their lives on the line they have what Elon calls the 'forcing function' to solve the problem. I have high confidence they can handle it. We know how to protect an artificial environment. It just takes enough resources. Sending the right people is the major resource. Otherwise, even as Rand admits in the article, we could wait forever for researchers to get around to studying the issues. This becomes an artificial roadblock preventing us from ever going. But more than that, a reference to something that potentially kills all the colonists is also a red herring away from the main point about making babies.

We are learning that radiation on mars is not the boogie man it's been made out to be. It is easily mitigated. In his concluding paragraphs, Rand makes this seemingly reasonable and benign statement...
When it comes to bringing new human life involuntarily into a world with a very high, or at least completely unknown risk of debilitating or even agonizing results, we should err on the side of bioethical caution, and (like Inspiration Mars) select the first colonists on the basis of their (lack of) fertility, whether natural or voluntarily attained.
Imagine if Dr. Mengele had made a similar statement? Bioethics came about as a result of his activities (which I won't dignify by calling work) as this article points out and concludes: "What could not be accomplished on the battlefield is now being accomplished behind locked doors in laboratories around the world." Let me be clear: I am not comparing Rand to Mengele. I am saying that the slippery slope happens when people decide they have the right to decide for other people.

Most things can be good, benign or evil. Taking choices away from the people is generally evil. I am not alone in seeing the dangers of tyranny in bioethics.

So now let's get to the heart of the matter and consider the decision. First, we can expect that responsible people would wait to have children until their own personal survival has been reasonably taken care of. So that takes a whole host of issues off the table. Then we are left with this reality: Their is always risk in childbirth even in the best circumstance. Safe is certainly not an option. We will never be a space civilization if children are not born somewhere besides the earth. This is just a basic truth.

Assuming that birth is impossible at 0.38g is a cheat. It's not an argument. A reasonable position is that it entails more risk. That is an argument and allows for further consideration. What is that risk? How does it compare with other childbirth risks? It is in this respect that Trent brings us the real issue...

  • Is it unethical for people over 50 to attempt to have children? The miscarry rate is extremely high and the chance of birth defects is similarly high.
  • Is it unethical for people to attempt to have children in a war zone?
  • Is it unethical for people with heredity diseases to have children?
In all these case, like childbirth at 0.38g, we have a higher risk. Risk is a spectrum and 0.38g birth fits in there someplace. Rand is presenting us with a false choice when he demands expresses his opinion that it's no birth or defective birth. He doesn't seem to include the possibility of healthy birth? Which is extremely odd when he admits himself we have zero research on the subject.

So let's research it. I agree, but not at the cost of holding up everything else. We send probes and learn a little. It's time we send people and learn a thousand times faster. They aren't risking their babies lives. Being reasonable people they will wait until they think the time is right. They are risking their own lives which Rand endorses with a book. This is one of the many contradictions in Rand's position.

Is it possible not to offend and still have my intellectual integrity?

Trouble in paradise

Ran into a major snag last night. The graphic engine I plan to use seems to have some bugs. I didn't mind bugs in the demos and I really didn't mind that the C translator and gcc compiler are so slow. I could live with all of that. But I really didn't want to have to fix somebody else's graphics code. How do I know it's not me? Just a few little indicators.

The interpreted code works but the code from the demo I copied over seemed to have a callback function in it. Not just that, but the function had a control handle passed into it. No problem there, but it didn't use that control handle. Instead it provided it's own from the surrounding code. Apparently an attempt to bypass a scope problem rather than code it properly.

So when I compile and run the code I get a warning about the function being out of scope. Being only a warning suggests it never actually calls that function. However the debugging tools are rather primitive so today I have to figure out how to get to the call stack so I can find out where the problem originates. Assuming it really is in scope in the interpreter but out of scope after being compiled. Did I mention the code output is different after compile? After more than a decade of working with Visual Basic, rather than this new Euphoria, I've never run across that kind of problem. Anything the interpreter could handle would always produce the same results in VB after a compile.

Now my take on scope. Again it's over complicated by 'computer scientists.' You only need three levels. Beyond that you introduce complications that don't add any real 'functionality' to your ability to write good code. The opposite in fact.

First you've got global scope. This is the default scope of many bad programmers. It's the reason you have scoping rules in the first place. Parameters with this scope should be rare, but it does have its uses so parameters don't have to be deeply passed which produces a different kind of problem.

Second is file level scope which actually has two variations, public and private. Private is in scope anywhere in the file. Public is visible as an external interface when the file is a class and is a global when it's not a class. This is not complicated although I may have needed to say it better. Declaration is simple too. A private routine, procedure or function (all the same thing in this imagined language) is a sub. If public, it's a pub.

Pub RoutineName() or Sub RoutineName(). Changing just one letter changes the scope which hunt and peck programmers should approve of.

Third is routine level scope which can't be seen outside the routine.

It's not uncommon for an instance of a class to have global scope. For example a class representing an open database connection is often global and simplifies your code.

Scope is for the purpose of reducing problems. More scoping rules than these introduces problems. Function declared inside other functions ironically provide no new functionality. Nor does it simplify code as some would assert. Simple code is very readable. Functions should be atomic. Functions within functions are not.

Update: Ok, I should say more about functions within functions. The argument is those functions are only used within the functions they are defined in. Which is another scope rule. But you can accomplish the same thing by putting all those functions along with their parent in a separate file without any new scope rule. All the functions then are private except the parent which is public.

Update: Euphoria has two variable types: Atom and Sequence. I don't know about version 4 as I haven't gotten into that too far as yet. My language would only have one (no type declaration required.) Assuming 32 bits I would use one bit to identify it as either a literal 31 bit signed integer you could pass by value or an address [offset or perhaps index] which would be a pass by reference. A call doesn't have to specify pass by reference or value since the one bit takes care of that. Every call would pass exactly 32 bits or nothing. Every return would be either 32 bits or nothing. Do you see how this reduces the load on the programmer? They have one less thing to think about, never having to ask themselves, "is this a function or procedure?" The function declarations would still have a list of parameters to pass but this list is only for the [humble] programmers use and they just always bundle it all up into a single sequence. They don't even have to do that, the function call can bundle it up for them, but only one 32 bit value is ever passed. No stack pushing or popping ever (at least for parameter passing.) Optional parameters require no special handling (but I can see the programmer abuse already) other than a default value in the declaration. Any pass by value should always include a debug statement in the function to verify that it isn't a reference variable. Sequence values could continue to use Euphoria type debugging.

Reference variables would have 7 bits for type and 56 bits for byte length. While perhaps difficult to implement the resulting code would be simple to understand. It would have the same strength as Euphoria in that memory allocation and deallocation is automatic with nothing required from the programmer. Integers for example could be any size up to +/-2e+447 (which should be big enough for most requirements) all handled under the covers so the programmer doesn't have to give it a thought. Strings could be 2e+56 bytes long (duh.) Using just 24 bits for length instead would still give you strings up to 16,777,216 bytes in length and +/-2e+191 for integers. Ok, we can just use 32 bits for type and length. 64 is overkill. It's good to have these real issues for an imaginary language resolved, isn't it?

Update: One of the issues I didn't understand years ago with Euphoria was how passed values were handled. I assumed a sequence could be updated in a function and since it was passed by reference the caller would automatically have the updated sequence. It doesn't work that way. You have to assign the new values to the callers sequence to get the changes. This means passing a single 32 bit value into a function really does provide savings verses pushing and popping onto a stack since all passed values have local scope in the function meaning an assignment is being made regardless. You are never really dealing with the address the passed values are pointing at if you do anything more than a read. For readability you would probably always assign indexed values to separate variables in the function (guided by the function declaration which is right there) especially if you use those values more than once in the function.

Almost forgot; the passed variable doesn't have a name if there's more than one parameter, does it? We can fix that. Just use the declaration names as an enumeration for the index. Then just use arg(param1), arg(param2), etc. for the individual values (which themselves could either be a value or reference type.) Note that the enumerated values take up no address space in the compiled code since it's just a compiler issue.

GTK Docs

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Crowdfunding a mars colony

Rand asks if a lunar colony can be crowd-funded. I ask the same of mars.

Amazingly we have an example for a jumping off point. Looking down the column of perks consider the perks a mars colony might offer in comparison:

Goal: $2b for a fully funded first landing of a dozen colonists.

A framed picture of the first dozen martian colonists. Signed on the back by all. This will be transmitted digitally from mars, but produced and distributed here on earth.

$100 (Limited to first 6,000,000 participants, 30 million after the second landing)
Title to one half acre of mars, selected by you, made available from registered claims in the possession of colonists.

All the above, plus we will rent your property for $20 per month ($240 annual) with annual option to renew. This rent allow us to use your property for industrial production of whatever we need on mars but not the right to remove minerals from your property.

All of the above, plus colonists will pay you $75 per month ($900 annual) for mineral rights with annual option to renew.

Thin film solar panels will be brought to mars. Eventually they will be manufactured on mars. Output: 500 watts per square meter. Cost: $100/m2. Mars One plans to take 3000 m2 (1.5 mW) with them from earth. Owners of property will have a place to put these panels which they may buy from martians and sell the power back to martians. The market place will determine all prices. Dust removal is a free service offered by the martians.

Joseph wonders...

...about an absolute certainty (in comments.)

He also reminds me of XBM which may be useful to me in combining resources with my executables.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial day project start

It just seems right to start a new software project today.

So while you listen to the The Lt. Dan Band I've set up the directory structure for my project.

I'll do both the client and server for Linux. If that goes well, I'll do a Windows client next year.

What I plan will not work in a browser but should be almost as easy to deploy. I feel good.

It's about time...

...this Linux newbie (me) learns to write shell scripts.

I'm also going to need to grok this so I can include resources and statically link.

Update: On Windows [you can] link in an application specific resource file. That sucks for Linux programmers! The workaround would be to put resources in code which requires writing a program to create this pseudo resource file. Something that Euphoria should actually be pretty good at.

Also, static linking seems to be out as the translator only supports dynamic linking; however, I have source so if I don't mind the extra compile time it not a real issue; double however, I do mind the extra compile time so I'm going to have to think a bit more about this. Producing C output and linking that has other issues besides not really saving compile time. Code has to be specific to which method you use.

Update: Pieces of what I need exist in the Euphoria archive. The plan is to create a single Euphoria code file from a single folder of resources. This file will have functions for using the resources probably by filename and is just a regular part of the compile. Piece of cake.

Update: I took issue with the "very large jump in functionality" claim by OpenEuphoria. Let me clarify what I mean. Adding the first loop construct adds functionality. Adding a dozen more variations does not. They do add some functionality by that definition, but when you take out all that I consider not, 'very large jump' no longer qualifies. This is not to say they didn't do a good job which they did. I'm not putting them down. It's like syntax highlighting. It's nice, but not a groundbreaking improvement in productivity. Being able to forward reference functions? Now that's a real improvement.

If I were in charge? You'd write code in a RAD enviroment with the most important function being  [one click] drill down bringing you right to the definition of a routine. This would imply GTK or some other standard being built into the language. Once I get GTK working [more than I already have, thanks to Irv Mullins] I may then adapt Judith Evans IDE to work with Linux.

Second, without real error handling that doesn't drop you out of the program it's nearly impossible to write a [truly professional] commercial application (but they do, don't they? Hey, and I plan to join them. Perfectionist that I once was be damned. Losing eye sight means not having the time to be so fussy.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I be compiling

I don't want to start over again in all respects. So what language should I write Linux programs in?

I know it should be C, but I find coding in that language to be a pain. It's not the core language itself but all the stupid libraries. I decided to try Euphoria again because it has a translator to C and I've enjoyed coding in Euphoria before. I installed it in the wrong place, but I'm not going to fix that right now. One mistake in any of the config files and I'll have a holy mess. Uninstalling is not something Linux does well at this point. I tried translating a sample application but could not open the C output for reasons I have yet to figure out. So then I used the -gcc switch and that seemed to work producing an executable without producing C source. After copying the output to /usr/bin the program ran perfectly.

Technically, I don't ever need to see the C source as long as I can get from Euphoria source to executable code, but it would nag at me if I didn't figure that out.

I have to find an editor I like but that's a small issue.

The next big thing is creating a linkable library that gives me a windows program. I don't really want to reinvent the wheel but I also don't want installation issues. I'd like to just hand off an executable and say run it.

This is why desktop Linux never really gets off the ground. Developers, mostly kids to this old man, never seem to understand that regular people just want things to work and don't care to fuss with details. A statically linked executable that you just have to drop into the right folder would seem to fit the bill. The advantages of dynamically linked software are only advantages if they don't make things more difficult for the user.

I'll have to think about this.

Update: Now some griping. From the OpenEuphoria site...
Euphoria v4.0 is a very large jump in functionality from the previous stable release, 3.1.1.
No it isn't. That's what they said back when they started that project. Even then it was clear they didn't and still don't understand functionality or software elegance. Adding the kitchen sink is not the same as adding functionality. They didn't add any. Everything they can do in 4, I could still do in 3 and it would be more maintainable because of it's lower complexity.

Functionality would be to add windows in addition to the command line interface. They did not do that. So I'm going to have to figure out how to do that by my little old worn out self. How many computer scientists does it take after years of work to change a lightbulb? /gripe over.

I would also like to see some SQL database connectivity, but at least 3 had the ability to use an integral data store.

Update: Apparently there is a way for SQL.

They went open source on September 19, 2006.  So for seven years (with 21 people working on it, many from the beginning) they didn't add windows functionality and still have a very primitive graphics capability (that would not play nice in a windowed environment.) That has to be fixed and not with something I have to pay for or hope my users already have installed. To be fair windows had that functionality in DLLs that were part of the OS and I don't think Linux does (because of a different philosophy.)

Update: Now I'm getting somewhere... Euphoria can call routines in a shared library (.so) I just have to find the right library. A C call demo was included. I tested it and it works.

re: holy mess. It turns out it was no big deal. I reorganized my home folder adding a bin folder which is automatically added to $PATH by .profile. Compile continues to work as expected.

Update: I found what I need.

I've been compiling a few samples and things look encouraging however there are problems. For about a decade I worked with Visual Basic from version 4 to 6 and anything that would run in the interpreter I could compile. Not so in this case. Things that run fine in the interpreter produce code with out of scope link errors which I'm sure I can run down in time. Also, the translation from Euphoria source to C source is very slow taking multiple passes. Also, error trapping isn't what it should be for a product to be handed out to others. That can be dealt with by very careful coding but not entirely. I don't like that.

I would not consider it a professional solution. However, all my life I've not gone forward because my standards for something I would hand off to others has been much higher than the crap others were willing to sell to me. The perfect really is the enemy of the good. I see it even now with software for Linux, some good, some not, some you have no way of knowing because it just doesn't work.

The development environment is not up to what I've been used to during my last decade of employment, but I can make it work. I can produce something the users will not have trouble with. That's what matters.

Update: Hmmm... another little wrinkle. If I want just a single executable file how do I include resources? In VB they have controls you add artwork to that you index. I could include a folder with resources but that allows others to screw things up. Then when the program doesn't work, they blame the programmer, not the person that screwed with the folder. BTW, they should blame the programmer if stuff is left in unsafe places. Also, compiling everything each time makes no sense. I've got to make a library to link to so only my new code gets compiled.

The Wow signal

Nothing else like it has been found.

China's motive for bashing Mars One?

Over 10,000 Chinese citizens have applied to become [Mars One] astronauts – the second highest number behind Americans - and the government would seem to be not at all happy.
That may be motive enough, but is there more?

$950 submarine built by teenager

I only imagined doing something like this as a kid.

BeagleBone Black

Now shipping.

So to make a computer you need...

A monitor and cable.
Keyboard and mouse.
A case.

Popular culture

Breitbart thought it was pretty important. This article discusses it with regard to space.

I'd like to see a TV series that would be like "Bonanza on Mars" coming each week, before or after the Mars One reality show.

Colonists would be shown interacting in free trade with each other; Hoss and little Joe types trying various get rich schemes that fail. It would have plenty of drama showing the various ways people would use each of their one square kilometer Ponderosas to give their families a future. A farmers market in a huge underground shirtsleeve shopping mall would be where most of the action is. It would focus more on the community of families than on just one family. Perhaps they should call it, "Housewives of Barsoom city?"

I am looking forward to seeing Elysium.

Thank God Almighty; Free at last!

That's how I feel about finally ditching Windows which may result in a burst of posting activity.

You have been warned! ;-)

Public access

This is sounding a bit like my moon rovers idea.

Is Bigelow losing focus?

NASA and Bigelow have signed onto a Space Act Agreement which seems to have the ambition of making Bigelow the general contractor for the commercial development of space including bases on the moon and mars.

Meanwhile, will he go forward with his Alpha Base which has the potential for near term profits? I would guess it's too early to be worried and Robert Bigelow can both chew gum and walk. Faster please.

In many cases, you might worry about a company getting too involved with the government as a customer. However, Bigelow's technology is much easier to compete with than that of others.

If SpaceX continues to perform (and picks up it's launch rate) will it have any serious competition in the next few decades? Even if they aren't able to do all the things they are attempting?

Some good bullet points.

What a popular guy

Who said in 1937?
"Who has visited these two places [Hitler's holiday homes] can easily imagine how Hitler will emerge from the hatred currently surrounding him to emerge in a few years as one of the most important personalities that ever lived."
Update: Some people just need killin'
The question is, at what point do you know? Via Rand.

When does the insanity stop?

We pay people to kill us.

Thug government

This demands more than a resignation. More.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Windows 7 has been hosed

So I installed a release candidate on my box. It was fine until I did something that made Grub insert itself in a strange way (and I was not about to attempt to fix it by editing it's config files.) Then somehow my windows password got corrupted so I couldn't login (except for a guest account.)

I have a W7 repair disc but that was worthless. I don't know where the second purchased W7 disc for this one box is (no disc came with my original purchase. Is that right?) I will not be buying a third. Windows is forever in my rear view window. I'm going to make Linux work for me. My internet service provider doesn't do Linux, but I'm not having any problems in that area so far. Support is out the window though (well, I can work around that as well.)

I had my 750gb drive partitions into a 100gb C: for Windows 7 and 500GB for D: data with the rest for multiboot at some later time. I deleted the C: partition since I couldn't do anything with it (also as part of an attempt to reinstall windows until I found I couldn't.)

So now I was trying to figure out how to save my 500gb of data. I have a passport drive, but Linux doesn't see it. So I figured I'd burn some DVDs. Which I didn't have the right s/w to do. It had burner s/w installed, it just didn't work. When Mint 15rc fails, it doesn't kill the OS, just the app which no longer responds. No message. Nothing. I know Linux would allow me to kill a pid but for now I've just been rebooting. Anyway, I replaced Brasura with K3D (after going around and around about some missing codec dependencies) and Firefox with Chrome.

So I've lost data (many times in the last 30 years.) I have a passport drive that is mostly worthless to me (why doesn't the interface make the file system irrelevant?) The windows tools I've paid for over the years... oh well.

Now I can focus going forward on Linux and Android development. It's like learning a new language by living with people that do not speak English. Fun times.

Chrome on Linux isn't exactly the same but close enough.

Oh, and I no longer have to worry about retrieving data from my 500gb partition. Installing with the LVM option took care of that. It's gone.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Unemployed on mars

This is becoming an interesting discussion.

How much control should an employer have over their employees life? Assume the employee gets to work on time and does their job conscientiously. Suppose the employer went to enormous expense to get the employee to mars. Are they now a bond servant?

What right does a person have to their own life? What happens if they are fired while working for the only employer on mars?

This is why colonists should arrive with assets that allow for liberty.

Slaves have other people make their decisions for them.

Eric Holder to investigate himself

No rock shall be unturned.

Linux Mint 15rc 32bit and Chrome

I finally have linux on this box. I probably should have gone with Mint 13 or 14 but...

The last time I tried to put linux Ubuntu on this box it screwed up my windows display settings. Update: Still does by setting resolution to 800x600 for windows. How hard is it to get this right? Should I set linux to my windows resolution? We shall see.

Happy to report that didn't happen with Mint. It's more responsive than Slax which is the only other linux I've been able to get to work.

I like Chrome and so far it looks good.

I bought some CD-RW the other day. They cost more and are inferior in ever way to DVD-R. But I only knew that I could read DVDs. I didn't know if it was a burner as well until this morning.

I went with the 32bit because I've experience too many s/w packages that will not run 64bit.

If I don't post any complaints you can assume I'm happy. Eventually I'd like to do some development (for Android as well. Finding a phone I'm willing to shed dollars for may take a while.) My current Verizon phone allows me to talk and works in this outback mountain town in NE AZ. But Verizon is too expensive for data IMHO.

How to justify tyranny

It's done in so many ways but one outstanding way is projection. Remember Hillary's vast right wing conspiracy? It's not the right that creates journolist so they can coordinate their attacks on their enemies. This isn't about Obama, he's just a member of the team.

Faced with a majority of right leaning voters the only way the left wins is by deceit and voter suppression.

Who the IRS didn't go after

Pay attention.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I just remembered Larry Page's offer

Read the update.

It's different now.

Pondering error

Inspiration Mars ponders launch vehicle. The article makes an error in saying that the Falcon Heavy should be able to launch about 10 metric tons of mass into low-Earth orbit. A rather glaring error since FH should put 53 mt in LEO. What it can do is send 13.6 mt directly to mars. The plan is for an older married couple to go with 5.5 mt of supplies. The Dragon is about 5 mt. This allows their inflatable living room to be up to 3.1 mt minus the mass of the couple. This leaves out the Sundancer which would be over mass by 5.4 mt. Still, 3 mt is quite a bit for a simple inflatable since the Dragon should already have life support for up to seven.

FH: $125m. Dragon: $50m. Living room and supplies: $10m (and I'm being generous.)

Total: $185m (about 40 to 50 superbowl commercials.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013


The 493m Bennu asteroid comes close to Earth's orbit every six years. NASA will be giving Lockheed-Martin $1.04b to retrieve about a few ounces to a few kilograms sample of it. It will be over 150 years before its 0.071% potential of impact threatens the earth.

Is this the right way to spend a billion dollars? When two billion dollars would start a colony on mars? Thus making it even less expensive and safer for the colonists that follow.

Or we could have a rock... er rather, some ground up rock. Space dust. Tons of which the earth is hit with daily. If they found kryptonite maybe, but I suspect nothing more than what's already on the periodic table will be found. They aren't even funding the space mining companies that would follow through.

They are funded though. Including the unspecified cost of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center running the mission-control systems for the flight.

Not so far fetched anymore

Via Ace
What is the real issue?

"To govern is to choose" should send chills up your spine.

Not just the IRS.

Ship of state has rats in charge.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A world without the IRS

Imagine it. The Fair Tax.

Are we letting this crisis go to waste?

I like the new trek uniform

Does Hatch Act include penalties?

 Sarah seems to be on it. I'm looking for a copy. Found it.

‘Sec. 7326. Penalties

‘An employee or individual who violates section 7323 or 7324 shall be subject to removal, reduction in grade, debarment from Federal employment for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension, reprimand, or an assessment of a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000.’.

What? No jail time?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

13.6mt by FH to Mars

A Dragon + Sundancer stack would be about 13.5mt which is about what Elon says he could send to mars using a Falcon Heavy. That would be around $200m to send four to the surface of mars. Expect me to use $50m per colonist in all future calculations (but prepositioning supplies on mars, which we should do, makes it more for initial missions.) This is almost pocket change to Elon Musk or Robert Bigelow. We just have to be patient. Hey, it's only been about half a century.

We're used to seeing the capsule on the top of the stack, but it doesn't have to be. The Dragon, in order to face upward would be below the Sundancer which would be on top. Both would be mated at the docking port. Everything is integrated on the ground. This eliminates both a docking maneuver and launch abort.** Real martians don't need no stinkin' launch abort. Zubrin would approve. We could do this in as little as four years.

**Actually, you'd still have an abort option, it would just be less than 9 g's.

A more integrated approach would be a short MCT.

Error: I screwed up. I realized it before I went to bed last night and hoped someone would point it out. So fixing it was nagging the back of my mind and I had a sour stomach that sent me to the toilet several times. So I didn't get very good sleep last night.

When I read Elon's statement and realized the Dragon plus Sundancer massed what the Falcon Heavy could throw directly to mars it got me excited. Never do math when you are tired and excited. While the FH could throw that combination, the mass of crew and supplies would be an additional 8.5mt. That becomes too much. You need at least another FH to refuel in LEO and the stack would also require something like the FH upper stage to continue on to mars. Then there's another problem. When you land four in just one lander, each colonist would only have about 500 kg of supplies. Assume 100 kg is water and oxygen which is about two weeks supply. They will need a tank of water already on mars within reach which means at least one prepositioned lander close by. Water is baked out of the soil using the Mars One scheme. Water and power gives them unlimited oxygen and they can pull nitrogen out of the atmosphere.

400 kg of food would last about a year which is not enough. Until they supplement that with farming they will need at least twice that between resupply. So that's two landers prepositioned and another two or three every two years unless farming does the job. Then you should have other landers with other stuff prepositioned (like plastic for at least eight to twenty farms and other tools and equipment.) It's a lot different for the colonists that follow, but the first landing is going to require costly over supply waiting for them if we want to give the colonists a fighting chance.

Update: Bob makes the excellent observation that Elon is most likely referring to the capability of sending mass toward mars. You would still need further delta V to achieve orbit or land. Both the Sundancer and [Mars One Lander variant] Dragon have a certain amount of delta V as part of their design. Basically you just need to get the Dragon near orbit (not even all the way) for it to achieve a landing. It has a more than capable PicaX heat shield and even in the thin atmosphere of mars would shed most of it's velocity aerobraking. Most of it's fuel would be used in final touchdown with only a very small amount required to give it the initial velocity change required to hit the atmosphere even before achieving orbit. The Sundancer would have ion thrusters for several uses. These would be able to swing everything around mars for return to earth or allow orbital capture either around mars or earth.

The main point is that neither technology or funding is really holding us back. Do we have the will?

The important shit

Trent brings attention to shit-elon-says. Here are my idea of the title items...

"It's not a given that things improve. There has to be a forcing function. People ... do it."

"...if it turns out that having way stations makes that trip [to mars] more efficient over time then people will build those stations. As soon as you've got that destination, you've got the forcing function, then you'll see people do whatever seems sensible to make that better. You definitely don't need to have to mine asteroid resources to get people to Mars."

"I think the whole interplanetary human flight thing being a danger to human beings is somewhat overblown." / "[Solar flares] are often thought about in the wrong way ... you'd have a column of water, pointed at the sun and you'd be in front of the column. ... so it doesn't end up being a big deal." / "...there's loss of life in every mode of transport. If one set a standard that you couldn't have loss of life, then there would be no transport. You wouldn't even be allowed to walk. You have to allow for some amount of risk."

" long as I'm not delusion or haven't made some significant error..." / "I think it is very important to actively seek out and listen very carefully to negative feedback." / "I also think it is important to reason from first principles, rather than, by analogy."

"We want [SpaceX] to be like the shipping compan[ies] that brought people from Europe to America." / "I'm not opposed to selling [vehicles] and having others operate them." / "Life cannot just be about solving this problem or that problem, there must be things that when you wake up in the morning you're glad to be alive, and that I think is, to me, the most important reason we should pursue the establishment of life on Mars."

"The [Falcon Heavy] payload to Mars [13.6mt] would be about a quarter of its payload to LEO ... To the Moon [about 16mt.]"

"We are building our production capability and our launch capability to meet [a] demand [of] 20 launches a year ... without [needing] any miracles."

"NASA issued an RFP for design ideas on a super heavy. We're one of the companies that NASA awarded. It's a small contract, a few hundred thousand dollars, but we're exploring with NASA how to do a 150 metric ton to orbit capability." / "You've gotta.. you show a little leg, but not all of it."

"...people are under the impression that NASA is the vast majority of our business, but actually they're the biggest single customer but they're only about a quarter of our orders." / "...the great majority of our missions are actually commercial missions. They're satellite launch missions, and that's both for our Falcon 9 rocket and our Falcon Heavy rocket and we're hopeful that Dragon can have some commercial use as well."

"I'm hopeful that the first human mission to Mars is actually some collaboration of private industry and government, but I think we need to be prepared for the possibility that it has to be just commercial."

[What do you do on Mars?] "...Exploring a new planet, I think, would be pretty interesting, and then building the infrastructure necessary to make life self-sustaining on Mars." / "Paypal would be, like, super-trivial in a new environment  [like mars.]" / [Why not space colonies?] "Why move mass from one place to another instead of just going to where that mass is in the first place?" / "Once we've got a large base on Mars, and a lot of travel between the planets, that's a great forcing function for the improvement of space transport technology. I think we'll see rapid improvement and all sorts of inventions that we just can't envision today."

"...if something is important enough then you do it even though the risk of failure is high." / "If you can show people that there is a way, then there is plenty of will." / "I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just [not at impact.]"

"There's potential to turn [Dragon] into a generalized science instrument delivery platform, for anywhere in the solar system." / "I think the economic exchange between a Mars base and Earth would be mostly in the form of intellectual property."

"We've got about three billion dollars in revenue under contract. ... spread out over the next five years." / "With respect to China, we have a conscious strategy of filing the absolute minimum number of patents."

"it's just crazy how much [government] regulation there is." / "It's not easy to get [completely anachronistic] regulations changed." / "I'm generally a fan of minimal government interference in the economy." / "I should first of all say that SpaceX would not be where it is without the help of NASA, both historically the great things that NASA has done and currently with the business that NASA gives us, and the expert advice and everything, so I should make sure to strongly credit NASA in this arena in terms of how helpful they've been."

"...the loan the Tesla received did not come from stimulus funds at all. ... It is tax payer dollars, but it's very very different from the stimulus funds or the bailouts or anything. ... General Motors and Chrysler didn't receive any funding under [the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.] We did not need the loan. The value of the loan was really to accelerate the progress at Tesla, not to keep Tesla alive. ... these loans were announced right around the time that there were bailouts taking place and there was a stimulus and so people naturally confused the two which is unfortunate ... The loan that we received was specifically for the Model-S program ."


Ouya launch

Official launch date June 25th.

Ouya is $99 tv game box suitable for independent Android game developers.

Not the best way to get around

But still pretty cool.

Nixon is back

Abuse by subordinates.

It's good to have a protective atmosphere

Mars gets over 200 new craters per year. This is not a big worry for colonists, but something they will be more aware of than your average earthling.

Saturday solar flares?

An active sunspot heading our way.

Not some minor office

The Cincinnati office of the IRS, which covers [ALL] tax-exempt groups for the whole country, created inappropriate standards [against conservative and for progressive groups] to determine which nonprofits it would target for added scrutiny.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

First Landing: the precursor mission

60 colonist on mars in two missions would indicate we are serious about colonization providing a real shot at an independent ISRU industrial ecology. I'm thinking about updating my second mission. This post is an update of landing the first dozen in light of my realizations concerning the Sundancer.

I haven't seen any published numbers on Sundancer's cost but I'm going with $100m to orbit based on the BA330 being $200m to orbit (the BA330 requires the FH. The Sundancer, discontinued but should be reconsidered, only requires the F9.)

A mission of a dozen colonists would require 2 Sundancers (6 crew ea., upgraded from life support for 3) and 3 landers (4 crew ea.) The landers would be prepositioned in mars orbit for $190m ea.

The upper stage of the F9 would be integrated on the ground with the Sundancer to form a ship once in orbit. Crew and fuel would go in 4 separate launches (2 F9 crew, 2 FH fuel) for a cost of about $450m. We would also want to preposition supplies on the surface of mars for $190m ea.

So: $570m for three landers, $200m for two Sundancers, $450m for crew, supplies and fuel, and perhaps another $660m for four prepositioned supplies. Total cost for first landing: $1.98b for twelve (let's call it $2b) which is quite an improvement over Mars One's $6b for four.

This would include over 16mt of supplies on the surface of mars to get the colony started. This would include one tractor (1.5 mt, to be assembled) and two low mass tow vehicles (0.25mt ea., w/ trailer and life support tent.) They would use the life support of landers while using the tractor to build habitats and eight or more farms. They will need at least 20 [Zubrin 50m hobby] farms before the second mission arrives.

This is $166m per colonist or $332 per acre recovery cost. Which is not bad for a first mission which is likely to be the most expensive of them all.

Update: I just remembered that Larry Page suggests he’s willing to put up $2b (under some circumstance.) Suppose we make him the founding member of the space settlement charter? He would be entitled to 12,000 sq. km. of mars after the first dozen land. Would that be the right circumstance Larry?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reentry a big problem?

Since I can't respond there I will respond here. Jim Hillhouse said with regard to an earlier post:
Reentry is going to be a big problem.
Not really, which requires me to explain.

Jim's assertion is only true for a very narrow restrictive mission. For a more realistic mission it falls apart. Orion is a reentry vehicle. Sundancer is not. For long duration missions beyond the moon, Orion simply isn't up to it while costing more than the Sundancer even if you add the cost of retrieving a Sundancer crew from orbit using a Dragon. Orion, by trying to be both a transit and reentry vehicle fails at both except for certain minor, mostly unimportant and wasteful, missions.

Everybody seems to be realizing this which is why you see the addition of expansion modules in many mission designs. They do that because they are starting with the wrong craft to begin with.

Elon realizes this, which is where the MCT comes in. I hope he's successful with it, but it too may be based on a flawed premise. Vehicles should be designed for the environment they will operate in.
  1. To and from orbit.
  2. From orbit to orbit.
Vehicle 2 should be a different vehicle from vehicle 1. Vehicle 1 will be a different vehicle for most planetary bodies except those small vacuum moons which may all be able to use the same vehicle.

One day we may have ships that include their own landing craft. We aren't there yet. The way to do things now depends on if you are talking about the earth or someplace else. For the earth we have options now and soon from now all of which are better than the Orion for just getting to and from orbit. For other destinations, the Orion fails because it can't land there anymore than a Sundancer can. For those situations, the least cost method would be to send a specific lander or lander/accent vehicle ahead on a low cost trajectory.

The Orion, while designed for up to six can only take two at most for longer missions. Even those longer missions fall short of the need because they simply do not have the storage space for longer which most mission would be.

Getting a vehicle to orbit is costly. You reduce that cost for type 2 vehicles by doing it only once. You then reuse that vehicle for multiple missions significantly reducing costs. The only way you could possibly argue with this is with a wasteful strawman mission of no significance. Without a bogus mission of no importance, Orion has no mission at all.

Update: related.

SpaceX poised on the edge.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Farming on mars

Comments are closed on this old post, but gbaikie said something worth commenting on...
We don’t even have Mars sample return. It’s possible that it’s somehow toxic to plant life- though It doesn’t seem at all likely.
But it is toxic. 15% iron is toxic. The point is that it is in no way a show stopper. As a matter of fact, that iron is so useful we will need to process the soil for plants anyway when extracting it.

We don't need a sample return mission because we've got rovers sending us the data.

Nothing prevents us from farming on mars. We just need to get there.

Update: Going before congress. Via Rand.

Oversupply and multisource

Stating the obvious: Life support is important in space.

This unit scrubs the CO2 from the air. Which is fine for a ship but needs to be really simple and robust if we are to have large numbers of people living on places like mars.

I was struck while reading this article on the importance of redundancy. I'm thinking experience will prove a better teacher than analysis ever will. We can do this. We can do this now.

Geeks find a girl

That's the real take away from this event. Hey, it's humor. I'm all for events like this.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

About the moon

I'm a mars maniac. That's my focus. But I do think there is something we should do on the moon now.

We should send lots of small rovers with tiny multi-megapixel cameras and let anybody on the web control them. The result gets stitched together into a map. Interesting spots can be inspected with more capable rovers. This would provide valuable information while getting the public excited.

We could stop guessing what's there and let average people find out.

The pitfall would be falling into pits. When they lose solar power they should backtrack a little on batteries, then wait for the sun to become active again. Dangerous spots would be known to all the rovers (or just the application that controls them.)

Iowahawk defines journalism

Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.

Business is business

Except that everybody knows that their business is special. It isn't like every other business; it's different. It's extra special if it's a space business... Bullshit. While every business does have it's qualities that only an owner understands it still has fundamentals that are the same for all.

Business is business: All of them, without exception, provide products and/or services to customers for revenue that hopefully exceeds expenses. So business operates for profit. Without profit it's a hobby.

Customers buy products and services because they want them. It isn't generally about profit for them unless the customer is itself a business. A customer that is a business requires their own customers. At some point you have to have customers that are not in it just for profit. Customers are fickled, so it's best to have a lot of them for business stability. Government (speaking of fickled) is the only customer that doesn't have it's own customers; it has taxpayers. Sorry for being pedantic but it's a necessary lead IMHO to the following...

Space is only sustainable if business leads the way. Government will never do that except in time of war. The space race was part of the cold war. The space race fooled most people into thinking government might, or even must, do that and we are still living in the momentum of that race, frozen in institutions established during that race; but business is starting to take their rightful place.

Business is business. Space business is no different at all with regard to the fundamentals of business. One of the main space businesses is transportation but there are and will be others. Again, transportation businesses are all the same in fundamental ways. A customer wants something to go from one place to another and is willing to pay a price. A market exists, over $70 billion, for going to orbit and companies are making their profit providing that service.

The next step is to have customers wanting to go BEO, but this likely require an intermediate step.

We need a ship in orbit. Bigelow thinks he can charge governmental customers up to $26 million (above transportation costs to and from orbit) per person for up to two months in orbit. His Alpha station could hold a dozen at a time. If he's right, this is a business. Right now it's a billionaires hobby that could turn into a business. Many have high hopes, as do I, that it will. We shall see.

Government is not a business. It may transport people BEO but that doesn't establish a transportation company for that purpose. But if someone did see an opportunity for paying customers they could start a BEO transportation company (BTC.) Transportation companies on earth buy their vehicles. They don't usually make them. They might modify them for their own purposes, but generally they buy them from other companies. There is no reason it couldn't be the same for a BTC that could even have government(s) among their customers. But government alone does not provide the stability a company needs. It needs other customers. Currently there are none.

The thing about a BTC is, it is in many ways much easier to start and operate than any launch company. The vehicle doesn't have to handle the stress of getting to orbit and any thrust is enough if it lasts long enough. The main thing it requires for profit is a long revenue generating life to overcome the one time cost of putting it into orbit. It's main expense is fuel, but that establishes another market. The customer ultimately pays for fuel just like for all transportation companies on earth. The fuel market is simply another potential type of space business.

There may never, ever be any customers for a BTC because space is an expensive place to go. It may forever remain an expensive place to go. Does this mean space business really is different? No. No. Emphatically no. The fundamentals do not change. Business is business. But people pinning their hopes on lower costs are going to be disappointed if space has few customers because those lower costs remain forever too high for enough customers to provide businesses the stability they need to operate. It may require a paradigm change to overcome this; consistent with the fact that business is always and will forever remain business.

One company is poised to be a transportation company for a new market. They have already published a price for a specific service. They have credibility because they are already profitable in the space transportation business and have been for most of a decade. They are currently working to develop a modification of an existing vehicle to provide that service. This service will transport 2500 kg. (including up to four passengers) from mars orbit to the surface for $190 million. Actually, for that price they intend to go from surface to surface (earth to mars) but that's only practical for cargo. Unless they design a different vehicle they are going to ultimately realize they need something different for transportation from orbit to orbit and will need to transfer to the landers when they get to mars orbit. The Mars One Dragon lander is the wrong vehicle for going from orbit to orbit. The point is for $190 million they will make a profit each time they sell that service. Will they have customers?

Perhaps a few, but not many without a paradigm change. People have always had the right to claim land if they can get to it (under certain conditions even when it's owned by another, but with absolute certainty if it's unowned.) But how can they get to it if they can't afford it? That's the issue that needs to be directly addressed. My solution is to provide free transportation and assets when they arrive for those that would risk their lives to expand the human economic sphere. The transportation company would get their revenue in land claims directly related to each transported individuals single claim.

There is plenty of land for this to work. The only question is how much land would provide enough revenue for profit? We already know that people will pay $20 for a worthless deed because that's what they are already doing now for mars and the moon. Will they pay $100 for a real one? I think so. Others call this nonsense. The thing about business is, you do not really know until you try.

Update: This old article from this discussion seems to be making my point. It's not a lack of interest. Would anyone have guessed Mars One could get about $3 million in two weeks? The problem is they need a better plan because that one is below the required need ($6b/520 wks is almost $12m/wk.) So they are only making one eighth what they require and I estimate their plan will only come up with about a third at best. Half acres plots in a registry if sold to speculators on earth for the same amount they are paying now just for a chance at being one of four our of about 80,000 so far would pay half the entire cost. A ship in orbit with shakedown cruises pays for everything in less than ten years as well.

Funding is no longer the show stopper. Imagination is.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


SW install screwed with my browser (Hate does not come close to my feelings about this.) This is to test to see if I can edit this post.

Update: Back in business.

2 weeks of Mars One applications

78,000 applicants x ~$38 paid.

$3 million plus other sources: only 2,000 times that to go.

But only 260 fortnights left.

Benghazi testimony

Must read.

Lies unraveled.

Operation Smear Benghazi Whistleblowers.

Grasshopper 226 miles away

It's only four hours drive from where I live.

About the same distance as Flagstaff (I'm going to see my niece graduate this weekend) but in the other direction.

I may have to make that trip.

Can I snatch the pebble from their hand? Should I shave my head first?

These are questions you ask when you grew up in the 1970s.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rethinking Hillhouse

Jim says, "it would take 2-3 SLS B-II launches at a minimum for a crewed mission  [to mars]."

I really don't want to wait 20 years. Is there a better way?

The assumption seems to be either we build battlestar galactica in orbit to send to mars or we use Orion. I say forget both, we send twelve crew in two Sundancers.

Why twelve? Because that divides evenly into 3 Mars One landers which they've already discussed with SpaceX to cost $190m each and will be available in just a few years (January 2016?) Each will land 2.5mt; 4 crew and the remaining mass in supplies. So we preposition these in mars orbit with about 6mt of supplies for $570m.

We give the Falcon Heavy whatever upper stage it needs to send the Sundancers to mars orbit. The Sundancers, while less mass than Orion, are about twice the mass of Dragon which the FH would be able to send to mars. Thus a more powerful upper stage would probably be required to send the Sundancers. Perhaps the Centaur? Update: Another option is to use 3 FH for the landers and 2 SLS for the Sundancers.

The Sundancers would have ion thrusters for mid course correction and mars capture. With 2 Sundancers and 3 landers (5 FH launches) the total cost of this mission is right around one billion dollars and could be done in 5 to 10 years depending on how much focus we put on it.

We should of course send some landers to the surface of mars first but that's true regardless of the rest of the mission.

So one billion in ten years or three billion in twenty years.  Hmmmm... now that's a difficult decision!?

Update: As Peter Wilson says,
Simply put, the SLS program should be canceled now to free up approximately $10 billion programmed for this decade. This money could then be redirected to continue the planned flight tests of the Orion Sundancer spacecraft with the much lower-cost Falcon Heavy booster while making a robust investment in a first-generation space station in the vicinity of the Moon. An investment in such a cislunar station would provide—by the early 2020s—a multifunctional platform to act as a fuel depot, a workstation for robotic operations on the Moon and a habitat to protect against the more intense radiation environment outside of the Earth's magnetic field. This station could even be used as a habitat during longer-duration human missions to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.
Sounds about right (w/ my one correction.)

Update: Returning from mars (assuming that some we send are not planning to be permanent colonists.) The Sundancers now in orbit could return to earth on a slow trajectory, but how do those on the surface get to them? Refueling the landers probably doesn't do it. SuperDracos may take you to a certain altitude but not all the way to mars orbit. You need about 4 km/s and they only provide a few hundred m/s. I haven't a clue really. Zubrin's semi direct plan comes closest with a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) where the Sundancers could take the role of the orbital ERV in that plan. You would simply plug in the cost for the MAV which would be now be much more than the original one billion estimate.

Adding a return simply pushes mars farther into the future. We should not wait.

Update: Dragon is a very low mass vehicle for seven. What about the MCT? Musk isn't telling, but does say it will be roomy. Do you suppose it will include Bigelow technology? You can't fool the rocket equation.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mach 5 on JP7

That's impressive.

Was it just smut?

How do we know?

Where is the best place to hide something? Right out in the open. Porn has a lot of data volume and is good for misdirection. It would be very easy for stolen data to be encrypted within it and nobody would be the wiser. I hope somebody is looking into that possibility.

Sundancer vs. Orion

You have to deal with the rocket equation. More mass means more cost. Bigelow says the BA330 makes the Orion unnecessary but it has some disadvantages compared to the Orion. But those disadvantages completely disappear if you compare it to a modified Sundancer instead. I came to this realization here.

The BA330 has life support for six. The Sundancer could be given that as well. Both Orion and Sundancer require a propulsion module. The BA330 at 23mt is just slightly too big for existing launch vehicles, but either the Orion or Sundancer could be fully integrated on the ground and launched using existing rockets. Total mass of the Orion is 21,250 kg. The Sundancer is 8,618.4 kg which means it even wins the all important rocket equation match up! This means one launch to orbit, after which either would need fuel transferred to it. The Sundancer would just need less fuel resulting in a lower cost mission. An additional launch would be required to transfer crew to the Sundancer but for any meaningful mission BEO that's not a big deal.

Then the Orion just loses in the comparison being unsuited to take 6 crew for anything more than a short trip (which then loses in comparison to the Dragon for the intent of going to and from orbit.) The problem is that the 9m3 of the Orion simply isn't enough when you need about 5m3 per crew for supplies on a six to nine month mission such as going to mars. The Sundancer gives you 60m3 per crew  (but 30m3 each if upgraded for six crew) providing both living space and storage space that just isn't found on the Orion but is pretty darn important for a journey that takes most of a year.

Neither is a lander for the destinations they may go to (and generally a reusable general purpose orbit to orbit ship shouldn't be.) Either would be required to meet a prepositioned lander for such a mission which could be sent ahead on a low energy, slower, lower cost transfer.

I hear the Orion has a toilet. How hard would it be to include one on the Sundancer (and with more privacy!)

The Orion is obsolete before it's even completed. I don't have the heart to tell Jason. Update: ok, I just did.

Update: Even more Sundancer advantages...

It has better ballistic protection from all the small objects that might hit it at high speed from time to time. Leaving LEO it should burn all of it's fuel because it would be kept outside the hull in a less protected state than the crew and you don't want to depend on fuel being there after many months of trip. Then midcourse corrections and mars capture, for example, Hall ion thrusters could be used having it's fuel inside the protection of the hull... because they can with the Sundancer's internal volume.

Because of the internal volume, Sundancer can have the extra supplies that are required for a free return should they not be able to meet their landers at their destination.

It has better radiation protection and could also have a central storm shelter if solar flares endanger the crew.

Stuffing too much crew in too little space in an Orion is just a bad idea. With the Sundancer having less mass, you can't even make an economic argument for the Orion as you might against a BA330 or larger. Related discussions here.

Send twelve to mars for $1b in less than ten years.

Better yet. Twelve in four years for $800m.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This was nuts

But is not an analog for the Falcon Heavy.

Ben Harrison provides this PDF which makes the interesting assertion that...
HLLV [the SLS] will require 80 years to achieve this level of reliability heritage [that current commercial vendors have already shown] being launched just once every other year [in order to provide the same amount of fuel to a depot.]
I wish they'd just say it in a way that didn't require me to add all the qualifiers which they spread out in the text.

Bigelow says Orion is unnecessary.

I agree.

My niece is graduating college this month

But this family gets the win.

I need a better explanation

Because I like understanding things.

Yay home team!

Lithium in Wyoming. Now if Boeing could only learn how not to set it on fire?

To afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted

In what universe?