* Posts by MajorTom

106 publicly visible posts • joined 22 Aug 2009


50 years ago, someone decided it would be OK to fire Apollo 12 through a rain cloud. Awks, or just 'SCE to Aux'?


Re: "...the more I am in awe of the accomplishments of the Apollo program."

Yes. I just attended a great talk by a space policy advisor, a Washington "swamp creature" she called herself, who was asked about what to tell anyone dubious about the US space program over thanksgiving dinner. Regarding the NASA 2019 budget, the number for space exploration she mentioned was $8 billion. She said to compare that with the US Government's budget for pizza: $9 billion.

Boeing slams $2m on the desk, bellows: Now where's my jetpack?


Never Say Never

Bond: Commander Pederson, are you equipped with the new XT-7Bs?

Cmdr: That's top secret. How do you know about them?

Bond: From a Russian translation of one of your service manuals.

China pollutes ocean with bloody big rocket


Re: Question about polluting

NOx was in the exhaust streams of hypergolic fueled rockets, and this was an ozone depleter. So moving from hypergolics stopped that problem. Today there is still concern about Cl present in solid rocket exhaust as it attacks ozone and the effect (ozone hole) lasts an hour or so. Could become a global issue if rocket launches increase in the future.


Long March 5 - Less polluting than before!

Apparently they have developed the Long March series, from types 5 on up, to use LOX/RP-1 (Kerosene) for the boosters and LOX/H2 for both the first and second stages.

These propellants are so much cleaner than what they have been using until very recently, that is, hypergolics for all stages (nasty, polluting chemicals). The new propellants, being mostly cryogenic (except for the RP-1) are harder to handle. But pretty much everybody else, India included, uses the relatively non-polluting propellants almost exclusively these days. Maybe we'll soon be seeing the end of hypergolics for rocket stages.

But if the spacecraft hit the ocean with any of its thruster fuel intact, yeah, that would have been polluting.

Boffins crowdsource hunt for 'Planet 9'


Live long...


Fits with the other Roman gods. Also, there's the obvious SF angle.

We want Waymo money from you! Uber sued for 'stealing self-driving car' blueprints from Alphabet


I thought that Uber's system, although in public trial, is way too early for prime time. Google may feel that a more polished system = better public acceptance.

Juno how to adjust a broken Jupiter probe's orbit?


"...missile men"

Or women.

I just attended a fantastic presentation on Juno last night at Purdue University, by a young woman alumnus, now a JPL engineer on the flight dynamics team for Juno. I had many of the same questions you do, and learned some interesting things!

Regarding the burn to go from the 53 day capture orbit to a 14 day "science orbit," indeed it didn't happen yet, because of concerns with a check valve not operating as quickly as it should (minutes not seconds). They're still studying it. The current orbit is a good one, just a bit slow. They might do a lower power (lower ISP) burn at some point and put it into a 21 day science orbit using the engine in "blowdown" mode, where they don't pressurize the propellant tanks, and sidestep the check valve issue. But that's just one option they're apparently considering.

Jupiter, as you probably know, has a daily rotation of about 10 hours and has a pretty pronounced oblateness...so there is a substantial "J2" term in the gravity model of the planet; it can't be treated as a point mass at all times. So during the close-to-Jupiter, perijove part of the orbit, the J2 effect changes the orientation of the orbit. This is well known to those who follow this mission, and was planned for. What it means, is perijove, currently closer to the equator, will gradually move toward the north pole after several orbits, and the high point (apojove) will move further and further south. Why does this matter? The orbit was planned to avoid the intense radiation fields surrounding Jupiter like a doughnut. But due to this orbit shifting effect, eventually the probe will be flying (during part of its orbit) through some pretty intense radiation, off its original path that minimized radiation dose. So toward end of life, she said Juno will have had something like the equivalent of 100 million dental x-rays.

They always plan any orbit changes (burns) to occur when the icy moons (Europa etc.) are as far away from potential harm as possible. Apparently they're obeying the Monolith. They also plan to de-orbit, at end of life, into Jupiter itself, which is apparently relatively OK. (Although my wife points out, we're now contaminating Jupiter with Earth microbes, but maybe they're not expected to survive.) One option they've considered for EOL is to maximize science near the end: lower perijove to skim very close to the north pole, maybe a few hundred km. Then as the orbit naturally shifts perijove to be more and more south, eventually the probe, even if uncontrolled at this point due to electronics failure or lack of fuel, will eventually hit that equatorial bulge around Jupiter and deorbit. That's pretty good flying.

Mars isn't the garbage wasteworld you think it is: Swirling polar ice cap photographed


Re: This is not news.

So that those of us that missed it can be informed? So much science news isn't really "new" but I'm grateful that it's being constantly put in front of us.


KSP Reference - of course

I've explored some far-out and dangerous places in the Kerbal Space Program planets.

But this Chasma Borealis puts them to shame. Imagine slipping down a mile-long ice slide into a deep chasm...

ESA: Sorry about Schiaparelli, can we have another €400 mill?


S/W Testing

I used to be a little annoyed at the truly oddball issues found by my former company's software testing team. I wondered "why on earth would they even think to do that..."

Then I've also noticed my young son's strange way of playing video games...jumping all the time, trying to walk through walls, etc. As if he's trying to break the software.

Reading this article it dawned on me that maybe this is precisely the kind of thing we could use more of in software testing. In additional to testing the usual and expected behaviors, and as many "not expected but still possible cases" as you can dream up, also doing some *truly odd things* to the software from time to time may prove really useful!

Lonely bloke in chem suit fuels Mars orbiter


Re: The photo...

Probably air, though "Harry" Tuttle might be able to attach it to the liquid waste system.

Baikonur hosts satellite laser comms node launch


Best of luck with launch and deployment

I, for one, am worried about the Proton booster given its record of late.

Boffins teach cars to listen for the sound of a wet road


Great Idea

I used to live in an apartment building on a busy street in the CA bay area. The cars were pretty noisy driving by, and yet it seemed they were particularly noisy on rainy days. It was the usual engine and tire+road noise with a high pitched "hissing" sound overlaid on it.

Perhaps they will design a sound sensor to detect this hiss and its intensity (more hiss = more moisture)...?

Game of Photons: Boffins make ICE with FIRE



This is so cool.

Apollo 15 commander's watch clocks up $1.6m at auction



I've always felt bad about the Apollo 15 crew getting into hot water with NASA and Congress over the Postage Stamp Incident...their attempt to make a little money on the side through a private deal with a German stamp dealer. Several of the private deal stamp covers were brought along to the moon (presumably into orbit only, not down to the surface) together with a sheaf of "official" ones. The fallout once the private sale was discovered has tainted the crew for a long time.

So now we're talking about the very public sale of yet another Apollo 15 artifact. Seeing the article (before reading it) made me think maybe the Apollo 15 guys were in trouble again...

How green is your ROCKET FUEL?


Fantastic...less toxic than hydrazine, easier to handle, higher density meaning longer lasting satellites, and presumably supports higher isp thrusters.

What this stuff needs is a decent name!

Aussie bloaters gorging on junk food 'each and every day'


Re: 'religious stretching'

I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition...

World-beating TWO-QUADRILLION-WATT LASER fired by boffins


Re: You'll recall from school that a watt is a joule per second

Right, so Watts x Seconds gives you Joules, as in the article.

べーコンはどこですか? demands post-pub nosh fan



If we're bringing in Japanese, then we should recall that a smidge is equivalent to a scosh.

Did climate change scare off vegan dinos for millions of years? 'Yes'


What I got from this was that some creatures need a very stable environment in order to thrive. Wonder if humans are on that list.

Taming the Thames – The place that plugged London's Great Stink


God I love these articles.

And I don't even live in the UK.

NASA probe sent to faraway planet finds DWARF world instead: Pics


Re: Lets see....

Sounds like Larry Niven's "The Coldest Place" IIRC.

Bone-tastic boffins' breakthrough BRINGS BACK BRONTOSAURUS


Re: now for Pluto!

Just a random thought...adding back Pluto and its brethren (Ceres, Makemake, Eris, et. al.) then going in order from the sun, Pluto becomes the 10th planet...therefore "Planet X." Pretty cool.

NASA: We're gonna rip up an ASTEROID and make it ORBIT the MOON


This ARM Mission...

Is straight from Kerbal Space Program. (Or was it the other way around?)

Lost WHITE CITY of the MONKEY GOD found after 500 years


Re: Yeah man

If you let loose your pyramid, won't it wander until it eventually makes its way out of the jungle?

Tiger Moth: Old school flying without all those pesky flaps, brakes and instruments


Fabulous article for a Saturday morning!

I felt like I was sitting in the cockpit. What joy.

Also...that airspeed indicator photo was spot on.

The new Falcon Heavy: MOST POWERFUL ROCKET since the Apollo moonshots


Re: A question about your units

Just over 1/2 a Saturn V.

NINETY new DOOM ASTEROIDS found in 2014


Did they move?

When I first glanced at the screenshot from the old Asteroids game I thought I saw them slowly moving in random directions. My mind must have provided some imaginary animation.

Thanks for reminding me of the good times from 30+ years ago!

Fertiliser doom warning! Pesky humans set to wipe selves out AGAIN



Vlad's reply was perfect. But in case it went over your head, AC, remember this is a British IT news site, and the Brits and USAnians spell words differently. Beware the language barrier:

fertiliser / fertilizer

colour / color

licence / license




Now you're talking

At last, El Reg comes to my part of the world. Perhaps I can help! To wit:

1. I've got a Cesaroni J engine (might be 3G) that's yours for the asking, and the usual adapters for fitting different dia. vehicles. Only hitch is that I'm up in Seattle. Can't get these at Walmart, but the courier delivery guy did drop it off at my house, only after I promised over the phone to lie to his boss and say I was physically present when he dropped off (this hazardous material). So yes it's relatively easy to ship these in US of A.

2. My folks live in New Mexico, unfortunately, way up in Santa Fe. But they have lots of friends and might find you a place to stay down in Las Cruces. How many of you will there be?

3. Why bother with the Caribbean after the flight? You've got one of the most interesting places in the USA to explore. For starters, White Sands missile range is close by, as is Alamogordo. Both have missile or space museums... Then there's El Paso TX, go to the ('murican) Taco Bell there, it's surreal... If you time your visit right you might even get to visit the Trinity Site.



Cave pits, ideal for human bases, FOUND ON MOON


KSP Angle

Squad ought to update the Mun to include caves and pits. As if driving on the Mun (or landing) isn't difficult enough already.

Sensation: Chinese Jade Rabbit FOUND ON MOON


Re: A bit of perspective needed

The point is, they're training a new generation of rocket scientists / program managers / engineers how to fly spacecraft. Doesn't matter that this has been done before, you need to start with a smaller scale project.

They're being very methodical, more tortoise than hare ("Rabbit" notwithstanding).

OHM MY GOD! Move over graphene, here comes '100% PERFECT' stanene


Stanene...nice woody sound.

Tin*...too tinny.

Bold Bezos aims skywards with liquid hydrogen and SPACE ROCKET engine


Re: LOX no bagel

Yes, L iquid OX ygen.

India's Martian MOM leaves the nest


Re: A 22-minute burn?

If they could burn all that fuel quickly and be on their way in one go, I'm sure they'd do it.

But, a bigger engine might not have been available, or they chose a small one (that burns fuel more slowly) to save weight. With advance planning, it's really no big deal to make many small burns to increase the size of your orbit.

Falkland Islands almost BLITZED from space by plunging European ion-rocket craft


Re: OK, so...

Exactly, it's like predicting the weather. A commenter above mentioned "120km" as the altitude of doom. True. But sometimes it's a bit higher, say, 130km, depending on atmospheric conditions. Which we don't know exactly at all points of the atmosphere at all times. Hence, you just can't know where a gradually decaying, circular orbit will come down.

Far better to do a big burn at the end of the sat's life, to target the orbit to intersect the Earth at a safe spot.

Who here needs to explain things to ELEPHANTS?



My retriever not only points her nose at things she wants us to know about, she uses her eyes to point to what she wants. Look at the food item she wants, look at us, roll her eyes back at the snack... until we get the point.

NASA: Humanity has finally reached into INTERSTELLAR SPACE


Re: Doing really well according to the news bulletin I just heard on the radio

>>They said it had left the galaxy.

I just can't stop chuckling at that.

>> Actual speed is about 80 kips, or about 2.5x faster than a pocket calculator.

If it left the galaxy, then its actual speed is in excess of Warp 6.

Flying in the US? Remember to leave your hand grenades at home


Reminds me...

In 1999, leaving Seattle in late November, I remember seeing a bunch of dodgy-looking people stepping off the little subway train on their way into the exit of the airport while I was boarding the same train to get to the terminal. One young lady was very clearly carrying a (probably dummy) metal grenade, and she had just stepped off an airplane. I suppose she was one of the WTO protesters gathering for the "battle in Seattle."

What stuck in my mind was that she had apparently been allowed to carry this on an airplane.

Interestingly, on my way from Japan to the US in about 1990, I had nearly had an iron bell (more a windchime) confiscated because it was about the same size and color as a grenade. I had to beg the security guy to let me keep my souvenir.

Swiss space plane to launch robotic orbital debris destroyer


Two thoughts

If there's a risk of colliding the cleaner sat with the target, then just setup the approach direction so this collision would at least slow down the target...and contribute to its de-orbiting.

Alternative technology idea for the Swiss: orbit a large, yellow rectangular bit of material to get in the way of orbiting satellite targets. The target sat would hit the material and slow down, leaving a hole in the material. After a while it would resemble...

The Solar System's second-largest volcano found hiding on Earth


Re: East?

It's west of Hawaii.

Myst: 20 years of point-and-click adventuring


I remember it well

I enjoyed Myst. It ran well on my PC, and I remember many pleasant hours spent solving the puzzles, with help from my brother (who in turn learned clues from his friends).

Fast-forward about 6 years, after my move to the Seattle area I learned the design team (Cyan) was from Washington State, and their Myst island had been inspired by one of the San Juan islands.

I've visited the spot by boat a few times (it's wonderful) and think about Myst when I do. The pictures here don't do it adequate credit:


Silicon daddy: Moore's Law about to be repealed, but don't blame physics


Re: Human Brain 1000000x more powerful than a computer

Yes, but it took me just a few seconds to squint at your math problem and come up with 3.8, which is within 1/2 of 1% of the correct answer. Human brain does well with comparing sizes of things.

Highway from HELL: Volcano tears through 35km of crust in WEEKS


Re: I have one comment.

What time? 6.29AM EST or 7.29AM EDT? We're on daylight savings time don't you know.

Confirmed: Bezos' salvaged Saturn rocket belonged to Apollo 11


@Al - fuel toxicity

The F1 engines in the Saturn V burned Liquid oxygen and RP-1 aka kerosene...basically jet fuel. So the exhaust was no more toxic than what you breathe at an airport.

LOX/RP-1 is nowhere near as toxic as the hypergolic fuel combos used by the Gemini's Titan II (pre-Apollo but only just), and by the Chinese space program even today for their Shenzhou manned missions. But after 44 years in the sea, I can't imagine any traces of the fuel would be left regardless of what type it was.

US Marine Corps misses target, finds and bombs Nemo


Re: Related information - German tourists

Would you be taking your boxed lunch before or after the war?

Snowden: US and Israel did create Stuxnet attack code



John Smith 19:

"9/11/01 was thirteen years ago."

12 years ago?

Steve Davies 3:

"Don't you mean 11th September 2001

Using the proper date format."

Interesting, I always though the attackers on that day chose the date "9/11" because it's the phone number Americans dial to get emergency services, 9-1-1, so that the date would be more memorable. So in this case the "correction" wouldn't be needed. Or I just missed the joke.

MSX: The Japanese are coming! The Japanese are coming!


Girl in the Sony ad

Seiko Matsuda, really popular Japanese celebrity in the 80s. Haven't seen her face since about 1988, thanks for the face from the past.

Interview: Steve Jackson, role-playing game titan


Digital dice

When Steve mentioned that die-rolling in video games just didn't have the psychological impact of real dice, I figured digital dice...with accelerometers and bluetooth...could be a great addition to such games.

Looks like someone already made a patent for it though:


Cisco and iRobot build videoconferencing robot for remote workers


Everyone should remote in

Have your avatar sit at your desk, go to meetings, visit the toilet...