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Sophisticated Balloons Could Help Steer Spacecraft

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the 51%-of-turns-are-right dept.

Space 96

coondoggie writes "Getting spacecraft traveling at hypersonic speeds to slow down and land or achieve a particular orbit on a dime is no easy feat. But researchers are developing a tool that will let engineers model and ultimately build advanced flight control systems that meld balloon and parachute technologies known as a ballute (BALLoon-parachUTE). Basically a ballute is a large, inflatable device that takes advantage of atmospheric drag to decelerate and capture a spacecraft into orbit around a planet, according to NASA who is funding Global Aerospace to build such a tool."

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Caution: Humans at work (1, Funny)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598401)

This would be a very efficient way to put a satellite into a nice, 100 mile high orbit. DOH! 100 kilometers! WHATEVER!

Typo in summary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598679)

It's either melt or mold (mould for the british)

Re:Typo in summary (2, Informative)

Sopor42 (1134277) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599037)

Oh it [wiktionary.org] is, is it Mr AC?

Re:Typo in summary (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599119)

I stand corrected. I didn't know that word, and apparently had too much faith in my english skills to look it up in a dictionary.

Re:Typo in summary (0)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599345)

How did melting a balloon and a parachute together make sense? :P
+1 Internets for humility though!

Re:Typo in summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599535)

If you melt raw iron, and mix different metals through it, you'll get an alloy. It could've been a figurative melt.

Re:Typo in summary (1)

moondawg14 (1058442) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599425)

Certainly, you've heard of a vulcan mind meld before? If not, get off my lawn!

Re:Typo in summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599743)

Yup, I have, but I didn't think of that at the time. Besides, when you hear people say that, you don't actually know how it's spelled.
Besides, I'm dutch, and in dutch language taking two items, and sort-of morphing them together like the parachute and balloon in the article, it's called "Een versmelting", literally a melt, exactly the same word like melting ice, or actually melting two icecubes together. :)

Re:Caution: Humans at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599407)

Talk about your 100 mile high club! Hey-oh! P.s. Your mom and I were already there! Zing!

Reminds me of 2010... (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598445)

I just hope that the life of NASA folks is not becoming obsessively balloonic.

Colbert (-1, Offtopic)

toddbu (748790) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598455)

Maybe they should hold an Internet naming contest for this new system and then reject the results. I officially think that the folks at NASA are a bunch of jerks for not respecting the results of their ISS node naming contest. :-(

Re:Colbert (1, Offtopic)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598585)

Let's say they did open more names to write-ins and respect all submissions. Do you really want everything to be named Colbert?

Future News: "The Colbert shuttle docked at Space Station Colbert earlier today after leaving Lunar Colony Colbert 1. After refitting for supplies, it will re-land on Lunar Colony Colbert 2 tomorrow."

Re:Colbert (2, Insightful)

toddbu (748790) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598829)

I have no problem if they don't want to have write-ins. What I have a problem with is when they offer the write-in and then don't respect the results. In business, they call this bait-and-switch. It demonstrates a lot of arrogance.

Re:Colbert (2, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27600013)

Well, I think their intent was to honor legitimate submissions, not become the punchline for a comedian.

Re:Colbert (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27600963)

Perhaps that why they featured, quite prominently, a big disclaimer saying they were not bound by the results?

Perhaps they wanted a glimpse into what the public thought, rather than opening it up to ballot stuffers and vote riggers?

Maybe, just maybe, they had the idea that giving people a voice was not quite the same thing as giving people the final say?

Re:Colbert (1)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599237)

You wipper snappers! In my day, everything had to be named Enterprise - and we liked it!

Re:Colbert (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598599)

I officially think that the folks at NASA are a bunch of jerks for not respecting the results of their ISS node naming contest. :-(

Indeed.

It kills our best chance of making our first contact with a ship called "Skullfuck Soulshitter".

Re:Colbert (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27608595)

I like the idea of humans making contact with aliens and both ships having stupid names due to internet tricksters. That would be a sign that things are going to turn out just fine.

Of course the the alien ship is called something like The Dear Leader, then we've probably got a problem on our hands. Either that or those green bastards on the alien equivalent of 4chan have a sick sense of humour.

Re:Colbert (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599167)

Face it, the only people voting in their contest are a bunch of greasy-haired, social-skill-lacking, pocket-protector wearing nerds who all thought they were being original by voting to call it "Enterprise". How fucking lame. Personally, I applaud their decision to ignore the results of the contest.

Don't call it a baloot.. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598475)

The word (warning, link not for PETA or squeemish) balut [wikipedia.org] is pronounced baloot too.

Re:Don't call it a baloot.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598569)

Couldn't understand my uncontrolled desire to vomit when reading the summary...

Re:Don't call it a baloot.. (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598615)

I feel better seeing i wasn't the only person to think of this

So, if I understand what you're saying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599315)

Give a hoot, don't balute?

Old tech? (5, Interesting)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598495)

OK, this idea's been around for awhile. Its major useage in Hollywood was in the movie 2010 [imdb.com] when the Russian spacecraft used one for aerobraking in Jupiter's atmosphere. Cute effect, but like Dr Floyd said, "Nice in theory, but the guys who did the numbers aren't here."

Re:Old tech? (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598559)

Also of note, the ballute was ahead of the spacecraft, instead of behind it. It should have been behind the spacecraft, the way it unfolded in front indicated a non rigid structure that should have been pushed back towards the spacecraft by the pressure of the atmosphere.

Re:Old tech? (3, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599531)

the way it unfolded in front indicated a non rigid structure that should have been pushed back towards the spacecraft by the pressure of the atmosphere.

You neglect the internal pressure of the ballute which would be made greater than that of the outer layer of the atmosphere of Jupiter at that altitude, giving it rigidity.

Someone should try putting a balloon held in a forward position by a solid structure (so it doesn't flutter backwards) against the wind in a wind tunnel to test this, post the video to YouTube, and provide a link here.

Re:Old tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599757)

Someone should try putting a balloon held in a forward position by a solid structure (so it doesn't flutter backwards) against the wind in a wind tunnel to test this, post the video to YouTube, and provide a link here.

You must be a college professor. Do it yourself. We're not your grad students, dammit.

Re:Old tech? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 5 years ago | (#27606673)

I was under the impression it was filled with ablative foam that kept it from collapsing.

Re:Old tech? (4, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598999)

Yup, it was invented in 1958 [parachutehistory.com] , and was used on the Gemini back-up ejection seat, and is used on the Mk-82 unguided gravity bomb.

Re:Old tech? (1)

Grindar (1470147) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599257)

Heck, they use it in zeta gundam to drop mobile suits on Earth in the Jaburo assault...and if Japanese animation has taught me anything, this is gonna work!

Re:Old tech? (1)

deathtopaulw (1032050) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599373)

AMELIAAAAAAAAAAA

It'll work only for named heroes and important villains, all the other astronauts are fucked.

Re:Old tech? (3, Informative)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599489)

Ballute assisted re-entry has been a staple of the Gundam franchise for quite a while, along with wave-rider [wikipedia.org] airfoils and O'Neill cylinder [wikipedia.org] colonies. Some of the science behind it is rather good, though somewhat offset by the idea that giant robots make everything work better.

Re:Old tech? (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27603171)

The quality of science in Gundam has been a staple of the franchise for quite a while too :P. Some people balk at the idea of giant robots, but try and extrapolate the evolution of military armour for a moment. Right now we have slow tanks on treads. Good for rough terrain, bad if it gets too rough. Replace the tracks with four or six legs, and then it becomes a game of maneuverability, not firepower. People will start making anti-tank tanks to take out the new legged ones. Another cool thing about mobile suits (the mecha in the Gundam franchise, for those who don't know) is they pretty much all have hands. This means equipment is VERY interchangeable. Instead of dismantling something to put a higher caliber barrel on it, the mobile suit just needs to pick up a different gun. Eventually, this arms race has to result in something vaguely humanoid - maybe four legs at the least, since two legs are hard to balance.

Giant robots may not make everything work better, afterall it's just as easy to kill someone with a tank shell as it is with a big laser. Giant robots are, however, the best way to fight giant robots.

Re:Old tech? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27606493)

Much as I love my giant robots, powered armours, landmates, VTs, and so on, it's really not that practical for a front-line war machine. Sure, increased mobility sounds good, but it's not that great a leap over tracks. Warfare at the moment is a game of range and sensors, with the actual weapons almost guaranteeing a kill (with the exception of OLD RPGs vs new MBTs). A modern tank can hit a helicopter with it's main gun, assuming said helicopter hasn't blown the tank to bits from a few miles away over a hill. Having legs will not help you dodge shells or missiles, nor will it allow you to magically hide behind obstacles (I'd hate to think of the amount of heat such a power intensive locomotion system would produce, let alone any notion of adding radar stealth to something with so many huge moving parts). If anything, walking vehicles will see the same utilisation that helicopters do: allow you to get places and do a logistic (and a handful of combat) tasks that jets can't but generally staying the hell out of the way, and having huge maintenance requirements and massive technical and mechanical complexity.

Re:Old tech? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27605563)

I'm a big ran of O'Neill, but I gotta wonder what exactly he was smoking when he suggested that we were capable of building them with 1970s technology. Island Three was to be two counter rotating cylinders, each 3km in radius and 30km long, as well as a 15km radius ring of spheres for farming. That's a hell of a lot of steel. Each cylinder is 566 sq km .. of undeclared thickness.

Re:Old tech? Early 1980's (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27611901)

Look at the cover of Popular Science, October 1983. Note: I used to work with Dr. Dana Andrews, at Boeing, in the early 80's. We were working on such things back then. Dana was the consultant for the movie 2010. We had fun going to see the movie as a group, and making critiques:

"Hey, that's a subsonic wake, that's wrong"

Aerobraking is a subset of hypersonic aerodynamics. Inflatable things like Ballutes are zero lift pure drag devices. You can also control direction if you use a lifting body shape. if you fly nozzle-first and shoot some cold fuel out, you can use it for a cool film and protect everything from melting.

MAGIC BALLOONS (1, Interesting)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598497)

Atmospheric drag? It sure is going to be cool when they come out with a big balloon, covered in multi-inch thick ceramic tiles for heat dispersion.

Re:MAGIC BALLOONS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598579)

Dude, it is going to be a balloon made out of nanotube ribbons. Duh.

Re:MAGIC BALLOONS (3, Informative)

LandKurt (901298) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599181)

The smaller and denser an object is the worse the heat load is on re-entry. Using a ballute to increase the surface area means there is less need for high tech fragile ceramic tiles. Another way to look at it is that the greater area means there is more force to slow down the spacecraft before it gets into denser levels of the atmosphere.

Re:MAGIC BALLOONS (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599223)

Atmospheric drag? It sure is going to be cool when they come out with a big balloon, covered in multi-inch thick ceramic tiles for heat dispersion.

You seem to know an awful lot about this. Are you some sort of Atmospheric drag queen?

Re:MAGIC BALLOONS (3, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599521)

This is being used for aerobraking and aerocapture, not entry/re-entry. The idea is that it flys through the upper reaches of the atmosphere to slow it down and send it into some kind of closed orbit about the target body. Not nearly as much of a heating issue, particularly if you're talking about Mars which has a much less dense atmosphere.

No real reason to use it for re-entry since a Viking-style Mach-2 chute, or one of the new-fangled Mach-3 chutes will do the job already.

Re:MAGIC BALLOONS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27600035)

That whoosh sound you're hearing is the other five commenters not having a clue what you're talking about.

We're phasing out the ceramic-tile-coated balloon technology in favor of balloon-with-slab-of-burning-rubber technology.

SCI-FI been there done that (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598513)

I seem to remember 2010 Space Odyssey using what they called in the movie a ballute to slow down on arrival at Jupiter.

Re:SCI-FI been there done that (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598601)

The military as well. They use them to slow bombs dropped at low altitude.
Now one at hypersonic speeds will be challenging.

Re:SCI-FI been there done that (4, Interesting)

rlseaman (1420667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598723)

"Now one at hypersonic speeds will be challenging."

Depends strongly on the density of the atmosphere and the drogue's size. A ballute might even be designed to grow or shrink as the spacecraft slows and the atmosphere becomes more dense. The necessary scaling might be vastly different between Mars with a thin atmosphere and Venus with a very dense atmosphere. The temperature would also be an issue since the planets vary from cryogenic to hot enough to melt lead.

So many options (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598519)

advanced flight control systems that meld balloon and parachute technologies known as a ballute (BALLoon-parachUTE).

I'd have called it Paraloon.

Or possibly Ballachute.

"Ballachute! I choose you!"

Yep. It works.

Re:So many options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598663)

I herd you liek Ballachutes

Re:So many options (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598719)

I find it somewhat disappointing that whoever wrote the summary felt the need to clarify where ballute came from after having said "meld balloon and parachute" only 4 words beforehand..

Re:So many options (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599379)

The first reply on the first comment was someone that didn't realize that "meld" is a word. So apparently it was necessary. Yes, this is sad.

Re:So many options (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599111)

I'd have called it Paraloon.

Or possibly Ballachute.

Especially since "Balut [wikipedia.org] " is a south-east Asian food where an almost-fully developed duck embryo is cooked in its shell, pealed, and eaten whole. It routinely makes "World's most disgusting foods" lists.

Mmmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598539)

Who wants some balut [wikipedia.org] ?

In next weeks news.... (3, Funny)

koterica (981373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598549)

North Korea is developing long range "Communications Darts". These are not in any way intended for use as weapons.

I've thought long and hard about this... (1)

memorycardfull (1187485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598695)

Your NASA Tau Chi name is...Ballute.

OK, no jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598697)

about strippers getting jobs as astronauts.

70's toys are serious business (0)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598703)

Basically a ballute is a large, inflatable device that takes advantage of atmospheric drag to decelerate and capture a spacecraft into orbit around a planet

NASA are clearly taking the idea of the space hopper far too literally.

Yummey Egg Baby Bird (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598745)

My Filipino heritage is screaming in agony of trying to eat something not fit to be eaten.

Re:Yummey Egg Baby Bird (1)

squiggly12 (1298191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599359)

LOL, I still can't believe I ate that as a kid...

Many laughs here

Balut? (1)

BeemerBoy (24030) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598799)

I thought that was that NASTY Filipino snack food consisting of a cooked, fertile duck egg with a pinch of salt...

Re:Balut? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599007)

Yes, the EGGhead who thought of the name needs to be shot. People who google it will come to this!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balut_(egg)

Ballute jokes (3, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598817)

My other car is a ballute.

Oh yeah? well my new cadillac is a ballute de ville.

yo momma's so fat, when she jumps out of an airplane, she has to use a ballute.

I would write more, but my computer's about to crash, so I have to reballute.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598823)

balloons that use a proxy?

#irc.tr00ltalk.com (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27598833)

was after a 7ong [goat.cx]

Hmmm (0)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598851)

Sounds familiar [airbot.net]

Yet another score by the late Arthur C. Clark (0)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599051)

This is not new!

Re:Yet another score by the late Arthur C. Clark (1)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599177)

True. Many times space engineers are inspired by SCi-Fi authors. Don't forget, many of those authors have had scientific and engineering training. Heinlein had a few degrees in that area- IIRC.

Re:Yet another score by the late Arthur C. Clark (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599497)

Heinlein had a few degrees in that area- IIRC.

Nope - you must be thinking of someone else. Heinlein was a graduate of the Naval Academy and a dropout from UCLA.

Problems with atmosphere breaking (5, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599083)

The key problem with atmospheric braking is heat dissipation. Craft in orbit have considerable energy (since they have orbital velocities of around 7.5 km/s or more) while craft returning from the Moon or Mars have far greater velocities (the Apollo capsules returning from the Moon had velocity of roughly 11 km/s, which is double the kinetic energy per kilogram of a low Earth orbit satellite). Entering orbit around a gas giant (like Neptune) will require even velocity dissipation. If you and everything on your spacecraft were indestructable, you could just dive straight in. In practice, since spacecraft aren't indestructible and payloads (eg, living humans) are somewhat fragile, you need to decelerate at a much more gradual pace. As it turns out, the sooner you can start deceleration, the better. The key way to decelerate early is to increase the cross-section area of the vehicle relative to its mass. This also has the advantage of distributing the heat load from atmospheric braking across a wider area and reduces the overall temperature of the vehicle. This reduces the complexity of the structures used to protect the vehicle from atmospheric heating (called "thermal protection systems" or TPS).

Capsules like Soyuz or Apollo have the highest mass per cross-section area and hence have high heating loads and decelerations. The Shuttle has pretty high heating loads as well. If it had been made considerably "fluffier", it wouldn't need the special tiles for its TPS.

Ballutes are cheap ways to greatly increase the cross-sectional area of the vehicle. For a fictional example of a ballute, the film 2010 portrays the Soviet spaceship, Leonov using one as it aerobrakes to slow down enough to orbit around Jupiter. Technically, in this case, it is aerocapture. This is aerobraking with only one pass through atmosphere. The usual process involves many passes through atmosphere, shedding some velocity on each pass.

The innovation in this article is the ability to control a ballute which has some lift. There are two possible uses that I can think of, off the top of my head. First, it can be used to steer the vehicle so that more of its path is in the less dense high atmosphere. In other words, we can steer to some degree the trajectory so that we get better deceleration and heating loads. Second, aerocapture is very hard. The key problem is that any changes in the atmosphere will change the trajectory, possibly enough to make the attempt unsurvivable. Even if the vehicle isn't in danger, small differences in the atmosphere or the vehicle's reentry trajectory mean the vehicle may end up on a different trajectory. If it is landing, it may end up far away from the desired landing spot. Ability to steer reduces the uncertainty of aerocapture and provides some valuable margin of error for a spacecraft.

Re:Problems with atmosphere breaking (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599293)

reduces the complexity of the structures used to protect the vehicle from atmospheric heating (called "thermal protection systems" or TPS)

I'd like to see a report on this Thermal Protection System you speak of.

Please make sure it includes the mandatory first page.

Re:Problems with atmosphere breaking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599995)

Entering orbit around a gas giant (like Neptune) will require even velocity dissipation.

Yes, using a non-even dissipation would be odd.
 

Re:Problems with atmosphere breaking (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27601333)

Eh, that should be "even greater velocity dissipation". It's tragic how slashdot and my browser conspire to mangle my brilliant prose.

Re:Problems with atmosphere breaking (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27603289)

And how could you miss the chance to joke about breaking wind? My title typo was a gift of incalculable value.

A Liittle To The Left, A Little More: +1, Fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599089)

KKKAAABBBOOOOMMMM [youtube.com] .

Morons.

Yours In Communism,
K. Trout, C.E.O.

I know chicks with large "sophisticated balloons" (4, Funny)

SensitiveMale (155605) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599151)

steer my eyes straight to their racks.

Space Junk (1)

ArcadiaAlex (1498971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599163)

Has anyone else noticed that in the aritcle they mention "The ballute is jettisoned from the spacecraft once the desired capture orbit is achieved, the company said."

Do we need any more litter in space - especially earth orbit?

We all think of balloons being filled with light than air gasses, but in this case they will want both low compressed volume and low weight for takeoff. So it may well be that they use liquid Helium - in which case would they hang around in orbit - once the drag of the ship is gone might they bounce off the atmosphere as they are still moving at orbital velocity.

Even if they go sub orbital velocity they are still intact balloons at the edge of space and they are not going to sink down the planet easily(presumably they will be quite strong).

I am sure they will think of it - but it would just be nice to see them mention retrieval/disposal with the increasing amount of junk in space these days...

Re:Space Junk (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27600201)

I can't speak as to what they'd use to fill it, though air seems like a more obvious choice than liquid helium. And even if the gas was lighter-than-air the entire assembly is not necessary light enough to be buoyant, particularly at high altitudes.

Regardless, even if the ballute were buoyant and durable enough to stay high in the atmosphere for significant periods there is a trivial solution -- open the gas chamber when the ballute is released.

Other news (1)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599217)

In other news, Al Gore is starting a pre-emptive campaign against "Air Ballution". Pundits are already sharpening their witty one-liners.

Is there anyone here that agrees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599251)

...that the existence of at least one human who finds xkcd funny is justification for suicide?

FWIW, IAA maths PhDfag. I get all the attempts at humour. But the shallow, masturbatory, make-the-girls-seem-smarter-so-I-get-laid style is so blatant that a world in which anyone still finds more value in xkcd than second hand bogroll is really not one I wish to tread on for much longer. It has the aesthetic value of reality television, to the extent that neither xkcd nor reality television require thought to produce or remotely reflect reality.

I look forward to a real second great depression, a real new arms race, perhaps an overthrow of the current system of government and return to something austere, perhaps totalitarian. You know why? Because I can cope with the the suffering, the destruction, the imprisonment and death of my fellow countrymen - even the risk to my own life and the lives of those I hold dear - if it means we end up somewhere that doesn't have xkcd or the sort of people that like xkcd.

It was xkcd that was the straw that broke the camel's back: discovering it turned me from a progressive, happy liberal into a proud cheerleader for Bush. I know that all the freedoms Americans have lost to the end of last year have been, in some tiny way, thanks to my words in support of and donations to this man. Let the tides not turn: let you, ignorant smug-faced cheeto-encrusted geeks, shed tears at the gradual loss of your precious privileges. Let 200 years of freedom and capitalism wither, let authoritarianism reign once again!

Give it 20 or 30 years, well within my lifetime. I will be so happy, because it will mean so much anguish for those who loved xkcd. With each new day's edition, I renew my vows to contribute my little bit to this corrupt behemoth of a system of government, so that it may ultimately opress you all.

And if I get caught in the cross-fire, at least I shall die happy.

Re:Is there anyone here that agrees... (1)

HasselhoffThePaladin (1191269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599457)

Dude, go outside or something.

Re:Is there anyone here that agrees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27600525)

You can stop xkcd. You might even be able to get people to stop admitting they like xkcd. I'm not sure how even the most efficient totalitarian regime would eliminate everyone who actually likes xkcd though -- it's not like people go around admitting to capital crimes for fun.

Also a 20-30 year lifetime seems statistically improbable for someone contemplating suicide. You're either lying about your feelings to be dramatic or you're bad at math.

Finally the "make the girls feel smarter" approach is one of only two systems that lead to consensual copulation. The other is "make the girls feel like crap", which is equally effective but works on an entirely different segment of the population -- a segment that is often considered less desirable.

Re:Is there anyone here that agrees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27600747)

I'm not sure how even the most efficient totalitarian regime would eliminate everyone who actually likes xkcd though

Oh, please! The world is so awash with technocrats spewing advancements without thought of consequences that we are but decades away from effectively monitoring thought processes. Anyway, all you need in this case is good lie detection.

Also a 20-30 year lifetime seems statistically improbable for someone contemplating suicide.

It doesn't even require secondary school statistics to tell you that "statistically improbable" does not lead to binary judgements about individuals. If the world in 20-30 years is still of a sort where swathes of geeks enthusiastically read xkcd (or similar publications), I'll be killing myself.

Finally the "make the girls feel smarter" approach is one of only two systems that lead to consensual copulation. The other is "make the girls feel like crap"

This is indeed the false dichotomy that xkcd readers believe in. Meanwhile, in the world of healthy relationships, men do not have to lie to their partners about their intelligence. It's good to see your feedback bolstering my argument - thanks!

This article is a real let-down (pun intended) (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599265)

This article is a real let-down (pun intended). When I saw the title in my RSS feed, I was expecting to read about some novel idea to use balloons to steer a craft in the vacuum of space. Using things like balloons and parachutes to slow things down in the atmosphere is not a novel idea.

Re:This article is a real let-down (pun intended) (1)

HasselhoffThePaladin (1191269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599555)

It's a real drag...

a balut? (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599271)

filipinos laugh at the unintended linguistic joke

balut [nbc.com]

althoug, using the word for something that is half-duck half-egg, is a pretty good metaphor for this polymorphous device

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27599371)

Global Aerospace? The same bunch of clowns that designed the 'stratosail' and the worldwide balloon trajectory simulator? What a waste of money and time. I call bullshit.

Wile E. Coyote, super genius (0)

charlieo88 (658362) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599463)

So basically it's an anchor, but they call it a ballute to prevent people from freaking out about an anchor from outerspace landing on them?

Please explain (1)

eples (239989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599569)

Isn't this only useful if you want to orbit a planet with an atmosphere that won't destroy the ballute?
And question #2, if you're in the planet's atmosphere you're no longer in orbit - right?

There are tons of space nerds on /. so please feel free to jump in and clarify - I'd really like to understand.

Re:Please explain (1)

HasselhoffThePaladin (1191269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599623)

The exosphere extends pretty far [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Please explain (1)

HasselhoffThePaladin (1191269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599733)

Let me clarify a bit, since I only hastily posted a link about the size of the Earth's atmosphere, which only answered #2.

I won't try and give a good answer to your first question, but here's a guess: they could probably figure out the corrosion/destruction rate of a ballute given the composition of that area of the planet's atmosphere. It might last sufficiently long to slow the vehicle enough. Rough answer, I'm not a materials scientist.

As for #2, the Earth's atmosphere extends "significantly" [wikipedia.org] into low-earth orbit. Meaning that satellites in LEO orbits encounter significant enough drag from the atmosphere to require them to design station-keeping into the systems. Hope that helps, sorry for the crap explanation above.

Re:Please explain (1)

eples (239989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27605267)

Thank you very much sir - you have definitely answered both of my questions!

Interesting about the exosphere, I never knew there was atmospheric drag during LEO.

ballutes & russian heroines (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599607)

Our favorite part of ballute aerobraking is when the beautiful Russian heroine comes into your state room & starts making love to you.

Sophisticated balloons (1)

Jotii (932365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599609)

After a long conference and much discussion, it was decided not to use the other alternative, unsophisticated balloons.

Gah! (1)

jggimi (1279324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27600005)

Am I the only one who saw the title in an RSS feed and read it this way?

Sophisticated Baboons Could Help Steer Spacecraft

Re:Gah! (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27601339)

Sophisticated Baboons Could Help Steer Spacecraft

I read it as "...Spear..." ;)

Aero-braking. (1)

Random Luck (79914) | more than 5 years ago | (#27601325)

The Russians did do this or will do this in 2010. It's called aero-braking. Just don't attempt any landings on Io.

What is the speed of sound in near space? (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 5 years ago | (#27603549)

"... spacecraft traveling at hypersonic speeds..."

I'll bite, what is the speed of sound in the regions in which he ballutes will be used? Doesn't it depend on both pressure and temperature? Are the SiFi movies right and there is sound in space after all?

It's unfortunate (1)

esobofh (138133) | more than 5 years ago | (#27604145)

that Ballute is also the asian word for an egg with a dead fetus inside it (yes, to eat).

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