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Calculating Environmental Damage From Space Tourism Rockets

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-can-see-the-smog-around-my-house-from-here dept.

Earth 83

MithrandirAgain writes "A new study from several scientists at the Aerospace Corporation claims spaceships that rely on rubber-based fuel could help cause climate change. The fuel apparently expels a black carbon soot into the stratosphere when burned with nitrous oxide, which could be contributing to global climate changes, like shrinking the icecaps. However, the authors are careful about their work being an end-all study and are 'inviting others to take a look.' Virgin Galactic, whose SpaceShipTwo just made its first solo flight (and uses the type of fuel discussed in the study), is listening to the scientists' concerns. CEO George Whitesides said, 'I think we and others in the industry welcome the opportunity to talk about all of these issues.' SpaceShipTwo does use a hybrid engine 'because of its significantly lower environmental impact than other designs,' and Whitesides stresses, 'I think as we look at this more, we'll find the impact will be far smaller than that set out in the paper. In any case, I welcome the conversation.'"

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How To Be An Old Geezer (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072596)

How To Be An Old Geezer


With the aging Baby Boomers there are now more elderly people in America than ever before. It becomes more apparent that a segment of them do not know how to age gracefully. Traditionally, this way of life was learned from extensive contact with and careful observation of the previous generation of elders. In today's fast-paced world this is less and less viable. While not intended to be 100% comprehensive, this document is a quick HOWTO reference to at least help today's old people get started. The following are the most important points, the time-tested things you really MUST do in order to be an old person in the modern world.
  1. Fuck the younger generations as much and as hard as you possibly can. This point is critical and cannot be overemphasized. Most other points are related to this one. That's how key it really is. There is one great way to do that, better than all other ways combined:

    Vote as a single homogeneous bloc. This is politically very powerful. Use that power to run up massive debts that you have absolutely no intention of paying. That way, future generations can inherit them. You need to do this even though collectively, you are the single wealthiest demographic group in existence.

    Your retirement from Social Security is the best way to arrange this. Sure, you could have taken personal responsibility for your life and started saving for your own retirement from a young age, but where's the fun in that? It's vital that you let Social Security remain the Ponzi scheme that it is so that no young person today has a hope of collecting a dime from it BUT they still have to pay into it (hah-hah! I guess the joke's on them!). BE CERTAIN that any politician who even suggests changing Social Security towards long-term viability is ending his or her career in politics.

    Sure, they are your children and your grandchildren, but so what? Now that they've grown past early childhood they aren't so cute anymore anyway. That makes it easy to treat them like you hate their guts even if you don't know you hate them. If you faithfully practice the points outlined in this document, then soon any guilt you might feel over what you've left for them to inherit will melt away and be replaced by an insatiable sense of entitlement. In the event this should fail, the constant coverage of the current pointless foreign war that the flower of our youth is going off to fight will serve as an excellent distraction.
  2. Run a homeowner's association. As a retiree, it's not like you have to work for a living anymore. You've got some time on your hands. What better way to use it than to take your neighbors to court over such worthy matters as the difference between white paint and off-white paint? Those bastards should have read and memorized their 100-page homeowner's covenant before daring to modify their own property. As an added bonus, any time they spend in court and not at work means even less opportunity to pay off the debts you've left for them to inherit. Any monies they pay as a result of losing the lawsuits serves the same goal, so it's a two-for-one!
  3. Drive very slowly, particularly on one-lane roads where it's difficult or impossible to safely pass you. Every time you do this means one more chance to make it hard for someone to get to work on time. That way, not only is a significant chunk of their paycheck taken from them to pay for your retirement and your medical care, but as an added bonus you add insult to this injury by hindering them from getting to work in the first place so they can make the money that pays for your expenses! That'll teach 'em. Whatever you do, don't ever pull over and allow the ten cars stuck behind you to pass, especially not when they have a clock to beat and you don't.
  4. When you are a customer at a restaurant, grocery store, technical support line, or the like, be as helpless as possible. Your goal is to be a really high-maintainence customer. Sure, you could demonstrate that with your age has come wisdom, but that wouldn't make you feel important and special. Instead, ask a lot of stupid questions that you'd already know the answer to if you noticed the most obvious of cues. Ask for a lot of trivial changes to a product before you will buy it. Demand a lot of extra effort and attention from whoever is trying to serve you. Transform from "sweet old grandma" to "mega-bitch" in a split-second if such attention is not immediately granted. Do not, under any circumstances, notice that all the other customers behind you are waiting.

    When it's time to pay, write out a check and take your sweet time about it. Even though you knew what store you were going to visit, DO NOT under any circumstances prepare the check in advance by filling out everything except the dollar amount.
  5. This is another important point. Perform all of the above faithfully and consistently. Then whine about how misguided the younger generation is as though you didn't have anything to do with that. Complain that they don't respect you. Act absolutely astonished that anyone would see you doing all of the above and would respond with anything other than gratitude, praise, and admiration. That will add an element of mindfuck to the heretofore material damage covered by the previous points. It's especially effective if you have the compulsive liar's talent of learning how to sincerely believe this as you say it. You can complain about how "back in my day" the youth were better/more submissive/kinder than today's youth while conveniently forgetting that the elders of that generation actually tried to give their children a better world than they grew up in. It is advised that you set your irony detector to "off" while doing this, however.

By faithfully following these steps, you too can be a typical American old geezer.

hello (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072598)

Hi everyone, lets chat!

Re:hello (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072630)

Lurk moar.

I'm impressed ... (2, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072602)

However, the authors are careful about their work being an end-all study and are 'inviting others to take a look.'

A refreshing attitude ... that's how science is supposed to work. There have been far too many bombastic claims made about global warming.

Re:I'm impressed ... (2, Insightful)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072712)

However, the authors are careful about their work being an end-all study and are 'inviting others to take a look.'

A refreshing attitude ... that's how science is supposed to work.

While I agree that researchers should encourage others to perform independent studies, I find the approach of this group to be disingenuous at best. I find this comment (in the comments to the Wired article) to be particularly insightful:

This is close to corporate blackmail, and is symptomatic of the way climate science is abused to generate alarmist headlines. They take three flights every day for 40 years, and no doubt the assumptions about the amount of soot particles is similarly “generous,” plug in absolute worst-case numbers until they get an alarming result, and PROFIT$$$.

The profit for them is to generate alarming headlines. You can’t afford to not pour more money into my field or the WORLD WILL END!! (please be sure to spell my name right when you mention my research) And if you are Richard Branson, we will give your company a sooty black eye unless you fund more of our research. C’mon, rich man, pay up!

There is certainly room for sober investigation, and as environmentally conscious as Branson is, he probably would have okayed a chase plane sampling the exhaust trail. Certainly all the atmospheric science models could use vastly more data to move beyond the wild guess stage. The constant claims of impending disaster from overstated claims, though, will backfire.

Re:I'm impressed ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072776)

To be honest I think this study is environmental FUD. They are saying that 40,000 launches over 40 years can cause significant environmental change including 1.8 degree temperature shift (positive) at the poles.

The obvious question that comes to my mind is why do think that any significant amount of soot from the 1000 rockets launched this year would still be in the atmosphere in 40 years? Do they have any reason to suspect that it stays around that long? The thing that comes to mind for me with high level soot is volcanic eruptions and their effects are no where near that long lived (from what I can find on wikipedia, they usually only effect the weather for about 1 year).

Finally, again comparing to volcano's, the best data I can find for a volcanic eruption that changed the climate (1991 Pinatubo) suggests that it dumped 17 million tons of CO2. I know this is talking about rubber particulates and not CO2, but there's a big difference in magnitude between 17 million tons in a few days and 1.3 million tons over 40 years.

Re:I'm impressed ... (3, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073774)

This offends your worldview so you dismiss it.

For a better analysis, lets review the story so far:

1. A group of highly qualified academics publish research showing that hybrid rocket engines *may* have a polluting effect far out of proportion to the emissions they have on paper. The researchers are careful to stress the word *may*

2. They find another expert in the field who says "This is interesting, but not a definitive conclusion" i.e. agrees with the assessment of the original team.

3. Spokespeople for corporations who want to make profits from the use of hybrid rockets say its all bullshit, despite these spokespeople having no real qualifications.

Then you come along with some volcano analogy, despite the fact the entire study is based on the *high altitude* generation of soot particles and I haven't seen any flying volcanos recently.

When science says things you don't like, and you decide to dismiss the academic structures on which science is based just because you don't like the new (possible) reality, that is a bit of a dick move.

Here is the real bitch though; nobody is going anywhere significant in N20/rubber hybrid rockets. They are good for quick-and-easy sub-orbital rides because they are safe and simple to build, but to get into orbit you need more powerful fuels which likely do not have the soot problem - so if space tourism does take off and get some non-pathetic technology, they will have moved on from producing soot-rich exhausts anyhow.

Re:I'm impressed ... (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073930)

Then you come along with some volcano analogy, despite the fact the entire study is based on the *high altitude* generation of soot particles and I haven't seen any flying volcanos recently.

The GP is absolutely correct though. The article was talking about stratospheric effects. As it happens, vulcanism is perfectly capable of ejecting all sorts of substances that can have profound effects on weather into the stratosphere. [usgs.gov] How do you think eruptions like Krakatoa and Pinatubo had globe-spanning effects?

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34088170)

Uh oh, I'm confused.

Total ejected mass from a Volcano doesn't end up in the stratosphere (1% for Pinatubo), the matter the GGP addressed is very different(CO2 molecules vs particulate), and Volcanos _do_ cause climate change.

Based on this, you can draw conclusions as to the validity of the study?

Re:I'm impressed ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34096188)

Uh oh, I'm confused.

Total ejected mass from a Volcano doesn't end up in the stratosphere (1% for Pinatubo), the matter the GGP addressed is very different(CO2 molecules vs particulate), and Volcanos _do_ cause climate change.

Based on this, you can draw conclusions as to the validity of the study?

You're confused because you're trying to read more into my remark that was there: I made no such claim either way. I'm just replying to the GP who complained that the original poster used a volcano analogy, and felt it was wrong simply because volcanoes can't affect the stratosphere. That's clearly not true: they do.

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34074012)

1. A group of highly qualified academics publish research showing that hybrid rocket engines *may* have a polluting effect far out of proportion to the emissions they have on paper. The researchers are careful to stress the word *may*

2. They find another expert in the field who says "This is interesting, but not a definitive conclusion" i.e. agrees with the assessment of the original team.

3. Spokespeople for corporations who want to make profits from the use of hybrid rockets say its all bullshit, despite these spokespeople having no real qualifications.

If you're going to cast aspersions like those of step 3, may I suggest another one:

0. Corporations whose market share could be threatened by companies who use hybrid rockets, sponsor the research in step 1. "We couldn't compete with someone who could launch for $1M. So... umm... sure, our rockets cost half a billion dollars a launch and restricts space to government-funded pork projects, but hey! It's for the environment! The EPA should mandate that the government only use green rockets, not black sooty ones!", despite those corporations having no real concern for the environment.

Re:I'm impressed ... (1)

Sheik Yerbouti (96423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074072)

Academics? You sure about that? This appears to be a corporation that offers sort of consultation services about launch capabilities, planning and verification they are involved in such launch programs as Atlas I and II, Centaur, Delta II, and EELV they might have an agenda. Not sure if they do but they may be crapping their pants over much cheaper alternatives to their expensive federally funded program (just saying)

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34074268)

I based my analysis on my own critical thinking skills. My thinking maybe flawed, but it was not purely based on a world view or personal bias or agenda. If you want to know my world view though, I believe when we stop questioning science, then it ceases to be science.

Honestly, I'm, like most people here, and IT professional and not a rocket scientist, climatologist, or even chemist. But my gut reaction when I read this story is "how do you get what they are predicting from an average of 3 flights per day over a 40 year period." That made me actually look at the numbers presented in the article, and then I got to thinking that the closest thing we have to study is volcanic eruptions, so I looked up numbers for those, and saw how many orders of magnitude different they are. Maybe, volcanoes aren't really comparable to rocket fuel, but for me, at least, I have to question something when it doesn't seem right.

Also, I'd actually be far more concerned about the short term health effects for people/animals on the ground exposed to falling rubber particulates from this fuel.

PS: To the poster who called me out on mis-using FUD label, I agree with you, It's not FUD when they present their data for review.

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34074314)

Having done some mathematical modeling myself, I'd say it is fair to question the assumptions underlying the model (e.g. that the pollution is persistent at that altitude). I recall modeling the water ejected from a fountain (oddly enough not so different a phenomena from exhaust of a rocket). A model that received high marks for being innovative had the little flaw that for near infinite water pressure the model only registered a fountain height of a meter. This was a model constructed on a phenomena that is familiar to us rather than something exotic like N2O/rubber rockets. As with many things a cursory study can conclude that it might be worth investigating further. While the researchers stress "may" the translations into the media and political circles will be "do" which is why those like the GP try to poke holes in their analysis. Peer review is great when you can judge things empirically and when the reviewers have mixed biases on what is happening. Unfortunately with climate change and some other areas there is a bias in selecting who enters the field in favor of those naturally inclined to agree with dire conclusions, particularly when dire conclusions can dramatically increase funding of the field.

Re:I'm impressed ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074968)

Unfortunately with climate change and some other areas there is a bias in selecting who enters the field in favor of those naturally inclined to agree with dire conclusions, particularly when dire conclusions can dramatically increase funding of the field.

Science is just as politicized and generally corrupt as most human endeavors eventually become. That doesn't mean that much good cannot come of it, it just means that you have to watch out for human nature. Much of the scientific method is about trying to eliminate the tendency to fabricate, rationalize and dissemble that humans bring to everything they do, but the method is only as perfect as the individual scientists who are applying it.

One of my best friends left the field of climatology because he was sick of the politics, and also the institutionalized inertia that limits the advancement of science as much, if not more, as limits on funding do.

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34073866)

> why do think that any significant amount of soot from the 1000 rockets launched this year would still be in the atmosphere in 40 years?

Nothing in the article said that. The soot falls, but if they're continually launching rockets, they're continually putting new soot into the air. What they're saying isn't that the total amount of soot in the air at any given time will keep building during that period; what they're saying is that the heat trapped by it will build.

re: volcanoes: not only is the material different, its distribution is very different. All at once (relatively speaking), in a plume from one point. Whereas the rocket exhaust originates over a much larger area (the goal is to orbit, so it's going in the direction of Earth's spin, not straight up), at a different direction, and the late phase of the burn is at a much higher altitude. The most relevant comparison I can make is to high altitude nuclear weapons tests, where the material released had a much different life cycle and fallout pattern than the near-ground-level tests, because substantial amounts of it actually got high enough to make radiation belts that overlapped satellite orbits (destroying some of them).

Re:I'm impressed ... (2, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074944)

How is the stuff from volcanoes any different? Volcanoes contain traces of just about every naturally occurring element including Uranium, extreme heat in its plume, and these compounds produced from a volcanic explosion certainly do make it to the stratosphere and sometimes even higher.

All at once (relatively speaking), in a plume from one point. Whereas the rocket exhaust originates over a much larger area

In this regard the rocket is much, much more focused to a very small area compared to a volcano, and a vast majority of this "soot" remains by definition in the troposphere where it rains down as... rain. It doesn't stay long in the sky. In other words, the impact of a particular rocket launch is minor compared to that of a volcano, so much so that it can be completely dismissed as having any significant impact on the global climate at all. It would take many more than 40k launches to make a difference.

As for "high altitude nuclear weapons tests" are concerned, define "high altitude" before you come to any conclusions. The problem with the high altitude tests that ended up creating the "Nuclear Test Ban Treaty" is that they were detonated at an altitude about where the Space Shuttle flies, and the fallout persisted for some time at that altitude in the form of charged particles trapped in the Van Allen Belts, causing persistent and long term ionizing radiation problems for folks and spacecraft that had to travel into space. That is not even a legitimate or remotely fair comparison to some ash that is left over at a much lower altitude.

The comparisons to major volcanic eruptions is very much spot on analysis as it is comparing the same things, and in some cases even the same compounds where the volcanic eruptions are going to be even more extreme in terms of heating conditions that produce those compounds.

Found the actual article... (4, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073916)

Careful now: FUD as we typically use it on Slashdot is doubt raised by pure rhetoric, in the absence of facts. These guys have actual *data*. You can question their assumptions, but they're not just using scary words.

The obvious question that comes to my mind is why do think that any significant amount of soot from the 1000 rockets launched this year would still be in the atmosphere in 40 years? Do they have any reason to suspect that it stays around that long?

I've found the original Geophysical Research Letter [agu.org] article (it's behind a paywall unless you're at an institution that subscribes to GRL, which I am).

They do *not* assume that the soot sticks around for 40 years: they include a settling time for the soot particles of a couple of years (details more complicated). But they run the model for 40 years to give the ocean and cryosphere time to adjust.

They use a detailed model of the interaction of sunlight with soot particles: this model was developed for studying nuclear holocaust scenarios. They make some assumptions here about the size and properties of rocket soot particles, but I don't see any red flags.

Finally, again comparing to volcano's, the best data I can find for a volcanic eruption that changed the climate (1991 Pinatubo) suggests that it dumped 17 million tons of CO2. I know this is talking about rubber particulates and not CO2, but there's a big difference in magnitude between 17 million tons in a few days and 1.3 million tons over 40 years.

Soot particles have a *very* different climate effect than CO2, it's apples and oranges.

Based on what I read in their article and on my personal experience as a climate modeling scientist, I can tell you that they're using the right computer model for the job, and their assumptions about soot input seem reasonable, and they're including all the relevant physics.

It should also be mentioned that the climate change effects they're predicting (1 polar temperature rise, 5-15% northern polar sea ice loss) are observable, but *much* smaller than the predicted changes from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (up to 8C polar temperature rise, possible total loss of summer sea ice). But still, no joke.

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34074976)

Agreed. These things are also negligible compared to the environmental impact of established transportation industries. The emissions and other pollution from small space rockets tally to a mere dint in comparison to cars, trucks, airliners, buses, trains, and various ships plying the oceans.

Now if there were millions of space rockets flying every day, they might have a valid argument. But that is clearly not the case.

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072778)

Who knew that it was so easy to change the entire climate of the Earth? Just a few sooty rockets here and there. I smell more than a trace of hubris here.

Re:I'm impressed ... (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072862)

Yes, refreshing.
          I usually think of extreme bias crawling underneath the S(tudy) word. I usually see it batted around as propaganda to a public who doesn't know the difference between a curious sampling of data that amounts to sticking your toe in the water determining if more money should follow from rigorous actual full blown research covering every conceivable factor in order to determine proof.

      You can't turn on the television without hearing from some show sponsor about evidence from some "study" showing that their product will irrevocably save you from the inevitable disaster their study has shed "new" light on about the human condition.
        You can't turn on the radio without some "news" of some study that supports the will to action of some political interest or organization. Followed the following week/month by a study that shows the contrary from another camp.
          You can't surf the net very long before... , well , you know...

          Frankly, world conception of science is affected negatively the longer this abuse of information continues without some widespread public education, pronto!
Theres f**k all anyone can do at the science side of the problem, I suppose, else someone would pull their head out and speak up a bit.
Kinda burns me a bit, how about you?

Re:I'm impressed ... (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072938)

Yep. Here is my completely biased coverage on [hot topic of the day], and I make a lot of outrageous 'assumptions'. Then here is my complete FUD to make everybody 'think'.

But then here, I am 'inviting others to take a look' so that I can get away with all the rambling and come out as fair and balanced.

Re:I'm impressed ... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074642)

Who cares if we wreck the planet? We're leaving.

Re:I'm impressed ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34114106)

For me the case is easy: someone spending a few hundred thousand dollars in a "fun trip" is polluting the planet with a few hundred thousand dollars worth of residue.
And don't tell me crap like "they are paying to an environment group to offset the carbon footprint of the trip"

Why warming and not cooling? (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072612)

What I find interesting is that they're claiming that injecting soot into the stratosphere would cause global warming (at least according to the summary, didn't RTFA.) When blasts of particulate matter from other sources have reached those heights (for example, when Krakatoa went postal) it resulted in global cooling instead. I'm assuming there's a different mechanism involved.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072632)

What I find interesting is that they're claiming that injecting soot into the stratosphere would cause global warming (at least according to the summary, didn't RTFA.) When blasts of particulate matter from other sources have reached those heights (for example, when Krakatoa went postal) it resulted in global cooling instead. I'm assuming there's a different mechanism involved.

What I think is fascinating is that you couldn't combine the above and this [slashdot.org] into one post. It's almost as though you wanted twice the karma...

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072674)

What's your point exactly? That the parent can't praise the scientists for not immediately playing to doom card while also finding holes in their actual paper?

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072690)

The parent can.

But why do it in two seperate posts?

Disclosure: Different anon.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072836)

What's your point exactly? That the parent can't praise the scientists for not immediately playing to doom card while also finding holes in their actual paper?

Reading comprehension FAIL.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (2)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072956)

What I find interesting is that they're claiming that injecting soot into the stratosphere would cause global warming (at least according to the summary, didn't RTFA.) When blasts of particulate matter from other sources have reached those heights (for example, when Krakatoa went postal) it resulted in global cooling instead. I'm assuming there's a different mechanism involved.

What I think is fascinating is that you couldn't combine the above and this [slashdot.org] into one post. It's almost as though you wanted twice the karma...

A. I don't need the karma and ...

B. the second thought occurred to me after I clicked Submit.

If you have nothing to contribute to this discussion (because, frankly, you've contributed nothing so far) just lurk, don't post.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34073278)

What if I dont want to lurk, but can think of nothing to say.. here home about this..

Hi ScrewMaster, im your friendly lurker

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073846)

What if I dont want to lurk, but can think of nothing to say.. here home about this..

Hi ScrewMaster, im your friendly lurker

Whatever floats your boat.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (1)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073068)

Who actually cares about karma? All you have to do is not be a dick and your posts don't get buried (usually).
Why did you post anonymously? Were you afraid of losing karma? Maybe you were, maybe you weren't.
Half the time I don't bother logging in because I have a one-off comment that I won't be checking for replies. Login does allow checking replies easily, which is nice. But should we assume that any of us posting anonymously are doing a karma dodge? No.
Why does someone have to consolidate their daily posts into a single statement to satisfy you?

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34076890)

Who actually cares about karma? All you have to do is not be a dick and your posts don't get buried (usually). Why did you post anonymously? Were you afraid of losing karma? Maybe you were, maybe you weren't. Half the time I don't bother logging in because I have a one-off comment that I won't be checking for replies. Login does allow checking replies easily, which is nice. But should we assume that any of us posting anonymously are doing a karma dodge? No. Why does someone have to consolidate their daily posts into a single statement to satisfy you?

Trolling you was very easy. "Thank you for biting", says the fisherman to the fish.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (1)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34080390)

Wow, your e-penis must be huge.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (material matters) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072814)

A quick google query and you can figure this out for yourself.

Volcanoes create a cooling effect due to the sulfur they spew into the high atmosphere.

Direct sulfur injection is actually a proposed geo-engineering solution to global warming.

http://www.livescience.com/environment/060727_inject_sulfur.html

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (-1, Flamebait)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072834)

Really old & busted: Global Warming. Old & Busted: Global Climate Change. New hotness: Global Climate Disruption.
IMHO, they have yet to find the right marketing term to scare the pants off people. Warming didn't work out so well when lots of places were freezing their nuts off in the last 10 years. Change didn't work out because people say "The climate is ALWAYS changing." Plus, fewer people are buying "hope & change" so they need to disassociate the term. So, "disruption" could work because they can point to anything that isn't sunny and 72 degrees and say "See?!?! We were right all along. Give us money."

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (2, Informative)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073234)

It all depends on if the particulate, after settling, causes a net reflection or absorption of radiation. This would depend on the precise chemical makeup of the particulate, the altitude dispersed, and the process that dispersed it(temp, pressure, velocity, etc).

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073550)

Which is why talk of geoengineering with aerosols are treated with hand-wringing by real scientists. Particulates and aerosols behave differently at different altitudes, times of the year & day, etc. You can't just set up a company and say, "I'll shoot salt water up in the air!" or "I'll eject sulfur particulates high up!" and think you've solved anything, let alone global warming. :-)

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073940)

To oversimplify:

Volcanoes generally release sulfate aerosols -- tiny clear droplets of sulfuric acid -- and pale grey ash particles. These are lighter in color than the ground below them, so adding them to the atmosphere makes the planet as a whole lighter in color, so it reflects more sunlight, causing cooling.

Black soot is black: adding it to the atmosphere *darkens* the planet overall, causing it to heat up.

Re:Why warming and not cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34082050)

That's the "fix" then: find rocket fuels that leave lighter-colored soot behind.

Leave it to the Environmental Wackos .... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072620)

For 1,000's of years mankind has dreamed of going into space and now that someone is setting up a business to take us there, the environmental wackos want to take it away.

Seriously, just about anything seriously fun is now illegal or politically incorrect.

I'd like to know how much pollution is generated by the unthinking environmentalists (as opposed to the thinking ones) and how far the environment can be saved if they simply didn't propagate.

Re:Leave it to the Environmental Wackos .... (1, Insightful)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072850)

IMHO, environmental extremism is nothing more that a reconstituted Luddite movement. This is a perfect example. It's as though they think there will suddenly be thousands of space flights every single day and more on the holidays.

Re:Leave it to the Environmental Wackos .... (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074348)

IMHO, environmental extremism is nothing more that a reconstituted Luddite movement. This is a perfect example. It's as though they think there will suddenly be thousands of space flights every single day and more on the holidays.

Not to mention there are more effective ways to be an extremist. It's estimated there are 600,000,000 cars [worldometers.info] used every day. If we combined the exhaust from 60,000 of them, would it equal the exhaust from one rocket? Rather than advocating reducing car use by 0.01% (which takes actual work and isn't as "sexy"), it's effortless to put out a press release and shoot this down.

Re:Leave it to the Environmental Wackos .... (2)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072986)

how is both this and my sibling a troll? insightfull is more like it

i guess there are some hippies with mod point around (and i dont care, i have karma to burn, this is when all that insightfullness finally pays off)

Dudes have their drugs mixed up ... (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072644)

The fuel apparently expels a black carbon soot into the stratosphere when burned with nitrous oxide

You don't burn nitrous oxide, you just inhale it.

Is, like, our druggie-head culture going to Hell in a hand basket?

Oh, what a sorry state of the nation, when teenagers don't know how to do whippets anymore . . .

Re:Dudes have their drugs mixed up ... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072760)

Seriously! We can use the N2O to send six people into space, or use the same amount to make, like, a million people think they're in outer space - for about thirty seconds anyway.

Re:Dudes have their drugs mixed up ... (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074362)

The fuel apparently expels a black carbon soot into the stratosphere when burned with nitrous oxide

You don't burn nitrous oxide, you just inhale it.

I thought that's exactly what's happening. The rocket engine inhales the nitrous oxide which is what makes it get so high.

Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor... (4, Informative)

arikol (728226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072652)

The reason they went with this motor design was simplicity of construction, low chance of explosions and other nasty failure modes, reliability and price. Yet another is that this motor type can be shut off before the burn is complete (unlike the SpaceShuttle side boosters which use a thermite-like mixture (with a rubber-like binder) which provides its own oxidizer.
The Rutan design uses nitrous oxide as an oxidizer to be able to better control the burn.

I don't recall environmental factors being discussed when Rutan and co. were publicizing the motor design.
The engineering reasons are perfectly good, though, and research into figuring out a blend which spews out less soot would probably be good from all standpoints (possibly even upping the specific energy content of the motor/fuel)

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072720)

I don't recall environmental factors being discussed when Rutan and co. were publicizing the motor design.

Well, they aren't using hydrazine and fuming red nitric acid. Toxicity of the fuel did play a part in their choices.

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072746)

They didn't use people as motorfuel, so they must be alright.

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074118)

They didn't use people as motorfuel, so they must be alright.

How would you feel about being launched into orbit on a Soylent Green booster?

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34075002)

Scaled Composites & Richard Branson came out with a statement that they are fully aware of some of these issues and that they are working on alternative fuels to perhaps mitigate this problem too. As you point out, there were many reasons why they went with this particular solution, where vehicle safety is one of the things that was of primary importance where they don't necessarily want to be on the bleeding edge of technical performance. The goal is to have an airline quality of performance for roughly how often this vehicle is going to be going into space, and to be able to "refuel" this spacecraft quickly.

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34077598)

Yet another is that this motor type can be shut off before the burn is complete (unlike the SpaceShuttle side boosters

Note that while Shuttle SRB's cannot be shut off, this was a design decision made by NASA - not a universal property of solid fuel motors. Shutting off solids in flight has been pretty much routinely done since the late 1950's.

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

arikol (728226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34080134)

No, you are wrong on this. A true (simple) solid rocket CANNOT be shut down once lit. Shut-off requires removing the oxidizer, which in case of a true solid rocket is embedded within the material.

Mixed designs (hybrid rockets) have been available, but are generally of a lower specific energy, and require a pressurized oxidizer of some sorts (liquid or gas) meaning that the oxidizer has to be kept separate and in a heavy pressurized bottle with all the plumbing required.

A simple solid rocket is, well, simple, powerful and cheap, which is why NASA selected that method for the SRBs for the Space Shuttle. They can release those from the main fuel tank early if required (SRB separation).

When you say "Shutting off solids in flight has been pretty much routinely done since the late 1950's." are you sure you're not mixing it up with liquid fueled rockets such as the X-1 and X-15 used? Or referring to hybrid rockets?

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34086212)

No, you are wrong on this. A true (simple) solid rocket CANNOT be shut down once lit. Shut-off requires removing the oxidizer, which in case of a true solid rocket is embedded within the material.

No, *you* are wrong. Worse yet, when told you're wrong, you just parrot what you've heard before and make nonsensical claims and erect strawmen to 'prove' yourself correct.
 
The fact is that unconfined, all modern solid fuel does is essentially smolder - they require high pressure to actually burn. Vent the casing, and thrust drops rapidly to nearly zero. Thats is all that's needed.
 

When you say "Shutting off solids in flight has been pretty much routinely done since the late 1950's." are you sure you're not mixing it up with liquid fueled rockets such as the X-1 and X-15 used? Or referring to hybrid rockets?

SUBROC, ASROC, Polaris A-1, Polaris A-2, Poseidon, Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III, Peacekeeper... I imagine you've heard of at least some of these. If not, a few moments with Google will enlighten you.
 

A simple solid rocket is, well, simple, powerful and cheap, which is why NASA selected that method for the SRBs for the Space Shuttle. They can release those from the main fuel tank early if required (SRB separation).

NASA selected solids because they seemed to be simple, powerful, and cheap. But in reality, they could only get one of those - and they chose powerful. SRB's aren't simple (mostly because of the need to be re-usable, but there is some significant complexity due to the need to segment them) and they aren't cheap (ditto). Nor can the be separated prior to burnout, once lit - that's all she wrote. NASA considered using thrust termination on the SRB's, but rejected it for various reasons.

Re:Nice attitude, but the real reaon for the motor (1)

arikol (728226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34153806)

Seriously?
Ok.
Venting generally does not shut down the burn, but does get thrust to zero, leaving you with a dangerous hunk of smoldering explosives. Not much room for error.
Venting has ONLY been used on unmanned systems, and relatively small ones at that, because venting a LARGE solid rocket generally involves blasting the casing apart longitudinally. Venting the casing really is not as simple as you make it out to be, because the burn chamber needs to be vented, and that's inside the cast motor bit. THAT'S where you need to drop the pressure. And you need to drop it fast. This is complex, and in case of failure you are likely to have an explosion due to regional overpressure on your hands, which is not cool for a manned vehicle.

Venting does not equal shutdown in any meaning of the word that I am familiar with. Even if you put your car in neutral you don't claim to have shut it off, do you? Especially if that "shutdown" leaves you with the thing in a more dangerous state than it was before.

Price/power/simplicity can be debated, and depends on which part of the cost you look at, what you compare the specific power to and what you compare it to on complexity.

Some of the other claims I will buy. SRB separation can only happen after burnout, my error there.

But the proper inflight shutoff, possible in a reliable and safe manner is the domain of liquid fueled rockets and hybrids. In the case of the hybrids it involves shutting the valve for the oxidizer. No explosive (or otherwise complex and dangerous) venting and the oxidizer flow rate is a reliable indicator of whether it's on or not.

The reporting bugs me (3, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072772)

While the Wired story doesn't show blatant bias unlike the Nature story, "Space tourism to accelerate climate change" [nature.com] , it still remains that no mechanism for the claimed climate changes has been described. It's just, "These guys ran their computer model and this is what they got." That's extremely unhelpful.

Re:The reporting bugs me (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073206)

I have no idea why my above comment got modded "troll". I was just saying that nobody in the story explains why it happens. In most science stories, somebody explains things even if it's a bit crude and simplified. Here, is it due to some non-linear effect from reduced heating at the latitudes where the soot is most prevalent? Is it due to cloud nucleation in the equatorial regions? Is soot raining down on the ice caps and increasing their albedo? At best, we have the following:

The results are surprising, says Simone Tilmes, an atmospheric chemist at NCAR who was not involved in the study. "What's interesting is that if you force the whole climate system in one point or one hemisphere you can make big changes," she says. Further, more detailed studies examining the circulation of particulates will to help to reduce some of the uncertainties in the model, she adds.

How is the system being forced?

Re:The reporting bugs me (3, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073986)

it still remains that no mechanism for the claimed climate changes has been described. It's just, "These guys ran their computer model and this is what they got." That's extremely unhelpful.

If you have access to AGU journals, you should read the original article [agu.org] . It's quite detailed about the mechanisms involved.

Even without the original article, the mechanism here really isn't rocket science. Black stuff in the atmosphere makes the planet absorb more sunlight and therefore heat up. Really simple. To go beyond mechanism to get a numerical estimate of climate change, you unavoidably need a model. And take it from me, the one they're using is a good one.

You're using a lot of breath to cast doubt on the results here, with far less justification for your conclusions than the Nature and Wired authors you're attacking.

Re:The reporting bugs me (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074160)

Even without the original article, the mechanism here really isn't rocket science. Black stuff in the atmosphere makes the planet absorb more sunlight and therefore heat up. Really simple. To go beyond mechanism to get a numerical estimate of climate change, you unavoidably need a model. And take it from me, the one they're using is a good one.

Thank you for that information.

Re:The reporting bugs me (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 3 years ago | (#34077702)

To go beyond mechanism to get a numerical estimate of climate change, you unavoidably need a model. And take it from me, the one they're using is a good one.

Michael Mann is that you?

Rubber-based fuel or rubber-band fueled (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34072788)

I had a toy airplane which was powered by a propeller that you wound up with a rubber band. it was cool

Pure Nonsense (0, Flamebait)

Azghoul (25786) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072880)

Give me a break.

Just guessing here, but I'd bet good money that granola crunching campers "cause" more global warming burning their frigging campfires.

innovation (0)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072910)

I think when a technology is just developing, it is sometimes really hard to say what the costs are going to be. It is easy to over think the problem and never even get a prototype, much less a production model. Often we do not see the full effects, or lack thereof, until mass production sets in.

When the shuttle was being developed, it was thought it would be much more environmentally destructive that it turned out to be. OTOH, if we were to have shuttle launches every day, we would probably see an unacceptable level of environmental destruction due to acid fallout.

That is my concern. When we have entrenched interests like coal mining, or auto manufacturers, or factory farming, that are clearly destructive, we can't get rid of them. Coal mining is fine until we blow up mountains and poison rivers. Autos are the most responsive, they got rid of lead, are safer, less fuel wasteful, but still resis some basic changes. Factory farming was never a good idea, but makes cheap meat so no one wants to give that up.

The point is that we need to let technology develop, and then have the wil to fix the problems, or scrap the technology, if it is destructive. We can do. Almost no one uses CRT monitors anymore, at a savings of 50% of the power. My computer runs on less than 100 watts. Of couse most of the time we let FUD keep up from solutions, as we see with windmills. Not ideal, but really fairer to everyone.

What we need... (1)

Poorcku (831174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34072970)

is obviously a Saturn V Prius...

Take CO2 up to jettison during the trip (0)

whoda (569082) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073036)

Take up bottled CO2 up with each launch and jettison it towards the sun.
The ultimate form of carbon credits.

Insignificant (0)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073072)

The greenhouse gas emissions of all the space bound rockets in the world would be insignificant compared to say the fireworks and rockets used on 4th July, or even those used on 5th November (for UK and NZ readers).

And what about the environmental impact of next weeks midterm elections, all that advertising that goes straight into the garbage (its glossy so won't recycle) or even the gas used by people driving to the polling booth.

Re:Insignificant (1)

contra_mundi (1362297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074478)

Yes, almost everything we do pollutes, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't consider the enviromental impacts.

There also aren't very many fireworks that reach the edge of space.

How about the impact of plain tourism first? (1, Flamebait)

khchung (462899) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073096)

The fuel apparently expels a black carbon soot into the stratosphere when burned with nitrous oxide, which could be contributing to global climate changes, like shrinking the icecaps.

Give me a break. The environmental damage contributed by plain tourism itself (e.g. flights/cruise ships/train/buses, not to mention hotels, theme parks, etc) would be orders of magnitude more than anything *space* tourism can do for the foreseeable decade or two.

Let me guess, a more "environmental friendly" engine is available from those scientists' company/sponsor?

Re:How about the impact of plain tourism first? (3, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074004)

A very important distinction: planes, ships, and buses are designed to run clean, with little or no soot output. They also operate in the troposphere, where rainfall "washes" the atmosphere and cleans out the soot and other particles regularly. This is a very different thing than NO+rubber rockets (which are literally as clean-burning as a burning tire) in the stratosphere, where small particles tend to linger for years.

Re:How about the impact of plain tourism first? (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34074046)

Oh, and also: the authors aren't claiming that these rockets are a bigger deal than traditional tourism: the point is that the environmental impact of space tourism may be very large *relative* to the size of the industry.

Re:How about the impact of plain tourism first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34074158)

Okay, let's just stay here on earth until we all die, because noone wants to let the rich party in or rather near space at their own cost. No chance of being of ever establing functional colonys on the moon or mars. I think the goverments will be first but they won't help us here on earth with minerals or energy.
So yes, it might damage the envorment about the same as some jackass driving an 80s diesel for a year. It really might but their are no figures for how dirty the engine is. Also soot will block sun light from reaching the earth before it decays into CO2 and CO. Am not saying that in time we won't need to build clear burning rockets but now is not that time. It would be like forcing ISP to keep track of every email and website vist and trying to do it in 93, possible but very impracticle. Also, would you rather they focus on clean burning or safety.

Re:How about the impact of plain tourism first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34075258)

which is at an all time record of ....uuh...ZERO.
lets get serious here - the people who did this study are complete idiots who want a little publicity.

Re:How about the impact of plain tourism first? (1)

khchung (462899) | more than 3 years ago | (#34078136)

A very important distinction: planes, ships, and buses are designed to run clean, with little or no soot output. They also operate in the troposphere, where rainfall "washes" the atmosphere and cleans out the soot and other particles regularly.

Are they even comparable? Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands flights/ships/buses per day, to, what? One flight per year if they are lucky? No matter where the soot were spilled.

What's more, there is a more eloquent responds here http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1846728&cid=34072712 [slashdot.org] , and the important part is this:

They take three flights every day for 40 years,

How many decades away would it be when we even remotely possible to have *3* space tourist flights every day?

Re:How about the impact of plain tourism first? (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34079104)

How many decades away would it be when we even remotely possible to have *3* space tourist flights every day?

As the original article points out, there are three companies planning to do this, and their business models plan for 1 flight a day. For *suborbital* rockets using simple propulsion systems, this is not not impossible, if the demand is there. The article says, "what if that actually happened?"

Are they even comparable? Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands flights/ships/buses per day, to, what? One flight per year if they are lucky? No matter where the soot were spilled.

You can't run a business on one flight a year: as I said the article assumes a launch rate matching the business models of the companies who intend to do this. And the computer modeling does indeed show that the effect is significant.

Let me remind you that your argument at the moment is nothing more than "no! that can't be!" I'm not making an appeal to authority here, but if you want to show that this study is bullshit, you need to A) read it, and B) do a calculation which dots as many i's and crosses as many t's as the thing you're trying to refute.

Radyo Dinle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34073870)

Radyo dinle
radyo dinle [radyobok.com]

When the Asteroid hits.... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34073928)

When the Asteroid hits in the year 2157 and wipes out 95% of land dwelling life on earth it will be worth it because the asteroid impacted upon a earth that shunned space travel and the pristine wilderness destroyed by the asteroid strike was a far better thing for all those now extinct species than having space tourism and colonization and the infrastructure that it requires to divert the asteroid. Oh well....

Hopefully in another 65 million years evolution will evolve another intelligent species that can think more long term than we did....

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34075270)

The Yellowstone eruption is more likely to cause harm to earth even in its unlikeliness to erupt than a few pollutant space ships in the next 100-years. I'm sure that if 10 volcanoes erupted in the next 100-years, it would be a lot more devastating for the environment than what humans would have been able to do with space travel. Go on vegetarians, kill the cows you love so much to "protect" the earth. Global warming is a damn cult.

Rubber based fuel? (1)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 3 years ago | (#34076516)

Like the type dumped into the atmosphere by the Space Shuttle since 1981? Lets not worry....but now that the shuttle is nearly is nearly at an end and non-US space flights are ready to start, let the complaints begin! Sour grapes anyone?

Re:Rubber based fuel? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34094722)

Umm, all the current space tourism companies that are going to do the flight a day business model are in the US. Down the road we might see them operating out of the Sweden, the UAE, Russia and the EU.

Switch to salami (1)

Spugglefink (1041680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34077610)

Meh. They just need to switch over to a salami rocket [metalab.at] instead. Problem solved.

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