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Space Team Reunites For John Glenn's Friendship 7

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the getting-the-band-back-together dept.

NASA 82

Hugh Pickens writes "An era begins to pass as only about 25 percent of today's American population were at least 5 years old when John Glenn climbed into the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule on Feb. 20, 1962 and became the first American to orbit the earth. This weekend John Glenn joined the proud, surviving veterans of NASA's Project Mercury to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his historic orbital flight as Glenn and Scott Carpenter, the two surviving members of the original astronaut corps, thanked the retired Mercury workers, now in their 70s and 80s, who gathered with their spouses at the Kennedy Space Center to swap stories, pose for pictures and take a bow. 'There are a lot more bald heads and gray heads in that group than others, but those are the people who did lay the foundation,' said 90-year-old Glenn. Norm Beckel Jr., a retired engineer who also was in the blockhouse that historic morning, said almost all the workers back then were in their 20s and fresh out of college. The managers were in their 30s. 'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today.' Bob Schepp, 77, was reminded by the old launch equipment of how rudimentary everything was back then. 'I wonder how we ever managed to launch anything in space with that kind of stuff,' said Schepp. 'Everything is so digital now. But we were pioneers, and we made it all work.'"

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82 comments

Die Ronald Reagan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094049)

Evil motherfucker who ruined the U.S.A.

Re:Die Ronald Reagan (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094207)

Ronald Reagan is dead, but even better than that his brain was dead while his
useless piece of shit body was still alive.

By the way, I have pissed on Reagan's grave.

Yes, it felt good.

Re:Die Ronald Reagan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39096981)

Americans Say Reagan Is the Greatest U.S. President [gallup.com]
How Great was Ronald Reagan? Our 40th President's Place in History [heritage.org]
Why Was Ronald Reagan the Greatest President of the 20th Century? [biggovernment.com]

President Reagan will be remembered in glory long after you are in the ground.

Hate Vs Happy and Its Affect on Your Health [ezinearticles.com]
From the article: There is an old saying that goes. "He who can anger you conquers you."

Re:Die Ronald Reagan (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#39097231)

Lots of people seem to be in love with Reagan today. Maybe he was a really great guy. Thing is, I was really only a kid when he was President of the US, and it was still completely obvious to me at the time that he had some kind of dementia. It seems plain now that, for pretty much his entire second term, and probably a good chunk of his first, that Alzheimer's had left him medically unfit to actually be President. It says something very, very disturbing about how the US is governed if many people consider him the "greatest Us President"

Mod manipulation by GreatBunzinni, aka Rui Maciel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094065)

GreatBunzinni [slashdot.org] , real name Rui Maciel, has been using anonymous posts [slashdot.org] to accuse almost 20 accounts of being employed by a PR firm to astroturf Slashdot, without any evidence. Using multiple puppet accounts, he mods up these anonymous posts while modding down the target accounts in order to censor their viewpoints off of Slashdot. GreatBunzinni accidentally outed himself [slashdot.org] as the anonymous troll who has been posting these accusations to every Slashdot story. For example, he wrote the same post almost verbatim, first using his logged-in account [slashdot.org] followed by an anonymous post [slashdot.org] days later. Note the use of the same script and wording.

It turns out GreatBunzinni is actually a 31-year-old C++/Java programmer from Almada, Portugal named Rui Maciel, with a civil engineering degree from Instituto Superior Técnico and a hobby working with electronics. He runs Kubuntu and is active on the KDE mailing list. Rui Maciel has accounts at OSNews, Launchpad, ProgrammersHeaven, the Ubuntu forums, and of course Slashdot.

Most of the users who Rui targets have done nothing more than commit the sin of praising a competitor to Google at some point in the past. Many of them are subscribers who often get the first post, since subscribers see stories earlier than non-subscribers. After one of Rui's accusations is posted as a reply, the original post receives a surge of "Troll" and "Overrated" moderations from his puppet accounts, while the accusatory post gets modded up. Often, additional anonymous posters suddenly pop up to give support, which also receive upmods. At the same time, accused users who defend themselves are modded down as "Offtopic."

Rui Maciel's contact information
Email: greatbunzinni@gmail.com [mailto] , greatbunzinni@engineer.com [mailto] , or rui.maciel@gmail.com [mailto]
IM: greatbunzinni@jabber.org [jabber] (the same Jabber account currently listed on his Slashdot account)
Blog: http://rui_maciel.users.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
Programming projects: http://www.programmersheaven.com/user/GreatBunzinni/contributions [programmersheaven.com]

Known puppet accounts used by Rui Maciel
Galestar [slashdot.org]
NicknameOne [slashdot.org]
Nicknamename [slashdot.org]
Nerdfest [slashdot.org]
Toonol [slashdot.org]
anonymov [slashdot.org]
chrb [slashdot.org]
flurp [slashdot.org]
forkfail [slashdot.org]
psiclops [slashdot.org]

tl;dr: An Ubuntu fan named Rui Maciel is actively trolling Slashdot with multiple moderator accounts in an attempt to filter dissenting opinions off the site.

So casual... (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094067)

'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today.'

Since when was ageism okay?

Re:So casual... (2)

amck (34780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094147)

If nobody _else_ knows better, no reason to trust it to a 20-year old who doesn't know better.

If somebody else does, then why are you neglecting their experience?
If you had a choice, you'd build a team with a mix of youth and experience.

Re:So casual... (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094361)

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

Re:So casual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39095615)

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

I have a feeling that if I plug this statement into a propositional logic calculator the result will be TRUE. Or ORANGE. Or perhaps this colorless green idea is just sleeping furiously.

Who knew better? (5, Informative)

darkonc (47285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094463)

There were about 120 former V2 technicians from Germany and a small handful of American pioneers, and anybody else who had formally studied rocketry was a young'un. Pretty much nobody under 30 who was good enough was likely to bet the remainder of his career on as experimental a process as rocketry -- and until shortly before Glen got his first flight, sending people into space was considered woo-woo. --

Up until 1958, the US military was formally forbidden to put a rocket into space. Not quite the career path for an engineer who was married with children.

Then the soviets put Sputnik onto space in the fall of 57, and the gloves came off. That would have been when NASA went to all of the colleges and hunted down the brightest young minds to do the real work of the space program. There were still a few 'old fogies' in the upper echelons, but the bulk of the crew was green under the collar.

Re:Who knew better? (2)

darkonc (47285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094487)

Oops. that should have been "Pretty much nobody over 30".

Pretty much nobody under 30 who was good enough was likely to bet the remainder of his career on as experimental a process as rocketry

Re:Who knew better? (1)

ebvwfbw (864834) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104153)

Keep hearing about Germany. They asked the German scientists about how they came to their knowledge. They said it was all from an American - Robert Goddard. The real pioneer. No doubt, the German scientists deserve and get credit for what they did. Just don't give them too much credit, they don't deserve that.

Re:So casual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094165)

ever since respect your elders!

Re:So casual... (2)

FlynnMP3 (33498) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094195)

My take on it is there is a significant percentage of younger folks who don't have the drive and the work ethic that they did back then. Not entirely accurate, since people trained in highly skilled professions tend to take their jobs quite seriously and work just as hard (if not harder) than older generations.

But that's my own view. Who the hell knows what he was referring to.

Re:So casual... (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094779)

This is a common cognitive or sampling bias that shows up every generation. Each generation gets older, looks around, sees some young people who aren't working hard (because that's who you can see when you look around), and then concludes the younger generation doesn't have the same work ethic. I could as easily say that since we had 6, 20-something interns last summer, all of whom were extremely dedicated and hard working, the work ethic of their generation is better than mine. But that would be equally untrue.

Re:So casual... (2)

dargaud (518470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095123)

'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today.'

Yeah. That quotes reeks. Who does this guy think built the www ? The people who started Yahoo, Google and most other startups were in their 20s. May not be as impressive as a big cylinder full of explosive, but in the long term the Internet will matter a lot more.

Re:So casual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39095175)

May not be as impressive as a big cylinder full of explosive, but in the long term the Internet will matter a lot more.

Define long term... remember, in about 5 billion years sol will be SOL.

Re:So casual... (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095125)

I don't think the work ethic is the problem, I think it's the competency. I really don't believe kids coming out of college these days are as competent as the ones coming out of school back in the 60s. It's not the fault of the kids, it's the fault of the educational system and society. For one thing, back then, engineering was a good career choice for very smart kids. Salaries for experienced engineers were a lot higher, you didn't have to worry about being laid off on a whim, and you didn't have to worry about being unemployable after age 40. These days, smart kids knows it sucks, so they steer clear and go for other careers. Schools are also really different now; they cost a whole lot less back then (they cost a lot less just 20 years ago; the costs have skyrocketed in just the past decade), and there was probably less emphasis on professors doing research and pulling in grant money rather than actually teaching.

Re:So casual... (1)

instagib (879544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095743)

I also see two other reasons: On the one hand, stricter parents and more discipline. On the other hand, studying engineering in the past was more into "build things", rather than "specialize and memorize".

A lot of farm boys, too... (3, Insightful)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39096901)

Back then the USA had a lot more family farms, or kids whose relatives or grandparents were famers. From what I've heard, growing up on a family farm tends to make people used to hard work, independently solving problems, working with both your hands and your mind, and also often provides a familiarity with dangerous chemicals and even explosives of some sort or other (like to dynamite big rocks out of a field). Hard to compare that to what most kids these days experience growing up where they can't even get near a decent chemistry set...

Re:So casual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094381)

It's always been ok.

corporations prefer 20 somethings because they are stupid enough to work for almost nothing and for 80 hours a week at 40 hours pay.

If you guys are that dumb, why trust you to build anything life critical?

Re:So casual... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094407)

It's likely he can't help it. At that age the brain is breaking down so badly inhibition of thoughts fails, and people start to rant against whatever random target trips their wires. This is why you see a lot racism in nursing homes. It's not because they lived in a different era, it's because they are old.

Re:So casual... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094421)

It became OK when educators lowered standards and worried about "self-esteem". The Baby Boomers and Gen X are mere shadows of the generations that won WW2 and fought in Korea and Gen Y is laughable.

Re:So casual... (5, Interesting)

UziBeatle (695886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094455)

"Since when was ageism okay?"

  Well, I suppose it does sound that way. I'll give it my spin
from a 56 year old perspective and maybe some insight
for you.

  When I graduated from a very middle class neighboorhood
High School (in the shadow of the Johnson Space Center, Clear
Lake,TX) back in 1974 I knew full well that the standards
I was being judged by were less than prior years.

  I can't speak for all school districts, onlly the one I was involved with but I know many across the United States, by that time, had greatly backed off standard needed to graduate and teaching methods had changed during the 60's.

    Examples. Multiple choice questions tests began
to become far more common as time went on. In the
past students had either fill in the blank or worse, ESSAY
type responces on weekly tests.
    I'm sure even todays student realizes how easy multiple
choice tests are and that fill in the blank and essay
systems require more knowledge. By the time I was in
school in the 60's and 70's essay responses were
pretty much gone. It was rare for me to face them.

    On English courses. In years before my experience
in public High School students were required to file
far more written essays during the year than we were.
  In fact, by the time I graduated my school district
had greatly relaxed the final English requirements
and the final essay test score impact on your total
score was lowered by a significant amount.

  Mathematics. In my school district the math requirements
were lowered during the 70's. By the time I graduated
one merely needed ALgebra 1 and Geometry 1 to get
a free pass to graduation. Pretty sad as prior generations, particularly early 60's era and before had MUCH more
math required under their belts prior to thinking of going
to college.

    The sciences. Again, lowered requirements. Physics
was required in prior years. In my case again, one didn't need
near as much chemistry and 'real' physics was not required.
  You could get by with a pretty skimpy science exposure overall.

  I've got a number of books on my shelves that date to the
early part of prior century and up thru the mid 40's that
focus on the teaching of Algebra and Geometry to that
eras equivilant of grade school thru high school levels.
Trust me those books show to me that expected
standards were much higher for students earlier
in the food chain. Grade school kids were learning
mathematics that only was experienced by me
until High School in the 70's.
      I recall when a High School degree actually meant something.
By the 80's it was common feeling among many I worked
with then that High School degrees by that era were
becoming more and more meaningless due to the
standards the Publik Skool Districts were using.

    This isn't to say that by today there are not brilliant
20 somethings out there. We all know there are.
  It is my sense, at the ancient age of 56 , that there
are far less as a percentage of the population, of solid
very knowledgeable people in the pool to pick from.

    Indeed, think about it. I was amazed myself at the progress
of the USA space program. I knew it was powered by
German science as that was no secret. I knew
that we had a miserable space program at the start of the 60's and were actually incapable of lifting jack squat into
space without rockets blowing up right and left.
  Mercury, Gemini , Apollo and the landing men on the fraking
moon on July 20, 1969 all occurred in a mere damn 9 years.

  That sir, was a miracle compared to today. I don't think
it could be reproduced.

  So, yah, though it hurts to admit it. I agree, that that generation
of 20 to 30 year olds were far more potent than the generation
I came from in the sense they had a far larger pool of
very talented and skilled people to pull from than later years.
  Mainly due to the fact the standards of the era they came
from were far higher.
  I do not count my generation in theirs, despite the
fact the Steve Jobs of the world are from mine.
        I blame public schools systems, and I see
no hope until they are rebuilt from the ground up.
        Progress has been made since the 70's and standards
are increasing so there is some reason for hope.

  Feel free to flame.
  Punks.

Re:So casual... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094873)

Ok, ok, I'll get off your lawn.

Re:So casual... (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094905)

WTF? I'm of a similar age to you (within a few years). However, I don't recall a single "multiple choice" test in high school or university (engineering), or even when I returned to grad school (PhD) in mid-career. Every formal test involved writing essays and/or doing unexpected analysis and/or making unprompted calculations. Writing and publicly defending the thesis was another kettle of fish. I recall encountering multiple choice tests in primary school only, and they were far from the predominant form of test even then.

I occasionally teach an engineering course at the local university. It has a test at the end, and I never set any multiple choice questions (but every question has a clearly correct response which includes reasoning toward an answer). I expect the students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of what was in the lectures and related class material. Making a lucky guess at the answer gets you no points - it's the process of reasoning from knowledge which is assessed.

Re:So casual... (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095159)

I'm pretty sure he's talking about pre-college schools having lowered their standards, as he mentions public schools over and over again. I had tons of multiple-choice exams when I was in public school in the 80s and early 90s. If the kids coming out of public schools aren't as well educated as in decades past, then obviously colleges will have to lower their standards too.

Re:So casual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39095067)

"I blame public schools systems"

I doubt that private schools are very much different.

Re:So casual... (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095089)

I can't speak for all school districts, onlly the one I was involved with but I know many across the United States, by that time, had greatly backed off standard needed to graduate and teaching methods had changed during the 60's.

a free pass to graduation. Pretty sad as prior generations, particularly early 60's era and before had MUCH more

that we had a miserable space program at the start of the 60's and were actually incapable of lifting jack squat into

I'm afraid you'll have to resubmit your batch. The lines quoted didn't fit the punch cards.

Re:So casual... (1)

Skylax (1129403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098059)

Well in my experience the standards of high school education is only half the story. Sure the better it is the more easily you will master challenges in your later life but I think you can rectify most of the gaps during college or university as most of the things you learn in high school are not so important.
I'm from germany and in my high school (I graduated in 2003) there were no multiple choice tests, but mostly essay type of questions. In science tests you were given a questions and you had to develop the answer just like at university. I had no problems with that, I thought it was normal and math, physics and chemistry tests were actually quite fun to do (not so much the language tests, that was a fucking nightmare:)). I guess in retrospect it was quite a good high school education and I basically aced my first university semesters for my physics degree.
But after that I tanked, my performance got worse and worse and I just barely graduated from university with average grades. Basically because there was nothing to motivate me.

Anyway my point is, a good high school education doesn't help you very much in later life. It gives you a good head start but you loose that advantage pretty fast. The problem with todays youth is not the lack of good education but the lack of visible(!) pioneering research programs. Seriously if the government started a massive mars program today (probes, manned missions and colonization etc.) they would have no problem finding young people in their 20s willing to rise up to the challenge (if the challenges are completely novel, a 20 year old is just as good as a 40 year old).

I think the reason we wouldn't trust people in their 20s with todays kind of technology is that we have become far less tolerant to failures. Before apollo rocket scientists/engineers blew up engines and rockets regularly. But with todays limited funding you have one failure and you are out of the game.
Look at SpaceX, they had a lot of failures in the beginning but now they have one delay after another because they want to make 100% sure that their Falcon 9 rocket does not fail. One failure and spaceX would loose a lot of business. For this you want experienced people.

Re:So casual... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39098639)

I'm sure even todays student realizes how easy multiple
choice tests are and that fill in the blank and essay
systems require more knowledge.

When I was at school in the 80s and early 90s there were not that common, but that misses the wider point that many people consider them better than essay type questions. What is the goal of testing? To determine if someone understands the principals and concepts, or if they remember all the formulas and jargon off by heart?

I'll admit multiple choice is not the best way to test understanding, but a lot of people who complain about students being given formulas or allowed to use textbooks in exams seem to miss this point. If you don't know how to use the tools they won't help you. Even if the textbook contains the answer you can't learn enough in a two hour exam to get a good grade, you need to know the subject going in and just use it as a reference.

Aside from not hurting people who aren't blessed with excellent memories this type of testing and teaching is also more flexible. I can switch between disciplines and subjects quickly because I know how to use reference material and come back up to speed fast.

On English courses. In years before my experience
in public High School students were required to file
far more written essays during the year than we were.

Standards of English have actually risen fairly consistently, it's just that back then a lot of people did non-clerical jobs so their poor skills were not apparent. I certainly wrote a lot when I was at school so I'm not sure your claims are true anyway. Perhaps not as many long form essays, but a similar volume of output.

Mathematics. In my school district the math requirements
were lowered during the 70's. By the time I graduated
one merely needed ALgebra 1 and Geometry 1 to get
a free pass to graduation. Pretty sad as prior generations, particularly early 60's era and before had MUCH more
math required under their belts prior to thinking of going
to college.

That is a weakness of the US schooling system. Everyone needs to graduate to get a job, so the bar has to be set at a level where they can demonstrate the core maths ability they need to get on in everyday life. You could rise the bar but even with better teaching that is going to make a lot of people fail, when in fact they are qualified to handle the kinds of maths potential employers want.

In the UK we finish school at 16 so by that level you can get a GCSE which says you are competent, or even pretty good. You can then do two years of college to qualify to a higher level where you are ready for university, which is where the brightest kids in the US are at age 18 too.

there
are far less as a percentage of the population, of solid
very knowledgeable people in the pool to pick from.

The percentage is higher, there is just more demand for them which means you have fewer to pick from.

That sir, was a miracle compared to today. I don't think
it could be reproduced.

Only because hundreds of billions of dollars where thrown at it. Give NASA a few hundred billion over the next 9 years and a lofty goal and see what happens.

Graduated 1980, also in Texas. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39099369)

Mathematics. In my school district the math requirements
were lowered during the 70's. By the time I graduated
one merely needed ALgebra 1 and Geometry 1 to get
a free pass to graduation. Pretty sad as prior generations, particularly early 60's era and before had MUCH more
math required under their belts prior to thinking of going
to college.

I graduated a small Texas high school in 1980 also only had Algebra and Geometry, with an intro to Trigonometry as my "advanced placement" senior math class. I sailed thru these with straight As and 100's on all tests. I thought I was king daddy at math. Then I started my freshman year at UTA as an EE major. My math and science professors were flabbergasted that the incoming batch of new students that year, with the exception of a few who graduated from private schools and the ultra-rich schools like Highland Park, had not yet already become thoroughly well-versed at Trig and Calc-I level math before they ever graduated high school.

Re:So casual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094745)

Irony. Look it up.

I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094209)

And the other 'private' space companies.

Seems like it's the 1960's all over again. Small groups of engineers trying to do something cool. Maybe that's what we need to bootstrap things up again. Of course, they're essentially trying to do the same thing as NASA was trying to do in the 1960's minus the unknown factor.

But I bet it's fun to work in an environment where you have a small group of intelligent people.

(Sighs and and tries to focus enough on federal compliance regulations long enough to get ready for tomorrow's administration meeting.)

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094313)

Of course, they're essentially trying to do the same thing as NASA was trying to do in the 1960's minus the unknown factor.

Right. There's only so much you can do with chemical fuels. By 1970 or so, chemical rockets were about as good as they could ever get.

Nuclear rocket engines have been built and tested successfully [wikipedia.org] , but for political reasons were not pursued.

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094607)

Nuclear rocket engines have been built and tested successfully [wikipedia.org] , but for political reasons were not pursued.

For a very slim definition of "Successful". That article really needs to be updated - right now it reads like a 1960s propaganda sheet for the atomic spaceflight program.

For an example of some of the actual real-world difficulties that nuclear rockets faced, try reading this article on the ever amazing "Beyond Apollo" blog: Nuclear Flight System Definition studies (1971) [blogspot.co.nz]

Osias postulated a maximum allowable radiation dose for an astronaut from sources other than cosmic rays of between 10 and 25 Roentgen Equivalent Man (REM) per year. Astronauts riding an RNS would, however, receive 10 REM each time its NERVA I engine operated. An astronaut 10 miles behind or to the side of an RNS operating at full power would receive a radiation dose of between 25 and 30 REM per hour. Osias noted that the NFSD contractors had recommended that no piloted spacecraft approach to within 100 miles of an operating NERVA I engine.

Radiation created other operational problems, Osias wrote. Spacecraft could dock with an RNS by approaching through the cone-shaped radiation shadow that protected its crew (bottom image below). Docking an RNS to a large vehicle that protruded beyond the shadow - for example, a space station or propellant depot - would, however, create obvious problems (top image below). The large vehicle's crew might be exposed to radiation from the NERVA I; more insidiously, the large vehicle's structure would reflect radiation back at the RNS, endangering its crew.

The NERVA I engine would not only emit radiation while it was in operation; it would also generate long-lived spent nuclear fuel that would emit radiation. Osias noted that NAR had "repeatedly emphasized [that] maintainability is essential to economic operation of the RNS." He noted, however, that a spacewalking repairman who approached to within 400 feet of the side of an RNS 10 days after its tenth (and, going by MSFC's traffic model, final) Earth-moon roundtrip would receive one REM per hour from the spent fuel it contained. Maintenance robots might replace the repair capabilities of astronauts, Osias noted, but such systems would need expensive development.

Yeah. Not exactly a "successful" design if you want it to not kill all your astronauts.

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095185)

Seems to me that these nuclear engines would be perfectly fine for use in applications other than lifting a rocket out of the atmosphere, such as transit to the Moon, or better yet to Mars or other more distant objects in the solar system or beyond. The radiation problem is obviously significant when lifting off from the ground, but once you're in orbit who cares? And who cares about spent fuel? Just jettison it into deep space. Obviously, though, you'd want to make sure you have absolutely no accidents with launches, as the consequences could be bad (though if you make the system as durable as a modern nuclear warhead, even a disaster on launch shouldn't cause any major problems--those things are nearly indestructible).

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39096345)

Do you realize how childish and naive and clueless you sound?

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39096769)

Do you realize how much of an asshole you sound like? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39099357)

There is nothing wrong with me. Talking about half-assed prototypes and wishful thinking as if it were real, practical engineering is insane. Shut down the sci-fi, engage your fucking brain for two minutes.

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39099509)

Fuck off, asshole. And go see a psychologist.

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39101013)

Right. *I* need the psychologist. Look at your rage-filled reaction here to being called out on "sci-fi engineering". You need high school physics.

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094787)

I was talking with a 20-something while in FL waiting for the STS-135 launch. She is majoring in engineering (forgot what field, she changed from being a literature major). I asked her what does she think of SpaceX and she totally went "oh wow, I sure hope I can work for SpaceX!!!!!" My impression is she interested in participating in the space program but first choice is to work at SpaceX, as if they "connect" with 20 somethings unlike NASA, Lockmart, Boeing,etc.

Re:I wonder what it's like at SpaceX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39096263)

It's pretty awesome working at SpaceX. Though the science of rocketry has been nailed for a while, alot of the actual design is still black arts, and most of the people who did the original Saturn V/ redstone missions are dead now. Materials and tech has changed so much in the last 40 odd years that designing rockets is completely different now ( yeah, those crazy apollo guys didn't have CAD or FEA, just paper and brains). What we're doing is like the cheap bootstraps version of the apollo program, similar timescale, similar goals (though mars instead of the moon).

Godspeed! (3, Interesting)

stox (131684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094263)

I can only hope we can revigorate ourselves to reach even further in the years ahead of us.

As for the 20 year old quip, the young are not burdened with what the older think is impossible. Conversely, the older have learned that
it is probably not a good idea to juggle bottles of nitro glycerin. Though, sometimes, we will stand back a ways and watch the youngin try. ;->
Sometimes, we're surprised!

Too much time, too little progress (3, Insightful)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094285)

Sorry to set the bar high (or to remind that it's not high enough) but am I the only one that sees this as a reminder of what more could had been done during those 50 years?

Orbit the Earth, then walk on the moon, then take cars on the moon with you, then play golf on the moon, then -for some reason- abstain from going anywhere higher than low Earth orbit indefinetely?

Sure, there has been a great deal of progress in automation and exploration, but in terms of human presense in space the situation seems a bit pathetic.

Re:Too much time, too little progress (2)

TigerPlish (174064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094665)

Orbit the Earth, then walk on the moon, then take cars on the moon with you, then play golf on the moon, then -for some reason- abstain from going anywhere higher than low Earth orbit indefinetely?

The reason is the same reason so many things get cut short either at their prime, or before they've even exited the "idea" stage -- Money.

No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

And why isn't there any money to do this? Politics. Everyone wants things, but they want everyone else to pay for it. No one wants to pay for anything. Especially things they can't see immediate benefit from.. such as R&D, exploration (space, maritime and other) and pure research.

Re:Too much time, too little progress (2)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094975)

No one wants to pay for anything. Especially things they can't see immediate benefit from.. such as R&D, exploration (space, maritime and other) and pure research.

Basic research has never been especially unpopular, because it usually doesn't cost a boatload of money compared to other federal programs, and the ROI is considered fairly good. You won't find many people complaining about unmanned space exploration, because it's still not insanely expensive has generally been very productive scientifically, as the Mars rovers or Hubble repeatedly remind us. The problem with the manned space program is that the return has never been very good, and the original motivation was at least as much military as scientific.

Here's an example I'm very familiar with: protein crystals in space. Protein crystallization is hard, more art and luck than science, but it's one of the best ways to dissect the mechanistic details of many systems, and very valuable for understanding how drugs work. Crystals appear to grow much better in microgravity, so the thought was that protein samples could be shipped into space, and larger, better ordered crystals grown up there. Then we'd be able to solve the structures of proteins that were intractable on Earth. This was cited as one of the justifications for the ISS.

The problem, of course, is that it's an extraordinarily inefficient way to solve protein structures. Main problem: once you grow the crystals, what can you do with them? You need a high-intensity X-ray source - none of those on the ISS. In fact, the type of X-ray sources we normally use for this job tend to require at least an acre and far more electricity than the ISS's solar panels will provide. So you have to land them first - but protein crystals don't like shock or vibration. Then you're faced with the problem that high-intensity X-rays tend to cause severe radiation damage, so we freeze the crystals in liquid nitrogen first to preserve them. This also reduces the quality, typically to the same extent that microgravity improves them. By this point you've also spent about as much money as it takes to build a modern high-intensity X-ray source, and more of those would be much more helpful than space crystals. (The ISS has already cost more money than every high-intensity X-ray source ever built put together, probably several times over.) More obviously, for the price of a single shuttle launch you could probably hire a dozen additional lab technicians, a roomful of liquid-handling robots, and synthetic DNA for as many modifications as you need to help crystallize the protein - and you'd still have at least 90% of the money left.

Are there other legitimate and economically practical benefits from the manned space program, aside from keeping the aerospace contractors in business? Possibly - I'm not an expert. But I do know that the cited justification that I'm professionally qualified to judge is complete horseshit, and it doesn't make me very favorably disposed towards the other arguments.

Re:Too much time, too little progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39096531)

Pretty much. Manned space is a dead end for simple physical reasons. Space is empty and hostile, and the febrile 1960s delusions about space never made a shred of sense in the first place. I feel bad for the poor deluded kids that are being suck(er)ed into the SpaceX vortex. Working for some rich nutjob's hobby is not a good long term career.

Re:Too much time, too little progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39096949)

Working for some rich nutjob's hobby is not a good long term career.

Indeed. Just look at all the employees of Apple, Google, Microsoft, or any of the other tech startups of the 80s. No future in those careers what so ever!

Re:Too much time, too little progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39100373)

Yes, and look at all the dot coms that crashed in 2000. Just because *some* projects made it, is no guarantee that *any* project will now make it. Am I talking to children here? Do I really need to explain this? Space has had way more time, since the '60s, to show us what it's about. Besides satellites, nothing. And it will never be more than that. Ever.

Re:Too much time, too little progress (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39099517)

I feel bad for the poor deluded kids that are being suck(er)ed into the SpaceX vortex.

Actually, I have no problem with this. If Elon Musk wants to sink his own money into space flight and is willing to pay underlings a fair salary to help, good for him and good for them. Let NASA focus on pure R&D (especially propulsion research) and unmanned exploration, and let the idealistic billionaires bet on the long shots. If something useful comes out of the endeavor, terrific, we'll all benefit. If not, at least it wasn't the taxpayers' money being spent on a science-fiction fantasy.

Re:Too much time, too little progress (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39096931)

Orbit the Earth, then walk on the moon, then take cars on the moon with you, then play golf on the moon, then -for some reason- abstain from going anywhere higher than low Earth orbit indefinetely?

Psst! It's the aliens, man! They said "All these low Earth orbits are yours except the Moon. Attempt no landing there."

Gotta run, I hear someone coming!

Truly Amazing (4, Insightful)

epp_b (944299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094339)

'I wonder how we ever managed to launch anything in space with that kind of stuff,'

So do I. It really is astonishing when you consider all NASA was able to accomplish in about a decade at a time a digital calculator was the size of a dictionary (or something like that, I'm not actually old enough to be the get-off-my-lawn group). Check out the documentary The NASA Missions: When We Left Earth, it really gives you an appreciation for this.

And, frankly, I can't blame Glenn for "[not trusting] a 20-year-old today" and I don't think it's age-discrimination either. Would you trust some gizmo-reliant "adult teenager" of today to put you in into LEO? NASA was using slide-rules, hard science and critical thinking. Today, some "20-year-old" will probably just take a computed message at its word without a second thought.

(it's not ageist for me to say of any of this, I'm in my 20's :P)

Re:Truly Amazing (4, Insightful)

captjc (453680) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094459)

Yes, because most 20 year-olds back in the fifties and early sixties were all intelligent, serious, hard-working, responsible adults.

The young engineers working at NASA worked hard to get where they were. Just like there are many 20-something engineers today who also working their ass off. The difference between now and then is that engineering and government service wasn't looked down upon as it is today. It was also a well paying profession. Those smart, motivated young people are now attracted more towards financial and web-based endeavors. Because that is where the money and opportunities are.

Re:Truly Amazing (2)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094845)

Those smart, motivated young people are now attracted more towards financial and web-based endeavors. Because that is where the money and opportunities are.

And unlike building space rockets and ICBMs, when complex financial instruments miscalculate and blow up they don't destroy trillions of .... um...

Well, eheh, the big difference between the two is that financial instruments could conceivably be used for purposes other than mass destruction. I mean, it's possible. It could have been possible. We could imagine a world in which it could have been possible. Logically speaking, the creation of a financial instrument doesn't entail... well... the supposition of a consistent universe of discourse doesn't require that it entail... in all possible frames...

Is it hot in here or is it just me? I'll go see what's happening at the bar.

Re:Truly Amazing (2)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094623)

It wasn't just any random 20 year old. It was the best of the best. Select the best of the best today, and they are going to be using computers, hard science and critical thinking. The only difference is the computer part instead of the slide rule. And realistically, the best and brightest are not going to ASS-U-ME anything any more than they did back in the 1950s. Any good engineer estimates the result of every calculation in his head to see what it should be roughly. The same general idea - "Does this make sense?" applies to trusting any computed message.

Age and experience has never been a barrier to the hyper competent. A lot of the reason for that I've noticed is that exceptionally competent people just happen to get their experience a lot earlier than others. Someone who has been building or hacking on stuff since they were 8 years old is always going to have a leg up on a guy with the same IQ who starts at age 18.

Re:Truly Amazing (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095231)

Wrong. The best of the best today won't have bothered to major in any engineering field most likely; instead, they'll have gone into some other major such as finance or medicine, where the pay is a lot higher and they don't have to worry about being unemployable after age 40. Back in the 60s, many of the brightest people did want to go into engineering, because it was a highly respected profession and paid very well, and had very good job security too. Nowadays, it's a totally unrespected profession, the pay is shit (it starts out OK, goes up with about 5 years experience, and then levels off), and is rife with ageism so you can't expect to make it a lifelong career. The smartest kids these days see this, and avoid the field entirely.

Re:Truly Amazing (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094831)

> Today, some "20-year-old" will probably just...

Probably some of these 20-year-olds are doing something else these days, even now I meet some who are hard science and critical thinking. I'm sure back then they had their share of 20-year olds with 2 year old mentalities.

'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today' (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094503)

- a very interesting comment by one of the 77 year old engineers who was at the event. Is this old age making a man more conservative and risk-averse? Would today's engineers in their 20s be able to devise a space program if they had to? would they get a chance to with the baby boomers still holding on to the positions of authority? I'm often amazed at how young pioneers tend to be, but perhaps it's just a statement about cutting edge fields and risk takers, I suppose the silicon valley folks in the 90s were in their 20s.

Would society trust engineers in their 20s with cutting edge high budget work these days?

Re:'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today' (2)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094881)

Would today's engineers in their 20s be able to devise a space program if they had to?

1. Buy Xbox.
2. Buy Mass Effect 3.
3. Achievement unlocked!

oh wait, you meant, like, actual hardware? Bricks-and-mortar space? That's pretty retro. Um. Let me check out Lifehacker and see if there are any recipes posted for hypergolic propulsion?

Re:'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094889)

http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote/assyrian_tablet_quote_71f7

Assyrian quote mentioning young people no longer obeying parents. Sounds like my Dad in recent years. Then there are the quotes about how lacking in virtue the youth have become attributed to Greeks over 2000 years ago.

Now being in my 50's my kneejerk reaction is the same. Kinda scary that I could be sounding like these quotes any day now. And try as I might it seems right. One can remind himself however to look at these facts, and realize it just is a perspective of someone older that occurs. Partly I suppose because things that are of value in one age are not later yet as an older person you don't realize that. Someone in their 70's or more almost cannot help themselves. I think you will barely be able to find people that age who don't agree with misgivings about young people. They won't remember unless you ask that their parents had similar feelings about them and their generation.

Yet at the same time it is mentioned how everything is digital now and they were working with such primitive methods. You can walk out and find good folks to work with digital stuff all over now. Those old guys from them would be lost. So while younger people of good character will of course be miffed by his comment. Just give the guy some slack. It happens, not only that, believe it or not, it will happen to you in time. Part of being human if you are lucky enough to live so long.

Re:'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today' (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095271)

We still have young pioneers, but they're not going into aerospace. They're going into finance, medicine, or maybe software engineering so they can make the next Facebook or Angry Birds. Even back in the 90s when I was in college, we laughed at the aerospace engineering majors, because that industry was considered "dead"; there weren't many job prospects in it, as there's not a lot of money in it. The best and brightest generally don't want to go into fields where there's little investment or activity; they go into "hotter" fields instead. Back in the 50s and 60s it was totally different: the government was pouring tons of money into aerospace, and as a consequence, we went from crappy little piston-engine propeller airplanes to the SR-71 Blackbird in a couple of decades, and putting a man on the Moon in less than 10 years. After the early 70s, government investment in aerospace dwindled, especially in space exploration, and not only have advances been much slower than in prior decades (how old are the airframes the USAF is flying? How long did it finally take them to get rid of the 60s-era F-14 on carriers?), but not so many people have been going into that field. Well less interest in the field, it's safe to assume that the quality of people going into the field is going to fall as well, as there's less demand for those seats at aero eng schools.

Those older engineers are absolutely right to question the ability of today's 20-something aerospace engineers; it's not an indictment of all 20 year olds, just the ones that choose AE as their major.

Re:'I don't know if I'd trust a 20-year-old today' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39097069)

There are still young people who love rockets and planes going into aero engineering, and they're smart (they have to be to pass the math tests). Engineering was always what it still is, a good, interesting job which by itself gets you a middle or upper middle class living; it's not like NASA and the USAF were paying wall street finance salaries back in the day. You can get rich by starting a business based on engineering, but most people don't and never did.

As for the slow pace of progress in the aerospace field, we've simply picked all the low hanging fruit over the last 5 decades. Where do you go from jet engines? The laws of physics haven't given us any obvious path to cost effective hypersonic transport, in fact subsonic jet airlines are mostly consistent money losers for shareholders, and have been for a long time.

The nuclear rockets NASA tested in the 60s didn't offer dramatically higher ISP than chemical; to make deep space transport a timely and cost effective industry will take 10x or better, and only Orion could offer that. Not sure how people would like space miners running their transports by setting off thousands of nukes, hundreds of them in atmosphere.

Face it, the ugly truth is that until we figure out how to build a practical fusion reactor or antimatter reformer, we're not going anywhere. The aerospace industry has reached the same growth plateau as every industry reaches, the point where science and economics doesn't let you go any further, until the next breakthrough in basic science, if ever.

The tools are so very much better now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094673)

When I was in the business of making things leave the atmosphere, IMUs were big, heavy boxes with lots of Cannon connectors. Solid-state devices were discrete transistors soldered to boards. The idea that a full three-axis accelerometer/gyro could fit in a 1-mm cube wasn't even dreamed of by science fiction authors. Live video from the bird? - You've been drinking, right? Nevertheless, we flew.

When I look at the technology and experience base that is available to companies like SpaceX, it's clear that the level of development risk in space launch systems is now low enough that commercial entities are likely to succeed. I think this wasn't the case earlier on.

One can argue that NASA was hopelessly inefficient, and there's some truth in that. But when using the retrospectoscope, do try to remember how much was unknown, which had to be learned, and which was learned by noncommercial organizations that could entertain risks no commercial entity would have dared.

The Moon! (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094719)

To me what's amazing is a little more than SEVEN years after the first American orbited the earth, Americans walked on the moon, with all that entailed. Heck, less than a decade after Glenn's flight they were driving a little car around on the moon! Incredible.

Obligatory XKCD... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39094795)

http://xkcd.com/893/

didn't blame others for delays (3, Interesting)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39094801)

An interesting comment on yahoo article by 7againstThebes, "When he didn't launch the first time...or the second...or the third...etc., he didn't blame politicians, he didn't blame the NASA staff, he didn't blame his fellow astronauts. He's a real pro in every sense of the word. Kids, watch him and learn."

Most are too young to remember, and many old timers have forgot, it was scrub after scrub after scrub after scrub after scrub... till they ***finally*** got that can off the ground. Getting off the ground is hard, really hard, and it ain't cheap.

I was 2 1/2 in 1962 (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095223)

Even 50 years later, I still remember it as if it were yesterday, along with the Apollo 1 fire, landing on the moon etc. It was a really exciting time, in the 60's as we were taking steps to explore outside the earth, then, after we beat the Russians to the moon, everything pretty much stopped. We build that stupid shuttle, instead of continuing to explore the moon. We stopped "exploring", and just were content to spend taxpayer money circling the earth in a reusable dump truck.

In the space as Fukushima. (1)

JCPM (2577407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095327)

Viajar en el espacio es como estar a gusto en una sala de Fukushima durante una semana de vacaciones, sí, respirando aire puro y radioactivo.

Y nos habían estado engañando porque con la calefacción convencional en el espacio, son economicamente mucho mas caro y costoso que con una calefacción nuclear.

Y esto no es un sueño de aventura, esto es la dura realidad de viajarse en el espacio, ! como en el interior de Fukushima que casi nadie quiere irse allí dentro !

JCPM: los que habían confirmado que habían recibido dosis de rayos cósmicos son de tonterías, son dosis de la sala de aire neutrónico del reactor radioactivo.

Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39095465)

In May of 1962 a brash young Irish President John F. Kennedy stood before congress and delivered his state of the union:

  "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

We don't have a single politician with the necessary testicular tissue to do the same thing with regards of going to Mars. We didn't have the money back then, but you know sometimes you have to put goals ahead of what you have and figure it out on the way.

"Let it be clear--and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make--let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal '62--an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all."

Remember this, we put Shepherd in space, Glenn in orbit and men on the moon with pencils, paper and slide rules. It's the intestinal fortitude that makes things happen. The choice is do we want to or do we want the status quo?

"This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel."

You know what? President Kennedy was right. And now, we need to make up our minds to put a man on Mars and return him safely to earth by the end of this decade. Kennedy proposed in May of 1962, I watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", on the moon and forever changed humanity in July of 1969. Just over 7 years. Have our kids and grandkids lost it? Have we?

Re:Challenge (2)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095759)

"let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal '62--an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. "

Cost of the "War on Terror" to date: just over 1 trillion 304 billion 222 million dollars.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Back to reality (2)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 2 years ago | (#39095553)

Look, there has to be a compelling reason for space exploration. In the 1960s, the reason was to beat the Soviets to the moon to avoid falling behind in the space race. Fast-forward 50 years, and there's no space race, nor have we made any amazing discoveries on the moon or Mars that would encourage a government to spend trillions of $€ to get there. You can rest assured that things would be different if we found something of great value that could be mined on the moon, or some alien life. But as it is, we're just blundering around aimlessly in LEO with vague plans to revisit the moon, visit mars or perhaps drill a hole in an asteroid. If it doesn't inspire the public, it most likely won't inspire the cranky old lawmakers who are key to the funding.

Re:Back to reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39101291)

But if there's nothing in space, what does it matter if the "cranky old lawmakers" help or not? Space is empty. End of story. There's nothing there.

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