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NASA Will Go Metric On the Moon

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the late-conversion dept.

NASA 695

An anonymous reader writes "Space.com is reporting that NASA has decided to use the metric system for its new lunar missions. NASA hopes that metrication will allow easier international participation and safer missions. The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter was blamed on an error converting between English units and metric units. 'When we made the announcement at the meeting, the reps for the other space agencies all gave a little cheer,' said a NASA official."

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Yay!!! (5, Insightful)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527652)

Now if only American car companies will budge that extra 17/32" and finish going metric rather than forcing me to have 2 sets of tools for one car. Then I can "Compare Prices on Physics and Engineering" here at /.

Re:Yay!!! (5, Informative)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527882)

as I recall, the fittings on the Apollo 13 launch were metric, the Comamnd Module English. Some fittings were square, others round.... If I was on the moon I would hate to need to change my O2 bottle and in an emergency, the one from contractor B has a English nozzle fitting. Consisitency is not just a good idea here....

Re:Yay!!! (3, Funny)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528022)

Watching that would be ever so slightly more amusing than watching one of my European customers when maintaining one of my employer's half-metric half-imperial products. It's fun hearing things like "This wrench won't fit, and this one is too big. Is this a 9.5mm nut? Oh shit. It's American."

Re:Yay!!! (5, Funny)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528384)

I'm British, so I deal with both systems on a daily basis and I think we've got it pretty sorted. Doing something important, where you need accuracy do it in metric doing something fun, do it in imperial.

Distance to the shops in miles, distance to the sun in kilometers
I measure my weight in stones and pounds, but I cook in grams.
Size of my wang in feet (ok, ok inches) size of my windows in cm.

I'm not sure why Americans feel the need to stick to imperial, especially in light of computers. At least NASA has now seen the light.

Re:Yay!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528570)

I think you've demonstrated our worries pretty much with your post. Stick to one system or another is ok (even if one is inferior), but the worse case scenario is getting stuck with both at the same time. Filling my car with liters and then measuring the distance I traveled in miles is sort of silly (and annoying).

I fully support metric all the way, but I fear that the US is going to morph into a British way of doing things (with both systems).

Re:Yay!!! (4, Insightful)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528626)

I'm not sure why Americans feel the need to stick to imperial
Because using a crappy system 95% of the time is better than using a good system 50% of the time and a crappy system 50% of the time?

I wish everyone in the US had switched to metric before I was born. But if they were only going to do it half-assed (0.196850394-assed for metric folks), I'd just as soon stick with the crappy system. If you're going to do something poorly, at least by consistent.

Re:Yay!!! (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528872)

BTW, congratulations on getting rid of that whole "shilling" and "guinea" nonsense.

Re:Yay!!! (5, Funny)

bgarcia (33222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528422)

Both of my "American cars" were actually made in Canada, and are already metric.

I think the only car companies still making cars in America are the Japanese. :-D

Re:Yay!!! (5, Funny)

Simon Garlick (104721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528798)

I mess around with electric guitars in my nonexistent spare time. Last time I ordered a guitar neck from a US manufacturer it was described as being 43 millimetres wide and 0.85 inches thick, with tuning-machine holes pre-drilled at 11/32 inches.

Metrication?? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527660)

That's Metrification.

Re:Metrication?? (1)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527692)

The 2 are interchangable.

Wait a minute..... (5, Funny)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527694)

The metric system is the tool of the devil! My spaceship gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it!

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528058)

Finally, Atom [themadmusicarchive.com] will be happy.

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528166)

better link [atomandhispackage.com]

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

MagicM (85041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528568)

Having visited both links, I can honestly say I liked the first one better.

Re:Wait a minute..... (3, Funny)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528216)

for all of you that don't know, a rod was originally measured from the tip of the donkey's nose to the back of the plow. go america...

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528360)

Isn't that from some tv show or something like that?

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

SNR monkey (1021747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528510)

It's from the Simpson's episode "A Star is Burns" [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528672)

I knew it was from the Simpsons. I didn't know the episode; you probably looked it up. I do have an unfortunate tendency to be both terse and obtuse; I was quietly protesting the thought that saying 'forty rods to the hogshead' is as unbelievably funny as some large percentage of slashdot thinks it is.

Re:Wait a minute..... (1)

SNR monkey (1021747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528846)

The wording of your post made me think you were being somewhat sarcastic, but in case there was anyone who didn't get the reference (and didn't google it like me), I figured I would post the info. Oh well, you can laugh at me for falling for it. ;)

American metric system (5, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528554)

It secretly amuses me when Americans (one of only three backwards countries that haven't converted) argue about keeping the "imperial" system. All of your current units of measurement have been defined relative to the metric system for the past 50 years or so. From the wiki [wikipedia.org] : "One inch international measure is exactly 25.4 millimeters, while one inch U.S. survey measure is defined so that 39.37 inches is exactly 1 meter". "The pound avoirdupois, which forms the basis of the U.S. customary system of mass, is defined as exactly 453.59237 grams".

Abort Mission (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17527746)

A metric moon? Not if this president has anything to say about it!

Bomb the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528412)

Saddamm Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction there.

Makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528732)

The president that GWB emulates is reagan. Interestingly, it was reagan who stopped this country from going to the metric system. Nixon put on the path, and Cater signed it for the whole nation to convert to it in early 81. This was just another one of reagan's screw-ups with long term implications. Heres to hoping that Bush will not follow the reagan legacy on this one. As it is, he has followed it 100%.

Obligatory Quote (1)

PHP Wolf (629571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528816)

That's no moon!

and to think (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527750)

The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter was blamed on an error converting between English units and metric units.

And to think when we were learning the metric system in school, the teacher told us it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

I guess he was wrong.

Re:and to think (1)

banditski (163064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527862)

I think perhaps what he meant to say was "you need to not be a rocket scientist to figure it out."

Re:and to think (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528692)

"It's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it."

                  -Tom Lehrer

Re:and to think (-1, Troll)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527922)

Oh, come on, +3 Funny? He's had, what, seven years now to think that joke up? How long do you think he's been saving it for?

Re:and to think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17527924)

No, your teacher was right.

The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter was blamed on an error converting between English units and metric units.

It obviously takes someone smarter than a rocket-scientist.

Holy shit, Nasa took this long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17527950)

I'm American and I wonder why people stick to the damn standard system so much. When doing carpentry work, I can't really measure something that is, say, 17 7/32, and tell you what 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/4 of that is, off the top of my head. OTOH, dividing centimeters by anything is pretty easy.

Now I find out Nasa hasn't been with metric since the beginning? Holy shit, this is engineering, it is supposed to be metric! I wouldn't dream of using standard (though I have to convert to it sometimes for the end product for others).

Story from Science@NASA (1)

pkzip (248865) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527766)

NASA's story on this here [nasa.gov] .

Why are we still using the US system? (3, Insightful)

octavian755 (588429) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527788)

I was under the impression that most scientific agencies used metric as a standard (Guess US educational system failed me there). My father is a builder and I grew up seeing how contractors can be so loose with measurements. It amazes me that NASA got this far using a very inaccurate system (at times) for such precise operations.

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (2, Insightful)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527998)

It's still being used because there is a massive infrastructure of machine tools and instruments amongst the contractors. The move to digital instrumentation and CNC is facilitating the transition.

It amazes me that NASA got this far using a very inaccurate system (at times) for such precise operations.

It's actually quite precise, just more complicated to use.

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528032)

I'm also rather surprised at all this; I thought that NASA already used the metric system for everything. When I was taking physics classes in high school and college, everything was done in metric units, and I always assumed that would be the case at a higher level. Huh. Well, hey, this is a great step forward - better late than never!

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528390)

I design test and measurement hardware, and it is all done in PCB software based on the old English system. That implies nothing about accuracy, however; PCBs are designed in mils, 1/1000ths of an inch, which is plenty precise.

I wouldn't have any complaints about a steady transition to dual/metric; I can and must use both and translate between them for my job, as many parts are designed in metric and must have their footprints translated to English for placement.

On the other hand, I'm probably too old to want to change everything to metric all at once. Growing up with the English system, I can feel the difference between the 40s, 50s, or 60s in temperature. I can gauge distances well in inches and feet, and I have a feel for when my car is going 40, 45, or 50. Being able to do that without thought is much more comfortable that having to translate in my head to something foreign, in the same was as with a foreign language.

So start the translation by putting up kilometer markers on roads, and by teaching metric first to children. Then over time increase the use of metric as a greater percent of the population grew up with it.

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528498)

So start the translation by putting up kilometer markers on roads, and by teaching metric first to children. Then over time increase the use of metric as a greater percent of the population grew up with it.
Nobody seems to be in any hurry to convert to metric generally in the United States, but that's besides the point. Organizations like the Department of Defense have been on metric for years (for compatibility with our NATO allies, I suppose); it's still pretty amazing that a scientific organization like NASA would still be using customary units for anything. But I guess that's bureaucratic inertia for you.

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

blugu64 (633729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528850)

"So start the translation by putting up kilometer markers on roads, and by teaching metric first to children. Then over time increase the use of metric as a greater percent of the population grew up with it."

bah! My kids will grow up under the imperial system just like God Intended! Why else would there be both 12 inches in a foot and 12 apostles!

(on a more serious note, metric isn't too bad once you get used to it (still trying myself))

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528866)

You ARE aware that there are two different definitions of "inch" in use in the US system of weights and measures, right?

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (4, Insightful)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528458)

There's nothing inherently inaccurate about the measurement system itself. You can measure down to the millionth of an inch if you want. If a contractor is going to be loose with their measurements, they could just as easily say "Eh, that's about two meters" as "Eh, that's about seven feet". You can't make people measure down the the millimeter just because it's available on their measuring tape.

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528534)

My father is a builder and I grew up seeing how contractors can be so loose with measurements. It amazes me that NASA got this far using a very inaccurate system (at times) for such precise operations.

Building contractors are often loose with measurements because building a house does not require the same precision as sending a rocketship to Mars. If you are framing a house, it's usually okay to be off by an inch or a few cm's, because the result is within expected tolerances. If you are sending a yard-long metal box millions of miles through space, being off by an inch or a few cm's at launch can magnify to being miles off at your destination.

As long as a system of measures has internally consistent units, it will be no more or less precise than any other system of measures, right? I mean, I can ask you to cut me a 1.0000000000000000001-inch chunk of a platinum bar; that's pretty darn precise!

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528818)

American scientists all use metric, but American engineers often don't.

Re:Why are we still using the US system? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528820)

The metric system is no more or less precise than the English system.
The problem is that in the US it is a lot harder to get some materials in metric. Sheet aluminum is a good example. You can do it but it takes some effort.
Some of the parts in my current project are held to a tolerance of +_.001" going metric wouldn't make it any more precise.

Hopfuly this is a trend (4, Interesting)

VEGETA_GT (255721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527812)

Metric is a very easy system to deal with and has been adopted over a large portion of the world. Technically Canada has been metric for over 20 years. Tho things like construction has remained Imperial as we are next to the US. If not for the Us Canada would be completely metric, but since the Us is right next door, we end up in the metric camp with one foot still over in the Imperial side o things. But I don't see the Us converting to metric any time soon, but the scientific community moving to metric to do its work instead of continually converting would be a great leap in the right direction.

Re:Hopfuly this is a trend (2, Interesting)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527958)

The scientific community has been using metric, even in the US, for years.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing sector is as stubborn as the rest of the country. As mentioned in TFA, the Mars Climate Orbiter debacle was not caused by NASA not using metric, but rather because they were using metric and confusion ensued when one of their boneheaded vendors wasn't.

Polyglot (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528164)

Canadians tends to talk about speed and distance in kilometres, distances on a golf course in yards, milk and gasoline in litres (and when they say a quart of milk everyone knows they mean a litre of milk), liquor in ounces, temperature in Celsius in Canada but Fahrenheit in the U.S. (e.g., it's 30 degrees in Toronto, but 85 in Buffalo), food weights in kilograms, and a person's weight and height in pounds and feet + inches.


A bizarre polyglot, but not as bad as their cereal boxes, n'est-ce pas?

Re:Hopfuly this is a trend (3, Interesting)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528218)

Confusion can be fatal or just embarassing, such as in the Gimli Glider [wikipedia.org] incident, which was partially due to a units conversion error.

Re:Hopfuly this is a trend (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528582)

Thankyou, that was a rather awsome read!

Re:Hopfuly this is a trend (1)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528454)

> Metric is a very easy system

I couldn't agree more.
- Metric: 1 km = 1000 m = 1000000 mm
- US system: 1 ml = 1760 yd = 5280 ft = 63360 in

Heck, it took me 3 minutes just to write the US example and I had to use wikipedia and calculator as a help to do that. What was that guy thinking when he invented that weird system?!

Re:Hopfuly this is a trend (1)

IHSW (960644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528806)

Only in Canada can a river be 14.7M wide and 7'5" deep.

Those wacky rocket scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17527828)

Give 'em an inch, and they take 160,934 cm...

Re:Those wacky rocket scientists (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528628)

and give you 30.48 cm:s where it hurts.

(yadayadayadayada, 30.48 cm equals not only what you thought, but also one foot, i.e. 12 inches)

Soo.. (5, Funny)

dbatkins (958906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527832)

when the first McD's is built on the moon, I have to order a "Royal With Cheese" ?

Re:Soo.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528128)

I think you have to worry more about what you'll call a "quarter-pounder". Maybe a 'hectoburger with cheese'?

Re:Soo.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528790)

Seems you missed that obvious Pulp Fiction reference. Royal with cheese is "French" for quarter-pounder with cheese.

Re:Soo.. (1)

blurker (1007141) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528468)

Check out the big brain on dbatkins! ;-)

The irony of calling it the "English" system..... (2, Insightful)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527848)

... is that in the UK we've been using the metric system for at least 20 years!

Re:The irony of calling it the "English" system... (1)

Maclir (33773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527910)

I believe the correct terminology is the "imperial" system. And of course, the British haven't had an empire for far longer than 20 years.

Re:The irony of calling it the "English" system... (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528340)

Not quite. Americans' "English units" actually differ from Imperial units for volume, so the 2 systems are not exactly the same thing. The measures of length and weight are the same, except that very few Americans will have any idea what a Brit means if they say something weighs "12 stone".

Re:The irony of calling it the "English" system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528484)

Ah, so you're admitting that America embraced and extended our measurements as well as our language? It's no wonder Microsoft ended up the way it did ;-)

Re:The irony of calling it the "English" system... (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528716)

I've lived in Britain for 6 years now, and I still can't remember how much a stone is.

Re:The irony of calling it the "English" system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528330)

Except for beer which comes in pint glasses, milk which comes in pint bottles, cars which measure their efficiency in miles/gallon and travel at speeds measured in mph, road signs which give distances in miles, shoe and clothing sizes based on inches AND people who measure their weight in stones (!) and pounds the UK is all metric, correct.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17527854)

Its about bloody time!

Hrm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17527856)

I imagine this will assist the U.S. is its conversion to the metric system, something it has been trying to do for many years now.

I guess it's very hard when everything you have is already in inches, though. 1.2361 cm bolts aren't exactly widespread!

they've got a list, and they're working on it (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528126)

I imagine this will assist the U.S. is its conversion to the metric system, something it has been trying to do for many years now.

Yeah, they started with the 2-liter bottles of soda about 20 years ago, so it looks like they're working their way down the list.

I wonder what comes next, after beverage containers, and interplanetary spacecraft.

Re:they've got a list, and they're working on it (1)

Dan Slotman (974474) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528460)

Hopefully gallons to quarts in gasoline purchases. With mixed Imperial and Metric units on a car's dashboard, it will be a simple step to move to kilometers for highway signs. After that's been in place for a couple years, maybe we'll finally have gotten on the freaking bandwagon universally. The next question is if we'll ever figure out that a billion isn't actually a thousand million.

Re:they've got a list, and they're working on it (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528800)

Hopefully gallons to quarts in gasoline purchases.

    US gallon, or British gallon? They're not the same. Even these two users of the imperial system can't agree on how many ounces to the gallon.

Re:they've got a list, and they're working on it (1)

1010110010 (1002553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528538)

We will begin with the firemen, then the math teachers, and so on in that fashion...

Re:they've got a list, and they're working on it (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528650)

I wonder what comes next, after beverage containers, and interplanetary spacecraft.

Condoms. You won't believe what those green chicks will do after you get half a liter of beer into 'em.

KFG

Re:Hrm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528144)

What's that supposed to be? A 0.49" bolt? A half inch bolt is 1.27cm (1inch=2.54cm), and I hope that they won't do it that way. A switch to metric should (and according to the NASA article will) mean that they also switch tools and materials to metric standards (ISO).

Re:Hrm. (1)

Ashtead (654610) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528426)

Chances are they will use ISO standard metric sizes. M12, with coarse or fine threads as appropriate will replace 1/2" UNC / UNF most likely.

Re:Hrm. (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528684)

I wonder if this will move us to first-angle projection too. Took them long enough

Same ol', same ol'? (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527888)

"The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter was blamed on an error converting between English units and metric units."

As I recall, the conflict came into play partly because NASA was using metric. The federal government is about the only customer of the US aerospace industry that insists on using metric for everything (civilian air traffic control, even in other countries, measures altitude in feet instead of meters).

So this announcement that NASA will keep on doing what they've been doing for decades really doesn't change things one way or another. The real question will be whether the contractors NASA deals with will be careful about avoiding future embarassment (and I'm not so sure, since the blame in the public view rests solely with NASA).

Re:Same ol', same ol'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528646)

Not really...


From NASA article [nasa.gov]

The confusion that can arise from using mixed units was highlighted by the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter robotic probe in 1999, which occurred because a contractor provided thruster firing data in English units while NASA was using metric.
NASA as an agency uses metric where they can, but their contractors don't necessarily have to. Now, however, even their contractors will have to use metric for moon missions. More importantly, this will allow for easier partnerships with other countries and agencies.

So they're not going TO the moon.... (2, Funny)

MouseR (3264) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527896)

...they're going right through it?

I have a bad feeling about this (3, Funny)

Decaffeinated Jedi (648571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17527972)

I have a bad feeling about this. Has this whole metric thing been thoroughly tested?

Re:I have a bad feeling about this (1)

Tired and Emotional (750842) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528278)

Yes - and its wrong!

(The metre was supposed to be one ten millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole on the meridian through Paris. Unfortunately some sans-cullottes failed to lift their feet so its a bit off)

So what's the rest of the US waiting for? (1, Funny)

dskoll (99328) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528046)

The year 10,000? (Oh, sorry, that should be 5,280.)

"NASA Will Go Metric On The Moon"? (5, Funny)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528060)

I'm confused - are they only going to use the Metric system on the Moon?

or is it more like: "Dude, did you see that?! NASA totally went Metric on the Moon's ass!"

Conversion inertia (1)

lonechicken (1046406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528076)

When I was taking chemistry and physics classes in highschool (late 80s/early 90s) the teachers were typically teaching us everything in metric units. So I, for one, welcomed our centi-overlords.

It always seemed weird to me that kids were being taught the metric system (at least science oriented HS and college people) for a couple of decades now, yet step out on the street and everything's "miles this" or "feet that."

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17528108)

Sounds like NASA has finally learned from its mistakes and they are being more transparent.

Stonecutters Unite! (1)

bananaendian (928499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528154)

"The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I likes it!"

Who keeps the metric system down? We do! We do!

- Sincerely, you!ess!A! you!ess!A! ...

Already been metric once. (1)

kooky45 (785515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528158)

The German engineers that NASA used to start the American space program and which worked on into the Apollo program always did design everything in metric because that's how they were taught. Their calculations were then converted to Imperial for the engineers who actually put together the equipment. I guess there were a lot of "conversion errors" then too.

Good start (5, Informative)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528284)

.. but when is the rest of the USA going to follow suit?

According to wikipedia, As of 2005 only three countries, the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar (Burma) [wikipedia.org] have not converted to metric yet. Canada officially converted in 1970, but both systems get used on a day-to-day basis. Most tape measures, rulers, etc have both systems. Most older people still use imperial for most things, and younger generations seem to be mixed.

It's actually interesting that a lot of people here (Canada) use mixed units. Personally, I usually use feet if I'm estimating a distance (it's just a very convienient size - the closest metric equivalent is a decimeter, just doesn't quite cut it), and pounds and feet/inches for human weight/height. We still order a pound of wings and a pint of beer (I think you get beat up if you ask for 568mL of beer in a bar). Most other things are metric: road signs are km/h, the weather report is in celcius. Most stores sell things by the kilogram, meter, or liter/milliliter. I'm not sure what they teach kids in school now, but my generation (mid 20's) seems to be decently fluent in both systems (I remember learning how to add inches as part of learning fractions).

Re:Good start (1)

lonechicken (1046406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528430)

I assume people are measured metrically in metric countries, right? It just doesn't seem as glamorous when a European basketball coach announces that he's successfully recruited a 2.1336 meter guy to play center.

Re:Good start (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528688)

recruited a 2.1336 meter guy

      You use 3 significant figures in the imperial system when you say 7'11". Why do you feel you have to use 5 significant figures in the metric system? 2.13 m is good enough. It's not that hard really.

Re:Good start (2, Informative)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528660)

Sounds just like England. Everything's in metric except drinking, driving and weight watchers.

Finally. (2, Funny)

Omegium (576650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528334)

Welcome to the 18th century!

Necessary but difficult (5, Insightful)

carambola5 (456983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528374)

This is a necessary, but difficult transition. Yes, difficult. Maybe it's pretty easy for the programmers, but for the mechanical guys out there (like myself), this introduces a huge relearning phase. Say, for example, I need some sheet metal to function as a structural piece. I can be pretty confident that my initial guess will be pretty close to the final thickness value if specified in imperial units. I also know what's typically readily available from suppliers (eg: 1/4" is far more common than 15/64"). Not only must I do a conversion from my ingrained inch units into "foreign" metric, but I must also look up which sizes are common.

With time, I would be just as good with metric as with imperial units. And I want to change to metric for its obvious advantages. It's just that my design confidence and productivity would falter through the transition. I'm quite sure I'm not alone on this.

Re:Necessary but difficult (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528614)

It's just that my design confidence and productivity would falter through the transition. I'm quite sure I'm not alone on this.

      Well perhaps if you had started doing this 30 years ago when the rest of the world adopted SI units and the metric system, you would be well out of this transitional phase by now. There's only one thing keeping the imperial system alive, and that's sheer bloody-mindedness.

Re:Necessary but difficult (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528752)

And the fact that all the maerial he uses is probably cataloged as english unit.

When you are in an industry that uses a standard, you can't be the sole guy using a different standard.

They weren't using metric?! (4, Informative)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528378)

I should preface this post with the fact that I'm in the US. When I took physics and chemistry in college we barely discussed English units. There was one class period that we talked a little about conversion from English to metric units (I don't believe we even did the opposite), and that was about it. It was just assumed that we knew metric very well already. If I graduated and went to work for NASA and had to use English measures, I think I would have to almost relearn some of the physics--it would be awkward for me to work with the non-SI units, and even more awkward to have to learn new constants (I learned the constants in metric units). So I assumed that NASA had moved away from English units long ago since it hasn't been taught in so long.

Metric system is not just for scientific community (1)

bigbang19 (958410) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528462)

Whats the freezing point for water? 0 C
Whats the boiling point for water? 100 C
How many meters is 1 km? 1000
1 cm X 1 cm X 1 cm of water weighs 1 gm ....

Try doing this in imperial system. Metric system is not just for scientific community but useful and easier to use on daily basis.

Re:Metric system is not just for scientific commun (4, Informative)

mengu (452383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528830)

It was actually mandated back in 1975 that the US needs to convert to the metric system, check out http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/misc/usmetric/m etric.htm [gsa.gov] Quote: Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 "to coordinate and plan the increasing use of the metric system in the United States." but it all fell apart since there where no deadline and all based onm voluntary conversion.

We must strike now, before it is to late (5, Informative)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528482)

These NASA rebels must be stopped. The moon was claimed in the name of the United States by Neal Armstrong, we can't allow them to fruit it up by going all metric on its ass the next time they land there. We should nuke all of NASA's bases from orbit. Some one see about coordinating that with our national space agency.

Change the famous quote to.. (1)

smitty97 (995791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528492)

"That's 1 mm step for man, 1 km leap for mankind"

Another pointless "victory" (2, Interesting)

Vidar Leathershod (41663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528644)

Somehow I doubt that the first moon landing teams felt that metric was important. Obviously, they made it (and back). Instead of trying to figure out ways to make things less divisible by three, they should focus on the actual logistics of getting there and back safely.

Of course, the most of the Slashdot crowd think that the metric system is some sort of gift from God. All I know is the bar where I order pints serves them at a proper temperature and you get a little more than the rated 20 UK fluid ounces. Should they switch to the metric system? Will that improve the beer? Will it make the Thames Welsh Bitter taste better? How about Coniston's, or Fuller's, or Paulaner Salvator?

All of my tractors parts are standard measurements. Will changing them to metric make the tractor last longer than the 40 years it already has? Of course, this will be unpopular here, but who cares what other space agencies think? Are they as successful as NASA? Have they broken more new ground? Do they care what we think about their use of the metric system, despite it's weaknesses? Don't think so.

Urban Legend (4, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528756)

The loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter [wikipedia.org] was blamed on an error converting between English units and metric units.

Exhibit #1 for why Wikipedia is not to be trusted - they continue to tell half the story. (On this and many other topics, they prefer the simple and popular explanation over completeness and accuracy. [1])
 
MCO was lost not because of a metric conversion error - but because an increasing divergence between the planned and actual performance was ignored. The official report mentions this - but glosses over its importance. MCO was lost because NASA attempted to fly the mission on the cheap, because of this testing and analysis during the cruise phase was cut from the budget. Some analysis was done on the side by a few engineers - and their calls for a formal analysis went unheeded until too late.
 
[1] And before the Wikipedia cheerleaders chime in, yes - I have tried to fix many articles to correct this problem. Without exception the corrections were either reverted out or edited into meaninglessness. On Wikipedia the win goes to the editor with time on his hands or who can cite a lightweight popular article as the source of his 'facts'.

Metric Model Rocket is a hot collector's item (2, Interesting)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17528840)

Rocket nerds in the audiance will probably be familiar with the "Estes Alpha," a simple beginner's kit.

There have actually been many versions, with and without plastic nose cone and fins. No die-hard collectors' set is complete without a "metric" Alpha, briefly produced in the 70s for educational purposes.

Now the instructions have both English and metric measurements . . . where measuring is required at all.

* * *

One model rocket measurement has been metric for going on four decades; the average thrust and total impulse figures for motors. Before 1968 or so, you'd save your paper route money for "A.8-4" or "B.8-2" motors, with an average thrust of .8 pounds. After the change to metric, these became A5-4 and B4-2 motors, with average thrust given in newtons.

Mmmmm, newtons.
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