Rocket Launch Falcon Heavy

Teresa Edgerton

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I'm surprised that there is nothing here about the rocket launch this morning. Not a big rocket fan myself—I was only watching because my husband was—but I was unexpectedly moved to see the two boosters land so gracefully in perfect unison.

I guess it's because it really hit me that space exploration is not going to have to depend on politics for the future. Not that commerce is pure or anything like that, but companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have an interest in getting things done, whereas sometimes governments seem more interested in seeing that they don't get done.

SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket
 

Parson

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It was an awesome site, especially that landing.
 

mosaix

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but companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have an interest in getting things done, whereas sometimes governments seem more interested in seeing that they don't get done.

I think it's also to do with safety, Teresa. I'm not saying the private companies are irresponsible but Governments are more likely to err on the side of caution - and that takes time and money.

I hope this never happens, but it'll be interesting to see the affect on these companies if someone gets killed on one of their missions.
 

Edward M. Grant

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I think it's also to do with safety, Teresa. I'm not saying the private companies are irresponsible but Governments are more likely to err on the side of caution - and that takes time and money.

Yet the space shuttle killed its crew one time in sixty, and estimates in hindsight gave the first Columbia launch (the first time in history that humans had flown on the first flight of a new rocket) about a 10% chance of killing the crew. Indeed, the crew said after the flight that, if they'd know about the damage done early in the launch, they'd have aborted the flight and ejected, rather than risk burning up on re-entry.

Government space programs talk a lot about safety, but aren't necessarily very good at it.

As for NASA in particular, historically it's worked well when there was a well-defined goal ('land on the Moon by 1969') and not so well when there hasn't been.
 

mosaix

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True, Edward, but there’s a history of people dying for their countries and being considered heroes.

I’ll be interesting to see what public opinion is of people dying for private companies.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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But mosaix, I think companies might have a harder time signing up people to risk their lives for them if they have a history of carelessness. The government already has a pool of people ready to take risks in the military.
 

CTRandall

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Really interesting was an interview with Elon Musk in which he described having multiple launches on a daily basis. It's the kind of statement that makes part of me say, "yeah, right," while another part admires his ability to dream big. For all sorts of readons, I'm not sure that corporate space programmes are, in the long term, sustainable but they do seem to be injecting some of the Apollo spirit back into space exloration.
 

Ursa major

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but Governments are more likely to err on the side of caution - and that takes time and money.
I seem to recall one of the Apollo 11 crew (Buzz Aldrin?) saying, in a documentary made many years after their mission, that the whole craft (rocket and modules) contained a million components (possibly an exaggeration), all of them bought from the manufacturers with the lowest prices.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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If a manned-mission sent out into space by the government ends in disaster, they'll hail the dead as heroes, hold military funerals, everyone will wipe a tear away, and then it will be back to business as usual.

If the same happens when a corporation sends people into space, there will be a huge PR disaster and perhaps lawsuits as well. Self-interest would seem to dictate that they use all due care.

Is it possible that someone may screw up somewhere anyway, get greedy and careless and people will die? Of course. But since the government doesn't make the component parts themselves, as Ursa points out, it could also happen with a government mission. It did happen with the Challenger.

Like I said, I don't see any commercial entity being pure in its motives, but I don't see that with the US government either. And the government has more ability to sweep its mistakes under the carpet.
 

Venusian Broon

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I seem to recall one of the Apollo 11 crew (Buzz Aldrin?) saying, in a documentary made many years after their mission, that the whole craft (rocket and modules) contained a million components (possibly an exaggeration), all of them bought from the manufacturers with the lowest prices.

Famously, they coated a lot of the sensitive parts of the Voyager craft with kitchen tinfoil to protect it from Jupiter's magnetic fields:

NASA wrapped its most famous spacecraft in aluminum kitchen foil — a last-minute move that may have saved the mission

:p
 

Venusian Broon

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Really interesting was an interview with Elon Musk in which he described having multiple launches on a daily basis. It's the kind of statement that makes part of me say, "yeah, right," while another part admires his ability to dream big. For all sorts of readons, I'm not sure that corporate space programmes are, in the long term, sustainable but they do seem to be injecting some of the Apollo spirit back into space exloration.

I totally agree with you. The thing is, right now, there is 'low hanging fruit' that I guess could be quite profitable. Namely the cheap launching of Earth orbit satellites. And, I suppose, the provisioning and expansion of the ISS - but that's a government project that if it were 'privatised' really does not seem to give a tangible value to anything but a company with an extremely long-term view (and therefore required as well to be extremely long-term funded - a risk if their revenue stream comes from something else).

The question is there anything with a profit margin any further out - right now? Perhaps there's more scope for scientific missions - at least they could possibly do more of them, if the launching system was 10 times cheaper, I guess.

But after you start going outside the Earth-moon system, things go up a notch in difficulty. With all the lovely pictures we get from Mars from the various rovers, it should be remembered that almost half of all missions to Mars don't get there and only a third of them actually reach the surface. Of course this is all the missions, including the early ones where we were learning better how to do it, but the reality is that mistakes, even the smallest ones, make a huge difference the further you are from Earth.
 

J Riff

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Have people already died in the 'space program' that you haven't heard about? I remember, in the 60s, people started working on rockets because the Govt. flat out didn't have that kind of money to toss around. And, there are easier ways, more dangerous but possible... to get up there.
 

Parson

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I'm not sure we've ever heard the true story of the Russian space program. There might have been more fatalities there then we expect.
 

Vladd67

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I seem to recall one of the Apollo 11 crew (Buzz Aldrin?) saying, in a documentary made many years after their mission, that the whole craft (rocket and modules) contained a million components (possibly an exaggeration), all of them bought from the manufacturers with the lowest prices.
I have seen that quote attributed to both John Glenn and Alan Shephard, also Wally Schirra infact almost anyone connected to space flight.
My Life Depended on 150,000 Pieces of Equipment – Each Bought from the Lowest Bidder | Quote Investigator
For a mean spirited and anti science view of the Falcon Heavy mission we only have to look to the Guardian.
Why Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch is utterly depressing | Nathan Robinson
Nice to see that the majority of comments rip into the article’s author.
 

Ursa major

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I have seen that quote attributed to both John Glenn and Alan Shephard, also Wally Schirra infact almost anyone connected to space flight.
The difference, in the case of my quote, was that the person (whose accurate identity I wish I could recall) was saying it to/on camera.
 

Montero

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Tossing the car into space....well
He needed a test load to prove what his rocket could lift
He owns lots of Teslas 'cos his company makes them
It will get a lot more newspaper headlines for both the rocket launch and the Tesla car than just putting a ton of junk up there to prove the rocket works
It's funny. (My puritanical green streak deplores it, the rest of me thinks it's hilarious.)
It's good that space work is continuing - I think we need to be able to continue exploring the galaxy, to go beyond exploring just this solar system. (I hope by the time we reach other habitable planets we've learnt to stop mistreating them - that is something to work on as well, not instead of.)
 
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Edward M. Grant

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