After the long general strike in French Guiana halted launch operations, a deal has been reached and Arianespace is eagerly resuming flights. Today, Ariane V returned to service, placing the SGDC spacecraft into orbit for Brazil, and Koreasat 7 for South Korea. Both vehicles are commsats bound for geosynchronous orbit, the type of mission that has long been Ariane V’s bread and butter. This is the 78th consecutive successful mission for Ariane V.
Cape Canaveral has a brand new zipline! But alas, it is not available to tourists. Not unless you’re a really, really, really rich tourist and have managed to book a ride on a CST-100 Starliner!
One of the requirements for a man-rated launch vehicle is some way to quickly escape the vehicle in case it’s about to go kablooie. Mercury and Gemini had no escape system, other than the vehicle’s own launch abort system (which in the case of Gemini, consisted of ejection seats that were believed to be nearly 100% certain to be fatal if used on the pad, due to the sidewise orientation of the vehicle before launch), other than riding the elevator back down and hoping really really hard. The first pad escape system that would save crews not yet in the vehicle or allow crews to safely egress during an abort was a super-fast elevator on the Saturn V launch umbilical tower that delivered the crews to a blockhouse under the pad, where they could survive for some time, long enough anyway for whatever was going on above to burn itself out and the fumes to dissipate. On Shuttle, things got a little spunkier, with the addition of the slidewire baskets that would let crews slide rapidly to safety — which would consist of several armored transports parked nearby, which they’d jump into and drive away as quickly as possible.
The slidewires were deemed more effective (and more reliable, being powered entirely by gravity) than the Apollo elevator, and so it is perhaps no surprise that ULA, in building a system to meet Boeing and NASA’s specifications, is opting for a wire again. Only instead of a set of baskets that can carry several crew apiece, this one is a zipline with a couple dozen single-person seats, enough to evacuate the crew and ground support personnel, and because they are individual, you just jump in it and go — you don’t have to wait.
But I gotta admit, part of me really likes the fact that this system isn’t being built by some stodgy old defense contractor, like most of the system. No, this one’s being built by a company that specializes in ziplines — Terra-Nova LLC. And it’s pretty much exactly the same system they build for tourist use at locations around the world. They’ve got extensive experience; from their perspective, this was actually a very small job….
The first reflown Falcon 9 first stage core has completed its second mission, and been recovered successfully on a barge at sea. They also apparently recovered half of the payload fairing, which I didn’t know they were even thinking about attempting. The upper stage went on to deliver SES-10 to the correct geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Tomorrow, November 8, is Election Day here in the US. And with that in mind, I have just a few things to say on the subject of voting:
- It is important to vote. This is the most fundamental way in which your voice can be heard, and people have suffered, bled, and died for the right to vote — don’t squander it.
- It’s your vote. Only you get to decide what to do with it.
- You can vote for anybody you want. There may be some restrictions to their eligibility to actually serve, but you can cast your vote for absolutely anybody.
- There’s usually more than one thing on the ballot; I know most of the attention has been on the REALLY BIG ONE, but the other ones are important too. You might have school board members, sheriffs, judges, county commissioners, soil and water conservation district supervisors — and all of these people can have a very immediate impact on your life. Moreso than a senator, governor, or even the President. They’re worth taking seriously.
- If an incumbent is running unopposed, you can still vote for them. You can also vote against them, even if you have to write someone in.
- Even if you write in absurd candidates, remember, even those votes are counted. Sure, Donald Duck is never going to be President, but while it wouldn’t change the outcome, enough people voting for absurd candidates could cost a President the popular vote. That sends a powerful message. Yes, even Donald Duck votes count for something.
- You can vote for a candidate — and you can also vote against them. There’s more than one way to vote against them: you can vote for an absurd write-in (“none of the above” has a certain appeal, I have to admit), or you can vote for the candidate you think has the best shot of defeating them. Both are valid strategies; neither is a waste.
- Even if you don’t vote, you still get to complain about the outcome. There’s this thing called the First Amendment that pretty much guarantees that, at least in the United States. 😉 And hey, statistically speaking, on Wednesday we’ll probably all come together as a nation to loathe whoever we ended up electing.
- And last but not least, the only wasted vote is a vote that isn’t cast.
A sad update on the Vandenberg wildfire: although crews as of this morning had the fire 70% contained, it has now claimed its first victim. Well, not directly. A firefighter responding to the fire was killed when his water truck overturned on the way in to fight the fire. The Santa Ana winds fanning the fire also make it more difficult for top-heavy firefighting equipment to navigate the dangerous roads in the area. Keep his family in your thoughts; the firefighters who tackle wildfires are a special breed, who take extra risks the rest of us would never contemplate.
Crews are making significant progress fighting the fire, however, and off-base evacuation orders have now been lifted. The base is expected to soon return to normal operations. What everybody really needs down there, though, is some rain. The longstanding Southern California drought has greatly elevated the fire risks.
“Yutu”, the Jade Rabbit rover, delivered to the Moon by the Chang’e 3 lander, the first lunar lander sent by any nation other than the USA or the USSR and the first sent by anyone at all since 1976, has now officially ended its mission. The little rover survived a harrowing failure early on, but recovered (albeit without the ability to move anymore) and endured repeated long lunar nights (lasting almost half a month). But now, after an incredible 31 months, the rover can no longer survive. It’s well past its primary mission, which was only slated for three months. I haven’t been able to find out whether Jade Rabbit is succumbing to the environment or to a lack of funding — ten times past the original mission length, it’s often hard for any space agency to justify continued funding — but either way, it’s dang impressive. The mission team signed off by posting one final message on behalf of Jade Rabbit to Weibo: “I’m a rabbit that has seen the most stars!”
Today’s Frazz really gets the most important thing about nerd-dom: boundless curiosity. Well, that and a love of obscure facts. Okay, two things. But the curiosity is the important one. Go read it now!
Source: Frazz by Jef Mallett, July 11, 2016 Via @GoComics