The Risk of Death by Meteor greater than the Risk of Death by Global Warming

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 2nd, 2014

Week in Review

There is an oft used expression that goes something like this.  In the long run we’ll all be dead.  So the long-term isn’t as important as the short-term.  Politicians live their lives by this.  As they irresponsibly borrow and spend to win votes.  Who don’t worry about the long-term damage they’re doing to the country.  Because in the long run they’ll be dead.  But they don’t have that same sentiment when it comes to global warming.  Where they say we must act now before it’s too late.  And we give our children a future devastated by global warming.  Giving them a future devastated by their reckless and irresponsible financial policies they’re okay with.  But not a future ruined by global warming.  Even though the financial devastation will probably come first.  Or this (see 400-kg meteor hits the moon by QMI Agency posted 2/24/2014 on the Toronto Sun).

On Sept. 11, 2013, a 400-kg rock hurtling through space at 61,000 km/h in the Mare Nubium smashed into the surface of the moon, releasing as much energy as 15 tonnes of TNT.

The meteor was 10 times bigger than the last record-holder, a 40-kg rock NASA observed hitting the moon March 17, 2013.

They say this rock was as big as a small car.  We better hope that nothing bigger than this hits the moon.  For if something does it could break the moon apart.  Disrupting tidal currents on earth.  And sending a chunk of the moon much larger than a small car into Earth.  Doing more damage than we can even imagine.  A real concern.  For a current hypothesis for the formation of the moon is from something as large as Mars smashing into Earth.  So there is a lot of space crap zinging around out there.  And we would probably be better served in trying to think of a way to defend against getting crushed to death by a rock from outer space than worrying about global warming.  For the odds are probably greater for getting hit by a piece of space crap than dying from global warming.


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The Government would not provide for the Apollo 11 Astronauts’ Families in the event of their Deaths

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 1st, 2012

Week in Review

President Obama told small business owners, the people who built their businesses, that they didn’t build their businesses.  His defenders say he was taken out of context.  That he was talking about the roads and bridges that made their success possible.  But he also said that these small business owners weren’t smarter than other people.  And that there were a lot of smart people.  Implying that these small owners either just had dumb luck.  Or it was the road and bridges that made everything possible.  For government is the great prime mover.  And the great nurturer.  Everything good happens because of good government.

They love to point to the space program.  Putting the first man on the moon.  How it was government that made that happen.  Even though private companies built it.  North American Aviation built the command/service module.  Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation built the Lunar Module.  Boeing, North American Aviation and Douglas Aircraft Company built the Saturn V launch vehicle.  NASA contracted this work out.  And paid these private contractors with our tax dollars.  But these private companies built it.  Interesting, the actual government part, the astronauts, the people the government hired, train and paid was also the government’s least impressive part.

This was where the government did not nurture very well.   Where the government truly failed to provide.  For our brave astronauts.  Who were doing something so dangerous that they couldn’t afford the cost of the life insurance policies to take care of their families.  Not on their meager government salaries (they were meager back then).  In case something went wrong.  So with the government choosing NOT to help their families in case something went wrong these brave men did what they could should their mission serving their country end in their deaths (see Neil Armstrong Couldn’t Afford Life Insurance, So He Used a Creative Way to Provide for His Family If He Died by Robert Johnson, Business Insider, posted 8/31/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

After all the danger, glory, and fame it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day astronauts are federal employees subject to the same General Schedule (GS) pay scale as everyone from typists to CIA agents.

Unfortunately, a federal salary wasn’t enough for Apollo 11 astronauts to purchase life insurance…

So about a month before they were set to go to the moon, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin were locked into a Plexiglas room together and got busy providing for their families the only way they could — they signed hundreds of autographs.

In what would become a common practice, the guys signed their names on envelopes emblazoned with various space-related images. The ‘covers’ would, of course, become intensely valuable should the trio perish on the mission. They’re now often referred to as ” Apollo Insurance Covers.”

And to ensure the covers would hold maximum value, the crew put stamps on them, and sent them in a package to a friend, who dumped them all in the mail so they would be postmarked July 16, 1969 — the day of the mission’s success — or its failure.

The government didn’t build it.  And they paid our astronauts poorly.  Refusing even to take care of their families if the government killed them in their space program.  Yet this is the example the Left likes to point to about how great and wonderful the government is.  What a disservice to the private contractors that actually built it.  And those brave astronauts who flew in what they built.  No.  Government should be ashamed of itself for making these brave astronauts sign collectibles that would only gain sufficient value if they died on the job.  Their celebrity in death would have been the only way they could have provided for their families.  Because the government wouldn’t.  How sad.  And macabre.  And this is what the government points proudly to today as a government success?  Cold, cruel detachment?  No, this was not government’s finest hour.  It may have been NASA’s.  The private contractors.  And the astronauts.  But it wasn’t government’s.  Because the government didn’t build it.

God bless Neil Armstrong.  May his spirit soar through space.  Back to where he first set foot on the moon.  Where he can look upon the earth and see it as so few have seen it before.  And smile.  Like it was 1969 once again.


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Corduroy Roads, Positive Buoyancy, Negative Buoyancy, Carbon Dioxide, Crush Depth, Pressurization, Rapid Decompression and Space

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 9th, 2012

Technology 101

Early Submarines could not Stay Submerged for Long for the Carbon Dioxide the Crew Exhaled built up to Dangerous Levels

People can pretty much walk anywhere.  As long as the ground is fairly solid beneath our feet.  Ditto for horses.  Though they tend to sink a little deeper in the softer ground than people do.  Carts are another story.  And artillery trains.  For their narrow wheels and heavy weight distributed on them tend to sink when the earthen ground is wet.  Early armies needing to move cannon and wagons through swampy areas would first build roads through these areas.  Out of trees.  Called corduroy roads.  It was a bumpy ride.  But you could pull heavy loads with small footprints through otherwise impassable areas.  As armies mechanized trucks and jeeps with fatter rubber tires replaced the narrow wheels on wagons.  Then tracked vehicles came along.  Allowing the great weights of armored vehicles with large guns to move across open fields.  The long and wide footprints of these vehicles distributing that heavy weight over a larger area.  Still, nothing can beat the modern rubber tire on a paved road for a smooth ride.  And the lower resistance between tire and road increases gas mileage.  Which is why trucks like to use as few axles on their trailers as possible.  For the more tires on the road the more friction between truck and road.  And the higher fuel consumption to overcome that friction.  Which is why we have to weigh trucks for some try to cheat by pulling heavier loads with too few axles.  When they do the high weight distributed through too few wheels will cause great stresses on the roadway.  Causing them to break and crumble apart.   

Man and machine can move freely across pretty much anything.  If we don’t carry food and water with us we could even ‘live off the land’.  But one thing we can’t do is walk or drive on water.  We have to bridge streams and rivers.  Go around lakes.  Or move onto boats.  Which can drive on water.  If they are built right.  And are buoyant.  Because if a boat weighed less than the water it displaced it floated.  Much like a pair of light-weight, spongy flip-flops made out of foam rubber.  Throw a pair into the water and they will float.  Put them on your feet and step into the deep end of a pool and you’ll sink.  Because when worn on your feet the large weight of your body distributed to the light pair of flip-flops makes those flip-flops heavier than the water they displace.  And they, along with you, sink.  Unlike a boat.  Which is lighter than the water it displaces.  As long as it is not overloaded.  Even if it’s steel.  Or concrete.  You see, the weight of the boat includes all the air inside the hull.  So a large hull filled with cargo AND air will be lighter than the water it displaces.  Which is why boats float. 

Early sail ships had great range.  As long as the wind blew.  Their range only being limited by the amount of food and fresh water they carried.  Later steam engines and diesel-electric engines had greater freedom in navigation not having to depend on the prevailing winds.  But they had the same limitations of food and water.  And when we took boats under the water we had another limitation.  Fresh air.  Early submarines could not stay submerged for long.  For underwater they could not pull air into a diesel-electric engine.  So they had to run on batteries.  Which had a limited duration.  So early subs spent most of their time on the surface.  Where they could run their diesel engines to recharge their batteries.  And open their hatches to get fresh air into the boat.  For when submerged the carbon dioxide the crew exhaled built up.  If it built up too much you could become disoriented and pass out.  And die.  If a sub is under attack staying under water for too long and the levels of carbon dioxide build up to dangerous levels a captain has little choice but to surface and surrender.  So the crew can breathe again.

Rapid Decompression at Altitude can be Catastrophic and Violent

Being in a submarine has been historically one of the more dangerous places to be in any navy (second to being on the deck of an aircraft carrier).  Just breathing on a sub had been a challenge at times while trying to evade an enemy destroyer.  But there are other risks, too.  Some things float.  And some things sink.  A submarine is somewhere in between.  It will float on the surface when it has positive buoyancy.  And sink when it has negative buoyancy.  But submarines operate in the oceans.  Which are very deep.  And the deeper you go the greater the pressure of the water.  Because the deeper you go there is more ocean above you pressing down on you.  And oceans are heavy.  If a sub goes too deep this pressure will crush the steel hull like a beer can.  What we call crush depth.  Killing everyone on board.  So a sub cannot go too deep.  Which makes going below the surface a delicate and risky business.  To submerge they flood ballast tanks.  Replacing air within the hull with water.  Making it sink.  Other tanks fill with water as necessary to ‘trim’ the boat.  Make it level under water.  When under way they use forward propulsion to maintain depth and trim with control surfaces like on an airplane.  If everything goes well a submarine can sink.  Then stop at a depth below the surface.  And then resurface.  Modern nuclear submarines can make fresh water and clean air.  So they can stay submerged as long as they have food for the crew to eat.

An airplane has no such staying power like a sub.  For planes have nothing to keep them in air but forward propulsion.  So food and water are not as great an issue.  Fuel is.  And is the greatest limitation on a plane.  In the military they have special airplanes that fly on station to serve as gas stations in the air for fighters and bombers.  To extend their range.  And it is only fuel they take on.  For other than very long-range bombers a flight crew is rarely in the air for extended hours at a time.  Some bomber crews may be in the air for a day or more.  But there are few crew members.  So they can carry sufficient food and water for these longer missions.  As long as they can fly they are good.  And fairly comfortable.  Unlike the earlier bomber crews.  Who flew in unpressurized planes.  For it is very cold at high altitudes.  And there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe.  So these crew members had to wear Arctic gear to keep from freezing to death.  And breathe oxygen they carried with them in tanks.  Pressurizing aircraft removed these problems.  Which made being in a plane like being in a tall building on the ground.  Your ears may pop but that’s about all the discomfort you would feel.  If a plane lost its pressurization while flying, though, it got quite uncomfortable.  And dangerous. 

Rapid decompression at altitude can be catastrophic.  And violent.  The higher the altitude the lower the air pressure.  And the faster the air pressure inside the airplane equals the air pressure outside the airplane.  The air will get suck out so fast that it’ll take every last piece of dust with it.  And breathable air.  Oxygen masks will drop in the passenger compartment.  The flight attendants will scramble to make sure all passengers get on oxygen.  As does the flight crew.  Who call in an emergency.  And make an emergency descent to get below 10 thousand feet.  Almost free falling out of the sky while air traffic control clears all traffic from beneath them.  Once below 10 thousand feet they can level off and breathe normally.  But it will be very, very cold.

Man’s Desire is to Go where no Man has Gone before and where no Human Body should Be

Space flight shares some things in common with both submarines and airplanes.  Like airplanes they can’t fly without fuel.  The greatest distance we’ve ever flown in space was to the moon and back.  The Saturn V rocket of the Apollo program was mostly fuel.   The rocket was 354 feet tall.  And about 75% of it was a fuel tank.  In 3 stages.  The first stage burned for about 150 seconds.  The second stage burned for about 360 seconds.  The third stage burned for about 500 seconds (in two burns, the first to get into earth orbit and the second to escape earth orbit).  Add that up and it comes to approximately 16 minutes.  After that the astronauts were then coasting at about 25,000 miles per hour towards the moon.  Or where the moon would be when they get there.  The pull of earth’s gravity slowed it down until the pull of the moon’s gravity sped it back up.  So that’s a lot of fuel burned at one time to hurl the spacecraft towards the moon.  The remaining fuel on board used for minor course corrections.  And to escape lunar orbit.  For the coast back home.  There was no refueling available in space.  So if something went wrong there was a good chance that the spacecraft would just float forever through the universe with no way of returning home.  Much like a submarine that can’t keep from falling in the ocean.  If it falls too deep it, too, will be unable to return home.

Also like in a submarine food and fresh water are critical supplies.  They brought food with them.  And made their own water in space with fuel cells.  It had to last for the entire trip.  About 8 days.  For in space there were no ports or supply ships.  You were truly on your own.  And if something happened to your food and water supply you didn’t eat or drink.  If the failure was early in the mission you could abort and return home.  If you were already in lunar orbit it would make for a long trip home.  The lack of food and hydration placing greater stresses on the astronauts making the easiest of tasks difficult.  And the critical ones that got you through reentry nearly impossible.  Also like on a submarine fresh air to breathe is critical.  Even more so because of the smaller volume of the spacecraft.  Which can fill up with carbon dioxide very quickly.  And unlike a sub a spacecraft can’t open a hatch for fresh air.  All they can do is rely on a scrubber system to remove the carbon dioxide from their cramped quarters.

While a submarine has a thick hull to protect it from the crushing pressures of the ocean an airplane has a thin aluminum skin to keep a pressurized atmosphere inside the aircraft.  Just like a spacecraft.  But unlike an aircraft, a spacecraft can’t drop below 10,000 feet to a breathable atmosphere in the event of a catastrophic depressurization.  Worse, in the vacuum of space losing your breathable atmosphere is the least of your troubles.  The human body cannot function in a vacuum.  The gases in the lungs will expand in a vacuum and rupture the lungs.  Bubbles will enter the bloodstream.  Water will boil away (turn into a gas).  The mouth and eyes will dry out and lose their body heat through this evaporation.  The water in muscle and soft tissue will boil away, too.  Causing swelling.  And pain.  Dissolved nitrogen in the blood will reform into a gas.  Causing the bends.  And pain.  Anything exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation will get a severe sunburn.  Causing pain.  You will be conscious at first.  Feeling all of this pain.  And you will know what is coming next.  Powerless to do anything about it.  Brain asphyxiation will then set in.  Hypoxia.  The body will be bloated, blue and unresponsive.  But the brain and heart would continue on.  Finally the blood boils.  And the heat stops.  In all about a minute and half to suffer and die.

Man is an adventurer.  From the first time we walked away from our home.  Rode the first horse.  Harnessed the power of steam.  Then conquered the third dimension in submarines, airplanes and spacecraft.  We are adventurers.  It’s why we crossed oceans and discovered the new world.  Why we climbed the highest mountains.  And descended to the oceans’ lowest depth.  Why we fly in airplanes.  And travelled to the moon and back.  When things worked well these were great adventures.  When they did not they were horrible nightmares.  While a few seek this adventure most of us are content to walk the surface of the earth.  To feel the sand through our toes.   Or walk to the poolside bar in our flip-flops.  To enjoy an adult beverage on a summer’s day.  While adventurers are still seeking out something new.  And waiting on technology to allow them to go where no man has gone before.  Especially if it’s a place no human body should be.


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Russia’s Ambitious Unmanned Mars Mission Fails

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2012

Week in Review

The Russians planned a mission to land a spacecraft on a moon of Mars.  Excavate some material.  And return to Earth.  You’d have to go back to America’s Apollo Moon Program for something as bold.  Unfortunately their mission failed (see Russian space probe crashes into Pacific by VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV posted 1/15/2012 on my way).

A Russian space probe designed to boost the nation’s pride on a bold mission to a moon of Mars came down in flames Sunday, showering fragments into the south Pacific west of Chile’s coast, officials said…

The Phobos-Ground was designed to travel to one of Mars’ twin moons, Phobos, land on it, collect soil samples and fly them back to Earth in 2014 in one of the most daunting interplanetary missions ever. It got stranded in Earth’s orbit after its Nov. 9 launch, and efforts by Russian and European Space Agency experts to bring it back to life failed…

Russia’s space chief has acknowledged the Phobos-Ground mission was ill-prepared, but said that Roscosmos had to give it the go-ahead so as not to miss the limited Earth-to-Mars launch window.

Mars is the Earth’s neighbor.  Phobos-Ground was going to take about 3 years for a round trip to a Mars moon.  The launch was rushed because of the different orbits of Mars and Earth.  It’s sort of like throwing a pass in the NFL.  You don’t throw the ball to the receiver.  You throw it where the receiver will be.  So they had to launch Phobos-Ground so it would arrive where the moon of Mars would be.  Not where it was.

Because of these great distances and the movement of the planets, navigating between these heavenly bodies is not easy.  Also, this was an unmanned mission.  Because as of now the technology does not exist to build a ship large enough with enough food and water and energy to sustain human life for a roundtrip to Mars.  Not to mention the affect of weightlessness, the lack of exercise, fresh air, sunshine, etc.  Or what would happen if an astronaut or a cosmonaut or other space traveler caught a cold or suffered an appendicitis.  An unmanned mission was difficult enough.  A manned mission is beyond the realm of possibility.  For now.

Space travel is costly, difficult and highly risky.  Just to reach Mars.  Let alone intergalactic travel.  The obstacles to overcome may be insurmountable.  Yet if those having the technology were to do so they no doubt would have the technology to end hunger, control the weather and eliminate war.  And have no conceivable reason for contacting a far distant planet.

Unless they’re just incredibly bored.  And have money to burn.  Or are like the Professor on the television show Gilligan’s Island.  Who could build a radio receiver out of coconuts but couldn’t figure out how to patch a hole in a boat.  Smart enough to do the complex.  But not smart enough to something simpler.  Which would negate the necessity of the more complex.


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