Posts Tagged ‘Space X’

Space X: Greed Makes Stupid

September 4, 2016

One can be smart, without being really intelligent. A crocodile can be smart, but it is not really intelligent. And this true not just of individuals, but of civilizations.

We live in the age of stupid. A major freeway which I know all too well, has proclaimed itself “smart”, according to the giant, very bright LED panels along it. Those “smarts” involve red lights on access ramps. By smoothing the flow in, they are supposed to make traffic smoother. And they do. On the freeway. The freeway flows a tiny bit better, but traffic jams on the streets and roads leading to said access ramps extend now for miles, and the global gridlock is worse than ever, because those blockages in turn block streets and roads parallel to the giant freeway (those secondary thoroughfares used to carry traffic parallel to that of the freeway plus local traffic; now they are parking lots).

When Obama climbed on the throne, he proclaimed that everything would get “smart”, just like He is. Example: the “smart” electric grid (as if grids had not been maximally smart before). It is true that Obama became president with what, in retrospect, were smarts tricks… rather than substance (as the ongoing crash of Obamacare demonstrates… accompanied, as it is, with the crash of nearly anything Obama touched; OK, today China’s president Xi shamed Obama into signing the Paris climate accord, COP 21, so maybe I should say thank you for consenting to save the planet a bit).

The productivity in the US, (and other leading Western countries) keeps on going down. Why? Education has been going down. We enjoy the age of stupid. We wallop in stupidity. And it shows:

Space X Sept 1, 2016 explosion. Not an accident, a system where greed has replaced expertise..

Space X Sept 1, 2016 explosion. Not an accident, a system where greed has replaced expertise..

The age of stupid was inaugurated by Ronald Reagan, a remarkably stupid B movie actor whose first claim to fame had been to make the PUBLIC university of California, which had been specifically founded to provide FREE topmost education to the students of California, into an institution which only the rich could attend. Why? Because the stupid Reagan thought that was smart that only those who have money would have the keys of the world. (Then they would give careers to uneducated losers such as himself.) Reagan’s career started as a sport announcer on the radio: he was always owned by bosses full of money, and reacted to rich masters as dogs do, salivating, wagging his tail, barking in their defense.

Now, Reagan’s obscene mentality has conquered the world. It has become smart, hip, fashionable, to proclaim that Reagan was great. Even the French press views Reagan as a great president (for doing what he did not do, namely bringing the USSR down). And modest people, the non-rich, get as good an education as Reagan did, learning increasingly nothing, and most of what they learned, strictly by serving the rich.

Obama has proclaimed himself an admirer of Reagan, and a devout follower of the Financial Times. His presidency was under the sign of this doubled headed vulture.

Reagan, a creature whose fate barred him from higher mental pursuits, extolled instead the base notions of profit and greed. Profit and greed, said Reagan, were the highest, ultimate, most lofty, and most motivating pursuits of man. And a magnificently programmed Obama bleated faithfully behind. So Obama, smartly following orders, set-up Obamacare. Obamacare is characterized by insufficient spending control: so that healthcare vultures can prosper with ever more profits and greed. That, according to Reagan, Obama’s guru, will insure better health care, because greed and profit are much motivating than care (Reagan and company claimed). That’s all very smart, makes us all smart, because it is such a deeply flawed logic: greed and care do not apply to the same modes of brain operations. When one provides with care, one is not spurred by greed. These are antagonistic modes of mental operations.

Obama also decided to apply profit and greed to space: surely, that would be smart (his guru Reagan had said so). If there was profit and greed in space, space would open up, prosper, get smarter. Thus, instead of two private rocket launching companies contracting with NASA, the smart Obama fostered the creation of several others. Not understanding that the number of rocket scientists and technicians is limited.

This flurry of new space enterprises was the case of “private” companies, founded and funded… by the government. Bezos’ Blue Origins is government subsidized, because Bezos’ business, Amazon, does not pay taxes (a tax exempt status the worst of terrible men, Donald Trump, has proclaimed he would change, in his mental imbalance).

Space X, led by a self-taught engineer, Musk, smells even better: Obama gave him direct and indirect subsidies, and that was it.

Tall, telegenic Obama signed with tall, telegenic Musk a Space Act Agreement (SAA) “to develop and demonstrate commercial orbital transportation service“. (Notice the stupidity: with whom do you “commerce” in space? You set up space stations for plutocrats, thanks to their tax-exempt status?)

All this makes Musk very profitable. Penniless when Obama ascended the throne, Musk, propelled for years by billions of Obama dollars, was soon worth more than 12 billion dollars, all by himself. Let’s hope Musk is grateful and remembers who made him, after Obama retires.

In 2011, SpaceX estimated that Falcon 9 v1.0 rocket development costs were on the order of $300 million. Cheap. Investors were thrilled. Indeed, NASA evaluated that development costs would have been $3.6 billion if a traditional cost-plus contract approach had been used. (Indeed development of the new Ariane 6, which uses existing French military rockets for boosters and the existing Vulcain Hydrogen engine, will cost at least 4 billion Euros.)

Let’s stop here for a moment: Space X is supposed to be a private company. However, it develops rockets miraculously at 1/12 of their real cost, says NASA itself. Explanation? NASA has got to be making the difference (it’s helping Space X is in myriad ways). Obama invested 12 times more public money in Space X than the extremely wealthy private individuals who profit from it. Jesus turned the water into wine, Obama turned NASA into a cash cow for his friends. Mooo. Honni soit qui mal y pense.  

Can the USA do with four, five, or more rocket companies?

No.

Why not? Because launching chemical rockets is a flimsy business. In the Sixteenth Century, a Chinese inventor has been rumored to have strapped himself to a rocket propelled kite, and gaily went out in a puff of smoke. The fundamentals have not changed since: we still use chemical propulsion.

Space X uses primitive propulsion: RP1, rocket grade kerosene, basically the same as civilian jets. The more sophisticated US and European rockets use liquid hydrogen.

The flimsiness of space rockets and their engines presents the same problem as it did eight centuries ago: it requires minute attention to detail to make it work. If we had enormous power at our disposal, we could insure wide safety margins. But, for that, one would have to have more than chemical propulsion. Musk has claimed he could divide by ten the cost of launches with re-usable rockets. Experienced US companies, the Russians and Europeans aerospace engineers, beg to differ: they have long pondered the re-usability of flimsy rockets.

(Ariane Espace has now ‘project Adeline’ to recover the expensive parts of Ariane 6, mostly engine and electronics, using drone technology, in the long run; but that completely different method from recovering the entire fragile, heavy rocket would use only 1/17 of the fuel of Space X fuel stage recovery, with much fewer stresses…)

The Russians have launched more than 1,700 Soyuz, with a failure rate of 1/39. Ariane 5 has launched successfully more than 70 times in a row, putting a record 11 tons in GTO (Geostationary Orbit, 36,000 kilometers up) in August 2016.  Space X had two total losses out of 25 commercial launches… making it even worse than the notorious Space Shuttle.

Not all is bad about Space X. Musk’s notoriously bold technological spirit is refreshing, a bit like Donald Trump is refreshing. It is actually the sort of spirit which animated the Nazi engineers who developed the V2 (and then Saturn 5 in the US). There is little doubt that, to relatively little cost, one could fly heavy duty missions to Mars of Enceladus (a satellite of Saturn which has a huge ocean of water, and may harbor life, as the Cassini spacecraft, flying through plumes, found them laden with organics).

If anything, Space X forced Ariane Espace to decide cutting its launch cost by half (by scaring the French into developing Ariane 6, while forcing the Germans to give up on Ariane 5).

Yet, fundamentally, the ecology pushed by Obama of having many rocket companies cannot work. The serial explosions of Space X, in spite of its massive NASA support, demonstrate it.

At this point, rockets are too flimsy: they require great expertise from enough technicians and engineers. Say the total mass of these ‘rocket scientists’ is M. Obama decided to divide M by 6, on any specific rocket project. However, suppose one needs M/2 to operate one rocket project safely. Then Obama’s naive strategy of the more, the merrier, will lead to serial explosions, as observed. Obama, never an expert, does not seem to understand the notion of expert. Greed does not grow experts, education does.

Instead, one should go back to the strategy of the 1960s, as led by president Kennedy: big private-public projects, with clear state exploration goals. This actually built up on a strategy launched by president Roosevelt, and pursued by Eisenhower. Massive public spending on education, infrastructure, science, technology, and associated defense projects.

Efficient, large scale Space colonization, ultimately, will rest on new science, thus new education. Ultimately commuting to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) safely, efficiently, will require completely new propulsion and, or, material science (futuristic material science would allow to deploy enormous wings, and de-orbit softly, cooly and thus safely).

As I have long argued, i is clear that, to go to Mars, we need nuclear fission engines (because of radiation away from Earth’s magnetic shield, we cannot stay in space the 18 months it takes now; a nuclear fission engine could get to Mars in just 6 weeks). Space X cannot develop this: it does not have the expertise. Yet, the US has operated nuclear fission rocket engines before, and now NASA, following Russia, is warming up to the possibility again. Nuclear propulsion is what needs to be financed, instead the musky greed of eight century old technology.

The philosophy that greed does it all, is deeply flawed: otherwise crocodiles would have inherited the Earth. It is a philosophy by imbeciles, for imbeciles.

History shows that imbecility is what kills most civilizations. Imbecile leaders, though, favor imbecile followers, and an imbecile mental ecology. Nowadays, though, there is just one civilization, on one planet, and, if it dies, there is no replacement. That is why it is so important to deconstruct the planetary, Reagan-Thatcher inherited mood that greed can replace expertise.  

… While it keeps on festering, NASA’s internal watchdog, Paul Martin, called out his federal agency’s decision to allow Space X to lead the primary investigation of Space/Greed X explosion in 2015, observing it raised “questions about inherent conflicts of interest”. It is telling that the US administration, which has invested more in Space X than the private investors who stand to profit from it, is not interested by what happened to the public’s money.

Space X’s waste of taxpayer money similar to that of big banks. Both are protected by complexity so great, it escapes (according to plan) the understanding of the Commons. When the government gives your money to plutocrats, no question stands scrutiny. All the billions given to Space X, a dubious tech company, is as much money not given to fundamental research (where government is irreplaceable).

Our spaceship Earth, mismanaged by our stupid and greedy leadership, threatens to get completely out of control. All the ways out involve much more advanced technology (whether we opt for world war, or peace and concertation). Hence it is important to realize that the role of government is that of leader in matter of science and technology. And that the mood which shall lead cannot be just greed, but the most noble aspects of the human spirit.

It is the present oligarchic system which is the source of the present pandemic of stupidity. Because, given the same level of education, few brains think less well than many brains. For example, now in the US it’s down to just two minds: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom have been associated to extremely unsavory characters over the years. Anyway, how come those two are supposed to think and debate for us all? Well, for the same reason that Space X got many billions of public money. Greed. Not the honor of the human spirit.

Patrice Ayme’

P/S: [Written January 30, 2018, as Space X prepares to launch another re-used rocket… which may well explodes, but that’s besides the point…]

I was long very skeptical and critical of Musk… and the massive support he got under Obama (through NASA; see above). However, I must recognize that I am changing my mind, in light of Musk’s exploits.
Musk seems to have won the re-usability gamble. Reusing the rockets changes everything to the cost of going to space. A back of the envelope computation shows that going to low Earth orbit with a one hundred metric tons load shouldn’t cost much more than a couple dozens transoceanic flights by jumbo jet. This changes everything. Going to methane as propellant (“Raptor” engine) will enable to make fuel on Mars (where there are colossal ice cliffs and lava tubes… both enabling colonization).

Only imbeciles don’t change opinion, in light of new facts contradicting previous opinion. Wisdom is not a faithful mistress.

[BTW, at the time of this writing, January 2018, a government commission just recommended NOT to allow Space X to launch humans, as long as the accident above is not thoroughly understood. Apparently it came from an oxygen leak into defects of a carbon fiber wrap… Followed by an extremely violent detonation…]

Greed X

July 7, 2015

GREAT GREED FROM SPACE TO SCHOOLS IS EXPLODING IN OUR FACES FOR ALL TO SEE. Mr. Musk May Smell Good To Some, But His Corrupt Bucks Can’t Change Physics.

The creed, nowadays, is that greed is good. The screed of greed gave us Greece all over, the lemmings just don’t know it, they are too busy swimming.

Tomorrow, I will try to explain a simple observation on the European debt crisis an esteemed commenter and economist on this site, Partha from India, just made. It’s related directly to the essay below, which is about how superstitious people such as Mr. Obama (“Bless America”) believe all the creed one needs is from greed. Meh (as Paul Krugman would write, and cows have it.) Here she blows:

Greed Creed Scream : Space X Delusion Explodes

Greed Creed Scream : Space X Delusion Explodes

After thirty years of ever more blossoming greed creed, one was ready to extend it to NASA: just let billionaires replace NASA, their greed is greater, that would be better. It’s not just that greed is good: greed is better, say the crocodiles, and they chew. $33,400 to squeeze their palms, and don’t you be eaten, ha ha ha.

(The same philosophy was extended to education, and the president of the USA was seen cavorting with Melinda Gates: hey, when he graduates, maybe she has money for him!)

Some believe 70 virgins are waiting for them, if they just explode a little girl in a busy market place (a technique used by “Boko Haram” (“Book Forbidden”)). In the USA, superstitious politicians believe that 70 billionaires are waiting for them, if they just organize the public powers for them (see banksters’ greed in Greece, where corrupt politicians, some of them outright billionaires, like PM Papandreou, the Pelosi-Feinstein of Greece, just worse, harnessed the state to serve plutocracy). So Obama finished all his discourses by blessing the USA, as if he were the Pope.

And took real public money to finance billionaires. Same story as Greece. Exactly.

Space X has been heavily subsidized by NASA, under orders of the government of the USA, to the tune of billions of dollars. The president has posed with Elon Musk (both of them are so photogenic together, tall and slim). Never mind that Musk is not a rocket scientist: he plays one on TV, just as Obama plays religious figure on TV (“God Bless Amerika!).

Greed creed flows from the idea that if a few individuals can get very rich doing something, they will do it better, smarter, and, most importantly fairer, because money is just, and its servants, holly.

This is a delusion: the success of start-ups, in the USA, has primordially to do with the size of the market in the USA (the USA youth market is about four times that of France, which is the largest in Europe).

When Obama became president, Mr. Musk, after several rocket failures, was broke. Nothing that Obama, who, as president travelled dozens of times to California for private money, could not fix. Mr. Musk does not just have friends, he has an extensive family in charge of other businesses.

In 2015, Musk’s personal fortune reached 12 billion dollars. Mr. Musk creates companies which leverage massively massive government subsidies (electric cars, solar panels). As usual, companies interfacing with the government (Google, Facebook, etc.) are most happy. It is not just Lockheed-Martin and Boeing.

The head of NASA does not make 12 billion dollars in six years, as Mr. Musk did. How can Space X, which pays fortunes in the billions of dollars to its stakeholders be cheaper to operate than one where no corruption is involved. Ah, yes, because when a few guys get paid zillions, it’s corruption.

The idea that greed can overwhelm the laws of physics seems to come from the general creed that greed can overwhelm anything, and is of best counsel. That is assuredly not a scientific idea. It’s a well-known anti-scientific idea. But it’s back, and Space X is the proof.

Euclid replied to King Ptolemy’s request for an easier way of learning mathematics that “there is no Royal Road to geometry.” (According to lawyer-philosopher Proclus, writing more than seven centuries later.)

Rockets are very flimsily built controlled explosions, aimed precisely. To insure that this dangerous contraptions work nevertheless, one cannot spare expenses, and overlook any detail.

The principle of making a cheaper commercial space vehicle is the exact opposite: it is all about overlooking expensive details, cutting corners, obsessing about money, rather than exquisite technology.

The large, and not cheaply built Ariane 5, has made 78 successful commercial launches (although one was sub-optimal for one of the two satellites). Only one Ariane 5 launching two French communications satellites failed (vol14/ of Ariane 5, 157th of the overall Ariane project).

That was the first launch of the new, heavier version of Ariane, with a new giant main hydrogen engine, Vulcain 2.

The reason of that failure is instructive: the main giant hydrogen engine had a partial breach of the cryogenic small tubing which cools the engine with liquid hydrogen at minus 250 Celsius. The inside of the sophisticated Vulcain engine is at 3,000 degree Celsius (more than half the temperature of the surface of the sun). The failure happened at 96 seconds, the rocket became progressively harder to control over the next few minutes, and was destroyed by ground control at 450 seconds.

A thorough analysis made sure that the metallurgy got understood better, before the next launch, which was the Rosetta spacecraft. The next 65 launches worked. Thanks to not trying to cut corners.

The tubing concerned in Vulcain 1 was only .4 millimeter thick. For citizens of the USA that means one sixth of one tenth of an inch. Space X does not have any technology that sophisticated. Space X basically uses the technology invented by the Nazis, 75 years ago (time flies, but Space X does not). Ariane engineers are better, because rocket science is all they do, their lives are dedicated to do their job well. Their creed is not greed, but engineering.

How many different heavy launchers does the West need? The USA has around six launchers right now, either in existence or development. Still, it cannot launch any American in space (Ariane 5 could launch the largest USA command module under development, right away). Russia has launched around 2,000 Soyuz rockets (a much smaller vehicle than Ariane 5). Soyuz is a workhorse. It gets economies of scale, and is presently the only way for the USA to get to space.

Yes, Ariane 5, the safest vehicle around is human rated, and the USA could have bought Ariane rockets (NASA’s hyper expensive James Webb telescope is to be launched by Ariane 5). However collaborating with second rate Russia is safe, whereas depending upon the French superpower is just plain scary: it could prove that the French Socialist system has abilities beyond wine and cheese.

The (large) Space Launch System NASA works on makes sense, because it has unique capabilities. (It’s actually a modernization of Saturn V, using some Space Shuttle motors.)

But nobody needs Space X. And the mentality that just because it’s private, and operated by billionaires, it’s better, does not make sense when said private industry is actually heavily subsidized. Besides, whatever the rather lightly educated Mr. Musk may think, cheaper  physics does not exist. There is no billionaire’s road to physics.

There is no billionaire road to wisdom either. Quite the opposite: being a billionaire assuredly proves that one is not wise. Our greedy politicians and revolving door civil servants believe differently, naturally. Otherwise, they won’t be so greedy.

Oh, and my advice to the Congress of the USA? Forget about Space X, cut all its subsidies. Concentrate on NASA’s Space Launch System, and don’t hesitate to use Ariane 5: a bit of cooperation is not just friendly, it’s good economics.

Patrice Ayme’