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Space Science

Space Rope Trick Experiment Goes Awry 200

Tjeerd writes "An experiment that envisaged sending a parcel from space to Earth on a 30-kilometre tether fell short of its goal yesterday when the long fibre rope did not fully unwind, Russian Mission Control said. It was intended to deliver a spherical capsule, called Fotino, attached to the end of the tether back to Earth — a relatively simple and cheap technology that could be used in the future to retrieve bulkier cargoes from space.""
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Space Rope Trick Experiment Goes Awry

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  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @11:51AM (#20756165) Homepage Journal
    A vanishingly small number of situations require a specific material object to cross the globe in a couple hours. The Internet relieves any information hauling needs, and the rise of manufacturing and general ubiquity of export goods has meant that there's probably an identical copy of that object that can be had more locally. So most remaining situations would be fully burdened (not amortized like all 2,000 packages in a neighborhood UPS truck). Now it takes a LOT of energy to get even the smallest object into orbit, ...
  • by eln ( 21727 ) * on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @11:51AM (#20756167)
    A couple of reasons I can think of:

    1.) Cost. Sure, you could get a package delivered to Russia in less than an hour, but it would cost 3 million dollars.

    2.) Right now, the vehicles we have that are designed for quick takeoff, orbit, and re-entry carry rather more destructive cargo []. Maybe FedEx doesn't want the Russians mistaking one of their rockets filled with Barney DVDs for a nuclear attack and triggering World War III. I would have to imagine the PR from that sort of thing would be somewhat damaging.
  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @12:06PM (#20756345)
    Everyone's lives aren't yours to fuck with, you pompous pricks.

    Yeah, let's go back to the days when science didn't create problems like this so that we can all die of the plague as nature intended. You science types, how dare you think that you can continue to dicker in my affairs.

    I'm outta here. I need to go chop wood for 12 hours a day so I don't freeze to death this winter.
  • by hab136 ( 30884 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @12:17PM (#20756457) Journal

    If you want your life and property under yet another constant threat, buy your own planet and move there. [...] Seriously, get off this planet.

    Duh, that's why we're building a space elevator!

    I'm sick and tired of the freewheeling science geeks that find new ways to put us all at risk with their useless toys, generation after generation.

    Yeah, germ theory, that polio vaccine, seat belts, and global communications (like the internet) are evil. Those bastards. /sarcasm

    Nobody but a selfish minority is interested in anyone making black holes in particle accelerators, building doomsday devices or suspending lethal pieces of engineering above everyone's heads.

    You seem to think that the scientists building these things are either suicidal or incompetent (unable to assess the risks). I'd argue the people doing this advanced, risky thinks are smarter than either of us.

    As for a "selfish minority" endangering the rest of the populace - no. The major threats to human life are heart disease and cancer (>50% of deaths in the US), automobiles (40k deaths/year), and other humans (homicide/suicide/police/military). New methods of space travel/delivery? Not so much.

    You seem to really hate science for some reason. Arguing a project is risky is one thing; namecalling is just blind prejudice.
  • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <> on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @12:44PM (#20756873) Journal
    I know your trying to prove a point with a bad analogy, but it is really bad.

    Energy to get information down a gable is not much at all. You are also using an example of information transport (audio) and trying to apply it to physical object transport. The GP's point was that we can transport massive amounts of information in the 3 hours it takes to fly a spaceship across the globe (in said example).

    Also since audio messages are information they are amortized with the millions of web pages sent down cables.

    An example of things not needing to ship quickly follows:

    After 911, MBNA wanted American flags with "God Bless America" to greet all of their workers world wide on the way into the office, this was decided later on in the day on September 11th. We could either print everything locally and ship it out, or get vendors in other parts of the world to print them too. In the past getting people in Dublin to print them would have required shipping negatives (30 years ago) or disks (20? years ago) or Cds (10 - 20 years ago (maybe 15 to 20?). We were able to send the file in an hour and get it produced locally on identical equipment, where previously we would have paid FedEx out the ass (and been delayed however many days for airplane to fly again). Fast physical delivery is far less important than it used to be.
  • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @02:03PM (#20757931)

    It's really quite simple. You can have anything delivered, worldwide (in areas with sufficient infrastructure) within 24 hours, often quicker for a (relatively) reasonable price. The faster something gets somewhere offers diminishing returns but exponential increases in cost. Sub-orbital ballistics can theoretically get anything anywhere in about 90 minutes, but at hideously outrageous cost (and in the real world, prep time wipes out any time advantage unless you have the craft & payload on standby at all times . . . like nukes.)

    Information, on the other hand, travels at the speed of light--limited only by the bandwidth of what you're sending, and it's dirt cheap to do so. So the options are basically:

    -Pay $ to get a reconstructable model now
    -Pay $$ to get the actual item tomorrow or
    -Pay $$$,$$$,$$$+ to get it in under 3 hours.

    So, from the perspective of FedEx, how many situations actually warrant such a rapid physical shipment knowing it's going to be so hideously expensive for the near future? Is there any real possibility of recouping costs of even seriously investigating such an idea?

    (the answer's "not yet, maybe in a couple of decades")

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday September 26, 2007 @03:13PM (#20758785) Homepage
    I had a friend who was a translator for the US military who went over to the USSR (specifically Kazkhstan) as part of a disarmament mission under one of the nuclear disarmament treaties (I forget which one). She often referred to them as somewhat of a scam, as both sides kind of liked the excuse to phase out older systems and create new ones to replace them. Both sides had teams go to inspect and verify the destruction of said systems. They could inspect anything large enough to conceal a "treaty limited item", which really was just used as an excuse to snoop as much as possible. The US side sent their teams over with laser measuring devices; she said that the Russians were really impressed with that, as they had sent their teams over with a much simpler device -- a stick. If it fit, they could inspect.

    Anyways, everything to be destroyed was dismantled and ultimately crushed and scrapped. My friend saw this as somewhat tragic; here were these great feats of engineering that could deliver a payload anywhere on the planet with good accuracy in the matter of time you might spend waiting for a pizza on a busy night, and they were being wasted. Which gave her and some other members of her team an idea; wouldn't that make a great pizza delivery system if it could be retrofit instead? The concept was that you retrofit it with a new heat shield so keep the right temperature for baking, and you put uncooked pizzas in on racks welded into the "warhead". The pizzas bake on reentry, and then it detaches and parachutes down for landing. They even did some off-the-cuff estimates on how much it would cost, and they came up with, if a missile full of pizzas was ordered, a delivery charge of something like then-$20 per pizza -- but what a delivery!

    She claims that she told the idea to a Soviet officer, who looked at her like she was crazy.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."