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NASA Space Science

Ex-Astronaut Developing Plasma Rocket To Revitalize NASA 277

TechReviewAl writes "Former astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz believes that the private sector can revitalize NASA, and his company is developing a plasma rocket to back up that claim. Chang Diaz argues that private industry can be used to develop much of the basic technology needed for space exploration, allowing NASA to focus on more sophisticated and critical components. His company, Ad Astra, is developing a variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) that will be used to reposition the International Space Station. Last week, the rocket passed an important milestone in testing — reaching 200 kilowatts (enough to move the ISS). A video of the rocket can be seen on Ad Astra's site."
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Ex-Astronaut Developing Plasma Rocket To Revitalize NASA

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  • Awesome. (Score:4, Funny)

    by nametaken ( 610866 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @01:59PM (#29647293)

    Bonus points for the space invaders noises it apparently makes.

  • by NoYob ( 1630681 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @02:06PM (#29647413)
    His company, Ad Astra's has developing a variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) that has be using to reposition the International Space Station.

    There, I hope that making more sense.

  • Re:Awesome. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 05, 2009 @02:07PM (#29647419)

    and it's powered by an all Rush mix tape and 2 liters of orange soda.

  • by Jawn98685 ( 687784 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @02:09PM (#29647447)
    I've been building this big ol' rocket in my barn, here in Texas. If I could just get the feds off my back long enough to fuel the thing, I'd be happy to help out.
  • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @02:40PM (#29647851)

    AFAIK they have been working on VASIMR for over a decade now... This isn't exactly "news"

    No, no, no. These VASIMR experiments are entirely new. You must be thinking of the old VALKILMER experiments.

  • (I'd imagine 200kW is needed for regular orbital corrections for the full ISS when all modules are in place, but I'm probably wrong. But here's something better:)
    No--because of NASA cuts, lawmakers have just ruled that physicists must add an additional ISS equation to quantum mechanics, governing the behavior of the ISS in orbit around Earth, so that quantization will inhibit orbital decay. They picked an equation where the only resonant energies were the only interesting orbits. Since the energies are quantized, we can't just nudge the ISS a little bit at a time, now that it has its own wavefunction, duh!

    Come to think of it, I bet I could design a super-efficient combustion engine that relies on macro-scale space quantization. I bet I can lobby a group to get my favorite wavefunction on the books for that, as well! ;)

  • Batteries (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 05, 2009 @03:05PM (#29648171)

    If only we could invent some device that could store energy for a limited amount of time so that we could output more energy than we take in, if only periodically.

  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @03:13PM (#29648281) Homepage

    Yeah... What's the word where cynicism is used as a replacement for understanding? Kinda like "blind optimism", but the opposite? Blind cynicism doesn't sound right. As a cynic, I've always liked the expression "cynicism is realism plus experience". But you're not being realistic. So... what is it that you're doing?

    I believe the word you're looking for is "hating".

    As in:
    "Hey, stop hating on Franklin Chang-Diaz just because he's smarter than you and makes way more money."

  • by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @03:22PM (#29648397)

    Just how big of a rocket do you need to go from one movie studio lot to another?

  • Re:Awesome. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @03:41PM (#29648673) Homepage
    Orange Soda? This is rocket science, they use Tang.
  • Re:Awesome. (Score:2, Funny)

    by glebovitz ( 202712 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @03:43PM (#29648693) Journal

    Are you sure its not Mentos and Diet Coke?

  • by jaypifer ( 64463 ) on Monday October 05, 2009 @04:00PM (#29648895)

    Um... because for us real humans, money is not our only (pointless) reason of existence.

    That's just something poor people say.

  • Re:acronym (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 05, 2009 @04:04PM (#29648929)

    Oh my stars!! That was quite the "zing".

  • by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @03:51AM (#29654317)

    So we've got a _really smart_ guy we've paid to educate, paid for many years to perform exactly 7 times, paid to direct a "cool" program, and now that we've shelled out all that money, he's investing some of it in hopes of selling us some product we spent years paying him to learn about.

    By the way...how do you amass enough cash to personally invest significantly in this kind of endeavor, considering otherwise "normal" governmental salaries in the 70-130k/year range? Or is he primarily a front man - a very smart one - who is helping to get money from others (perhaps old colleagues with strings to government funds?) to pursue this research.

    I'm not saying he's not doing interesting, and possibly valuable, research, but I'm not about to give him a free pass just because he's got a doctorate and a handful of mission patches. Now, if he's made a bunch of money doing other things (dot com bubble investor?), and is pursuing this as a purely speculative path, then good for him.

    Honestly, you know what the above reads like? I'll summarize it for you:

    Whaaaaa! He's a succesful astronaut who spent the better part of his life doing something totally awesome and now gets to spend another part of his life doing yet more totally awesome stuff while I sit here staring at my penis and wondering why it is so tiny. Not fair!

    Jealous much?

    This guy went up 7 times, each time knowing fully well that there's a pretty decent chance the whole thing would end up in a big-ass ball of flame. Do you also complain about military personnel being schooled and trained on your dime? All they ever do is kill people, this guy has risked his life for the sake of science.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.