Blue Origin does it yet again. One booster, three launches, three landings.

On April 2, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard booster for the third successful West Texas landing after a suborbital flight. Previous landings of the same booster previous took place on January 22 and November 23, 2015.

The crew capsule successfully landed by parachute shorty after the booster landed.

SpaceX, which has been successful only once (so far), but it has to be noted that the Falcon 9 is larger and, being orbital, has a greater velocity to contend with. SpaceX hopes to be able to recover and reuse a booster sometime in 2016.

Whether it is Blue Origin or SpaceX, recovering a booster is no simple matter. It is, after all, rocket science!

One NASA year – Not your Father’s year!

Scott Kelly just returned to Earth after his highly touted “year in space”. By NASA standards, a “year” is apparently only 340 days, a little less than 94% of a “standard” year.

I am wondering if the the NASA devaluation is restricted to time, or does it apply to distance as well. If so, does that mean a mission to Mars wouldn’t ACTUALLY reach Mars, but would turn around a couple million miles short?

If Kelly had been up for 364 days, or even 360, I’d give NASA the extra couple days and call it a year, but when you come up 6+% short, I’m not so forgiving. NASA is just patting itself on the back for its BIG ACHIEVEMENT, the “big achievement” that Russia (and predecessor USSR) had already done four times.  Valari Polyakov bested the “NASA year” by 97 days (437 total) and that was 22 years ago.

PDO version of Sphider

Sphider 1.5.1 has proven to be a good, stable version of Sphider. HOWEVER, it seems some people can’t use it because their host chooses not to support MySQLnd, typically for shared hosting. It isn’t because it can’t be done, but because they don’t want to do it. In those instances, if you want MySQLnd, you to have to upgrade to VPS, at an additional charge of course. Sphider users in that scenario now have an option.

We have taken Sphider 1.5.1 and converted the sql to PDO (PHP Data Objects). PDO support is virtually guaranteed. The PDO version is referred to as Sphider 1.5.1.1. PDO has some advantages over MySQLi/MySQLnd, but there are also disadvantages.

MySQLi/MySQLnd is SPECIFIC to a MySQL database, where PDO is a generic supporting a variety of databases, one of which is MySQL. There is an overhead involved. For Sphider, we STILL consider the MySQLnd prepared statement methodology over PDO prepared statements. Reality dictates a PDO version be made available. Our recommendation is that you install the PDO version only if the standard MySQLi/MySQLnd option is not available. If you already have a working Sphider 1.5.1, DO NOT install 1.5.1.1.

One issue encountered was that PDO has no need to use the real_escape_string function…. EXCEPT WHERE IT IS NEEDED!!! The backup and restore functions failed without it. All research indicated “You don’t need real_escape_string, just use PDO prepared statements!” Dogmatic statements like that can come back to bite you. Well, our scenario wasn’t executing sql, it was CREATING sql, specifically, an sql string. Real_escape_string was necessary to create a valid string, and a prepared statement was not possible. We had ALREADY run a query, now we were manipulating the queried data to create a string for LATER use in a different kind of query. So we had to create an emulation for real_escape_string, which was a bit of trial and error. So much for “PDO NEVER needs real_escape_string”.

Blue Origin does it again

Kudos go out to Jeff Bezos and the Blue Origin team. Yesterday their New Shepard booster made a successful landing, the second in two months. This was the SAME booster that flew last November 24, and carried the SAME capsule.

True, the booster isn’t as big as Falcon. It doesn’t need to be as it has a different purpose. Falcon is designed for orbital cargo launches, while New Shepard is designed for manned suborbital launches. It doesn’t go as high as Falcon, but it doesn’t need to do that either, for the same reasons.

What IS important is proof of concept. A booster CAN be landed, now proven 3 times, once by SpaceX and twice by Blue Origin. A booster CAN be reused as proven by Blue Origin. Blue Origin also demonstrated the re-usability of a crew capsule. The amount of refurbishment required by New Shepard and the capsule was minimal, also demonstrating the cost savings by reusing hardware.

To argue that one company is better than the other because they were first or are bigger with greater challenges is a meaningless and petty waste of time.

SpaceX and Blue Origin are BOTH great companies with great vision. They have DIFFERENT missions, but share the same objective of re-usability. They are both innovators, and as innovators we can expect to see both triumph and failure from each.  Yesterday Blue Origin experienced triumph.

Oh, Soooo close!

SpaceX Narrowly Misses Barge Landing at Sea

This is heartbreaking to watch. There came SO close! The landing was nailed, despite 15 to 20 foot seas. The engines shut down, the booster was upright… then a landing leg collapsed.

Considering the early stage of the development of booster flybacks, the 1 for 4 record (0 for 3 at sea) is actually quite impressive. All of the attempts have been dead on target, an amazing feat in itself. Blue Origin is 1 for 1 with a much smaller booster returning from a less challenging flight, but still an impressive accomplishment.

Each failure is a learning experience. I doubt, despite the naysayers, that it will not be long before both SpaceX and Blue Origin will be leaders in making space more affordable.

Why I just opted out of Amber Alerts on my cell phone

No one wants to see a child go missing. I certainly don’t. And if one does, I would like to be able to help. And I can’t help if I don’t know about it.

The system of sending out alerts via cell phone is sure going to let a lot of people know, so they are a good thing, right?

NO! They are NOT a good thing. At least not the way things work at this time. I have put up with this annoyance for as long as I can.

Annoyance? Knowing about an Amber Alert, something that can save a child’s life is an… annoyance?

Yes, it is. At least when the alert is for a child that goes missing at a location 3 to 9 HOURS drive away from my location! If I got alerts more local, say even up to two hours drive away, and particularly within a hour’s drive, I would continue to receive them. Unfortunately, of the last FIFTEEN alerts, ALL have been a MINIMUM of three hours away from me. TWO were NINE hours away in a DIFFERENT STATE!

My patience has been exhausted. Amber Alerts are the modern day equivalent of car alarms. Great idea, but so abused they are just ignored.

Either quit the notifications or do a better job of localizing their broadcast.

A matter of degrees

The first temperature scales were devised in 1701, one by English physicist Sir Issac Newton and the other by the Danish astronomer Ole Christensen Rømer. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, a German physicist, devised the Fahrenheit system in 1724. French scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur came up with his temperature scale about 1730, followed two years later in 1732 by French astronomer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle with the Delisle scale.

Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius came up with a temperature scale in 1742. More about that in a moment. Working independently, French physicist Jean-Pierre Christin developed a similar scale in 1743. In 1744, shortly after the death of Anders Celsius, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus made a modification to the scale developed by Celsius.

To round out the development of temperature scales, we need to mention Irish born mathematical physicist and engineer William Lord Kelvin (William Thompson, 1st Baron Kelvin) proposed the first scale with 0 as the absolute lowest temperature. This was based on the then Centigrade scale, and 0 K was the same as -273.15 ℃. Scottish physicist William John Macquorn Rankine devised the Rankine scale in 1859, based on the Fahrenheit scale and, as in the case of Kelvin, 0 being the absolute low, equal to -459.67 ℉.

Each scale had some measure of popularity, but eventually only three scales came into popular use. These were the Fahrenheit, Kelvin, and Centigrade scales. The Rankine scale was a close runner up, with the others fading into obscurity.

Eventually, the Centigrade scale became more popularly know as “Celsius”. Kelvin is used primarily in the scientific world, Fahrenheit in the United States, and Celsius everywhere else.

This brings me to the point. Why is the centigrade scale called Celsius? It seems the word centigrade has meaning in the French in Spanish languages involving angular measurement, precisely, that of being 1/100th of a right angle. Since ALL the other scales were named after their creators, it seemly logical to call it Celsius and eliminate confusion.

Well, first off, calling the scale Celsius is NOT logical! The scale created by Anders Celsius had the freezing point of water set at 100 °, and the boiling point set at 0 °! It was a reverse scale! The next year, working independently, Jean-Pierre Christin devised the centigrade scale. A year later, Linnaeus revised (reversed) the scale devised by Celsius, making it essentially the same as that done by Christin.

Now supposing the term “centigrade” is too confusing for some people, although the ℃ symbol should be a dead give away that we aren’t talking about angular measurement, I will concede the centigrade scale may have needed renaming.

But why Celsius? Why not name it after its true creator, Jean-Pierre Christin? It would even fit from the occupational point of view. Fahrenheit was a physicist. So was Kelvin and Rankine. Christin, too was a physicist. Celsius was an astronomer.

Obviously, those who make the decisions about what stuff should be called don’t really think things through. I suspect that since Celsius was Swedish, and Sweden is home to the Nobel Prize, and the people most responsible for naming this kind of thing are the very ones in the running for many of these prizes, there may have been an undue economic influence at play here!

Captain Quirk here is going to continue to use the term he learned growing up, namely, Centigrade. If I HAVE to use a different name for ℃, I will call it degrees Christin.

Working beta, Sphider for WordPress

I now have a working beta version of Sphider for WordPress. You can see the beta in action by clicking on the Search tab. This isn’t a very large blog, so there isn’t much to search for, but you can get an idea.

Suggestions STILL do not work. Accessing the suggest mechanism in test mode shows it IS responding and building a proper json, but is not being passed on as in the normal implementation. Suspect it is something to do with a collision with a WordPress json?

There are probably still some rough edges, but that is what a beta is for… to find those rough edges and smooth them out. Even rough, it functions, which is something the last Sphider for WordPress no longer does!

If you want to give it a whirl, drop us a line and we’ll get the files to you. And, yes, instructions…

THE MORNING AFTER: After a couple false starts, I finally got a package assembled with everything you need. The first package was done late at night and didn’t include everything it should have. I rushed a second version with an addition. There should have been additions!!!


How do you drop us a line? Use the Contact Us form on WorldSpaceflight.com home page, found in Links to the left.

Twelve Days of Divorce

As Christmas is nearly here, I am sitting and listening to Christmas music. When “The Twelve Days of Christmas” comes around, I can’t help but laugh at an acquaintance of mine some time back. He had just gotten a divorce and came up with NEW words to the old tune.

Now I do not remember the entire thing (this was probably forty years ago), what I DO remember goes like this:

On the eight day of my divorce,
My ex-wife took from me,
Eight place settings,
Seven credit cards.
Six-cylinder Maverick,
FIVE POWER TOOLS!
Four radial tires,
Three bedroom home,
Two little children.
And my stereo and my color tv!

I wish I could remember the rest of it…

Merry Christmas

Falcon 9 landing

Congratulations to SpaceX for the absolutely amazing landing of a Falcon 9 first stage a mere six miles away from its launch point. The pinpoint landing came after the successful launch of nine Orbcomm satellites. The booster had to make a U-turn 50+ miles and a decent distance northeast of the Cape to return to a targeted spot six miles from the launch pad. They had to keep from centrifuging the remaining fuel, regain stability, and drop from hypersonic through supersonic to subsonic speeds and then a complete stop, upright, dead center on the target.

Blue Origin accomplished a landing of a much smaller suborbital booster just this last November, an accomplishment not to be scorned. But their success was on a entirely different, and smaller, scale. Up and down was an achievement to be proud of. But the mechanics involved in the SpaceX endeavor are, shall we say a bit more complex?

I’ve heard comments that this is the way rockets are SUPPOSED to land, evidenced by the sci-fi movies of the 50’s. We have finally arrived, I’ve heard. But hold on a minutes! If I remember those movies, the INSIDE of those rockets provided very spacious, apartment-sized quarters for the crews., complete with artificial gravity. Technology still has a way to go to match that.

Elon Musk and SpaceX are probably the group that is going to make the 50’s movies true!