Space


#61

The bit about “saving them hundreds of billions” is standard talk about P-P partnerships that very rarely stacks up. Is it cheaper? What are you comparing? What are you comparing to? etc etc. That is never actually made clear when these things are discussed at the high levels that are easy to digest. For instance how much IP is being passed between who, and who is keeping ownership of it. If the US Government is paying 100 mill to support SpaceX research efforts and SpaceX is keeping the IP then the real cost can be many times the sticker cost. Or if you’re counting all the blue sky research that NASA might be doing in the “cost of launch” then you might be overestimating that number. I’m not saying that I know one way or the other in this case, but I do know that in these things the numbers that get bandied around tend to be the ones that sound best for whoever is trying to make a point. That point can be “that space X is awesome and lean and efficient” or that “NASA is a bloated and expensive waste of $$” or it can be a more generic point about public service and private industry and ideology, etc etc.

The reality is that there are a limited number of engineers with the skillset to build these things. Get those on board at NASA or SpaceX and they’ll get the answer for you. How expensive it is depends on how many people are leeching off their skill set. And that can be Elon, or NASA management or whatever.


#62


What a champ. Designed to last 90 days, finally comes to a stop nearly 15 years later.


#63

Voyager and Pioneer top all for that sort of thing. Pioneer squeezed 31 years out of a 20 month mission. Both Voyagers are still transmitting data 40 years after launch! With a minuscule amount of computer tech compared to even todays smart phones, let alone full blown computers. Astonishing.


#64

What I read quoted NASA numbers - I’m just quoting them as read.


#65

and the Blitz server can’t cope with the last 3 hrs of trade week


#66

It’s the miniscule amount of computing power that prolongs the life.
Computing takes energy, that energy has to be either stored or gotten somehow. Plus complex systems have more to go wrong.

Think of the battery life of a Nokia 3210 vs an iPhone.

These things are almost analog.


#67

Fun fact: Voyager 1 is 145 Astronomical Units from earth, but is currently getting closer to us due to our orbit speed being quicker than its travel speed. In a couple more months it will be pulling away again at something over 100,000 miles per hour!


#68

Indeed. And JPL have had some tricky problems trying to upload new software programs written in a 1970’s era code to something that is more than 19 hours signal time away. The whole thing blows my mind.


#69

They figured out similar issues when they rescued Mark Watney, so I’m confident they can overcome this.


#70

Well, yes. But he had potatoes. Not so, voyager.


#71

Would need a fkg big spud-gun


#72

If you mean the 100s of millions of savings, that’s fair enough.

It also doesn’t mean that NASA leadership doesn’t have an agenda when writing that.

Government science organisation leadership talking down the abilities of their org because they know their political masters want to make a case to privatise, or whatever is “a thing”.

And I’m not suggesting that this is happening in this case. I have no idea what SpaceX costs, or what ULA (Lockheed and Boeing) costs, or what doing this stuff in house costs (assuming NASA haven’t shut down the non researchy component of space delivery, and hence made outsourcing the only solution).

I do know that there’s literally no chance that US government will give every contract going forward to SpaceX because they’re cheap. Their risk management will require competition, and will likely feed competitors as a way to drive that competition, even if it might not appear to be the most efficient answer at the time.

Anyway, SpaceX is cool and all, and it’s really great to see this renewed interest in space, and no doubt Elon has been part of creating that. Will SpaceX revolutionise anything? Who knows. It seems to me that the really interesting long term projects are still coming out of the government organisations, with support from industry. So I doubt SpaceX is going to go out alone with some crazy, out there, world changing project. But I’m confident if SpaceX plays a major role on any of this that their PR arm will have everyone convinced they did it all on their own.


#73

Yes, govt and military tenders are always open, fair and transparent…


#74

Hahaha.

That’s not what I said. What I meant was, for example, that US Gov will give Boeing and Lockheed a truckload of money every now and then even if they’re off the charts too expensive, just under the pretense of maintaining another credible player in the market.

Or because key senators have Boeing and Lockheed shares in their portfolio.


#75

You can actually see the Australian contribution to space travel here.


#76

1.68 days round trip at the moment. 21.7 billion km away.

*Buffering.


#77

Just imagine the difficulty of picking up any messages there from the EFC website.


#78

Hello Hippocamp! Neptune’s 14th moon is finally part of the family

ABC Science

By Genelle Weule

Posted earlier today at 06:02


Neptune


Neptune now has 14 confirmed moons named after characters from Greek mythology associated with the sea.

(Supplied: NASA)

It’s just a dot, but astronomers have finally confirmed those precious pixels are another moon orbiting the ice giant Neptune.

Key points

  • Hippocamp is one of Neptune’s seven inner moons
  • Astronomers believe it was formed when a comet slammed into a larger moon
  • We still don’t know much about its size or shape because it pushes the limits of what the Hubble Space Telescope can detect

Named Hippocamp after the mythological seahorse, the tiny satellite officially joins six other moons orbiting in the inner sanctum between Neptune and its largest moon Triton.

Confirmation of Neptune’s 14th moon, reported today in the journal Nature, has taken years of painstaking work.

Although the Hubble Space Telescope first snapped a tiny pinprick reflecting light in 2004 it was not discovered until 2013 and given the provisional moniker S/2004 N1. But more observations were needed to make the moon’s status official.

It was a sleuthing job that even Mark Showalter, an astronomer at the SETI Institute, who has a track record of spotting moons and rings around planets in our solar system, found challenging.

“I’ve discovered two moons of Uranus and two moons of Pluto using the Hubble Telescope, but this was by far the hardest,” Dr Showalter said.

The tiny moon — which is estimated to be only about 34 km across — is too faint to see in any individual image so Dr Showalter and colleagues developed technology to stitch together five-minute exposures taken in 2004 and 2009, and new observations from 2016.

“If something was moving in a predictable way you would be able to stack it up and see it. That’s when Hippocamp was revealed,” Dr Showalter said.

They used the technique to get a better look at the relationship between Hippocamp the other six inner moons — including Naiad, the innermost moon last seen by Voyager 2 spacecraft when it flew by in 1989.

“These inner satellites all have a story to tell: How did they get there? What place did they play in Neptune’s history?” he said.

A moon created by comet collisions

Neptune’s moon system is different to other planets thanks to the impact of Triton.

This much bigger interloper was pulled in from further out in the solar system, disrupting whatever satellites may have already existed close to the ice giant.

“What we see today is version two of the inner Neptune system,” Dr Showalter explained.


Diagram illustrating size of Neptune's moon Hippocamp


Hippocamp is the smallest - by far - of Neptune’s inner moons.

(Supplied: Mark Showalter, SETI Institute)

“[Today’s] moons probably formed out of the debris from the original moons and took form shortly after Triton’s orbit stabilised.”

It is thought many of today’s inner moons broke up and reformed several times as they were constantly bombarded by comets.

Only Proteus, Neptune’s second largest moon, is likely to have survived intact, but a large crater bears evidence it may also have come close to being destroyed.

Dr Showalter and his colleagues have suggested the collision that created the Pharos crater may have even led to the creation of Hippocamp.

“We think that basically the story we’re seeing here is that a big impact into Proteus some 4 billion years broke a chip off it,” he said.

According to the team’s hypothesis Hippocamp formed about 2,000 kilometres away from Proteus, but the larger satellite has now drifted further away.

There is a fascinating story to uncover about Neptune’s moons, said Jonti Horner, a planetary scientist at Southern Queensland University who was not involved in the research.

“I love the possibility this new satellite might be debris shattered from Proteus by a collision in the distant past,” Dr Horner said.

“It paints this awesome picture of a satellite system continually under attack, with moons being shattered and reassembled as icy bodies from the solar system’s outer reaches sleet through the system.”

A hole in the solar system

While there may be more moons orbiting Neptune, Dr Showalter said this was the limit of what we could find with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Unless astronomers were lucky enough to take an image when the small moon was its furthest from Neptune, the moon would have been impossible to find without the technique developed by Dr Showalter’s team, said Dr Horner.

“And even then it would probably have been missed.”

But, he said, even though the Hubble Telescope is amazing, we’re still trying to piece together the story of Neptune from a distance of about 4.5 billion kilometres.

The best way to get a real idea of what Neptune, its moons and ring systems are like, is to go there.

“The only up-close-and-personal information we have on [Neptune and Uranus] comes from the Voyager 2 flybys back in the 1980s,” Dr Horner said.

“By going back to Neptune, we’d be able to get close enough to these moons to actually see what they look like, rather than them just being a single pixel-sized speck of light in Hubble images.”


Hubble image showing inner moons of Neptune


This is the image in which Hippocamp was discovered. The moon can be seen in the red box in the bottom left, an enlarged version is in the top right.

(Supplied: Mark R Showalter, SETI Institute)

An orbiting spacecraft, like Juno around Jupiter, could also help astronomers understand the interior structure of Neptune, “something you simply can’t do from here on Earth,” he added.

Dr Showalter said the upcoming James Webb Telescope, which is slated to replace the Hubble in 2021 may provide new details about Neptune and Uranus.

“It really could do some revolutionary Neptune and Uranus science for us.”

But he agreed the “real way to understand the system is with an orbiter.”

For example, he said, the Cassini spacecraft identified six more moons around Saturn.

“The smallest of the Saturn moons is like half a kilometre so I would not be surprised if there were smaller moons around Neptune.”

NASA and the European Space Agency have discussed future missions to the ice giants, but there are currently no missions approved in the pipeline.

“[Neptune and Uranus] really are this hole in our understanding of the outer solar system,” Dr Showalter said.

“We just don’t know much about them compared to Jupiter, Saturn and even Pluto at this point.”


#79

No idea how bright or reflective they’d be at such a distance from a sun, but I’ve always thought it’d be very cool (not temperature-wise!) to live on a planet with multiple moons in the sky at night.


#80

Wonder how the tides would go?