Friday, July 8, 2011

From the stars to the mud


OK, as we all know, the last Space Shuttle zipped off into space today. Fare thee well, Atlantis. Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't have named it after a doomed civilization.

John Logsdon has an interesting take on the Space Shuttle program in the current MIT Technology Review:

Space Shuttle boondoggle.


The money quote: "The selection in 1972 of an ambitious and technologically challenging shuttle design resulted in the most complex machine ever built. Rather than lowering the costs of access to space and making it routine, the space shuttle turned out to be an experimental vehicle with multiple inherent risks, requiring extreme care and high costs to operate safely. Other, simpler designs were considered in 1971 in the run-up to President Nixon's final decision; in retrospect, taking a more evolutionary approach by developing one of them instead would probably have been a better choice."

I've consistently said that the Space Shuttle was a Rube Goldberg compromise on Werner Von Braun's concept of a reusable space plane.

To me, the official history of the space program tends to leave out an obvious fact: the X-Plane series was the embryonic beginning of a true space plane. The United State bypassed it in favor of a "space capsule" on top of disposable, staged booster rockets. The only rationale for this idiotic technology was the ridiculously expensive publicity stunt known as "the Space Race."

We got to the moon -- and Americans got bored with the space program and didn't want to fund it at the same level. Nixon's backing of the half-ass Space Shuttle design was a reflection of that lack of commitment.

We touched the stars, and crawled back into our self-absorption.

Sad, ain't it?

3 comments:

g.b.a. said...

There is a beggar- thy- neighbor- variant predilection presently active in asset, debt and currency markets. Historically, it's entirely expected; what fucks over your planet mates - even those mates you presently call 'allies' - might well render your condition, if only on a relative basis, improved.

Were it not for 'our' decision to float and carry the too- big- to- fail banks, the investment strategy of fleeing into US assets as Europe implodes might make sense...

In this case, however, history only rhymes - not because the history lesson was flawed, but because 'safe haven' status is simply not possible, at this advanced stage, in our imploding global credit construct.

There are no gaskets, no hull cavity walls between 'our' investment banking cartel and bankers who will fall in Europe.

Global counter- party risk is 'incest incarnate,' flawed, genetically; daisy- chained together like Siamese twins... where no one possesses tangible equity but merely another banker's paper promise...

g.b.a. said...

This is mostly about extracting 'rents' through exploiting relative inefficiencies in the hardware/software realm of the integrated global trading platforms. (equity, debt, currencies,'insurance' i.e. derivatives)

"... The faster processing times means that JP Morgan can now respond to changes in its risk position more rapidly, rather than just looking back at the risk profile of the previous day, which was produced by overnight analyses..."

JP Morgan Uses Field-Programmable Gate Array Supercomputer to Cut Credit Risk Analysis from 8 Hours to 12 Seconds

http://www.computerworlduk.com/news/it-business/3290494/jp-morgan-supercomputer-offers-risk-analysis-in-near-real-time/

g.b.a. said...

Berlusconi's Last Stand

"... Italy is used to crises -- the government is rudderless, the economy is stagnant and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is mired in scandals. Now the country may become embroiled in the euro crisis, and its fate lies in the hands of its finance minister. Berlusconi, for his part, faces the ruins of his political career..."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,774042,00.html