Deep Space Questions – Episode 12 – Rockets, Science and maybe Rocket Science

Wherein I attempt to answer Questions from supporters over at my Patreon without the safety net of doing my homework first, because it’s more fun this way.

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Comment (301)

  1. Hmm, I’m not sure crashing the moon into the Earth is going to be the cheapest way unless you can guarantee to wipe out all the lawyers who might be able to file a claim against you …

  2. On life in the universe, imo given where life has been found thriving in the most adverse environments I'd say it's quite common however odds of us ever encountering intelligent life are extremely slim. Not only is the universe very big, we're also barely a blip on the age of the universe. Many other intelligent species may have come and gone. They may even have made similar efforts as ourselves to get a signal out but even if their signal had been broadcast continuously for 100k years, odds are it already went past us before we had the capability to pick it up and stand a chance of understanding it's significance. Likewise there could be a signal on it's way to us but by the time it gets here we're already long gone.

  3. The Venusians are infecting humankind with a greed virus. Thus, we keep wanting ever more stuff, and keep enlarging our carbon footprints. When earth gets hot enough the Venusians will occupy and exterminate what's left of us, congratulating themselves on a Venuscaping well done.

  4. Orbiting mars at Olympus Mons height? Maybe not for the following reason (direct wiki quote) : "Mars has a higher scale height of 11.1 km than Earth (8.5 km) because of its weaker gravity."

  5. If I were making the decision, I would not prevent human colonization because of contamination issues. Take samples first, but this is too important to be stopped by single celled organisms.

  6. Martian safari park, 20% of mars for martian microbes, 80% for us. Taking into account the size difference this seems extremely reasonable. Who wants to be the primary researcher who discovers mars flu the very direct way?

  7. 18:50 "If you give it enough time, life will emerge…" Yes, well, in principle this is true. However, the time needed is measured in quadrillions of years, according to our current knowledge. That's billions of times longer than the whole timespan since the Big Bang. That's one of the reasons why they had to invent Multiverse Theory, otherwise the random creation of the first DNA (the simplest structure capable of self-replication) simply wouldn't fit into the available timescale we have.

    Long story short, if there's no life anywhere in the Universe it would make a lot of sense, it would mathematically make a lot of sense. The real problem is, why do we have any life at all? As of now, there is no scientific answer. Maybe one day we'll figure it out. I mean, maybe one day we'll have a real scientific theory supported by tests and empirical evidence–and not this metaphysical mumbo-jumbo ("Multiverse Theory") they're using as a placeholder right now because our pathetic ignorance.

  8. On biological containment on Mars!
    Let's just hope the last remaining life is not a "colonization virus" of some sort that will merge with our DNA and make us the real Martians! Though with some luck we could possibly no longer need space suits to live there…. Hmmm, must ponder about this longer. 😛 yarr arr arrr

  9. On new Glenn, although I despise the owners "tactics" and general behaviour on these matters I am all for advancing space exploration and technology. As such I hope the darn thing becomes more than a large suppository look-a-like and that they don't change the design to a dildo looking disturbing thing like their toy sub-orbital rocket which would be best used as an emergency landing vehicle for the ISS and similar things.

  10. An old family friend and I were talking about engines and fuel. He was a retired lieutenant commander in the U.S. Airforce engineering division he was in the unit that tested, I wish I could remember his name, possible fuels and engine types for space flight. They were working on fuel combinations ,their test engine at the time was a F-4 engine and he said that just jet fuel the engine produced 30,000 HP, with a combination of furfuryl alcohol and aniline oil and hydrazine the engine would produce 130,000 HP . They, his team were seeing if a conventional jet engine could hold together long enough and produce enough power to briefly go to space, He said no the engine they tested would soon fly apart and a turbojet engine relied heavily on ,not only expanding combustion gasses but heated atmosphere ,once in space all you have is combustion gasses and no air intake and the turbojet is very inefficient in that regard, he was no dummy he was aware that the atmosphere extended quite a distance from where humans can survive unaided, but he was helping to design the X-15 engine system, that's all I remember him saying. He was in his 70's I think. I was in my mid 30's, so it's been awhile.

  11. I’m not the smartest guy ever. But I can get through a decent amount of this type of nerdy stuff.

    I honestly can’t think of too many people I would enjoy sitting down with and having a few glasses (pints?) of beer and picking their brain than Mr Manley.

  12. RE the hazardous nature of fuels, there are at least two ways to look at this concern: (1) the nature of the individual components in terms of their potential impacts as they are being stored and handled for use (think flammability, toxicity, reactivity), and; (2) from a broader life-cycle perspective. Life-cycle (or lifecycle) includes the impacts of the fuel components in terms of risks to create/obtain the ingredients, modify them AND the impacts of the combustion products generated during intended use on the environment. At least one common component is also a greenhouse gas (methane).

  13. @Scott Manley. Propellant transfer in orbit. Could they do the propellant transfer passively by creating a temperature difference? i.e. chill the receiving tanks, and warm the source tanks then the vapour pressure does the work for you and it won't matter if it's gas or liquid as it moves. Might be more difficult to monitor the quantity transferred but that should be solvable.

  14. "Hey Grek, the small blue planet, yeah the nearby cold one with all the ice and nothing to breath, well some H2O based chemistry there seems alive, they'll be incredibly soft and fragile and communicate by making the atmosphere shake." "Don't be stupid zmukkruk, nothing can survive on that frozen block of inactivity, be reasonable, now my best bet on the god suns atmospheric layer, … no hear me out, it's thin but theres a lot of it, and you never know".

  15. As far as I know, the BE4 engines are not yet available due to stability problems.
    Maybe, NASA will have to switch to Raptors for the Vulcan Rocket.
    I think, when "New Glenn" will do its maiden flight, it wouldbe better named "Old Glenn" <SCNR>

  16. I think nose to nose transfer makes the most sense for Starship, because the outlet of the tanks is at the aft side, so if they go nose to nose, then spin them to create a tiny bit of gravity, it will keep the liquid pressed into the exit of the tanks… as the fuel and oxidizer transfers, the center of rotation will shift from one vehicle to the other. That will be an interesting dynamic to control for.

  17. On the New Glenn progress, you make the same mistake that a lot of commenters do by only focusing on the fairings as the only thing built. This simply is not true and is grossly unfair to the Blue Origin team.

    If you go back through several Twitter posts, along with the last video update released last month, there is not only payload fairing sets, but also adapters, the forward module interstage, this latter structure was seen taken to one of the test facilities Blue has. We don't know what is happening with it, if it has gone back or is still being tested, but it has been moved about. We have also seen other hardware under construction in the factory, namely propellant tanks and we know from the video Blue put out 8 months ago, there was a big section of what appeared to be the aft engine and landing gear module.

  18. About the introduction of earth life into Mars etc:

    imo, IF we get to the point where colonization of another body is a real prospect… We CANNOT let that consideration stop us from doing it. I mean for all we know, we're the only lifeform anywhere anytime. We can speculate all we want, but the facts so far are still that we're alone.

    Until that changes, our outmost priority ought to be to ensure life doesn't die out. I will state this – a universe with some life in it is better than no life in it. We can be cynical all we want about our track record as a civilization, but still – if life is a unique (so far) phenomenon, it is worth spreading.

    Of course, it's completely fair to be careful (e.g. such as minimizing for the moment the areas we potentially contaminate with earth life). But if we can, sending people there is much more of a priority.

  19. SpaceX added radar-reflective paint to the concrete landing pads, for better height measurement. Obviously this was not an issue on the steel decks of the drone ships.

  20. 5:22 only debris from Earth that could reach Mars is most likely pre life. even dinosaur killer asteroid unlikely ejected anything with speed needed. and i am not even mentioning sterilization of anything under that much acceleration and heating

  21. Scott, regarding throttling/shutting-down solid fuel boosters; I'm pretty sure that some boosters can also be 'shut down' with very precise timing despite remaining fuel load. I've read that the Minuteman III (possibly earlier variants) and the Peacekeeper MX missile systems had 'blow-out ports' on their solid fuel stages that could depressurize the combustion fast enough to 'snuff out' the rocket. Between that and the top liquid stage 'doing its thing' were some of the things that improved CEP so much.

  22. I'm sure it's fun to get questions like, Is there life in the universe. LOL We don't even know our own solar system. I would think that the only intelligent life in our solar system is on earth. After that, all anyone can say is, it's possible, and likely, and things like that. Scott could make a guess, but based on what? As far as I know I've never met an alien. Put the sunglasses on! lol

  23. How common is life in the universe? Humanity does not yet have enough knowledge to form any reasoned answer to this question. Due to the weak anthropic principal (WAP), the knowledge we do have is fundamentally biased and subjective.

    (Check me on this—I am an armchair logician.)

    The common reason for believing there is other life is that (1) we exist, therefore (2) life is possible, therefore (3) other life exists. WAP says that (1) is an unusable fact, because our existence is simply a necessary condition for us to think at all. It can provide no more information. It is entirely subjective, because it is required.

    That is the usual formation of WAP. In this case, notice that the evidence we do have is consistent with any answer to "is there other life." If there is no other life, if we are the sole example, that doesn't contradict anything we know. If life is ubiquitous, that doesn't contradict anything we know. We must actually find other life to supply an objective data point before we can form any opinion.

  24. 4:25 IMO contamination is only a problem when you want to make sure the probe you are looking at for extraterrestrial "life" is not from earth. otherwise i'd say: who cares. as long as it happened after we have studied all the original life.

  25. Re: refueling: technically when the shuttle transfered O2 and N2 via a PMA2 connection wirth ISS piping to the Quest airlock tanks on ISS, wouldn't that qualify as crygenic transfer?
    Butt to Butt: the problem with "iterative design" is that by the time "they get around to" doing fuel transfers, there may not be space left in the engine skirt for the hardware to dock 2 Starships and do the methane/O2 and possibly N2 or Helium transfers. Increasing ingines from 29 to 33 leaves even less space.
    Instead of liquid transfers could they use compressors to draw gas from source and liquify it to be dumped into target tank ? (which is what ISS transfers from Shuttle used IIRRC).

    With regards to engine bells, would there be a balance between limiting expansion such that the exhaust gas exerts pressure against the bell with the angle such that part of that pressure pushes the ship forward? Expand nozzle too fast and there is no such pressure, expand too slowly, and the pressure is exerted outward so reduced pushing forward ?

    With regards to the moon, there is a whole documentary on this, it was done a few decades ago and called "Space 1999". Basically, nuclear waste storage goes wrong, massive explosion, and the moon is pushed off its orbit aroud the earth and each week, gets to visit another civilization.

  26. One thing that made me have one of those 'wow' thought moments was a random video I saw about the temperature that we inhabit. If you look at the temperature scale of the universe .. from 0 kelvin to millions or billions kelvin. We actually exist in a very cold environment .. we survive in the range of about 285 Kelvin to 315 Kelvin (rough figures based on a comfortable existence for humans). Imagine another intelligent life form that considers 500 Kelvin comfortable, they would think we live in a frozen environment. It was a good beer moment for that thought process …

  27. For Starship refueling, why not put a refueling manifold in orbit that allow multiple Starships to link up with that and do their business? Maybe even have a small living quarters like Crew Dragon for maintenance or refueling tasks…

  28. I'm all for setting up large areas of Mars as wilderness preserves of sorts, get it done and figured out now long before humans come in to start colonizing. We have the chance to do it how it should've been done on Earth, sure even if there isn't life on Mars just protecting certain areas in their natural state so that even a couple thousand years from now you can still visit Olympus Mons, Valles Marineris, Elysium Mons, etc and enjoy them as they were before humans came and developed large parts of Mars would be a good thing to set up beforehand. And set them up as a proper wilderness preserve, not just like big tourist parks. If we set it up as solidly as possible now hopefully future people would choose to continue with preserving those regions. Would've been nice if we had done the same with, for example, the New World, before settlers came in to tear the place up and set down roots in a way that now makes it incredibly hard to designate new areas as preserves to keep them from being further destroyed.

  29. Differential GPS- far more accurate. It will use the difference in GPS between the barge and the booster. A combination of that, radar and optical tracking would give accuracy and redundancy.

  30. Scott, love your videos even if you have gone over to the dark side. Also love your honesty about what you know and what you don't know. Great stuff!

  31. I have to look up things when I listen to some of your videos but it’s always interesting especially when I learn something new. I appreciate the amount of work you do for these videos.

  32. Scott, since there is no way for humans to actually save the earth no matter what they do as the sun dies. Why do you think people are so small minded when it comes to Elon’s plans for the transitions to other planets? It is vital for humans to become a multi-planetary species or become extinct as the earth becomes a cinder as the sun expands.

  33. The best évidence we have thus far that life might be common in the universe, is when we consider how quickly it appeared on Earth after it's formation. But then again, it was very simple monocellular life for billions of years.

  34. Something I'm curious about, why are they de-orbiting the ISS as a single unit, personally I think it would be easier to control when/where stuff comes down if they did the parts individually. Is it because the individual modules don't necessarily have the RCS systems necessary to de-orbit individually or are they worried about vacuum welding where the components connect?

  35. 4:30 any life left on Mars hanging by a thread. It's probably locked up in semi-hydrated salty crystals, every time those layers warm up and flow out the life gets freeze dried and slowly microwaved. It has no chance of becoming anything like us unless Mars changes. I think we should find it, study it, preserve it but only worry about it as a potential sickness because we too are hydrated and salty.

  36. I want to know what it would cost to put advertising on the moon visible from Earth. like a Nike swoosh or Pepsi logo. I figure redirecting sunlight at the dark side would be the cheapest.

    The next question is: Would Nike or Pepsi be willing to pay that much? Or is the real profit to be had when you sell the right to turn it off?


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