Best Of The Web
“No matter what mission astronauts are sent to accomplish, the engineers who send them must solve two basic problems: how to get the space travelers off the Earth (and into orbit or on their way to the moon or Mars) and how to bring them back again. With decades of experience in shoving payloads into space, the world’s space powers have unanimously settled on chemical rockets as the best way to launch astronauts. The question engineers still debate is: What’s the best way to land them?
Boeing and SpaceX, which, through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, are scheduled to send astronauts to the International Space Station next year, have been asked to respond to spaceflight’s two basic problems with ingenuity, economy, and gee-whiz technology for the cosmic challenges ahead. Yet one of the most visible elements of their privately designed spacecraft will hearken back deep into last century: They’re shaped as capsules, counting on their blunt, high-drag shapes and a brace of parachutes to slow them from an orbital speed of 17,000 mph to a velocity that human occupants can survive when they hit the Earth’s surface.
The space shuttle was supposed to end all that when it took its first flight in 1981, providing airliner-like comfort during its gentle runway touchdown. And in creating the next generation of space transportation, SpaceX, at first, really did try to lean into the future. Elon Musk and his team pushed for a new kind of lander, one that relied on thruster rockets, instead of parachutes, to slow the ship and extendable legs to balance it upon touchdown—a so-called propulsive landing. “That is how a 21st-century spaceship should land,” Musk boasted in 2014, “anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter.” SpaceX has largely succeeded with propulsive landing for its payload delivery rockets—the Falcon 9 first stage regularly, and impressively, lands upright on an ocean barge or back at Cape Canaveral. But such leaps forward with live astronauts inside require time and money that NASA was unwilling to commit to a mission whose key selling point was economy. At least that’s what space watchers guess from Musk’s laconic abandonment of the approach in 2017. So the parachutes came out again.
NASA’s astronaut splashdowns have acquired a nostalgic if not mythic tinge at the distance of half a century. But they were hairy affairs in real life. Gus Grissom nearly drowned after the second Mercury flight in 1961—a famous incident made more famous by its inaccurate portrayal in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. The next year, Scott Carpenter landed 250 miles off course and spent three hours in a life raft before rescue by the USS Intrepid.”
JJ Best Of The Web
"With the weakest of hands, an economy not much larger than that of Spain, and a GDP per capita several thousand dollars smaller than Malaysia, he has asserted massive negative influence over the globalized world."
"Scarcely hours after the titanic drubbing Democrats delivered to President Trump's GOP in the 2018 midterm elections, the 2020 presidential campaign began in deeply unwelcome earnest."
"US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital exactly one year ago, breaking with decades of international consensus in the process. What was the historic move and what impact has it had?"
"With a decade’s worth of hits under her belt, Gaga is definitively one of the biggest stars in the world. Rolling Stone dubbed her the “Queen of Pop” in 2011."
"Have the scars of the housing bust turned us away from the American dream of homeownership? Survey data suggest otherwise.... We simply can’t afford to pursue that dream right now.'
"Even as phones and tablets extend their reach into daily life, a bigger screen remains supreme... the average American household watches nearly eight hours of television a day."
"Parties, private jets, and multimillion-dollar paintings: Art Basel Miami is part of a global network of art fairs that have transformed the worldwide art market."
"Dutton Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House, is releasing a series of tiny books that give the act of reading a studied whimsy."
"The presence was so disruptive, she added, that some children had a hard time when their parents left. Others were disappointed that their parents did not come for lunch."
"The kitchen — named after the Hebrew phrase “L’Chaim,” which means, “To Life!” — features a menu of Americanized Jewish food items such as pastrami on rye, potato knish with herb sour cream..."
"Life on the sprawling grasslands precipitated a shift from individualistic ways of living to more cooperative ways. This was the birth of what you might call “social intelligence,” and it changed the way our minds work."
"When you have headlines about “white privilege” and “evil white men,” Jews become the epitome of whiteness—except, of course, for neo-Nazis, who see Jews as hyper-integrationists."