Cold, wet, rainy, miserable. It’s late fall / early winter on the Texas Gulf Coast. Temperature in the 50s for the foreseeable future. Add to this that the backyard of Cat Beard Manor has become quite junglefied. The Calla Lilies have encroached the walkway to the back door. I’m carrying in all of the groceries from our Christmas food shopping and getting tired of brushing against the cold wet leaves each time I go in and out the back door.
But wait, I have the Walther® Mach Tac 1 Machete given to me over the summer. Never had a use for it. My trailblazing days are but a distant memory.
It was like attacking warm butter with a searing-hot knife. So very satisfying. Like spindly-legged green zombies hacked off at the ankles. I’ll clear the carnage away later when it’s drier.
Via email from
X Marks the Spot: Falcon 9 Attempts Ocean Platform Landing
During our next flight, SpaceX will attempt the precision landing of a Falcon 9 first stage for the first time, on a custom-built ocean platform known as the autonomous spaceport drone ship. While SpaceX has already demonstrated two successful soft water landings, executing a precision landing on an unanchored ocean platform is significantly more challenging.
The odds of success are not great—perhaps 50% at best. However this test represents the first in a series of similar tests that will ultimately deliver a fully reusable Falcon 9 first stage.
Video of previous first stage reentry test with soft water landing
Returning anything from space is a challenge, but returning a Falcon 9 first stage for a precision landing presents a number of additional hurdles. At 14 stories tall and traveling upwards of 1300 m/s (nearly 1 mi/s), stabilizing the Falcon 9 first stage for reentry is like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm.
To help stabilize the stage and to reduce its speed, SpaceX relights the engines for a series of three burns. The first burn—the boostback burn—adjusts the impact point of the vehicle and is followed by the supersonic retro propulsion burn that, along with the drag of the atmosphere, slows the vehicle’s speed from 1300 m/s to about 250 m/s. The final burn is the landing burn, during which the legs deploy and the vehicle’s speed is further reduced to around 2 m/s.
Landing legs deployed just before soft water landing in the Atlantic Ocean
To complicate matters further, the landing site is limited in size and not entirely stationary. The autonomous spaceport drone ship is 300 by 100 feet, with wings that extend its width to 170 feet. While that may sound huge at first, to a Falcon 9 first stage coming from space, it seems very small. The legspan of the Falcon 9 first stage is about 70 feet and while the ship is equipped with powerful thrusters to help it stay in place, it is not actually anchored, so finding the bullseye becomes particularly tricky. During previous attempts, we could only expect a landing accuracy of within 10km. For this attempt, we’re targeting a landing accuracy of within 10 meters.
A key upgrade to enable precision targeting of the Falcon 9 all the way to touchdown is the addition of four hypersonic grid fins placed in an X-wing configuration around the vehicle, stowed on ascent and deployed on reentry to control the stage’s lift vector. Each fin moves independently for roll, pitch and yaw, and combined with the engine gimbaling, will allow for precision landing – first on the autonomous spaceport drone ship, and eventually on land.
Similar steerable fins can also be seen in this test video:
The attempt to recover the first stage will begin after stage separation, once the Dragon spacecraft is safely on its way to orbit. The concept of landing a rocket on an ocean platform has been around for decades but it has never been attempted. Though the probability of success on this test is low, we expect to gather critical data to support future landing testing.
A fully and rapidly reusable rocket—which has never been done before—is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access. While most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX is building rockets that not only withstand reentry, but also land safely on Earth to be refueled and fly again. Over the next year, SpaceX has at least a dozen launches planned with a number of additional testing opportunities. Given what we know today, we believe it is quite likely that with one of those flights we will not only be able to land a Falcon 9 first stage, but also re-fly.
This is the story behind The Race …
Image courtesy of Steves Digicams
The specs were impressive for the day: 5 mega-pixel, 3.6″w x 2.4″h x 0.8″d (91mm x 60mm x 21mm), 6.3 oz. / 180g. Click on the camera image for a review and detailed specs. My cell phone in 2004 was the standard flip phone. I don’t even recall if it had camera. If it did, it was worthless.
This was the first camera I could carry in my pocket. I could take it everywhere. With the USB cable I could relatively easily transfer pictures from it to my computer. I had QuickTime Pro on my computer and realized that if the pictures were numbered sequentially QuickTime could turn them into a movie. I began to experiment with stop action animation and time lapse photography. The Race is one of my best.
I had to build a holder for the camera in order to mount it to a tripod. The actors were my sons’ Warhammer figures, Russian toy cars I had collected in the 90s while working there, other toy vehicles, a cat toy, and a robotic spider.
The entire video at 6fps (frames per second) is only 30 seconds long. I filmed the actual race first on the 19th of June and then decided to film the starting line sequence the next day to extend the length. I initially used the Beatles Birthday as the soundtrack. The final 30 second cut lived on my work computer for over a decade, copied over with all of my files each time I got a newer PC.
Last week I decided to try to get it onto my iPhone. I guess I could have done a USB iTunes to iPhone transfer, but that would have meant upgrading the decades old iTunes that I never use at work. So I emailed it to myself via Gmail.
It opened fine on my iPhone, but the sound would not play. I opened it in iMovie and then managed to add Birthday to the soundtrack. Here I digress. For reasons unknown iMovie would only recognize recently purchased songs on my iPhone. Here I digress again, I just discovered that you don’t get the iCloud download icon in Music if WiFi is turned off. I can’t find the setting in 8.1.2 to make it visible. Back up one digression, so I repurchased Birthday and used it.
However, when I attempted to save it back to my camera roll I got an error. After many hours of frustration I decided to look for video format converters on the Apple App Store. I ended up buying two:
The Video Converter – Convert videos to and from file formats! by SmoothMobile, LLC https://appsto.re/us/rD2p1.i
MConverter Medias Converter by bill santiago https://appsto.re/us/59UVL.i
I am not endorsing either of these … and there are many others to choose from.
The original version of The Race was in MOV format and needed to be converted to MP4 format. Once done, I could export it to the camera roll. Then I decided that Born To Be Wild would be a better fit. So I redid the 30s clip again.
Now to upload to Vimeo.
All for 30 seconds of audio. How do others get away with uploading entire songs, albums, music videos, movies?
Alas it is what it is. So I searched iTunes for Royalty Free Music, found
Instrumentals for TV Productions, Podcasts, Movies, and Jingles by Royalty Free Music https://itun.es/us/MZVNv
and chose the first recording for the soundtrack. It was 99 cents.
I liked the song enough that I created the looped versions in order to be able to play the entire song
I don’t know anything about DRM (Digital Rights Management), but I have to assume that that 30s clip of Born To Be Wild had a DRM tag that immediately told Vimeo “NO NO NO”. I suppose it could have checked a Shazam-like audio database, but how does that explain all the other entries the are longer and more blatant. I assume there is a way to strip off the DRM tag. I need to investigate this.
There has got to be an affordable way for individuals to license mainstream audio at an affordable price for use in homemade videos posted to the web. See my rant http://contrafactual.com/2014/12/14/21st-century-i-p-2/
Anyway back to the making of The Race. It was old-school “arrange the figures, take a photo, move the figures, take a photo, repeat” … 181 times. I couldn’t walk the next day – my thighs were in agony.
Speaking of old-school, if you haven’t seen it check out the 1979 Wizard of Speed and Time by Mike Jittlov
Originally posted on Contrafactual:
Hey Googstapos … To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, “You’ve got at lot of damn gall to come after folks who include copyrighted music in their YouTube videos when you collect and store FOREVER every damn bit of personal information you can about us to be used against us to try to sell us crap we don’t need!”
OK … That about sums up the rest of this post. This is an incoherent rant. Deal with it.
Weggieboy’s comments on my JOSIV5 post hit a nerve.
Now I am not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV, so I have no legal insight here. But consider the following: let’s say
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Woo Hoo .. My first review
Thank you Angela!
Originally posted on booksandopinions.com:
I had the pleasure of reading some short stories written by Christian Bergman, and they were great fun! You have some sci-fi going on, and get a Twilight Zone feel with some of these stories. The first story, “Curiosity” gives you a behind-the-scenes look at a team watching a planet rover, still checking and manning it daily even though a newer rover seems to be getting all of the attention, funding, and support. You follow along with them as they try to determine what they could have seen when a glint of light is reflected in one of the images.
I was anxious as I read through this first story to see exactly what they may have discovered. Sorry friends, but as is my norm, there will be no spoilers here! You will have to read it to find out for yourself what exactly they may have seen.
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