Why doesn’t the Shuttle go to the Moon?

Let’s ignore the problems of fueling the thing to get to the moon in the first place, and start at the end. When the Shuttle is in Earth orbit it is traveling at a speed of 17,400 MPH to 17,500 MPH, depending on its assigned altitude. In order to return to the surface, the Shuttle fires its OMS engines for a short time against the direction of travel — reducing its speed oh-so-slightly (about 200 MPH). This causes the orbit to change shape.

The apogee (that is, the hight point of the orbit) remains the same as it was just before the engine firing. The perigee is now reduced to a point where the Shuttle intersects the upper regions of the atmosphere. This is all very subtle stuff.

So, half a world away the Shuttle is rubbing against the atmosphere, and reducing speed and altitude. It gets fairly hot, and the G forces increase — but not alarmingly so. Yada yada yada, you know the rest.

How does an Apollo-type spacecraft return to Earth? It all starts at the Moon. The spacecraft fires its engine to escape the Moon’s gravity and is thrown up in an arc away from the Moon — all the time reducing speed due to the Moon’s gravitational influence. At some point the Earth’s influence is greater and the spacecraft starts to accelerate, effectively falling toward the Earth.

No matter how gently you plan to leave the Moon, by the time you have fallen all the way home, you’re doing about 25,000MPH. The Apollo command module hits the atmosphere at a very shallow angle (but not too shallow or it would skip right off), digs in and rapidly slows. The forces are incredible — up to 10 G of deceleration, and the heat build up is amazing too. The command module survives because it’s the last, smallest and toughest part of the whole complex and the only part to return. It’s built like a tank. This is all sledge hammer stuff.

The Shuttle would simply vaporize, decelerating at such a rate while generating such heat.

“So, why not fire the Shuttle’s engines to slow it before it hits the Earth’s atmosphere?”

The Shuttle’s OMS engines currently slow it by 200 MPH. That’s it — all fuel spent. The amount of fuel, and the sort of engine, required to slow the Shuttle from 25,000 MPH to a safe speed would stagger the imagination. AND, you’d need to propel all of that extra weight TO the moon in the first place, requiring even more fuel, and even bigger engines…

So, no. Can’t be done.

Curb Your Enthusiasm


I don’t like awkward situations. I avoid them at all cost. When I first saw Curb Your Enthusiasm, it seemed that it was all awkward situations. I hated it. And I was so sure in my hatred.

I hated Larry for the vehement anger that he showed — he would almost burst a blood vessel at times. I hated the rough language, and the crudity. I hated the inevitableness of the situations — like a nightmare that you wanted to shake yourself awake from…

And then it started to grow on me. I decided that I was avoiding too many situations from the comfort of my clicker; this was supposedly intelligent nasty awful television. Perhaps I should give it a proper hearing — at the very least it might help me de-sensitize myself a little.

And now I love it. Larry is obnoxious, and insensitive, and crude; but he’s on a noble mission. He sincerely wants to do the right thing — and do right by his friends, but he suffers the curse of an innate honesty. He can’t help himself. He has to say what he says.

It turns out, he’s a lovable prick.

There’s also the situation where the characters live. This, Hollywood, where there are meetings, and lunches, and money that is never an issue — and it’s all about nothing — yet it’s all so important.

It’s also completely chaotic, but not really — like an explosion in reverse. The random messy bits all fall into place like a Japanese puzzle by the end of the episode — and by the end of the season all those puzzles fall into a perfectly formed box.

Larry’s world is a rough place, but nobody gets killed. Friends stick together no matter how much they hate each other. It’s really quite touching, but you’ll never see that in it, if you just drop in for a moment.

Pure genius.

Quirk Allocation

Do you ever stand in line at the ten items or less counter and the guy in front of you drops down 23 items? Why does he do that? He seems an otherwise decent and intelligent fellow.

He does that because we have all been allocated X number of quirks. Ignoring the sign that says: “Ten Items or Less” is one of his quirks. Try to think of quirks as Things that Otherwise Intelligent People Can Be Totally Stupid About.

Other quirks include being a bad driver, or not washing, or having terrible handwriting; remember that we are all allowed some quirks (let’s say, five). The trick to coping with quirks is that with the stranger, you don’t know whether whatever he’s doing to annoy you is a legitimate quirk — part of his allocation. Give the guy a break.

However, if it’s someone you know, and you know he’s gone over his quota — do feel free to tell him to get his act together. In fact, don’t just feel free. It’s your obligation. That way everything can get back into balance.

We Went to the Moon

It occurred to me that there’s one piece of evidence regarding the Apollo moon landings that completely blows all of the doubters out of the water.

NASA was in a pitched battle with the Russians to get to the moon first. Each agency was monitoring everything the other was doing. When the astronauts were speaking from the moon they were using radio signals that anyone could pick up, given a large enough antenna.


If the Russians pointed their antennas at the moon during the missions and heard nothing (as would be the case if no-one had left the earth) don’t you think they would’ve made a big deal about it. Wouldn’t they have milked it for all it was worth?

End of story, Man. And what about that second world war. I have my doubts about that…

Heard on the Radio Today…

“Simply The Best Reggae Album In The World, Ever!…Volume 2!”

I don’t like reggae, but that’s not the point. The point is: If “Simply The Best Reggae Album In The World, Ever!… (The Original)” was what it said it was, then that’s the end of the story.

You can’t have a Volume 2!

Deadwood Knocks Me Sideways

I well remember the first time I saw Hill Street Blues. It was buried in the late night schedule, and it was several shows in before I stumbled on it. I remember I had a real Wow reaction. This was something special.

Back in the day there were several aspects to Hill Street that made it revolutionary: It was the first show where several characters, not just the lead, had their stories. It was the first show where you knew what the characters knew, and nothing more; there were no shots of the robbers pulling up outside the bank. It was the first show where things weren’t always tied up at the end of the episode…

You weren’t watching Hill Street — you were being dragged along, and you had to pay attention.

The Shield was another mold breaker, where the good guy was also rotten, where things are never going to be simple, and where you miss a lot of the detail, but you catch on by riding it out.

Fast forward to last year and I discovered Deadwood, and had another Wow reaction. Like Hill Street, Deadwood breaks the mold. Well, perhaps it doesn’t break it, but it does bend the results. Freed of the restraints of mainstream network television, Deadwood uses profanity, and nudity to take its story telling to a whole new level; not just because it can — but because, well, this is a shocking and often-times nasty place where you’re going. You have to experience the whole package.

The initial shock then, is the strong language. The second shock is also the language — just what the hell is it that they’re saying? But like listening to Shakespeare, you find that you do attenuate to it. Also Shakespeare-like is its frequent use of soliloquy, and its wry humor. Just delectable. Even secondary conversations between the more minor characters can be packed with depth, anguish; poetry even.

This place called Deadwood is a horrible place, and like in other, real, tough environments, the people who survive there are all characters of the material kind. They have pasts they can’t talk about, humor that’s earthy and sophisticated at the same time, and above all they survive through an un-spoken, strangely attractive nobility that binds them together.

Riveting, perplexing, compelling, great TV!