Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Robots Rule

There was moaning at the bar when the last NASA Space Shuttle returned to Earth, destined to become a museum exhibit, but the sentiment that it was all over for our geriatric space program may have been misplaced.  Yes, the shuttle was a flawed compromise and would never be designed in such a configuration today, but the real flaw was that it was designed to transport and support human beings and the need safely to do that dominated the design.

Enter the X-37B.  It looks a bit like the old shuttle, but without the crew, it's smaller, lighter and cheaper.  Because it rides on the nose of a Delta rocket, we don't have to worry about junk falling off some giant fuel tank and best of all, if we lose one, we only lose some money and not men and women.

It's the 21st century and robots rule.  Robots don't breathe, don't care much about the temperature or the quality of the food or need to use a toilet or to sleep.  They don't even get nervous. The experimental US Air Force X-37B or at least its successors has a robot arm to be used to fix or dismantle or refuel satellites and can transport objects to and from orbit - just like the old Shuttle fleet, but the crew stays safe at home.  It's scheduled to be launched today, weather permitting, from Patric Air Force Base, near Cape Canaveral.  A larger X-37C space plane will follow.  After that, who knows? 


intelliwench said...

Seems right. I don't remember the last time I heard a kid say they wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up, anyway.

Capt. Fogg said...

Oh I have, but he's probably too young to know better. Really I think that with the possible exception of Mars, It will all be Robots.

FWIW, the launch went just fine today.