Space, The Final Frontier

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Renegadenemo
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by Renegadenemo » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:02 am

We had a capability, and now we don't.
Not so long ago I'd have shared that sentiment but having seen British engineering zip back to 1959 (when our fuel system was manufactured) and pick up the threads as though it was yesterday to rebuild the whole lot I now realise that we've not lost any capability at all. We may have retired bits of hardware here and there but if ever we need to get it all working again it can be done and that's certainly heartening. We could fly Concorde again and that 'll do for me.
Commercial companies will now develop the means to get astronauts to and from the ISS, but I can't see NASA having the ability to actually DO anything of any real substance for a lot longer than the 'few years' that gets mentioned. And okay so Virgin Galactic will offer paying punters sub-orbital flights- something NASA achieved in 1961!
And that's the best thing that could possibly happen to space exploration in my opinion. NASA is an overweight dinosaur riddled with politics and bureaucracy unlike the guys at Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites who quietly sailed through the problems by building not a plane with all the costly hoops to jump through but a 'first stage to launch' with no hoops at all by comparison and can now take people into space for a total cost of about £400m.

It's a simple fact that pretty much every underwater search unit in the UK and many others throughout the world have adopted the techniques we developed during our search for Donald because, as a bunch of crazy enthusiasts we put the sort of energy into it that money couldn't buy and worked out how to do it, and that the world's military reaped a huge windfall when rebreather technology fell into the hands of the sport-diving community because we pushed the envelope and its technology further, faster and more ingeniously than any government would ever have dared though we lost a few pioneers along the way. Carl was working on taking the decompression model he'd scaled from atmospheric pressures to extreme diving depths to the other end of the scale in the vacuum of space with an association with the Russian space programme but he died in a diving accident before realising his dream.

There may not be the same political will these days, as Adrian pointed out, but there's still a tremendous amount of enthusiasm out there - just look at how fast the world of F1 advances such things as materials and aerodynamics - so I for one won't be crying into my beer about the loss of the shuttle or Concorde any time soon, though both sadden me in a sentimental sort of way, because they both represented not the cutting edge but an edge dulled by years of use and if you dig a little deeper there's a whole host of new and exciting things taking shape under our noses.

It does disappoint me though that the big players in the Concorde saga seem to have made no provision to keep an aircraft at least viable as a flightworthy piece of heritage. You'd think that the might of BA, AF and Airbus could have combined to at least keep their options open. What an advert a single flying Concorde would have made... I spotted the GoodYear blimp over Birmingham a few weeks back and almost crashed the car...
I'm only a plumber from Cannock...

"As to reward, my profession is its own reward;" Sherlock Holmes.

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Mike Bull
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by Mike Bull » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:24 pm

It was 11 years ago today that the Air France Concorde went down, as it happens.

As for the Shuttle, this is a nicely done little video-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II7QBLt36xo
quicksilver-wsr wrote:Space Shuttle: the Final Mission is on at 9pm, immediately after Top Gear.
I thought that was bloody good, too.

Stuart Baker
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by Stuart Baker » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:09 pm

Not so long ago I'd have shared that sentiment but having seen British engineering zip back to 1959 (when our fuel system was manufactured) and pick up the threads as though it was yesterday to rebuild the whole lot I now realise that we've not lost any capability at all. We may have retired bits of hardware here and there but if ever we need to get it all working again it can be done and that's certainly heartening.
Bill, this is true for the Orpheus, as it was for the Olympus 202 in the Vulcan and (theoretically) could be for the Olympus 593 from Concorde... but ask us to build you some 1980s electronics from scratch and we'd most likely be in all kinds of trouble. The electronics world develops products around a manufacturing process and when a new process is created which makes smaller stuff, it abandons the old process and the products with it. The process houses cost so much to set up and are uneconomical to maintain if they aren't making parts. The aerospace and defence industries have to stockpile old parts to provide ongoing support - but when they're gone, they're gone, and if you put something else in their place, not only does it cost you loads in engineering effort, but the museologists will say it isn't the same thing.

I find this all very sad as it will be the death knell for keeping the current generation of products alive as examples of our engineering heritage to inspire generations to come. Our archives include information going right back to development of controls and combustion equipment for Whittle's W2 engines, and I'll never forget a colleague from a sister company telling me some years ago how they manufactured new cork floats for Tiger Moth carburettors using the original 1920's drawings (there was some consternation about where to obtain the specified "best quality cork", but hey ho!) So there you go - 1920's; all solvable. 1980's; hmm.

The reason we have supported the Bluebird project and others comes from a belief that these projects will inspire others to pursue careers in engineering and maufacturing, which are a big part of what made Britain great. Keep up the good work, but I don't know what comes next!

S

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Renegadenemo
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by Renegadenemo » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:32 pm

The reason we have supported the Bluebird project and others comes from a belief that these projects will inspire others to pursue careers in engineering and maufacturing, which are a big part of what made Britain great. Keep up the good work, but I don't know what comes next!
Thanks, Stuart. You know how grateful we are at this end for all your help and hopefully there will be a few youngsters inspired by our small project. I know Tom at your end is well into all of this and our Youth never misses a Saturday rain, hail or shine, despite having to travel many miles and scrounge a lift off his folks so there's two to be going on with...
As for electronics it seems there's still always a way if there's a will. I was interested to see that those brand new Chinooks that lay about unused for years due to a software issue or whatever it was were finally gutted out at Qinetiq and rewired until they worked. Good show.
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Renegadenemo
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by Renegadenemo » Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:20 am

I'll never forget a colleague from a sister company telling me some years ago how they manufactured new cork floats for Tiger Moth carburettors using the original 1920's drawings (there was some consternation about where to obtain the specified "best quality cork", but hey ho!) So there you go - 1920's; all solvable. 1980's; hmm.
That reminds me of my favourite insight into 1950s manufacturing. The drawings for our sponsons bear the legend,

'Fill any large gaps with Loy filler' - bodge, in other words.

The problem is that search as I might, I can't find where Norris bros. actually drew any large gaps.
I'm only a plumber from Cannock...

"As to reward, my profession is its own reward;" Sherlock Holmes.

'Sometimes you gotta be an S.O.B if you wanna make a dream reality' Mark Knopfler

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StewDurham
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by StewDurham » Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:22 pm

I know it's a hard fight, but there are many of us engineers still fighting it!!! I've just managed to get 4 of the placement students I've been interviewing positions in the company in genuine engineering development or manufacturing areas. I interviewed 9 applicants, and of these at least 6 I could have recommended as good engineers, never mind students, and they still have a years experience with us in Mechanical Development, then their last year at Uni to go. Of the 6, four I wanted in, and we've managed to make 3 other places to go with the 1 I was originally employing for. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we employ all four when they qualify in 2 years time.

( Support of the courses in the universities is an absolute neccessity in engineering, and that, not just the university policies, is the reason these courses started to disappear - hopefully industry is starting to realise this and take on and sponsor students) The Greenpower electric car event I scutineered last month gave me a great lift to see the schoolkids level of interest and genuine hands-mucky enthusiasm they had. I spent 4 rewarding hours that day with the Bloodhound Ambassadors with a load of kids uninterested to start with, but by the end of the event were redesigning their baloon powered cars and getting to understand the drag, power delivery and weight of their cars, and how far they could get them across the pitlane at Croft ! :D
Stew.
Good luck to the BBP team, makes me proud to be British (and a North-easterner to boot!). Damn fine work, chaps!

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Mike Bull
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Re: The End Of An Era

Post by Mike Bull » Mon Aug 06, 2012 1:14 pm

I thought this old thread was suitable to be dusted off, renamed and used to mention the brilliant success that NASA have had this morning in landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. I've not followed much space news since the Shuttle retired- indeed, all I've really read was about the Shuttles themselves being prepped for public display and so on- so I'd not even heard of this project until Bill mentioned it to me the other day.

Well, what a thing! Way bigger than any previous rover, the scale of it is quite something-
149718347-1-522x293.jpg
-and THEN there's the absolutely bonkers way that they landed it- straight out of the Thunderbirds- lowered on cables from a hovering rocket platform!
_61602334_mars_5_nasa.gif
(Gerry Anderson would be cross that you can still see the strings!)
_61602335_mars_4_nasa.gif
...and within moments of touching down, the thing was sending back images and updating it's social networking pages!
673559main_msl5_946-710.jpg
Although I suspect unmanned successes like this will push a manned mission to Mars further beyond my lifetime, you can't deny that this is a bloody brilliant achievement. :D
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Dominic Owen
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Re: Space, The Final Frontier

Post by Dominic Owen » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:28 pm

Has anyone else seen the images of the extra-terrestrial technology photgraphed on Mars?

True story, and nobody is trying to cover it up either. If anyone thinks I've lost the plot, I'll dig the picture out and post it.
One by one, the penguins are stealing my sanity...

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bluebirdsback
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Re: Space, The Final Frontier

Post by bluebirdsback » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:28 pm

I would be interested to see that Dominic. I have never thought that Earth was unique in its ability to support life in the whole of the millions of galaxies that exist, let alone our own galaxy. Would be great if this thing on Mars could dig up the odd fossil to prove we wernt even first in the solar system.
The moment you make something idiot proof a new breed of idiots will come along and prove you wrong

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Dominic Owen
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Re: Space, The Final Frontier

Post by Dominic Owen » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:56 pm

Here it is - it's the grey thing casting a shadow.
Extra terrestrial tech.jpg
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