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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Beagle 3 Cubesat - Response

  I got this comment from an engineer whose competence has been well demonstrated in the way that matters:

"It all depends what you intend to do. If e.g. you intend to drill down below the surface, or smash large rocks - basically use a lot of force and/or energy, then you have to be a certain size. However if you just wanted to take pictures - then you could e.g. create small probes and even allow them to be blown around like Argo buoys.

However, the best strategy is to avoid going for the one-off. It is e.g. better to send 10 probes costing $100million each than 1 probe costing $1billion. This is not just a numbers game, that some will get through, but it is also because the reliability and efficiency vastly increases even after one or two probes. And this is really what Moores law is -- it is that the more of something you do -- the better you become.

This is a fundamental difference in working between academia and successful industry. An engineer given the money to send this probe would have been successful. It might not have done so much, but it would have got there. And the way they might have done that was by sending more than one.

Or let's be more specific. If I were planning this I would have built ten probes. The first one I would have thrown out of a tenement block and ran the "mission" using that. The next would have been dropped out a helicopter, plane, balloon, then a rockets.

Then I would have sent perhaps three devices 1/3 the size in the hope of at least one getting results. But this is not how academia thinks.

The most basic principle of engineering. I would never have awarded the contract to myself or indeed any university. Instead I would have a found someone who already produced remote probes in challenging environments, either for medical use or drains or buoys, and they would have got the contract."


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