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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Honour Colin Pillinger With Beagle 3 Cubesat - Daily Mail Letter of the week

    I got a notification (and a pen) from the Daily Mail that mine had been chosen as their letter of the week. Published 13th May. That is pretty cool. All the moreso since the letter, below, is one I am extremely proud of and which contains a proposal that could be literally world changing (the world being Mars). The letter had gone out to 30 odd British newspaper and not appeared when I googled it so I assumed it had not been used but the Mail don't put their letters online.

   I would, once again, like to take the opportunity to say that I think the Mail is the only real newspaper in Britain. The only one that goes looking for real news rather than rewriting press releases and "reports" from government, or government funded sock puppets (or in the Guardian's case, under the counter smears from Conservative central office or assorted genocidal Nazis). This is presumably why it is relentlessly denigrated by the propagandists at the Ministry of Truth BBC.

   I've shown it as printed in normal type normally, with my originals in italics. That makes it more difficult to read but the original article it was derived from was on my blog here.

   The editings have been done with respect for the content and must have taken time. I suspect they have improved my grammar a little, though sometimes the most grammatical is not the most impactful. The editor dropped the "Westminster" from "Westminster MPs" - I assume because it was used in the Mail across the country not just Scotland though local references to Clydespace and the Forth bridge cost were kept in, which is good.

  It was slightly shortened, remaining the longest letter of the day (May 13th).

   I am happy with that editing.

   Google still indicates no other Scottish or UK paper found it reached their literary standards. I may be biased but I think the Mail's literary judgement is better than theirs.

    I also trust their judgement on what is popular with readers more than the other papers - and on that I have the support of their rising number of readers as competitors readership falls.
       The death of Professor Colin Pillinger who dreamed up whose brainchild the 2003 spaceprobe Beagle 2 was, is a time for a little reflection thought.
      His brainchild  It was built on a shoestring and made so light that ESA couldn't find any excuse not to include it with its their probe to the red planet.

      Against all of the expectations of our political class it became incredibly popular, and a source of pride, across Britain.

       That Which shows good judgement by the people - finding life on Mars means life must be common across the universe  and. One life creating accident on Earth is possible but 2 and only 2 isn't. If there is a more important philosophical question than "are we alone in the universe" I have yet to hear it.

      Beagle 2 was renamed So they relabelled it a spaceprobe in its own right rather than just an experiment (& Pillenger was awarded gave him a CBE).

     But  Then it failed, as scientific experiments (and half of all Mars probes) often do when something unusual is being attempted if they are pushing the envelope.

       The "the" added ESA said it they would take it the Beagle programme over and do it "more efficiently" - at 10 times the cost. Our Westminster MPs told Pillinger why they thought Beagle 2 had failed explained to him, from the eminence of their technical knowledge, the reason for his failure. He hadn't spent enough (though they hadn't offered more) or taken long enough.

        ESA got their budget but "but" added, originally new sentence  Beagle 3 is still unlaunched. Yet another example of how our "space budget" largely isn't used for space but for co-opting something people are willing to see money spent on and then hijacking the money for the bureaucracy.

         I have written before about 
Now we have cubesats (square "black boxes" 10cm on a side launched into space - that are as revolutionary to space experimentation as containerisation was for shipping). And of how an engine is being designed that can drive a cubesat, or a cluster of them several, across the solar system. I suggested then they would be ideal for exploring and assaying the asteroids beyond Mars.

       They Cubesats work because as of Moore's Law predicted, that computer capacity doubles every 18 months, so equally efficient means devices can be made ever proportionately smaller.

        So lets see how much smaller. Beagle 2 was launched 11 years ago. Add a couple of years development time to 13 years and according to by Moore's Law capacity is up (2^8.6) 400 times - a cubesat of 100g 1/10th of a kg would be as efficient as Beagle 2 enough today.

        Finding microscopic life doesn't require size. Even a drill to find material beneath the surface, which is where any life on Mars is likely to be, need not be big. In fact, because of the square cube law, landing a small probe is easier than a large one.

          Cubesats (with "with" added 40% of all all those now in use around the ones in the world have Glaswegian hardware containing hardware produced in Glasgow) are being put in orbit now for under £100,000 and they are proving to be "proving to be" added a technology that which is game changing for space development.

          Beagle III would be much more complicated than 1 communications cube in Earth orbit. But how much more. It looks to me like  as though the cost of launching Beagle 3 "cost - 3" added would be far more expensive than cubesats at likely to be several million £s although that which is less than small change to government.

           Less  than we spend subsidising 1 single windmill. Less than 1 metre of the new Forth bridge.

           Is that 2 added Worth spending to answer if we get closer to answering arguably the ultimate question about life and the Universe?

            I would think Westminster, and all our best known philanthropists would fight for the opportunity to honour Professor Pillinger thus.
Neil Craig
   If there are no technical reason why I am wrong and I don't think there are, then I hope I and perhaps others can push this further. If government (UK or Scots) were to put up even £1 million I am sure sponsorship of any excess would be possible, as much of the much greater cost of Beagle 2 was raised privately.
PS The Forth bridge is only clearly cheaper if you just count the central span of 1,006m. The full length is 2,512m which comes to £916,000 per metre. 7/8th of this remains provable not engineering costs and the Holyrood politicians refuse to explain where it went.

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