“The Martian” + Starship

“The Martian” by Andy Weir, and its film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott, remain some of my all time favorite science fiction works. Way back in the day I wrote a technical commentary. I last read the book in 2015 (until 2 weeks ago) and watched the film in 2018. More recently I’ve been exploring in detail how Starship changes the game with Lunar exploration and began to wonder what “The Martian” would look like with a Starship-based architecture, rather than the rather more expensive and complex architecture used in the book. If you haven’t read the book, do so … Continue reading “The Martian” + Starship

Lunar Starship and unnecessary operational complexity

This blog addresses the question of how SpaceX’s Starship could be used to ferry people and cargo to and from the Moon under a variety of different situations. It follows on from previous posts on Starship and Artemis, and Starship as a mechanism for space transport post scarcity. Broadly speaking, by the end of this post the reader should have a good idea of the variables and cost/benefit for various Starship-enabled transport systems. It’s worth stating at the outset that Starship is in a league of its own in the current field of lunar landers. Within the HLS program, the … Continue reading Lunar Starship and unnecessary operational complexity


This is a short, weird blog describing an experiment in travel story telling. During my misspent youth I did a lot of backpacking and hitchhiking. Here’s an index of trips, accounts, photos. I was largely inspired by the accounts of Vladimir Dinets, an accomplished zoologist who later became a friend and mentor. I’ve always been a map nerd and, largely stuck at home through most of 2020, I decided to revisit ideas I’d long been exploring about combining geographically relevant text-based narrative accounts with the wild data capacities of Google Earth. While cataloging my travel diaries I realized one was … Continue reading Geodiaries

Sea voyages

Recently I polled Twitter for outrageous sailing adventure stories. Here is a list of replies. If you have any others to include, please leave in comments. Alain Bombard crossed the Atlantic in 1952 in an open Zodiac with no supplies. Tim Severin and crew crossed the Atlantic in a leather coracle in 1976. David Lewis sailed to Antarctica in a small yacht in 1972. 1986 crossing the Atlantic in a Hobie cat. Tim Anderson’s attempting migration to Cuba. Someone sailed an open dinghy, solo, from Mexico to Tahiti in 214 or so days. Lost the link. The Batavia (1628). 1152 … Continue reading Sea voyages

Predictions 2021: Prospective

My previous blog was on retrospective predictions. Of course there’s selection bias but I tried to make sure that I picked at least a few that I did terribly with. This blog is prospective. Future looking. As of March 5, 2021. I crowd sourced some questions. If you have any more, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them, with the appropriate dates and commentary. In a year or so I’ll do another fresh blog and grade myself. Nuclear fusion propulsion is probably necessary for human travel to the outer solar system or other stars. It might work a … Continue reading Predictions 2021: Prospective

Predictions: Retrospective

Prediction blogs seem to be in vogue. I suppose the idea is if you can demonstrate a track record of correct predictions then maybe you have some real insight? Or got lucky a few times? In any case, making bad predictions would seem to indicate poor insight. So I’m going to do two prediction blogs. This one is retrospective. I’m mining my past public statements for predictions and grading them on accuracy. The next one is prospective, talking about stuff that’s coming up or things that people have asked me. Starship architectureIn January 2017, I published a book on transport … Continue reading Predictions: Retrospective

SLS: What now?

“Okay, wise guy, the SLS hasn’t turned out, everyone knows that, what do we do now?” Quoth some person on the internet. This blog is a followup to my previous post on the SLS and its fundamentally compromised architecture. I have been pleasantly surprised by positive responses and feel that I might have gotten closer to the mark than I at first thought. Indeed, not one week later, former JSC director George Abbey wrote a policy paper focusing on SLS’s excessive costs. The SLS is both a cause and symptom of deeply challenging issues within US space flight, and identifying … Continue reading SLS: What now?

SLS: Is cancellation too good?

The SLS axiomatically cannot provide good value to the US taxpayer. In that regard it has already failed, regardless of whether it eventually manages to limp to orbit with a Falcon Heavy payload or two. The question here is whether it is allowed to inflict humiliation and tragedy on the US public, who so richly deserve an actual legitimate launch program run by and for actual technical experts. The best time to cancel SLS was 15 years ago. The second best time is now. Oh yeah, the disclaimer. I do not speak for my employer. This blog should not be … Continue reading SLS: Is cancellation too good?

How (not) to measure progress in science?

I’m a bit late to the party but I’ve been enjoying some Collison podcast backlog and realized I had more to say about the “diminishing returns of science” trope that does the rounds from time to time. Simply stated, the thesis suggests that a variety of metrics employed to measure progress of science all seemingly concur that despite increasing numbers of PhDs and the net accumulation of knowledge, major new discoveries are few and far between, at least compared to science in prior ages. For a process that’s devoted to discovering knowledge, science is poorly understood by nearly everyone, including … Continue reading How (not) to measure progress in science?