Monday, November 4, 2013

Boredom Exercise

So the spin for the ACA rollout since Oct. 1 is that it has "glitches".  Kinda like saying the sonogram showing triplets means "just a little pregnant".

Regardless, the term "glitch" for me always brings to mind NASA.  Specifically, NASA's professional reaction to unexpected errors.

And then I though it might be interesting to speculate on what would happen if the current regime were in place during the infamous Apollo 13 glitch.  Add the known reaction to Benghazi and current foe of the regime, math.

So imagine it's Monday, 13 April 1970.  Lovell has just stated his immortal words, "Houston we have a problem".  Bedlam ensues as numerous 20-something engineers with slide-rules and pocket protectors try and keep up with the dynamic and dangerous situation.  Three American lives hang in the balance.

Hero of Double Standard Industries, Gene Krantz, calls all his section leaders into a room to discuss an alternative flight plan.  Do they abort and execute a quick turn?  Do they let the Moon capture the spacecraft and throw it back at the Earth?

Or is there another option?  Enter THE PRESIDENT:

President Enters room.  Everyone stands.  President immediately takes cigarette out of Krantz's mouth and proceeds to smoke.  Throws smoldering butt at nerd #1 and laughs.

PO: Ok so I heard we have a little problem here.  Look, my numbers are soft right now and I need to get back on the campaign trail. Let's make this quick.  Steve what's the situation?

GK: It's Gene sir.

PO: (stares daggers).  Whatever.

GK: Sir we have two options: turn them around now and bring them home, or let them slingshot around the moo...

PO: There's a third option.  Do nothing.  Look, you tried your hardest, and when you asked for help those terrorists in the Republican party made the decision to cut you all off.  Don't worry, I have your back.

GK: But sir, these people need our help now.

PO: That's ok.  Failure is an option, but that's off the record.

President leaves the room.  Everyone looks physically shaken.


So the Apollo 13 capsule is boned.  Nobody told them to shut everything down to preserve power.  Their computers don't work, and they can't orient themselves properly.  The venting gas has pushed them off course.  Either they 1) slam into the Moon, 2) luck out and ride a free trajectory back to Earth after slingshotting around the Moon, or 3) the capsule flies off into space after receiving a slight gravity assist from the Moon.  Let's assume option 3.

And now the fun part.  Grade-school level math.  Because my vector math sucks.  Any readers who want to do a more accurate analysis feel free and report back in the comments.

Escape velocity for any object traveling away from the Earth is around 25,000 mph.  However, this velocity in space is not constant-the Earth's gravity is constantly pulling the capsule back to Earth until the Moon's gravity takes over and finishes the job.  By the time the capsule gets to the moon, it's speed is only around 5,000 mph.

So assuming a slight gravity assist, and we have the capsule spinning off on Lord-knows-what attitude at around 5,500 mph.  Further assumption-the capsule is unaffected by the gravity of any other planet or object in our solar system.

There have been 15,912 days since this event occurred.  This would put this the capsule at around 2.1 billion miles traveled since the accident; this would put the capsule somewhere between Uranus and Neptune.

So basically, when one distills this entire post down, we get this:

Enjoy your government run healthcare, everyone!

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