Saturday, May 24, 2014

Daily Mail Letter Of The Week - Build Beagle 3 As A Cubesat in Glasgow

    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.

     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 the 2003 spaceprobe Beagle 2 was, is a time for a little reflection.
      His brainchild was built on a shoestring and made so light that ESA couldn't find any excuse not to include it with its probe to the red planet.

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

        That shows good judgement - finding life on Mars means life must be common across the universe  and. 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 a spaceprobe in its own right rather than just an experiment (& Pillenger was awarded  a CBE).

     But it failed, as scientific experiments often do when something unusual is being attempted.

       The ESA said it would take it the Beagle programme over and do "more efficiently" - at 10 times the cost. Our MPs told Pillinger why they thought Beagle 2 had failed. He hadn't spent enough or taken long enough.

        ESA got their budget but  Beagle 3 is still unlaunched. Now we have cubesats (square "black boxes" 10cm o 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 across the solar system. I suggested then they would be ideal for exploring and assaying the asteroids beyond Mars.

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

         Beagle 2 was launched 11 years ago and according to Moore's Law capacity is up 400 times - a cubesat of 100g would be as efficient as Beagle 2.

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

          Beagle 3 would be much more complicated than 1 communications cube in Earth orbit. But how much more. It looks as though the cost of launching Beagle 3 would be far more expensive than cubesats at several million £s although that than 1 metre of the new Forth bridge.

           Is that worth spending 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.
    My thanks to William Scott for posting me the page from the Mail on 13th May containing my letter.
    The editings are shown on my blog for anoraks like me who enjoy seeing them

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