Dreams of VASIMR

I was reading story about VASIMR and I was rather surprised by the quotes. In particular Franklin Chang-Diaz, who is credited as creating the VASIMR concept said;

They were mesmerized by the Apollo days and lived in the Apollo era for 40 years, and they just forgot developing something new

I think this statement is rather harsh, not to mention deceptive. Due to their low budget, NASA has been focused on Earth orbit missions ever since the 80s, and thus have been using more traditional booster methods, such as solid rockets and cryogenic rocket engine. There simply hasn’t been the money (or much reason) for research like this as by their own admission VASIMR is simply not suitable for these roles as it is designed for long term thrust in vacuum and its power to weigh ratio is too low.

I’m not really sure what game he’s playing there, but since he is CEO of the Ad Astra Rocket Company and all they do is develop the VASIMR, his motivations are suspect. Annoying several websites have published what reads like a PR release without much editing.

Personally I see this research as interesting and useful, but no where near as useful as a Space Shuttle replacement… something VASIMR will need to progress from an experiment to a practical technology. Research into technology like mass drivers, Scramjets and fusion power makes more sense.

Fish and LEGO

Prior to coming out of the closet I used any excuse I could to build “needed” stuff out of LEGO. A breast pump was one… and fish tank decorations was another. This was back in 2004 and I had got into fish keeping (it’s a long sad story) so…

Clean Tank!
..while the tank was stabilising I made some decorations. Note for one how lame they are (it was my childhood LEGO, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it!), and secondly how clean they are. Fast forward just three months…

Not Clean tank
…and you can see that it doesn’t take long for stuff to start growing on it…

Dirty tank
…and trust me; it’s a lot of work to get off. I still have some pieces that I can’t get clean.

As a free bonus, he’s another picture of my (now dead) Oscar Cichlid, Bargearse. This guy used to eat food out of my hand; I’d hold it about 5 centimeters (2 inches for Yank types) above the tank and he’d (OK, “he” could have been a she) grab it out of my hand, sometimes my finger as well. He was big too; about 15 centimeters (6 inches)! He especially loved eating smaller fish and like many Oscars he showed interest in the outside world. When I entered the room he got all excited and started expecting food and if I opened my mouth near the tank he would too. Quite remarkable for such a relatively small fish. Most cichlids seem quite smart… and most are trouble makers too!

While on the subject of fish, I did try to combat the algae with…

Bristlenose catfish
…bristlenose catfish. They did a good job at keeping the sides clean…

Lazy bristlenose catfish
…but they didn’t show much interest in LEGO care. Look to the bottom right; it’s that submarine….Cool fish though, probably my second favorite. For the most part they were quite reclusive fish and I suspect that’s why they were selective cleaners. Sometimes I’d not see them for a week and I’d think they all died.