Sunday, August 2, 2020

Well, That Was a Giant Nothing Burger

A giant Nothing Burger with a side of Nothing.  We got two light sprinkles of rain and nothing beyond a pleasant breeze.  As late as the 2PM update, the local NOAA site gave a plot of expected winds that had the same basic shape as yesterday's plot only weaker by about 20mph  The 5PM update just gives a constant breeze of 23mph gusting 30 overnight. 

I'm not sure I remember a bigger fumble of a storm forecast.  I shouldn't complain - it does come with 50% less pain in the ass than if they got it right.  I have to take down my few shutters, but at least I don't have to clean up all the crap I do after hurricanes.

On the positive side, it gave me time to sit around and watch the return of Doug and Bob from the ISS and the completion of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission with what looked like a completely nominal reentry and splashdown.  

I watched the coverage on SpaceX's site (that link will change to another mission in a couple of days).   About an hour before the splashdown, they were showing SpaceX mission control in California.  Suddenly a guy in the front row caught my attention.  He looked vaguely familiar.  Then I noticed the blonde woman he was sitting next to.  One of the voices in my head said, "that's Musk and Gwynne Shotwell."  (For those who don't know, Gwynne Shotwell is the President and COO of SpaceX; Musk is CEO and Chief Engineer). They were announced a bit later in the coverage.  Shown circled in this screen capture from YouTube just now. 

During reentry, there's a period where the superheated plasma around the spacecraft wipes out radio communication.  It lasts several minutes and although anyone who has watched space missions a lot has gone through bunches of these blackouts, they're always been a pucker moment.  When the ground controllers called the capsule the first time, the crew didn't reply.  The announcer calmly said, sometimes they get some little bits of data down from the ship before it's out of the blackout.  About thirty seconds later, the ground calls, "Dragon, Spacex.  Comm check."  Doug Hurley responds and you can see Gwynne Shotwell visibly relieved to hear them.  Right around the 6:21:00 mark in that video.

Once the dragon capsule was in the water a little while and while the SpaceX guys were readying it to be pulled onto the recovery ship, they were suddenly joined by a flotilla of fishing boats.  A couple were flying American flags and at least one a Trump banner.  They were asked to stand back and they all formed a circle a hundred yards or so away.  It was interesting to watch because I could imagine being well offshore and seeing a capsule coming down under four big parachutes.  I think I'd have to leave the fishing spot and check it out, too.  Around 6:50 and a few minutes after that. 


  1. Part of it is the drawing power of disaster TV. Even when the winds aren't horrible they have to make them appear worse than they are.

    And then some of it is political. Trump's Katrina?

    I don't have access to cable news, so I haven't seen any images from the Bahamas, and the stuff from Miami, Ft Lauderdale, and Palm Beach has been fairly tame.

    Anyway. That is the best kind of hurricane - the one that doesn't hit you...

  2. I too watched the return of the Astronauts today. I hated the way (yeah I am nit-picking) they always referred to them as Doug and Bob. I believe that they deserve more respect than that. After all they did the exact same things as the NASA astronauts have always done since 1961. They faced incredible danger and deserve everyone's respect.

  3. Most of last year's storm season was a constant litany of "ZOMG We're going to DIE!!!" followed by "Well, due to warmer sea temperatures and global climate change, the hurricane/tropical storm turned eastwardly into the Atlantic ocean."

    Funny, can't get 1 storm right (Iaiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiou was supposed to be a hurricane all up the east coast of Florida...) and yet they can correctly predict the exact weather changes caused by man's destruction of the environment or something.

    Seriously. The same people who say "Tomorrow will be 82 degrees and rainy all day long" when it will actually be 97 and dry as a desert are to be trusted when they say anthropomorphic weather change warm/cold wet/dry because plastics?

    Watched the Discovery Channel's broadcast. Stupid stupid me. And stupid them. They were interviewing all sorts of supposedly smart people like astronauts and such and all of them commented that they couldn't believe a hurricane was hitting Florida on the east coast and yet the waters off Pensacola were smooth and perfect. I mean, it's only 360 miles from Jacksonville to P-Cola. I wonder why the weather from Brevard County could ever be different to the weather in P-Cola.

    The stupid, it burns. Or it should.

  4. Went to Publix yesterday and saw bread still on the shelves, which is the best hurricane indicator this old Floridian uses

  5. I enjoyed watching what little we saw of re-entry and then the video of the chute deployment, splashdown and recovery was very good. It looked routine, the recovery looked easy, and that means that it was practiced and went according to plan.

    As with you, I was envious of the fishing boats in the area who had a first hand vies.

  6. dogsledder - I don't remember the details, but I know the woman doing the commentary during the last few hours is a SpaceX engineer. When they were signing off, she started choking up thinking about what they had just accomplished as something personal and not just something to talk about. The guy on the telecast got the same way, although he seemed to recover faster. They brought manned spaceflight back to America.

    I think the air of familiarity was from everyone there having worked with the astronauts long enough to feel close to them. I know the two of them were assigned to SpaceX and started routine trips to the company a few years ago. Five years comes to mind. You'll note NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also just calls them Bob and Doug.

    Beans - the ironic part of the forecast being so wrong is that they seemed to have it right a few days ago, and in the last three days the track kept bouncing around closer to land than farther offshore, then closer, then farther, over and over. In what seems to have been an effort to tweak their forecast for more accuracy, they got less. Fluid dynamics is one of the places where mathematical chaos theory was discovered and there's a limit they don't seem to get better than.

    LL - yeah, if I was offshore fishing there, I would have had to pull the lines in and go watch the recovery from up close.

    1. NASA said straight out that they had to do crowd control better next time. They were trying desperately to keep the boats away, but they didn't have enough Coast Guard vessels available to do it. The private boats only reluctantly pulled back.

      The high levels of NTO concerned everybody, given the possibility of a leak within the capsule's outer shell. As it turned out, it was just an accumulation of gas from the deorbit burn, but it might have been much worse.

      Recall the giant orange cloud from that one vibration test, and realize how bad it would be if it were floating across some drunk fisherman's boat. This was as much of an "ooops-oh-shit" moment as the first shuttle launch, where I and hundreds of others were covered in acid from the SRBs because we weren't kept back further.

    2. @SI Graybeard- As I said, I was nitpicking. But I was so proud of everyone who contributed to this historic event- starting with "Bob and Doug" and including everyone who built the equipment and created the software and put it all together flawlessly to send them up and bring them back alive safely. Space flight was and will always be a very dangerous undertaking and those who make it possible are magicians and wizards comparable to Galileo and Da Vinci.

  7. Follow up statement by the Coast Guard concerning the boaters:

    1. Thanks for that. The way I read it, it's kind of funny. "It's not our fault! We can't legally do anything! Don't cut our budget!"

      In that video from the SpaceX stream, it really looks like after that initial time when the boaters clearly got too close, that they backed off to a safer distance and didn't interfere. Of course, the cameras didn't stay on the boaters and it might have taken longer than desired. It just didn't look that bad to me.

      Of course, in my mind, if they got too close and got killed by fumes, that's paying the stupid tax. Too bad, so sad. Maybe your death will help others learn.