Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Scram!

This just in: NASA's last scheduled test flight of the X-43A supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) prototype has ended with the craft hitting at least Mach 9.6. Heady stuff indeed. Here's the early wrapup from ABC News

Comments following my earlier post on this admittedly esoteric topic centred on how little near-term impact this technology will have on our lives. I absolutely agree. We won't be boarding scramjet-powered airliners anytime soon, if at all within our lifetime.

But when the Wrights first lofted their Wright Flyer into the skies above Kitty Hawk, no one believed we'd all be routinely flying within a year or two. The implicit understanding was that a theoretical limit of technology had been surpassed, and that the commercialization of that technology would take a significantly longer amount of time to realize. It happened with flight, it will happen with private space flight, and it will happen with high-speed atmospheric flight. It's the way humans are, and I hope I'm around long enough to witness it.

I suspect this topic is a bit of a yawner for most folks, but it speaks to the geek in me. I hope it gives you a brief pause for thought to consider how all the technologies we take for granted today came to be, and how long they all must have taken to go from the hugely expensive, experimental and rare freak-stage to the anyone-can-buy-it-and-use-it stage.

Quite the journey we're all on, wouldn't you say?

4 comments:

Jef said...

I appreciate what you're saying. Bubble wrap and velcro never lose their wonder with me. I could pop bubble wrap and rip velcro on and off for hours.

Carmi said...

Ah, those are my two most favorite aviation/space-based products. Tang never quite made it into my pantheon of fame.

And if you're going to go the bubble-wrap route, big bubbles are the only way to go.

JohnnyDakota said...

I've been following this story since NASA announced they had it on the drawing board a few years back. I remember taking a non-stop flight from NYC to Tokyo Japan. 14 long hours. God it was suffocating! With this new technology we could take that same flight in just over an hour. I do hope you are wrong about not seeing it in our life times. I hope we do. Basically you would fly up to the stratosphere, let the Earth's rotation do all the work then back down again. Now that's what I call travel!
Johnny

Rich Rosenthal II said...

I want the space elevator the old Hard SF books used to tie to the euator.