Saturday, November 13, 2004

The need for speed...interrupted

If you've ever flown hours and hours to visit grandma, and have been frustrated at how gosh darn slow those pokey Jumbo jets seem to have become – heck, in this day and age, even 600 mph is dog slow – you might be interested to know that research into The Next Big Thing in aviation (namely, scramjet-powered atmospheric flight) is well underway.

Of course, in typical U.S. government fashion, no sooner will NASA test-fly its X-43A scramjet prototype to the obscene speed of Mach 10 than the feds will cancel further funding for the project.

According to this article in, the flight is scheduled for later this week, at which point flight operations will immediately cease. This will allow the political geniuses who run the country to free up funds for $500 wrenches, and for research into building a new moon-capable capsule that looks just like something the U.S. built and successfully flew a generation ago.

I love the irony. Sadly, however, it means we'll be waiting a little longer for that shorter trip to grandma's house.

How will you survive the wait? As Thanksgiving and Christmas grow ever-larger in our near-term travel plans, what are your best-laid plans for getting there – and back – in one piece? And, please, no one suggest riding shotgun on that Pegasus rocket this week, OK?


Mellie Helen said...

We fully intend on warping time on this year's trip to Gramma's house for Thanksgiving, but in in the opposite direction: we're putting a 4 year old and a 2 year old in the car with us.

With this mathematical combination, we're certain to take precisely 2.38 months to complete a 4-day trip.

Dean said...

I'm not sure how soon scramjet technology will actually be a viable method of transporting humans. You can't run those things in the lower atmosphere, as we don't have the materials that can handle the kind of heating you would get at those speeds.

So you have to spend a lot of fuel to get the thing up the stratosphere, at least. That means that it will only ever be viable for long hauls, and that a ticket will probably always be very expensive.