Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NASA criticised for sticking to Imperial units

Paul Marks New Scientist

NASA's decision to engineer its replacement for the space shuttle using imperial measurement units rather than metric could derail efforts to develop a globalised civilian space industry, says a leading light in the nascent commercial spaceflight sector.

"We in the private sector are doing everything possible to create a global market with as much commonality and interoperability as possible," says Mike Gold of the US firm Bigelow Aerospace, which hopes to fly commercial space stations in orbitMovie Camera. "But NASA still can't make the jump to metric."

Gold chairs a Federal Aviation Administration working group on commercial spaceflight that is trying to change strict State Department rules affecting civilian spaceflight systems. He sees NASA's decision to use imperial units as the latest blow to hit the sector.

Read the Article HERE.


George Myers said...

Growing up, to get into advanced classes in what is today middle school, I had to pedal to classes in summer school to learn math and physics and the metric system. Many years later I would use a "metric" camera, the Rolleimetric camera system in archaeology, for the EPA in the foundry that Jules Verne had build the cannon for his "Moon shot" in fiction from Florida, the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, NY. Ni-Cad remediation, it was used in the recovery, in part of the Civil War "Swamp Angel". Those "reseau" marks or "crosses" one sees in many extra-terrestrial photos, are important in registering the photos on a digitizing tablet, then part of the method of obtaining 3D coordinates from photos. It seems odd that after all these years in the arts and sciences where metric measurements are used, i.e., 35mm, etc. that NASA would "press on regardless" with the Imperial system when those we inherited it from, and the US invented "the metric system" have also switched over to the metric system. I guess they argue with calculators and computers it's easy conversion, but wasn't one Mars lander lost only because of the confusion having traveled all the way there without fault?

Joel Raupe said...

George, it all seems very strange in this day and age. I learned a life lesson in politics in early 1974, maybe a month after I began work as a House Page on Capitol Hill. The Transportation budget was on the Floor and I spotted my Sponsor pacing in the back of the Chamber, clearly worried over how to vote on an amendment to experiment with adding kilometers to U.S. Highway signage. I made the mistake of lobbying with him, for which he lambasted me, correctly. I was a violation of House Rules, and I was 16 years old. He was rightly concerned with resistance against the change back then... in a way touching all his constituents. But metrics in the space sciences? Not a way to reach out for global partners, is it? I don't see the advantage for sticking with Imperial measures. People clearly will drive miles, and the liter went over like leaded gasoline, when that was tried. People resist change, but Inside the Program? I am missing some huge clue here. Let me know if you discover what it is.