Once you know something about a subject, you can see most news reporting and public discussion as the horrible misguided speculation and false myths presented as facts that it really is. This time it’s SpaceX’s successful orbiting.
Some myths and their corrections:
- SpaceX is the first private company to reach orbit – not so, Orbital Sciences did this in the nineties.
- Well, Orbital used government motors – no, they were allied with a solid rocket manufacturer. And SpaceX’s Merlin engine is based on the NASA-funded Fasttrack engine of the nineties. The turbomachinery manufacturer is the same, Barber-Nichols.
- SpaceX is very lean – no, Orbital had much less employees back in their first launch of their first rocket, Pegasus, which was a success on first launch and developed much faster than the Falcon 1.
- SpaceX is going to change everything – how exactly? They are vertically integrated but their rocketry is very ordinary and conservative and completely expendable (as I predicted. We already got reports that the first stage was destroyed during re-entry).
Of course, the mechanics of peer moderation on Slashdot leads to confirmation bias – people moderate up some points which they agree with, and the discussion floats into its own sphere that is completely unattached to reality.
This is completely opposite to expert and professional knowledge.
It’s a real problem with Wikipedia as well, where popular myths peddled by amateurs rule over the experts simply by majority and perseverance. Anti-intellectual arguments and the separation of those who know (the people in lab coats) and the ordinary people (who vote and thus hold the power) just gets worse day by day.
Kert in the comments section links to an article (Thanks!)
If [insert rocket here] works, the company said it could sell commercial launchings for $6 million to $7 million each, or about $6,000 per pound of payload. That would be a vast improvement over the $20,000 per pound to send a small satellite aloft on the only other rocket designed specifically for lightweight payloads, the ground-launched Scout rocket made by the LTV Corporation.
[insert rocket here] = Orbital Sciences’ Pegasus. The article is from New York Times April 4 1990.