Feeds

back to article NASA takes stick over feet and inches

NASA's insistence on sticking to pounds, feet and inches in its Constellation programme "could derail efforts to develop a globalised civilian space industry", New Scientist reports. Leading the fight to bring NASA into the metric fold is Mike Gold of the US civilian space outfit Bigelow Aerospace. His company is "dedicated to …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Bronze badge
Boffin

Come on people, it's not rocket science...

Now obviously, I'm not a rocket scientist by any means, but even I know that our local hardware store sells various little adjusty things that let you interface between metric and imperial pipes. Often they only cost a couple of quid- I'm sure even cash-strapped NASA could afford a few of those...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Money Problems

Hautaluoma said: "We found the cost of converting to SI would exceed what we can afford."

How the F*** are they going to get to Mars then?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Whats a title?

Not surprising that the good old money dump can´t do simple math. Just look at there launch succes rate compared to succesfull space agencies. NASA = FAIL

0
0

That's strange

I had always believed NASA used imperial. However, I watched the James May thing on BBC on Sunday and all the old Apollo astronauts spoke about Kilometers and meters, so I just assumed I was wrong and that NASA had been using metric all along.

Then again, they also mentioned pounds of thrust and the old 25,000 mph so it's probably no wonder they are all confused. The sooner the US and UK drop their pathetic romantic notions towards imperial measurements the better. When was the weights and measures act? 1969?

0
0

NASA knows best

Asked to comment on the magnitude of the cost of converting to metric, a NASA spokesman said "About 4/5 of 5/8 Whitworth of a Shuttle Launch. We're being screwed, and they're using a UNC thread! These people don't have an ounce (437 1/2 grains) of sense."

0
0

UK's romantic notions

"The sooner the US and UK drop their pathetic romantic notions towards imperial measurements the better. When was the weights and measures act? 1969?"

All I can say to you is, I started primary education in 1981 and I have NEVER been taught anything in Imperial (that's right IMPERIAL not ENGLISH! English is a language not a measurement system).

There may be a few "old and bolds" out there who find it tricky to change, but I'll think you'll find nearly every, if not every single, new piece of hardware designed in the UK has SI measurements. Any that don't are almost exclusively legacy items, designed to fit in with old systems.

0
0
Silver badge
Coat

@Bassey

"When was the weights and measures act? 1969?"

I feel a song coming on...

"I got my first real six-string.

Bought it at the five-and-dime.

Played it till my fingers bled.

It was the summer of '69."

Sorry I know this isnt helpfull. Dont need a coat in this weather...

0
0

@AC 09:38

Here's the deal: you learn to spell and I'll pretend you have a real opinion. Fair?

But seriously folks ... Brits of a certain age may remember 'Jimbo and the Jet Set' - the cartoon aeroplane whose designer got inches and centimetres confused. Brits of all ages, however, are probably quite capable of buying a piece of wood of the size 2" x 4" x 1 metre. Who says we aren't bilingual?

0
0
Bronze badge
Go

Re: That's strange

I was under the impression that the UK, with the odd exception like speed limits, was mostly metric these days anyway.

I grew up there knowing both metric and imperial distances, and usually think in kilos rather than pounds and ounces.

My solution for the speed limits too is just claim all speed limits from <date> should be read as kilometres instead of miles. And increase the national speed limits. All inner city speeds are instantly cut by 30%, and it costs nothing more than a small advertising campaign. All roads where the national speed limit applies are marked with ( / ) signs so they don't need to be changed.

Oh, and no matter what system of measurements NASA use, JPL will still manage to crash things into planets that wandered unexpectedly into the flight path.

0
0

Don't make the Americans convert to metric

The best thing about those occasional Junkyard Wars vs. Scrapheap Challenge events is watching the Brits get stuck in with welders and angle grinders while our American friends cover a couple of blackboards in chalk trying to work out how many oil barrels will float a Land Rover.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Really an issue?

I have to be honest, changing units is not the most challenging aspect of rocket science.

0
0
Stop

UK science education

When I was at school and uni (in Scotland), all physics and engineering classes used SI units exclusively. Is it different in the US ?

0
0

It's quite ironic really.

Considering the fuss they made about independence a couple of hundred years ago, I would have thought they would have jumped at the chance of ditching the "English" measurement system. As it happens they seem to be being pretty tenacious about it all - they're still using it over 40 years after the England itself ditched Imperial in favour of Metric.

0
0
Stop

English?

Since when have we used non metric units, miles excepted? As far as I know, America is the only country not to use metric.

I don't even know any non metric units apart from miles and a very rough idea of feet.

0
0

Boston tea party anyone?

I guess the people of the USA haven't yet realized that Imperial measurements are part of a long term plot to by the British to regain control over the 13 states.

0
0
Alert

English Units?

Here in England (where I live), and in Scotland (where I'm from) we use SI units...

It really bugs me when the yanks talk about "English" units.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@Dave Coleshill

.... except that large numbers of Americans see metric units as an sign of attempted takeover of the US by some new world government ... its probably also closely linked to communism as they use metric in Russia/China/North Korea.

0
0

Hang on a sec...

Before we UKers take the piss out of the Merkins too much (I can't believe I just said that) about how we've all been taught SI in school, how many of you think of your height or weight in SI units?

I know I'm about 1.9-2m tall, but I think of it as 6foot5. I know I'm about (redacted) kilos, but I think of it as (redacted) stone.

And I bet you know how many mpg your car does not l/km...

0
0
Happy

They already use SI units

"T Minus ten... nine... Ignition Sequence Start... seven... six... five..."

I think you'll find those are Metric seconds they're using, not Imperial seconds.

0
0
Pirate

A coincidence??

Is it a coincidence that NASA and drug dealers like to use imperial measurements??

0
0

Nonsense

To all those claiming Britain has gone metric, are you mad or do you just never get out of the house? Pints (milk or beer)? How tall are you? How heavy are you? All road signs. All cars. You order bricks/sand/gravel by the yard. How big is the display on your mobile? What size telly have you got? Yes, the weather forecast may display Celsius, but as often as not the ditzy blond is telling you "it will be up in the eighties today". I went for an operation a few years ago and I had to convert my weight into pounds for the nurse to calculate my anaesthetic because all her tables were imperial and she didn't know how to convert from Kilos.

To say the UK is "mostly metric" is utter bollocks. Schools, yes. Science, maybe. Engineering, medicine and real life - no way.

0
0

title?

Can NASA really go to mars while having 2 feet on the ground?

0
0
Alien

Why is this an expensive issue

I hope they settle on something. Mars Climate Orbiter, anyone?

0
0
Silver badge
Boffin

"English" units...

...are so called in order to distinguish them from imperial ones - the gallon is the most obvious difference, and I believe there are other quantities which differ somewhat as well.

0
0

English=imperial=US?

The "English" no longer use Imperial for anything other than distance on a road, speed limit on a road and pints of Beer and Milk (which isnt even the same as a US Pint).

Also, the US drive on the right SPECIFICALLY because the English drive on the left (which is a hangover from the horsey days). So i can believe that they will not want to go metric, precisely because we have!

I grew up in an imperial household while learning metric, so i have no problem converting in my head.

0
0
Thumb Up

Heard on radio..

.. in the airspace around the local airport. US female pilot on approach, load and arrogant (as these overseas pilots often are), telling ATC that she insists QNH (local barometric pressure) be given in inches.

And then an unknown pilot broadcast, "Tower, give it to her. Inch... By inch..."

Few minutes of radio silenced followed on the frequency. Op error. Cannot transmit while laughing.

0
0
Silver badge
Happy

Feet easier?

Bizarrely, I find it easier to estimate distances of 20 feet or less, in feet. Anything above I'll move to metres, and then for big distances I move to miles.

Obviously just to finish it off, I use mm's for smaller stuff. Ah, the British education system. The World's finest.

Let's use the Reg's standards

0
0

Imerial Units

Well, in the UK we passed the weights and measures act, what, 40 years ago or something?

In the US, they're still using Imperial Measurements - depsite the fact that they haven't been part of the empire for 233 years.

So, Space travel - the way of the future? Only for those who're modern enough to be able to use SI!

0
0
Boffin

No, let them keep calling them English....

because it must iritate them to no end; still using units named after the BRITISH EMPIRE, when even the UK and every other sane country on the planet uses SI.

The 'it costs too much' is totally bogus - anyone who does any work in infrastructure can tell you - DO IT NOW, otherwise in 5 years time, it will cost 10 times as much. Ever heard the phrase 'A stitch, in time, saves nine?' It's not just an aphorism, it's actually true.

To be honest, I thought the Shuttle was SI, the insides at least. Or was that one of the design goals, like two-week turnaround?

Spaceflight (human spaceflight at least) is all about minimising risk; you would think having 2 systems of measurement floating around is one elephant-in-the-room risk. *cough* mars probe *cough*

Talk of Imperial always brings to mind the priceless scene in 'Brazil' - Bob Hoskins drops a floor-plate through a slightly-too-big hole int he floor "Oh, buggger, they've gone back to Metric again!"

Scientist - because they know to use SI. (Physics must be a total BITCH in Imperial, or do they just work in Base-12 to make it simple?)

0
0

Silly brits

I keep seeing these comments about how luvverly blighty is so metric it's practically french.

And somehow, you can't do the conversion on your cars and roads.

Clarkson et al are still quoting miles per hour, causing the poor subtitlers over here ("the continent") to have to reach for their calculators regularly.

Not to mention your persistence in using 'stone' (which even the merkins gave up) as a unit of weight.

Nono, you may only be taught in SI, but the home is still a distinctly imperial place.

0
0
Silver badge
Coat

RUBBISH: Linguini, swimming pools, Wales are better

They should skip the metric system entirely, and go for linguini, norris, brontosaurus and doubledecker buses: THAT'S rocket science

0
0
Paris Hilton

English = American?

By "English" I presume they mean "American". Note to our friends across the pond, our old english imperial system is not the same as your "English" system, which is unique to the US.

Also, I was born in 1970 and was never taught anything other than metric at school in the UK. In fact the only imperial measurements I've ever used have been miles and gallons.

Note that a UK gallon is very different in size to a US gallon....

Paris, 'cos.. ummm, something to do with measurements and the origination of the metric system.

0
0
Bronze badge

One dimensional brain?

@Jacob Reid

I guess you are one of these new breed that has never drunk a pint or know what a run in cricket is? (22 yards unless its an extra/boundary). Oh and have you ever wondered why jam and other food is packaged as a very odd number of grams? ie 1lb jar/pack.

How heavy are you? Say 11st and most people know you are OK. How many kg is that? Oh and a six footer is a tall guy or rather over endowed below the waist? Come on both measures are firmly endowed in the public conciousness. He/she who doesn't use both as appropriate is halfwit (0.5wit)?

0
0
Alert

more amnesia

NASA has forgotten the reason for a Mars lander failure a few years ago - most of the software was written for SI units, and a subcontractor used traditional units for landing rocket software. Result was a very expensive small crater near the Martian South pole. If they can't afford to use consistent units, there are going to be more expensive craters.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

All the other UK peeps like me....

Use imperial for.

Speed in a car, how all we are, and how much we weigh.

But we all convert back and forth with no issue.

0
0

Americans are taught SI

As an american EE college student, I can attest that the only units we use are SI with the exception of statics.

TBH, I find the usage of imperial units in the scientific community to retarded, not to mention a pain in the ass.

0
0

not that expensive

Wonderful free utility for converting any measurement to any other (not feet to ounces obviously):

http://www.online-unit-converter.com/software-download/

As for the UK being metric, how come we have so many jars in the supermarket with net contents weighing 454 grams?

Uk mantra: "A pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter."

US version: "A pint's a pound, the world around."

Now THAT'S arrogance!

0
0

What About US and British Pints

How many chains do they get to the hogshead?

0
0

Why such an issue?

Internally, each module knows what units it's using. A data dictionary lists variables and says what type they all are. And for external interfaces between modules, the interface spec says what units everything uses. If the units don't match up, you simply apply the appropriate scaling.

I've worked on Ford engine controller software. Their software has an amazing mix of units, many resulting from 20-year-old decisions which it's too late to do anything about because there's too much code using these variables now and it's too much hassle to change the old code. The result is multiplying/dividing by 1.609 (or whatever other scaling is needed) on the way in/out of your code. No big deal. It was rare to find the wrong units getting used, and if it did happen then testing or reviewing spotted it.

Sure, it'd be nice if units were consistent everywhere. It'd be nice if the Code Pixie came overnight and fixed it for you with a wave of her magic wand too. But back in the real world, stuff like this happens and you deal with it. If it fails, it was because they used substandard engineering and/or sub-standard specifications and/or sub-standard V&V (all of which tend to go hand-in-hand), not particularly because they used inconsistent units.

0
0
Boffin

Rocket science is easy...

...it's Ballistics that's hard.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Silly Dutchies

Really Edwin? Then the Dutch 'aint much better, since my Dutch mother-in-law still buys meat etc by the 'pound'?

0
0
Bronze badge

Old Imperial, New Imperial, SI

Americans use pint, gallon etc sizes that are very old -- they came over in the 1600s and 1700s and lingered, while the UK updated various liquid volume sizes in the early 1800s. And then the UK (supposedly) moved to SI in the 20th century.

In the same way that Americans still preserve some old surnames and archaic spellings of those names, they also preserve historical measurements. As an historian, I am touched, but if I were a rocket scientist, I would be wondering why I was still using ancient stuff. Firkins of liquid oxygen, anyone? Hundredweight of titanium?

0
0

Unit silliness

I still don't understand why care tyres (Yank: 'tires') are sized with the diameter in inches and the width of the tyre in millimetres:

For example a 195/55 R16 tyre is 195mm wide on a 16" wheel. If we can't even be consistent on these things I think it is a bit unfair to pick on someone else...

0
0
Silver badge

'English' Units?

Here in England, we use SI units, and have done for some time, except for specific applications (such as the print industry where inches are commonly used, or pubs where beer is sold in pints). This is a hang-over from the use of Imperial units, since a lot of equipment still in use can be quite old.

Note that I use the term 'Imperial' units - this is not even the same system as our Septic cousins erroneously refer to as 'English' or 'British'. As far as I am aware, the imperial gallon has never equalled the US gallon (being about 20% larger). It is almost as if the 'Merkins are so ashamed of their backwards set of units that they wish to blame them upon someone else, and chose us because of 200-year old chip on their shoulders.

0
0
Silver badge

@Bassey

Last time a bought a 'pint' of milk, it was actually 500ml. Most places have been selling them as such for a while. Those that aren't are usually labelled as 568ml, not 1 pint.

/counterpoint

0
0

Imperial Has a Bad Rep

I just wanted to point out that there ARE a few advantages to English units.

1. It's founded on units that coincide with amounts human beings actually find convenient. Metric units are completely arbitrary and so less friendly than imperial units That's why very few people have one liter containers in their "cup"boards and why even the most SI friendly countries still drink "pints" of beer.

2. It uses binary divisions, which are more logical and typically more flexible and convenient than decimal ones (honestly, if we had been born with eight or sixteen fingers, we would all have been better off, mathematically speaking).

I'm not saying that there are NO advantages of SI over English - bureaucrats LOVE the way it makes the numbers line up - I'm just pointing out that it's not as one sided as people here seem to think.

0
0

It occured to me a while ago

That we british are handier with measurements than most people in the western world. We might be hopeless at foreign languages but there's a large number of europeans who don't even know what a centimetre is. "I'm six foot 2, er... 185 centimeters. Okay 1.85m?" like many europeans with our language, we can do their own measurement systems better than them.

Britain is totally bilingual with measurements, most brits below 60 and above 15 know that a mile is roughly 8/5km. That a yard is 90cm, 2.2 pounds to the kilo, (very roughly) 25 grams to the ounce and so on and can freely translate between the two.

0
0

US Aircraft

The US aircraft industry still builds aeroplanes to imperial standards, Why?

cause it would be too costly to change, not just the drawings and jigs but all the supporting hardware manufactureres make for example all rivets and nuts and bolts to imerial standards and ali sheet and plate in thous.

Most US machine tools are programmed in thous of an inch,

Yers of course metric is used in US industry when its economic to do so.

At present its not economic to change the whole of the US manufacturing base to metric.

On to something much more important,

It shuld be up to the purchaser to deside how he wants to buy something. for example I dont want half a kilo of spuds i want 1lb of them/,or bananas for that matter.

another stupid metric measument is newtons, If you think foot pounds it means what it says, so many pounds load at so many feet from a fulcrum point.

Newtons?

Might as well call them Darwins or Copernicii.

0
0
Boffin

US Gallons/Pints vs Imperial Gallons/Pints

As others have noted, the US Gallon is smaller than an Imperial Gallon -- ours is 3.8L.

Likewise US Quarts are smaller than Imperial Quarts. As you might guess from the above tidbit, a US Quart is very nearly the same as a liter (or litre if you prefer.)

But a Pint is a Pint, or IOW a Pint is a Pound the World Around. Our Pint is the same as your Pint.

And yes, we do use the metric system here, for some definition of use. Cars are assembled with metric fasteners. Coke, beer, and milk are sold in metric volumes. Flour, cake mix, and sugar in metric weights. Etc. Speed limits on highways are often posted in both MPH and KPH, especially near the borders but in many other states too.

Oh, there are pounds and ounces on the labels too, and most people still prefer those. Not sure why anyone cares really.

0
0
Boffin

A modest proposal

1kg = 2.2lbs therefore 1 metric pound = 0.5 kg

1km = 0.52 miles therefore 1 metric mile = 0.5km

1m = 1.1 yds therefore 1 metric yard = 1 metre

1pt = 0.6l therefore 1 metric pint = 0.5 litres (works even better for US pints)

and 1 metric gallon = 4 litres

So everyone's happy. We get to use a sensible measuring system, and all the old folks and Disgusteds of Tonbridge Wells can carry on thinking in units familiar to themselves - they won't be the exact values they used to be but they'll be close enough for everyday use.

I understand the rest of Europe does this already, at least for weights. Ask for a "livre" or a "pfund" of something in a greengrocer in France or Germany respectively, and you'll get half a kilo.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.