back to article Hypersonic Waverider scramjet in epic wipeout

The US Air Force’s ongoing attempt to develop a hypersonic scramjet has taken another hit, with its X-51A tester breaking up less than a minute into its 15 August test flight. According to the Air Force, the test flight, planned to last five minutes, ended 31 seconds after it started. A rocket booster had been fired to …

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Sunk cost

> With only one test craft remaining, ... whether or not to risk burning more expensive hardware

They've already built the craft, so there is no financial risk (except for the cost of the test flight). The question is whether they understand what went wrong on the previous 3, so that the information they've "bought" with those failures can be used to move closer to a successful trial.

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Devil

Re: Sunk cost

And, any telemetry that has been returned will allow, us plebs, to transverse the big oceans in a matter of three hours or less... Imagine that!

*caveat*

Not, in any way, would this expedient any sort of weapon system, that could be disguised, from being detected by orbital systems, looking for thermal blooms... that would just be crazy talk...

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Re: Sunk cost

"....will allow, us plebs, to transverse the big oceans in a matter of three hours or less... Imagine that!"

Welcome to 1983!

1st Jan 1983 - British Airways Concorde sets a new New York to London record of 2 hours 56 minutes.

29 years ago!

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Facepalm

Re: Sunk cost

29 years ago for Concorde?

Perhaps in another 29 years, we'll be able to do what we did... 29 years ago.

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Re: Sunk cost

It's alright.. they won't let the French on board this time..

Too many Rafale, sold to dusty, desert, dictatorships, that don't dare to demand dinar as payment :)

I can't remember where I was going with this.. but the D's seemed to be good..

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FAIL

Re: Sunk cost

"Perhaps in another 29 years, we'll be able to do what we did... 29 years ago."

I'm still waiting to see if we can do, and nearly did, over 40 years ago! Pfft, we should've had stations on Mars by now, not one little satellite barely holding orbit over Earth!

/rant But NOOOOO! We decided to keep all our eggs close in one basket, never mind that it's sitting in the middle of the cosmic equivalent of fastball practice at Camp Walleye.

One errant rock, or an unexpected belch from ol" Sol, and Oops, there goes all the (semi)intelligent life that we know about in the universe... But eh, we saved enough money to bomb Butfuckistan for 3 more hours, so it was worth it! rant/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sunk cost

Not at all.

The US are paying, not us.

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Facepalm

Re: Sunk cost

"...whether or not to risk burning more expensive hardware."

Might as well. If you're not going to fly it then what''s the point of having it?

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Just not Krikkit

Your reference to camp walleye has nothing to do with sailors or Brylcream boys does it?

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Re: Sunk cost

but the reason Concorde failed was it wasn’t american. Had it been american the sonic boom would have been celebrated.

It would still be flying now if BA wasn’t such an appalling company.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sunk cost

BA fitted the uprated deflectors after FOD damage to a wing taking off from New York, Air France didn't, deciding the cost of fitment wasn't justified by the risk to the craft.

The rest, as they say is history. BA saw an opportunity to retire an expensive, aging fleet without loss of face. Whilst it was a shame they did, I can't argue with the economics, and BA are there to make money not run a flying museum.

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Re: Sunk cost

BA did take the chance to retire an expensive, aging fleet. Fine. They did however refuse to sell them to those who wanted to keep them air worthy - Branson for example. That we do not have a single flying example out of the remaining airframes is a disgrace.

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Re: Sunk cost

Odd that Branson did not make a big noise about purchasing the redundant Air France aircraft. Almost as if he had no intention of buying BA's planes but just wanted to score some points from a 'rival' airline.

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Re: Sunk cost

The semi-intelligent life would survive an unexpected belch from old Sol, unless it was on a scale that hasn't happened since life was walking on dry land. Our civilisation might not ... but we'd probably find a way back within the next hundred thousand years or so.

Probably ditto with respect to extinction-level meteor impacts. The dinosaurs died out because they were big and dumb and didn't shelter in holes or cache food. (The mammals did. The birds or flying dinosaurs substituted long-range mobility for hiding in a hole).

We can't do anything about Sol. Since we might do something about meteors, maybe we should. On the other hand, we've scanned the skies and made sure that there aren't any extinction-level impacts coming from objects orbiting the inner solar system during the next few decades, and we would notice them coming with enough time to react. Probably.

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Stop

Re: Sunk cost

Certificate of Airworthiness.

Airbus were not prepared to continue support, making the replacement parts, technical support etc. and therefore surrendered (after consultation with BA/AF) the type certificate for Concorde (i.e; handed it back to the regulators) meaning that the entire fleet was grounded. Branson could have bought them but he

a) Only said to the press that he was prepared to offer £1 for them, same as BA paid.

b) Couldn't fly them anywhere without a Certificate of Airworthiness.

So what was he going to do with them, open up a museum? Because strangely that's where they all ended up, just without the bearded one having any involvement.

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Re: Sunk cost

Concorde would have been out of service sooner or later because of the airframes wearing out (metal fatigue) and no production line for replacement Concordes. Don't blame BA alone. All the world's airlines decided Concorde's fate by not buying into the supersonic aviation concept. Maybe supersonic passenger transport might someday be economically viable, but Concorde's worst flaw was that it could not bridge the Pacific ocean.

I've always wondered, was Concorde really just a state-sponsored civilian air transport project ? Or was the real purpose to develop technology for supersonic bombers, that was rendered pointless by accurately targeted ICBMs?

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Happy

Re: Sunk cost

Not entirely true, the Concorde at Manchester Aeropark airport is still airworthy (as it was flown in & parked) with a bit of effort (oil & fresh spark plugs etc) could be returned to flight

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Boffin

Re: Sunk cost

On September 1, 1974, Major James Sullivan and his backseater, Major Noel F. Widdifield, set a speed record in SR-71A serial no. 64-17972, flying from New York to London in 1 hour 54 minutes and 56 seconds, for an average speed of 1,806.96 mph.

http://www.historynet.com/sr-71-blackbird-sets-london-to-l-a-speed-record.htm

Strange how difficult it is now just to do as good as we did so long ago.

What have we lost ?

(we = humanity)

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@captain daft

What are you on about man? We will be able to tell our grandkids with pride that after being inspired by our fathers and grandfathers generations walking on the moon and building concorde (then laughing at concordski) our generation gave the world big brother, idle american and going to asda in your pj's.

The ISS is a decent achievement, if for no other reason then so many nations managed to vaguely work together long enough to get it up there.

I have a question (vaguely related to the topic!), wondering if you smart folks know the answer? When they canned the shuttles they stated cost of replacing them with newer designs as a huge barrier. Could they not just make new shuttles using the old design or a moderate revamp? A huge portion of the cost must have been r&d right? I doubt one or two more shuttles would have been cheap, but neither is renting russian launches for years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sunk cost

Wrong analysis. The correct way to look at this is that a launch has costs above the cost of the hardware (crew, fuel, logistics, etc.) Also, if by analyzing the data they have, they can determine what went wrong and what to do about it, they may be able to correct the flaw on the remaining prototype before launch, which is likely much cheaper than building a whole new prototype.

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Anonymous Coward

Times

The time to cross the ocean with passengers is not only impacted by top speed, but by:

1) Time to climb to altitude (you really don't want to be doing Mach 1+ down low!)

2) Acceleration time to speed (I don't think your passengers would like a 10G pull to speed).

3) Deceleration time from speed.

4) Time to descend from altitude

5) General airport issues (time to get take-off clearance, time to get landing clearance, time to taxi to the gate, time to get gate clearance).

Going from Mach 2.2 to Mach 6 will reduce the time you spend over the ocean, but not the other times (indeed: time to altitude will increase as will acceleration time).

Now, if you are going to the antipode (e.g. London to Christchurch) you will greatly benefit from the higher speed, but on a shorter hop (London to New York, say), the other terms will dominate.

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Re: Sunk cost

I seem to recall seeing an RAF year book, just after Concorde had started flying, showing a drawing of a Concorde with RAF roundels carrying three nuclear bombs, with a caption pointing out that it could be our next bomber

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Mushroom

Re: Times

@D.D. Hagood.. exactly..so the only real world use for this tech, IS the engine itself, tipped by what ever type of explosive takes your fancy...

I'm pretty sure DARPA don't give two shits about G ratings for passengers on the way down on one of these, if they get them running..

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Unhappy

Re: @captain daft

"When they canned the shuttles they stated cost of replacing them with newer designs as a huge barrier. Could they not just make new shuttles using the old design or a moderate revamp? A huge portion of the cost must have been r&d right? I doubt one or two more shuttles would have been cheap, but neither is renting russian launches for years."

That would be a reasonable idea *provided* the production tooling still existed and all the suppliers were still in business. That would have been the case in the 80s and probably the 90s. It's essentially what happened to Enterprise (which was the structural test article for the series. Complete structure but no systems, which was then fitted out). However since the prgramme ended all tooling for the ET and SRBs has gone as well. There is a *lot* of infrastructure needed to build an orbiter.

That said re-creating it all with new suppliers might work out cheaper (in inflation adjusted dollars) but that leaves the retrospective study on Shuttle reliability. This analysed the *calculated* reliability versus the actual reliability based on what is known about the whole flight history. It's not impressive. By end of life they were at a predicted loss rate of 1 in 192 flights. A modern design could *grossly* simplify maintenance and make it much safer to work on but it's the *design* itself that has failure modes you cannot eliminate.

It's not an engineering problem. It's a political (NASA funding is *highly* political) and economic problem.

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Re: Just not Krikkit

"Your reference to camp walleye has nothing to do with sailors or Brylcream boys does it?"

Honestly, I'm not sure where the reference is from. Some late night, old B&W comedy movie about baseball I saw as a teen?

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Anonymous Coward

Research

This is a research project. Expensive --- but still research.

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Flame

Re: Research

And it's not proper research unless stuff blows up.

Although brains in jars and beakers of bubbling liquid are an acceptable alternative...

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Alert

Re: Research

Also flying monkeys.

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Nice!

"With only one test craft remaining, the Air Force Research Laboratory is promising a “rigorous evaluation” of what caused the latest failure, and whether or not to risk burning more expensive money."

Hey! Just like the Russian Proton-M rocket carriers with the Briz-M boosters!

Nice!

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Re: Nice!

Well, Paperclip snapped up von Braun and his team before the Sovs could get to them, and communism tends one might say to discourage the kind of enlightened authoritarianism so crucial to successful large-scale engineering projects, so Russia's never really had much luck in the way of rocketry -- they got it right once, with the R-7, and everything of import they've produced since then has been just a refinement of that same basic design. (Everything else they've tried blew up on the pad.)

What I find worrisome is that we in the US, undisputed world leaders in the field since 1945 thanks to our sagacity and dispatch in identifying and importing the necessary talent, seem to be losing the engineering abilities we developed at such effort and cost -- we've regressed so far that the Russians, with the great-grandson of a booster first flown in 1957, have outdone our manned space program, not through superior technical excellence but largely through sheer perseverance. (This, of course, being a trait Russians have always had in near-inexhaustible abundance.)

Progressivism sure is a wonder, ain't it? We can no longer build things that don't fall apart or blow up when we try to use them, and we can no longer even attempt things that our grandfathers made look easy back when our fathers were little boys. We can't build the new infrastructure we need, or even maintain the infrastructure we already have, and in the formerly great cities of the American East Coast, one can just barely make out the faintest glimmer of the grandeur which was once commonplace.

But don't we all just feel so good about ourselves! -- and whether or not we deserve to doesn't just not matter any more, but we're not even allowed to ask the question without being marked out as evil. How dare anyone suggest that none deserve respect, whether their own or anyone else's, save those who've worked to earn it! No, we have self-esteem now, which is every person's right, be he the meanest no-account bum begging change on a street corner, or an engineer who's helped to design and build machines like the one on which you're reading this right now -- and then, being far better than is acknowledged by those who look everywhere save within for the source of their well-deserved sense of inadequacy, given that knowledge away free to the world, for the betterment of all mankind.

And, of course, so that Quaker hypocrites, of the sort which disparage their betters with cute little phrases like "dead white European males," can join together across nations and use machines which they barely even can operate, much less ever hope to begin to understand, to call that engineer and those like him sexist, racist, elitist, misogynist, and whatever else their false and vicious hearts desire. These, of course, are the same who argue so vehemently that schools must exist, must by doctrine of in loco parentis own in mind and body every last child on the planet; not to impart knowledge and the ability to employ it in the service of one's fellows -- because, after all, inequality of intelligence and of capability is inequality nonetheless, and on that ground must be driven out of existence "by any means necessary" -- but rather to ensure that no one, however deservedly, should even for an instant feel as though he has to live up to anything at all. Because, after all, we all share the same Inner Light, and we're each just as good and worthy as any other -- unless, of course, we fail to share the Quaker strain of belief, in which case we can receive no damnation sufficiently vile to encompass our boundless villainy.

And, lately, these creatures get their way, at least in the United States; in fact they have so thoroughly infiltrated and suborned every agency of power, and so effectively established their religious convictions and given them the force of law, that they now are largely reduced to caviling because their hegemony is less than complete! -- yet, being as all of us endowed with souls, and thus ever one with the true and eternal God, they know within themselves that what they are doing, to give it its simplest and most accurate definition, is not merely wrong, but evil. Having fallen prey, though, to the eternal deceiver, and thrown all their volition behind old Split-Foot in their benighted search for the impossible dream of the Kingdom of God on Earth, those people not only lack insight but fear it, because to acknowledge themselves, to truly recognize the inescapable falseness of what they've become or been brought up to be, would force them to despise themselves -- which they fear above all things, because they know it is precisely as much as they deserve.

Thus also the wellspring of their loathing for traditional Godliness, as opposed to their Quakerized excuse for faith which venerates humanity above all creation -- while, as I say, they are not and can never be truly separate from God this side of the grave, they wish they were, and anything which reminds them of the evil they refuse to see in the mirror -- anything which makes it more difficult for them to throttle that tiny voice, to crush it down to the bottom of their selves and ignore it as loudly as possible -- they must of course deride and despise and kill with all their might.

I'd weep for my species, except that at least China and India seem to have kept the alien infection from their shores, and even Russia, thanks to Putin, seems to be casting off their eighty-year progressive delusion with commendable vim and vigor. Of course, one can only expect so much in a scanty couple of decades, especially from a people who were so thoroughly pastoral at the start of the last century that virtually their entire technical vocabulary had to be lifted wholesale from English -- that said, the Russians seem to be doing about as well as anyone has a right to expect, and I doubt not at all that, fifty years from now, they'll have joined their fellows on the Asian supercontinent in entirely surpassing those of us in the West, who will by then have fallen wholly under the same spell that Russia so recently shook off and that India and China have thus far entirely defied.

Let it not be said that my counsel is that of despair -- even Tennyson recanted "Locksley Hall" before he died, and anyone with a decent sense of history understands that imperium will always emanate from somewhere. As an American, of course I regret that my nation isn't and won't soon again be the source of same, but as a son of the Confederate States I recognize that Yankee hegemony, which is to say the rule of the Dissenters and their Quaker sons and daughters, inevitably sows the seeds of its own destruction.

Perhaps our grandchildren's grandchildren will return our once-great nations to prominence among the honorable and respectable polities of the world. Perhaps it will be many more generations than that before our descendants remember themselves. We are still on the downward slope of the curve, and it's quite certain no one living today will survive to see the far side of the trough. But hope survives in the knowledge that it is every bit as certain, just as it ever has been, that some day the "shining city on a hill" will be seen by all, and known to all, for the shimmering and deadly mirage that it is, and that ruthlessly to carve human meat and human sinew and human bone, in hopes of bringing such a fantasy to reality, will once again some day be known to all for the unspeakable evil it is.

The Dissenters learned this lesson once, as they were whipped from Albion's shores. By the eternal grace of God, against whom the deceiver may struggle as he please but may never hope to prevail, they will learn it again. Though it take a thousand years -- we will be free.

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TL, DV

Was you talking about Titans no?

Who's we?

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Re: Nice!

DR TL but I believe the US are really happy to launch things on top of russian rocket motors from the 80's cos they cant make them themselves.

Good engineering requires small groups of brilliant and dedicated people. BA's and NASA have gone a long way to ensure that doesn’t happen anymore. Nothing an accountant hates more than someone with better maths than them.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Aaron Em

Nice rant - reminds me of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (though considerably more verbose).

Damn those ladymen for weakening US resolve to plant Old Glory on Mars!

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Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

We in the rest of the world enjoy watching the USA plummet from its short-lived imperium top-spot, as it's hard to admire a country that kills without risk and meddles for money for its own rich, not moral values. As for the Confederacy: ah, that States'-Rights dedication to protecting and expanding slavery was perhaps not the finest thing the USA ever did in the world. But now the Chinese are quietly buying up resources and political favours all over the world and I no longer pay much attention to the implosion that is the USA. Bye-bye, and thanks for Disney World.

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Meh

Re: Nice!

Haven't taken our meds today, have we?

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Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

Hollerith: The small always delight in seeing the great brought low, but nonetheless those grapes you're eating seem awfully sour to me. No doubt you'll find imperium, as exercised by China, India, and Russia, far more congenial.

FatsBrannigan: Satire or no, General Ripper at least had the right idea about communism. There's nothing dishonorable in being a slave, but to be a slave of masters who refuse to acknowledge either your status or their own, is a horrible fate indeed.

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Re: Nice!

Of course I cannot simply be secure in my knowledge of history and my identification of progressivism for what it is, and able therefore to demonstrate the courage of my convictions -- no, as with anyone who fails to accept the Quaker strain of faith in every jot and tittle, I must simply be out of my mind, and thus merit no better than to be drugged into silence. How progressive of you.

I doubt you're aware of the relevant history, but for any who might be interested, I shall mention that the Soviet Union's psychiatric establishment used the diagnosis of "sluggish schizophrenia" for precisely this same purpose. Dressed up as it is these days with pretty fMRI pictures and talk about malformed brain areas, it still stinks just the same.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

Right idea about communism? Debatable, but you must agree that General Ripper was as daft as a mahogany frying pan. What was your point again?

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Re: @ Aaron Em

I thought it was putting fluoride in drinking water.

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Happy

Re: Nice!

" I must simply be out of my mind, "

Not at all. The progressive view would be that you have a "different consciousnesses" implying it is neither better nor worse than more ordinary world views.

And writing an 11 paragraph grossly OT blurb of text would certainly support the idea that your world view certainly "different."

I'll look forward to the usual 2 down votes. Someone seems to agree with everything you write, but they just never seem to post. Funny that.

Have a very progressive weekend.

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Re: Nice! - @Aaron Em

I wouldn't say that we've lost the capability exactly but the companies that get the headlines and so come to mind in discussions like this spend most of their time sucking on the government teat and are, IMHO, horribly inefficient.

Case in Point: The US Air Force has budgeted 1.7 Billion dollars in FY2012 for 4 satellite launches (with ULA). That works out at 435 million dollars per launch. SpaceX (not closely associated with the US Government - yes, I know they're taking contracts from NASA) will do a launch for 60 million dollars - 7 TIMES LESS.

Make a business plan showing that people can make a profit going NY-London Heathrow in less than 2 hours (again) and the Private Sector (that part of it not addicted to Government handouts - it's not socialism (evil) if it's a corporation taking money) will come up with a design and construction blueprints.

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Re: Nice!

John Smith: I do like the implication that I give enough of a damn about up- and downvotes to be sock-puppeting. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I am a royalist. As such, popularity contests are well beneath me, much less squandering irreplaceable time in a futile and embarrassing effort to influence same in my favor.

(I also rather like that you choose to style yourself after a man who I suspect would've found your philosophy abhorrent, but that's neither here nor there, I suppose.)

I know quite well, from the inside, the progressive view you describe. (Those who doubt my confession of former Quakerism are invited to review, as cursorily as they please, my half-decade of commentary here on the Reg.)

That hypocritical equation of every viewpoint with every other is, while superficially lovely, no more than a subtle way of defining first principles in such a way as to discredit anyone who disagrees. After all, if progressives really did decline to privilege any perspective over any other, what point to progressivism in the first place?

But it sure is handy when you want to take an understanding like mine, which I have developed through study of true history as opposed to Whig historiography -- and, in passing, let me note that this idea, that there is no such thing is true history, is part and parcel of that discrediting-by-first-principles to which I refer -- and dismiss it out of hand by saying "Well, that's just your worldview, and there's nothing wrong with you having it but you have to understand there's nothing wrong with anyone else's, too."

Quaker hypocrisy truly is depthless, isn't it? This kind of amazing argumentative judo is not really an accomplishment, but rather merely commonplace, among the Dissenter ilk. Whether or not anyone feels the need to agree with me, that no Quaker ever takes a step but he leaves a smoking, sulfurous hoofprint in the ground behind him*, one must certainly marvel at their utter shamelessness when it comes to the end justifying the means.

* In the spirit of offering assistance to the hapless, I feel it necessary to note, that this rather colorful clause is a metaphor.

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Anonymous Coward

broken link :/

too bad the link to the story on wright-patterson's web site is broken :?

i was looking forward to reading the rest of the story... their search even fails with a plain text page stating "page not found" in the upper left corner :(

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: broken link :/

I will double check the link. The press release is working fine here:

http://www.wpafb.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123314235

Richard Chirgwin

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Re: The press release is working fine here

Not here.

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Re: The press release is working fine here

Nor for me. "File not found."

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Thumb Up

Re: broken link :/

Works fine here too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: broken link :/

'File not Found' here too.

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Coat

Rogered ramjet.

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Mushroom

Damn you sir, I say, damn you!

After a quarter of a century, I now have that tune stuck in my head again...

tududup tudududum tadadatatada jadadadadadada tadadatatada

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