NASA flying car engineer shoots down Reg coverage
'Spouting nonsense' 'making crap up' 'I am not obsessive'
FoTW Here at the Reg we're no strangers to a bit of robust reader input. We get flamed by all sorts: dog lovers, vegans, Nigerian helicopter pioneers, members of the Parachute Regiment, Welshmen. Today, however, we have a first. An actual NASA engineer has joined this illustrious lineup to pour vitriol on our output.
The trouble started with this little effort from us here on the flying-car desk, describing the one-person "Puffin" electric VTOL tailsitter podcraft, brainchild of NASA engineer Mark Moore. The Puffin is purely CGI for the moment, but is intended to fly as a subscale unmanned demonstrator this year with funding from outside NASA.
Dr Moore didn't like our piece at all. He wrote in:
Your reporting on this subject is really terrible - have you ever considered doing any fact checking before spouting nonsense? You have so many facts wrong it is difficult to know where to begin ...
Why is it that you are willing to spout nonsense, without even so much as attempting to do an interview - it is so unfortunate to see that this is what news reporting into [sic] - uninformed babbling.
This seemed a tad harsh. We asked Dr Moore to sample a few of our factual errors for us, difficult as it would no doubt be to pick from among so many. He kindly wrote back:
You are not a professional engineer, or a reporter when you do zero fact checking. Let’s go through your article and I will report all the errors, just so that you understand what type of personal propaganda you are spouting. Essentially every paragraph has glaring errors.
For instance, Dr Moore challenged our description of him as "a NASA engineer long obsessed with flying cars”.
This is your personal opinion and not based on facts. I have developed a number of advanced concepts over that past 25 years, none have been flying cars – about a quarter have been personal air vehicles.
There are some excellent vids of a few of these projects, indeed, at Dr Moore's YouTube channel, "NASAPAV".
Going on, Dr Moore also objected to our unwarranted suggestion that he'd admitted the Puffin might not be practical without a serious improvement in current battery technology.
No where [sic] do I say this ... At most we need a 2-3 times improvement over the SOA A123 Lithium Phosphate batteries.
A tripling of specific energy in batteries is trivial, of course. It also seems that the NASA bosses who had cancelled his previous "Tailfan" project, which was to result in an actual flying aircraft, were not at NASA Langley (as we had said). In fact it was other NASA bosses at the agency's headquarters who had axed the project. Also Dr Moore says we were wrong to suggest that the Puffin's electric motors could be used to recharge its batteries while gliding down from height - these electric motors, unlike most, can't be used as generators.
"What gives you the right to spout this kind of opinion!?"
But it appears that the line which really upset Dr Moore was "the Puffin isn't vastly more capable than existing jetpacks or minicopters". We'd rashly based this on the fact that the Gen H-4 one-man copter can hover for an hour and offers 100km range, whereas the Puffin would (if built) be able to hover for a total of 6 minutes before draining every last erg from present-day lithium phosphate batteries (or a bit longer with next-gen ones). It might achieve 60-70km ranges if not too much juice was wasted at landing and takeoff.
As for jetpacks, the Puffin is indeed better (as we said!) - but you can't strap it on your back and walk about, as it weighs a hefty 400 pounds empty.
Dr Moore was having simply none of this, though. Apparently top speed is what you want in a personal air vehicle, not range or endurance or the ability to maintain a hover.
So we have 4 to 15 times improved aero efficiency, yet it’s the same? In terms of power required, a jetpack requires 100% power ALL the time, while we need ¼ to 1/3 as much as at takeoff. Jetpacks have incredibly high disc loading and requiring incredibly high levels of power - we don’t. So what are you talking about here? We can show a 50 mile range, and a jetpack can show 1 mile range … A small heli can show 75 mph, and we can easily show 150 mph (and at altitude show 300 mph). As a completely uninformed reporter – what gives you the right to spout this kind of opinion. Are you reporting facts or making crap up?
Ouch. Like the snivelling worms we journalists are, we pleaded pathetically that we are actually big fans of the idea of
flying cars, sorry, Personal Air Vehicles here on the Reg flying-car desk and we have quoted Moore's ideas positively in the past.
But it seems we'll never be friends. Dr Moore administered a valedictory bitchslap:
Dude, you don’t get it and again and [sic] rationalizing your lack of effort to get the facts straight ... You would rather justify not bothering to get information.
The Puffin is not designed to be a hovering vehicle – that is the entire point. The vehicle is[*] intended to sit around and hover, it is meant as a transportation device – so to say that it can only hover for 6 minutes is like saying a hammer can’t be used as a screw driver ...
You made no effort to get this story straight, but just to spout your own opinions – that’s why your type of journalism is so unappreciated.
Presumably something a bit more along the lines of Gizmodo or Popular Science - "soon we'll all be zooming in to work above the traffic jams in our Puffins" - would be more the thing.
Oh dear. It just goes to prove what Confederate president Abraham Lincoln said; that you can please some of the people all of the time, but you can't please some people any of the time**. ®
*We expect Dr Moore meant "is not". Perhaps his keyboard had fused together for some reason.
**WARNING: We simply can't be bothered to get our facts straight.