NASA: Not Going Metric Any Time Soon

From New Scientist

So, for the cost of half a shuttle mission, you can finally make the overhaul that has been overdue for decades and which if not done now will leave us committed to drag-ass standards for who knows how many more decades the new generation of shuttle is in service, at which time it will not be any cheaper? Hey, the next probe you don’t crash into Mars ought to save you half that cost. Get with it, NASA. You’re holding everybody esle back.

Is it really the money, or are we actually waiting for a generation of engineers to finally die off?

Didn’t you hear? We didn’t go to the moon because it was easy. We went because it was hard. Step up.

Good for NASA. I’ll be god damned if I ever have to buy a four litter jug of milk. God damned.

Of course we can’t stop using Imperial units. Our snub shuttles are no match against the Empire.

But how many rods to the hogshead does your car get?

Heh, I liked the last line of the article.

Typical. Apparently NASA hasn’t heard about the Celsius scale.

In the future, the speed of our rockets will measured in chains per fortnight, and they’ll damned well like it!

It’ll take a lot more than that. The next generation of senior NASA engineers are currently in entry-level positions, leaning to design rocket components and generate mechanical drawings using the [del]American[/del]English system. The generation after that is currently in American schools, familiarizing themselves with the English system.

So I don’t have to throw out my old socket wrenches just yet?

Any aerospace engineer worth his salt knows both the English and SI systems, even if he normally works in one or the other. A very valuable side effect of this is the innate understanding that units of measure are arbitrary and unrelated to the fundamental laws of physics. It is the technical equivalent of being bilingual - you know that the round red fruit you bake into a pie isn’t an apple, and it isn’t a pomme, it just is what it is.

Long live slugs!

Not true - in technical fields, most American schools have been teaching in SI units since the early 90’s at least (and probably earlier, but I started college then). It’s still a generational switch, but the switch is happening. The generation you talk about in entry level positions is conversant in both systems, and the generation following them will probably do all their work in metric.

Hyperelastic makes a good point, too, about arbitrary units of measure, but that’s something that a freshman engineering student should be grappling with - not a working professional.

Until all those Snap On Tools they bought wear out, well…

I sell 75 metric Snap On tools for every inch based tool. Thinking back on this week, the only inch tools I sold were to the Land Rover Dealership. We make some pretty cool custom things for NASA.

Yeah, but all those old english unit ones they bought during the heyday of the Apollo years have to WEAR out first !

If only they had bought Craftsman instead :slight_smile:

And yet, at one job, while transferring supposedly-metric drawings to CAD, I had to convert first from metric to fractional and back to metric (with a lot of decimal places) to make the CAD models not fall apart.

I started an Aeronautical Engineering degree in 1985 (graduated in Mech. Eng. in 1989). The entire curriculum was conducted in metric except the Aero-specific courses, which were still taught in Imperial units. We were told that this was what was “Standard” in the American aerospace industry, so that was what we should learn. I thought that sounded pretty silly, but I guess the up-side is that I was pretty comfortable working in either set of units.

Of course, this is the same school that was teaching me Fortran 66 in 1985. Not Watfiv, not Fortran 77; Fortran 66. I’m frankly surprised I didn’t have to use punch cards. So, they might not have been the best barometer of how things were moving in the real world.

Anyone who’s gonna work in NASA as an engineer is gonna go to college. All of my physics and calculus classes (with the exception of one, who would switch back and forth) were in metric. They’d sneer if you asked about feet.
[sub]Memories of being in the physics lab and the professor laughing at me because I kept calling the meterstick a ‘yardstick’… and then one day I finally called it a ‘meterstick’… and I had somehow gotten one of the ancient yardsticks that were still somehow there. Hahah.[/sub]

Decades ago I visited the Kenosha plant with my dad (he was a Snap-On bigwig) and saw their custom tool area. That was awesome! They showed us some of the NASA tools for the Saturn rockets.

But did you actually acquire a feel for the metric system? I know any college-educated engineer can do calculations with metric units, but many wouldn’t know their height in meters or their weight in kilos.

Also not everyone at NASA is an engineer. What about machinists and technicians?

I guess what I’m saying is, NASA really needs to force a change; if they just wait for a gradual spontaneous shift, it’s never going to happen.

I have a “feel” for it, of course though I live in Canada. We’re one step ahead up here(which is about 50 cm)

Nasa should switch before they crash more taxpayer dollars on mars.