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FOSS CAD and 3D Modeling Software? 413

Paul server guy writes "I work at a privately funded, open source, manned, return to the moon mission — Yes really, and Yes, we really are going to put man (and woman) back on the moon. Since we are open source, we want all of our tools to be, too. What we are looking for is CAD software that we can feed into Blender (or the like) to do 3D modeling with. Many of the engineers have tried working with Blender and Art of Illusion, but have not been pleased. They want to just draw the parts, then feed them to the art people who will run them through the 3D modelers for videos, illustrations and such. What is your preference?"
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FOSS CAD and 3D Modeling Software?

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  • by zonky ( 1153039 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:40PM (#30975208)
    It looks like that campaign was supposed to end last year, on Dec 31st. Why should we waste time answering your questions now, given the seemingly unrealistic goal, when you can't even format a donation box? Or is the a scheme to get money out of stupid geeks by driving traffic to your website?
    • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:05PM (#30975478)
      given the seemingly unrealistic goal

      -Right. Now, uh, item four: attainment of world supremacy within the next five years. Uh, Francis, you've been doing some work on this.

      -Yeah. Thank you, Reg. Well, quite frankly, siblings, I think five years is optimistic, unless we can smash the Roman empire within the next twelve months.


    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:05PM (#30975480) Homepage Journal

      Ya know, it seems to be a common occurrence to find space projects with horrid web sites. Consider: [] []

      Both real groups doing real hardware right now, with websites that look like scams.

    • by auntieNeo ( 1605623 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:11PM (#30975534)

      Or is the a scheme to get money out of stupid geeks by driving traffic to your website?

      Drive geeks to their website? Everyone knows /. readers don't RTFA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fm6 ( 162816 )

      They've got plenty of traffic now. Rather more than they can handle, it seems. If they can't build a web server that scales up, what makes them think they can build a spaceship?

      Offtopic, but it needs to be asked any time somebody has a scheme like this: what's your business model? Because the big problem with space travel is that there's never been one. Yeah, yeah, if Congress hadn't cut off the tap, blah, blah, blah. The fact is that space travel is going to have to start paying for itself eventually. Othe

      • Hey, be fair. There's something to be said for goofy hobby projects-- like the people who spend thousands of dollars building pumpkin launchers, for example. If that's the spirit in which this all is intended, then hell-- why not? "Building a rocket" just becomes an event to hang around with goofy people and drink beer.

        That said, the poster of this story seems to serious for that, and their website is completely busted.

      • by ajlisows ( 768780 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:49PM (#30975886)

        "This female surgeon can't even cook bacon and eggs, what makes the bitch think she can take out my kidney?

        "This dork can't even find himself a single woman to have sex with him, what makes him think he can write software that will attract millions of users?"

        You see, it is possible to be highly competent at one thing and be not very competent in another. Even if they have the loose relationship of being two things that geeks tend to think are pretty cool, such as Engineering Spaceships and developing web sites and maintaining a web server.

        Obviously I have not been able to view the web page due to it being slashdotted, but it is a good possibility that they didn't put much thought or effort into it. They probably thought "Hey, why don't we just cobble together a small web presence in case anyone wants to donate any money or otherwise contribute to our project. Let's not spend much time on it though as our aim is space travel, not web development.

        • by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @10:05PM (#30976508) Journal

          "This female surgeon can't even cook bacon and eggs, what makes the bitch think she can take out my kidney?"
          Kind of like an engineer that can't even use blender! seriously I've used blender and even liked it. but the UI is an art in itself, the learning curve is very steep and the skills learned fall off rapidly if you don't use it regularly.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by grumbel ( 592662 )

            Blender isn't CAD software. No matter how great the interface would be, its just not the right for the job of modeling parts that should end up as real hardware.

        • by GF678 ( 1453005 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:39AM (#30977744)

          They probably thought "Hey, why don't we just cobble together a small web presence in case anyone wants to donate any money or otherwise contribute to our project. Let's not spend much time on it though as our aim is space travel, not web development.

          The following I learnt the harsh way:

          Image sells.

          Present a nice image for your company, people will think better of you than a company which just slaps some crap together. Doesn't matter if the company with a crap website produces better product, image is important in getting the attention necessary for whatever goals you seek. It's the same reason why the geeks who get all the success are the ones who have learnt that social skills are more important than technical know-how.

      • Business model (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ThreeGigs ( 239452 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:54PM (#30975934)

        If a company can bring 200 kilos of moon rocks back from the moon, a mission could pay for itself from sale of the rocks. Easily $2000 a gram, perhaps more if some more interesting specimens could be searched out and returned.

        If one could do a shot similar to Apollo, but unmanned, several metric tons could be returned, and be quite profitable.

        Ask yourself how much a kilogram of martian soil would sell for, too.

        • Re:Business model (Score:4, Interesting)

          by TBoon ( 1381891 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @09:13PM (#30976118)

          The cost of the Apollo space program is commonly given as $25 billion. When adjusted to 2005 dollars this would approximate to $135 billion.

          200.000g * $2000 = $400 million. Granted, there was a bunch of first-time research and pesky human requirements to take care of back then, so presumably an unmanned rock-collector should be cheaper. Wonder what the cost per mission would be, how many trips they would have to do before breaking even, and if they would have affected the price of moon-rocks enough to affect their revenue by then...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            According to the last story on the space cannon [], the cheapest current cost to orbit was 11,000 dollar pr kg.

            The Apollo lunar module [] weighed 14,696 kg. That's 161,656,000 dollars just to get the damn thing into an orbit. A moon shot will be significantly more expensive.

            And that's just the fuel costs. This doesn't include anything else. 161 million dollars to lift a lunar lander module into low earth orbit.

            $2,000/gram of moon rock will make a dent into the expenses, but it won't make it profitable.

        • Re:Business model (Score:5, Informative)

          by adamkennedy ( 121032 ) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @10:52PM (#30976758) Homepage

          Supply, meet Demand.

          Moon rocks are $2000 a gram because they are astonishly rare, something you'll happily be taking care of for us.

          Your income isn't the price now, it's the area under the curve of the price as your 200 kilograms of rock drives the price down.

    • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @11:59PM (#30977134) Homepage Journal

      You'll take note that Artist and Webmaster are #1 and #2 respectively on their "help wanted" list. Perhaps you could volunteer instead of complaining?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dwilkinson ( 1734562 )

      It looks like that campaign was supposed to end last year, on Dec 31st. Why should we waste time answering your questions now, given the seemingly unrealistic goal, when you can't even format a donation box? Or is the a scheme to get money out of stupid geeks by driving traffic to your website?

      Instead of spreading rumors you could find out the facts. This a full year campaign to recruit 250 people that has barely started. Nothing unrealistic about that goal. The widget only represents sign-ups for this year completed through the website not total membership. I was in the middle of changing the title on the widget to represent this more clearly when the fur started flying. The stand-alone version of CiviCRM provides a bland sign-up page. We were trying to correct it while our web master was

  • BRL-CAD (Score:5, Informative)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:42PM (#30975236)

    BRL-CAD is probably the only full fledged package. Link: []

  • No Chance. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:42PM (#30975244)

    "Since we are open source, we want all of our tools to be, too."

    Ideology won't get you to the moon.

    • Re:No Chance. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spinspin ( 624028 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:44PM (#30975258)
      Wasn't it ideology that got us to the moon the first time?
      • Re:No Chance. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by adamkennedy ( 121032 ) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:47PM (#30975280) Homepage

        No. The first time it was equal parts arms race, chest-beating nationalism, and 100 billion dollars.

      • by deniable ( 76198 )
        No, it was a manager publicly promising a short delivery time for the project. The manager got replaced part way through, but the customer still wanted it and the vendors were locked in.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TBoon ( 1381891 )

        Given that the US seemed to win the space race something like 3 - 8, I'd say no. The Russians beat the US to quite a lot of important milestones along the way to the moon. In the early years they were way ahead, and it wasn't until the end the US surpassed them.

        Hadn't their ready-to-go manned lunar rocket exploded (destroying the launch-site) 2 weeks before Apollo 11 launched, they could have been first to walk the moon as well. Shame they didn't, as the US probably would have to go to Mars just to declare

        • Re:No Chance. (Score:5, Informative)

          by icebrain ( 944107 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @10:39PM (#30976702)

          I wouldn't exactly call the N-1 "ready to go". Its first flight (Feb. 1969) exploded 69 seconds after liftoff; its second flight (the one in July) blew up 23 seconds after liftoff. Even if it had flown successfully in July, it wouldn't have had anyone on it--not even the Soviets were daft enough to put a crew on a rocket that had only flown once before.* And they certainly wouldn't have been doing anything more than an earth-orbit checkout. It would have taken really good luck on the Soviets' part, plus another Apollo 1-level disaster to NASA, to give the Soviets even a slim chance of putting someone on the moon first. And that's being generous. The N-1 never did work right; something about having 30 engines in the first stage just left too many things to go wrong. All four flights ended in explosions.

          *Of course, the US did exactly that 12 years later. Actually, they had a crew on the very first space shuttle launch--no step-by-step or unmanned testing with that one.

  • FreeCAD (Score:5, Informative)

    by dbc ( 135354 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:44PM (#30975254)

    FreeCAD [] has made huge progress recently.

    • Re:FreeCAD (Score:5, Informative)

      by tftp ( 111690 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:41PM (#30975794) Homepage

      I looked briefly at the FreeCAD, it is impressive for a F/OSS project but I'm afraid it's not good enough yet to even make a plastic case for yer cell phone, let alone a propellant tank. For example:

      • There is no "Assembly" workbench with its numerous constraints.
      • I don't see auxiliary geometry, such as work planes, axes and points.
      • I don't see projected contours and relations between parts. That's a super-major hole.
      • The list of features that can be created is quite basic. Professional CADs (SolidWorks, Inventor, SolidEdge, ProE) have lots more, and you need them.
      • There is no pipe and harness workbench, sheet metal workbench, molds, gears, kinematic, stress, thermal, vibration - you name them they don't have them. You'd think stress and vibration are optional on a rocket?

      The OP asked "what free s/w to use to build hardware to fly to the moon." My answer would be: "it doesn't matter, it won't work anyway." If I were to do the whole project, I would be first concerned about financing the whole project; cost of the best software on the market would be a drop in the ocean compared to everything else. People who started the moon project with a predetermined opinion what tools they will use won't get anywhere, not in the rocket science at least.

  • by rapu ( 1656863 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:45PM (#30975264)
    Everyone is going to be like "that's no moon" if you use open source graphics programs to plan your flight. But Gimp has a "sparks" brush for the stars.
  • Shame on you (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ... for planning another moon hoax. We all know they didn't go to the moon but filmed it back in Nevada, and they did it all without any flimsy-schimzy 3d effects.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      Nonsense. The moon landings were faked on a sound stage on Mars. Notice that all of the footage is black and white? That's so you can't tell that the dust is all red, not white, which would have rather spoilt the effect.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I actually do a lot of work with Blender, and it can import a wide variety of formats. I would be very surprised it the CAD programs you are using don't export to at least ONE of the various formats Blender can accept. If you are using AutoCAD I think you have a good shot of an export to a ,dxf or .dwg are probably your best bets.

  • Put a Stallman on the moon, Im shure you will get funding

  • Is that so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:48PM (#30975302)

    "Yes really, and Yes, we really are going to put man (and woman) back on the moon"

    No you're not.

    • Re:Is that so... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by samkass ( 174571 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:03PM (#30975442) Homepage Journal

      Especially not if you're putting additional constraints on your operation such as requiring every tool to be open source. It's hard enough when you're using the best tools.

    • Hey! Hope springs eternal!!

      With any luck, they won't get close enough to a working rocket to actually kill anybody, though-- I think that's about the best you can hope for. Then it would turn tragic. (Right now it's just hilarious. To me, at least.)

  • Why does it seem to me that if I were planning a trip to the moon, I wouldn't really have 'art people'?

  • BRL-CAD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yahooy2uy ( 1510323 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:50PM (#30975316)
    Sure, it looks like he's plugging his website, but is it really necessary to point that out? I think we all can read. Maybe instead of boosting your own ego by putting him down, you could actually do something constructive in the minute it took you to reply to his post. In terms of free CAD software, BRL-CAD is probably the closest to what you're looking for, but I've always found it tiresome to use. It was developed by the Army for their computer modeling needs in the late 70s. It's still a fairly active project as well.
  • By the time I clicked the link, it was already slashdotted. If not, I'll have to check it out tomorrow (or not at all).
  • You're going to put a man on the moon.

    With your organization that doesn't even have a wikipedia page [] (okay, maybe it will now since I posted the link).

    And your server, which you posted to /., can't even handle the /. effect!!

    I hope you and the other readers get some interesting suggestions about modelling tools, but I'm sorry, you don't have a remote possibility of making a moon shot.

  • HeeksCad (Score:2, Informative)

    HeeksCad is making progress. I don't know about feeding your parts into Blender, though. You may be able to shape the project some if you get involved, though. Somebody else mentioned FreeCAD. I've not yet tried to use it.

    There's also gcad3d []. I found that one to be tough to use, though. For 2D, I don't think that you have many options but qcad.

  • Huh? Blender? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2010 @07:58PM (#30975398)

    Being able to import CAD files into Blender should be the least of your concerns when choosing a CAD package. There isn't a free CAD package out there that will cope with designing a rocket and lunar lander. Spend your hard earned $130 (plus a lot more) on a high-end CAD package like Catia or Unigraphics.

    • by mnemonic_ ( 164550 ) <jamec AT umich DOT edu> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:52PM (#30975912) Homepage Journal

      They're worrying about CAD when they should be worrying about calculations and broad, system-level design. Remember, the first moon missions took place without the use of CAD. Detail designing the parts is a relatively small part of aerospace engineering. A better approach would be to prove their engineering legitimacy by analysis, then impress IBM/Dassault enough to donate a CATIA license to them. Give the rough launch vehicle design, the mission orbit design, the reentry vehicle type, and detailed quantified justifications and tradeoff studies for everything. It should be heavy with physics, and the calculations should be airtight. Expect a 500+ page technical report for this scale of project at this preliminary stage. Any explanatory sketches can be done by hand or any illustration program. You only need CAD when you're (1) ready to machine parts or (2) ready for detailed computational analysis. These guys are jumping the gun.

      CAD isn't just about coming up with the part geometry by the way. Modern CAD/PLM involves massive amounts of metadata about materials, dimensions/tolerances (all locked in proprietary file formats), and keeping track of the relationships between parts, sub-assemblies and assemblies. You don't want to manually copy & paste 300 fasteners each time you recalculate stresses on a rocket nozzle, do you? It also automates many tedious design efforts. Want to figure out how to snake twenty miles of wiring, hydraulics and other tubing through a rocket with a hundred thousand parts? Oh also, each type of cable/tubing has a different minimum bend radius because of material stresses. Arc it too tightly and it cracks open during the launch vibrations, after having fatigued due to ambient thermal variations. And these are just a couple mechanical aspects of such a sprawling project that CAD must handle. You could "draw" the parts of just about any modern machine (fighter jet, car, bicycle) with an old copy of Maya used for the CGI in Jurassic Park. It'd be useless for analysis though because of the low numerical precision, and impossible for engineering because they have the most primitive handling of parametric modeling, and crude ability to work with multi-component (thousands) geometry.

      Any teenager can come up with some gee-whiz 3d animation (that Mars lander animation from years ago was done by one). Could any teenager get funding for a mission to the moon? Work on your numbers first, then worry about software, you IT geeks you.

  • BRL-CAD (Score:4, Informative)

    by RedLeg ( 22564 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:04PM (#30975458) Journal

    A Couple of others have already mentioned it, but take a look at BRL-CAD. []

    It's pretty much the standard. It originated as a US Government backed project and was later open sourced. This is a VERY mature piece of software, unfortunately with a steep learning curve.


  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:05PM (#30975482)

    In addition to the comments here, you might find useful suggestions in this 2005 [] and this 2003 [] Slashdot discussion.

  • Slashdotted already...
  • They key to every massive engineering effort is making sure you can do your model fly throughs form your cad drawings. You'd be sunk without them.
  • lol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mnemonic_ ( 164550 ) <jamec AT umich DOT edu> on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:13PM (#30975558) Homepage Journal

    Is this a joke? Your team page [] shows you have at most four engineers, who are mostly IT geeks, not experts in propulsion, aerospace structures or astrodynamics, with the possible exception of Dr Snyder. You have a fricken artist before having a real engineering team, or anything solid to promote. You guys make Armadillo Aerospace [] look like Lockheed Martin. At least SpaceX etc. while lacking other things, started with something (usually money), you guys don't have anything. Quit wasting your time.

  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:13PM (#30975566)

    oh man, what a load - if you had real engineers working on actual moon project you'd be more worried about nonlinear FEA software at this point. There's a reason why the USA is the only nation to ever had put humans on the moon - it's way too complex, way too expensive, and requires way too many PhD level man-decade equivalents of effort.

  • Several problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:26PM (#30975688)

    Doesn't work, and I speak from experience. I have done work for the CSA (Canadian Space Agency) doing similar things and what you are looking for doesn't exist on all sorts of levels.

    First, engineering software is a very specialized beast in exactly the wrong way to exist as a FOSS project. For FOSS projects to exist you first need someone who is capable of doing the programing. Then they have to have a need that they want to fulfill. And they can't need it urgently enough that simply going out any buying a working package makes sense. None of this describes the type of people who are trying to design next-generation parts of anything.

    It comes down to this: if you have the funding to actually make anything that you plan on designing you have the funding that paying for a high quality industry standard package is peanuts. And if you don't have the funding then it doesn't matter, does it?

    It's the same reason that film and television production has always been happy to pick up FOSS solutions that already work but have never particularly cared about developing them. If you are operating at the professional level where you need these tools the cost of them is almost meaningless. It something that always confuses GIMP and Blender supporters who view it as personal software. For them shelling out $5000 a pop for software is such a big deal and they can never understand how the pros don't seem to care.

    If you are seriously attempting to design aerospace hardware then you have moved into the realm where these types of software costs are basically meaningless. Suck it up and act like it. If, however, you are actually trying to become a proof-of-concept for FOSS in engineering work then I wish you the best of luck. However, those are two different goals and likely not compatible.

    However, beyond the FOSS issue what you are trying to do will not work. Period. These types of software packages are very specialized for specific types of work and beyond a basic level are no good beyond that. 3D modeling software such as Blender or AoI (or Maya or Lightwave or 3DS Max...) are not CAD software. They are not even remotely CAD software. Yes, they appear superficially similar but they are NOT. 3D modeling software is intended to fake the appearance of large numbers of real objects. CAD software is intended to do what is basically visual math. 3D modeling packages have margins of error built in. Many of them will auto-round any equations or numbers entered. As such they are not suitable for real-world design of any complexity.

    The types of data that CAD and modeling software generate are also not particularly similar. If you try and just toss engineering blueprints into animation software your artists will not thank you are the end result will look like ass. CAD tends to have too much and the wrong type of detail where animation software is looking for simplification and tends to simplify areas that need detail to look proper once animated. It takes almost more work to clean up a CAD model for animation that it takes to create one from scratch.

    You can't really even send a CAD design right to a 3D printer without a significant amount of clean-up unless it was designed with that in mind.

    So, to summarize, decide what you want each section of your operation to do and shell out the cash for whatever it takes to let them do it properly. Let everyone worry about their own needs and don't try and meddle by forcing the internal needs of other departments on them. If you were seriously planning on saving costs by not buying professional software for an AEROSPACE project then you are already fucked. You may as well blow all the investor's money on a massive party because it's lost anyways.

    • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:58PM (#30975972) Journal

      The parent has given you the answer you don't want, but it is nonetheless the correct one. There are several intellicad based products which are fairly mature (BricsCAD, for example) which are also interoperable with commercial software to an extent. Still, they're even more limited than the commercial products - both in capability and in productivity.

      It's been 10 years since I was in aerospace (NASA and Orbital Sciences, FWIW), but the big push at the time was Pro/Engineer. They were, back in the late 90s, where AutoCAD is today. The learning curve was difficult and the software expensive - but it was damned impressive, and it got the job done on several complex geometry products.

      It sounds like you're not going to the moon, but rather are exploring funding options and sources for a startup who's ultimate goal is intended to be a moon landing. If you were going to the moon, I would suggest you start looking at FEM and CFD modeling software for the structures (my area of expertise), and the myriad custom software bits for each of the critical components. I believe NASTRAN is open source, though I'm not aware of a GUI front end (which you will dearly want). FLAGRO (Also a NASA project) should be open source for fracture mechanics analysis, but it was really in its infancy when I left NASA.

      This will sound funny, but you might want to go check with the amateur rocket guys to see what they're using. RockSIM is the gold standard for 6DOF simulations for rockets traveling up to the edge of space, if you're on a budget, but it's not open source. There is an OSS project very similar to RockSIM - I think it's called RASaero.

      There has been a lot of money invested in creating tools for much of what you want to do - you'll be better served in the long run to leverage the closed source options, focusing on keeping _your_ IP free for anyone to use - if that's your intent. You can always give away your CADD - and most packages have output/converters to fully defined - of not OSS - formats.

  • by Exitar ( 809068 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @08:31PM (#30975720)

    I'd be quite scared to be launched on the Moon by a company that asked suggestions about the tools to use on Slashdot!

  • G'luck with that (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Sunday January 31, 2010 @10:14PM (#30976558)
    That you are more worried about making art with 3D models, and wanting a CAD package that will easily import into your 3D modeler of choice, instead of being worried about actual engineering makes me think this project will never get off the ground (all puns intended).

    Here's a free CAD package that seems to be just the right caliber for your organization...Google SketchUp.

  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:48AM (#30977434) Homepage

    If I were riding a spacecraft to the moon (or riding any vehicle that could easily kill me), I'd want it designed with the best tools for getting the job done. If that's a closed source tool, buy the closed source tool.

  • Slow and steady (Score:5, Interesting)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:29AM (#30977944) Homepage

    Here is my advice: plan a slow-and-steady strategy, rather than a "space race" strategy. Plan for effectiveness over the long haul, rather than short-term results.

    That means you will be doing things rather differently than Apollo.

    For software, as far as I can tell, nothing exists that will meet your needs. Thus your first step is to figure out what free software has a hope of someday meeting your needs, then figure out how to get developers to work on it until it does meet your needs. So, actually, your very first step is to find an expert in rocket design who can tell you what features you need, what software exists that can do what you need (even if you don't want to use it because it is proprietary). If you are very very lucky, you might find a retired aerospace project manager who will give you advice for free. (I don't think this is far-fetched. Anyone who worked on rockets in the glory days will be old enough to be retired now, and you might find someone who shares your dream and will give advice for free.)

    For simulations and engineering computations, you should look at SciPy []. As I said above, it probably doesn't meet your needs now, but it has a solid foundation and lots of people working on it.

    As far as a strategy for going to the moon, I don't claim to be an expert, but here is my advice.

    You really, really do not want to try to re-create the Saturn V rocket. In fact, you don't want any design where you use up one rocket per moon trip. The slow-and-steady plan goes like this: First you get a "space pickup truck", some sort of launch vehicle that can reliably go to Earth orbit with a small payload (say, 1000 KG or so). Second, using many "space pickup" flights, you build a space station, and stock it with lots of oxygen, food, fuel, etc. Third, you build a "moon shuttle" in orbit, a vehicle that will never land on Earth and never land on the moon, but will safely travel between the fuel. Fourth, you build your "moon lander", which will be carried by the moon shuttle. Finally, you fuel up the moon shuttle and lander, and send a mission to the moon.

    At that point, you have the infrastructure to visit the moon as often as you find convenient. You ferry up some more fuel, oxygen, and supplies, refuel the moon shuttle and lander, and off you go.

    I'll point out that there are plenty of small companies trying to build a "space pickup truck" right now. You could sensibly just plan on hiring one of those, rather than trying to build your own launch vehicle. You won't get this project done tomorrow anyway, so you might as well start designing your space station and moon-specific hardware now, and just assume you can hire the orbital transport by the time you need it.

    If someone gets a "space cannon" operational in time for you, so much the better. Use the cannon to send up lots of fuel and oxygen and such as cheaply as possible. In this case, you will want to build a "space tug" vehicle that can scoot around and collect the canisters shot up by the cannon.

    The USA sent men to the moon using a cost-is-no-object, win-the-race strategy. You will do much better to incrementally build the infrastructure to go to the moon conveniently.

    Good luck with your grand dream.


  • Are you insane? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2010 @04:06AM (#30978364)

    I lived with Windows my entire life until I left college, and embraced the FOSS community. Taught myself Linux. Taught myself a lot of things over the years.
    I honestly would bleed for the concept of FOSS. To me, it's like handing the first man to own a model T his own torque wrench- totally freeing him to do something
    he's never done before, with something he'll be experiencing for the first time.

    But I'm sorry, FOSS CAD & Parametric CAD is total crap now, both from a usability and functionality standpoint. It's the one area that FOSS, I feel,
    will never fill well. Why? 2 simple reasons:

    1. User Interface- FOSS community, are you listening? Stop with all the damn menus. Learn how to make a decent GUI layer for some aspects of your
    program. Even engineers are human- they need something to not only be easy to learn, but INTUITIVE. I'm not sugguesting it look like Fischer Price designed the
    layout- just speak with a symbologist/iconographer. Seriously. Ask what your users do, and create usable icons and common actions.

    Get over all your sanctimonious insistence on coding a program for numeric and input style- make even a single program with a decent GUI interface. Don't think I'm
    calling out Linux people specifically- I use Autodesk Inventor 2010. Yes, legally. I learn it at a community college, and the new version is guilty of that too- older versions
    had a more intuitive GUI. The new version takes a LOT of getting used to.

    2. GOOD 3D support and rendering-

    With all I've seen the FOSS community capable of in graphic rendering (blender, gimp, etc.), why do we lag so far behind in 3D processing? Gaming support famously
    suffers massively, and along with it, decent parametric modeling in real time. I have yet to find any native FOSS CAD program, for any OS, that actually renders in 3D
    well, or mostly, at all. This is something harder to fix. If the FOSS community could pool their resources to one massive program, like Shuttleworth did for Ubuntu, we
    might have a chance. It's a Herculean task, and one I've seen FOSS struggle with for years.

    I use Inventor now because it works (with a TERRIBLE interface in 2010), but in 3D mode, extrusion modeling/building makes part design like sculpting clay, one I understand
    the commands. It's another ballgame entirely. I *WISH* I could do that with a FOSS program- bad GUI or no!

    Inventor also has full kinematic modeling, for testing motion of interacting parts, and integrated stress analysis. Considering NASTRAN is coded in FORTRAN, if I remember
    right, even stress analysis software is pretty proprietary, and noone has updated that on a massive scale since the 1960s! We're talking software initially developed for NASA,
    and hasn't been re-coded in almost 50 YEARS. Fifty. If NASA can't fund it, who the hell can? (insert jokes about Richard Branson here)

    3D CAD and such specialized software in FOSS has a long way to go. I hope I'm wrong. I have yet to see even one that was usable for extrusion style modeling, which almost
    anyone can pick up easily once they know how to navigate the interface. Last FOSS CAD program I tried was Q-CAD- among many others like it, did no 3D, no extrusions,
    and was a very poor UI. Did 2D well, but it, and many other small CAD programs in native Linux did the same thing. Hell, the only FOSS CAD I've ever seen that COULD do 3D
    was by, and for free software, the rendering was decent- but the GUI is overly simple, only icons, very limited in modeling scope, and constantly had issues
    with basic lines joining together.

    I'm sure flames await me- as I am a basic, and probably average Linux user with almost no coding skills, but I have much experience hands-on with this style of software in
    Windows AND Linux. And you know what, for a guy like me that reads /. daily, for 10 years, and has tried every program I could find in this area, I hope I'm wrong. I really do.
    I hope I've only scratched the surface- but everything I've seen till now pales in comparison to Inventor. And with a UI as bad as it, that's pretty bad.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.