A RUD of Space Jargon

(Read on. It’ll make sense.)

By Joe Diorio

On April 20 SpaceX launched its heralded “Starship” rocket on an unmanned test flight. The 400-foot-tall rocket and booster is designed to eventually take humans to Mars. 

The blastoff was impressive, but about three minutes into the flight the giant spacecraft started doing 360-degree spins. The anticipated separation of the Starship itself from the Super Heavy booster, which is powered by 32 individual Raptor engines, didn’t occur.

(By the way, other than warp engine, Raptor is about the coolest name there is for a spacecraft engine. Fight me on this one.)

They weren’t in Houston, but they had a problem. So, they did what any space flight operation would do when the spacecraft encounters some bad juju; somebody punched the self-destruct button making Starship and the Super Heavy booster explode. They called this maneuver a “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” or RUD.

Twitter had a field day with that term.

“We’re pretty good with synonyms, but rapid unscheduled disassembly is a new one, even for us,” tweeted @Dictionarycom.

“Rapid unscheduled disassembly has to be one of the funniest ways of saying, ‘shit, our rocket blew up,’ said @H_MitchellPhoto.

Rapid unscheduled disassembly is such a friendly way of saying, ‘it blew up, but we learned a lot on the way,” said @MKBHD.

“Have decided my tanks have not been getting destroyed. Instead, they have ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly, said @DarthPutinKGB (obviously – hopefully? – a parody Twitter account.)

My favorite? “I do not destroy my toys. They simply experience a rapid unscheduled disassembly. This has nothing to do with me,” wrote @dog_feelings.

SpaceX went back to the drawing board. Twitter writers will be waiting, I’m sure.

Writing Lesson for All

Last month I put a writing assignment in this newsletter, asking readers to describe the following as though you are an angry motorcycle cop: Opening the windows and letting in fresh air. I received some impressive entries:

From Jerry Lademan, a semi-retired broadcast journalist from Upstate New York: “The veteran cop was increasingly annoyed at the stuffy air in the cramped room at the back of the precinct office, and the long wait for the disciplinary board’s return only made him more ornery than usual. The office had only one antiquated window that was probably an original from the building that was soon to be replaced with a shiny, new department HQ across town. Screw this, he grumbled under his breath as he got up from the hard wooden chair and went to the window. He put his stubby fingers into the casement opening and heaved upward. The window, which probably hadn’t been opened since he was a rookie in the 1980’s remained stubbornly shut. Another thrust. The balky frame again creaked and groaned but barely budged. His anger at the window brought back memories of the anger he felt the day of the fateful traffic pursuit. With a final, mighty push the window gave, but as it did the inside pane shattered. The sound of the cracking glass was joined by another sound—of the oak door announcing the arrival of the top brass who would decide his fate.”

From Tim Fallis, Ph.D., an advisor to Par Hawaii Refining: “Eyes smoldering with contempt behind oversized aviators, inhaling bitterness and exhaling rage, she cranked the jalousie as if it were an AMC Harley she loved and hated in equal measure.”

But my favorite came from a former coworker at Ketchum Communications, Doug Rose, who asked ChatGPT to do the work:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, huh? Cracking open those windows like you own the damn road? You think just because you’re behind the wheel, you get to decide when and where to let in fresh air? Well, think again, buddy! You’re not the only one on the road, and your actions affect everyone around you. You wanna let in some fresh air? Fine, do it when you’re parked on the side of the road, not while you’re driving and endangering others. So roll up those damn windows and focus on the task at hand, driving safely and responsibly. Got it?”

I’m still accepting submissions. Show me what you can do!

Lesson learned

A few years ago, a reader rightfully chastised me for improperly writing “less” when I should have said “lest.” From that day forward I use two or three proofreaders on each issue of AFWAW, lest I screw up again.

That lesson came in handy on April 19 when the daily crossword puzzle clue for 71-across was, “For fear that.” Four letters. The answer, as I learned way back when, was “L-E-S-T.”

Let’s write carefully out there, people.

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