2746: Launch Window

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Launch Window
"Confirmed, we have to scrub." "Ugh, okay. I'll get the bucket and sponge."
Title text: "Confirmed, we have to scrub." "Ugh, okay. I'll get the bucket and sponge."


A launch window is a brief period of time in which a spacecraft can be launched from Earth's surface such that the spacecraft can reach its destination with the minimal amount (or an amount lower than a threshold of acceptance) of energy expenditure.

This comic takes the concept of a "launch window" in a more literal direction, implying that they have an actual physical window that is only open at certain times, and through which the rocket presumably has to be launched. Cueball, representing one of the three technicians we see working in a mission control center, suggests moving the rocket outside in order to avoid issues that arise from dealing with the window. This immediately gets pushback by the other technicians who, in stereotypical behavior of shut-ins, don't want to bother leaving their comfortable computers. Ponytail complains the outside 'is so sunny', which ironically would normally indicate good conditions that would permit a launch. Hairy also objects because it would cause them to have to deal with bugs, presumably not of the technical type which might commonly prevent a launch, but more of the living, biting kind.

The title text continues the comic’s theme of taking aerospace terms literally, with a play on the two meanings of scrub. Normally, in the context of a rocket launch, this would mean to cancel the launch, but here it apparently means that some cleaning job is required, possibly of the window in question (though how that would help them to launch the rocket through it is unclear), or possibly to deal with the aftermath of launching through the closed window.


[Ponytail and Hairy can be seen sitting either side of a technical-looking double-sided console, with Hairy, on the right side, wearing a mike-and-headphones headset.]
Ponytail: The launch window will only be open for another 90 minutes.
Ponytail: We may have to scrub.
[In a frame-less panel the view is expanded to show, that to the left of Ponytail, Cueball is sitting with his back to her, operating a similar but single-sided neighboring console.]
Cueball: You know,
Cueball: Given all our issues with the launch window,
[Same setting but in a frame. Cueball has turned around towards the other two.]
Cueball: Have we thought about moving the rocket outside?
Ponytail: Ugh, no. It's so sunny out.
Hairy: And there are bugs.

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Looks like Randall posted this one really late this time. 05:22, 7 March 2023 (UTC)

Is this about an actual window being open? -- 06:11, 7 March 2023 (UTC) yes, that seems to be the joke. it's actually a pretty good one.

It's definitely quite abstract; I think it's talking about an actual window of the building that the rocket is supposedly "inside" 06:14, 7 March 2023 (UTC)

I've added a bit more to the explanation, but I wasn't sure what, if anything, could be said about the 'sunlight' comment... Is it just a joke about the stereotypical "computer nerd/engineer" never stepping foot in the sun, or am I missing something there? Also, could someone please add the characters' names in to the explanation where necessary? I can't remember them well enough to be confident in who's who 06:34, 7 March 2023 (UTC)

I think it's more general than nerds (though possibly speaking as a probable nerd myself). Depending upon the local clime, and time of year, while having some Sun can be nice (whether or not it's warm, and it's warm enough for the local bugs) I know that even in the winter mornings, where a few streets I might often walk up face directly into the rising Sun, the glare can be severe and I really need to remember my hat so I can tilt its brim down. Even if it isn't simultaneously dropping water (or ice) on my head at the time.
I get the impression that this launch-building is (like most launch sites) far more equatorial than my 50-odd degrees of latitude, it's probably a fansite equipped with HVAC and though it might still be nice enough to go outside with your packed lunch (bugs excepted) for a while, actually having to work on an external rocket and its launch-pad would not be a matter of moderation and choice to nip back in again because it is too bright (and possibly hot, even in the shade) to be comfortable. Not when the "launch room" had been set up with a nice, predictable temperature and illumination level.
But I don't want to speak for those actually habituated to the great outdoors. ("There's no bad weather, only bad clothing," etc.) Which even some nerds are, when not working on necessarily indoors tasks... 13:21, 7 March 2023 (UTC)
I think it's a little of both. Barmar (talk) 20:50, 7 March 2023 (UTC)
I updated the explanation to indicate which character said what. 04:23, 8 March 2023 (UTC)
I think there's clearly a play on mission control-type spaces, as shown here, being dark, air conditioned, and insect-free.
Title text should have had someone say that they'd fetch scrubs from the gear locker to do the scrubbing in. 21:27, 7 March 2023 (UTC)

Could this be a reference to kernel space program 2. It was very recently released.

Doubtful; a reference would have needed to be much more direct. And there's already a comic about it that speaks much more directly. It's likely just a normal XKCD-style STEM joke that happens to be focused on rocketry. 03:48, 8 March 2023 (UTC)