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Here's the latest on space, and my opinions on it...
This is the legacy site, with blog entries from November, 2004 through June, 2011.
Updates after June 9, 2011 can be found at

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Friday, January 28, 2005

A Weeks' Worth of Links
Didn't get to post during the week, so as I sit watching "Return of the King" here are some sites that caught my eye.

First, I'm pretty sure that most events people get excited about aren't happening more often, they're just reported on more by our "better" media. If things like this keep happening, though we'll have a greater awareness of meteorites.

Here is a relatively well-balanced article about the dangers this week's solar storm would have caused to lunar explorers. My one complaint is the relative unimportance assigned to the countermeasures that are possible.

Along the lines of solar monitoring, the SOHO project has announced a contest to pick the date and time of the 1000th comet discovered by the craft.

In this week of sad anniversaries James Oberg takes a look at lessons not learned.

Speaking of lunar exploration, NASA released its draft Request for Proposal for building the Crewed Exploration Vehicle. Any hopes of a streamlined acquisition can be dashed by reviewing the documentation required. My personal favorite is the work breakdown structure.

Robert Zimmerman believes that The Russians are poised to make the next big strides in space. I'm not sure I buy all of his arguments, but it makes for good reading.

Lastly, here's an article on SpaceX and its legal wrangling with Northrop.
8:05 pm est

Monday, January 24, 2005

Another Mixed Bag, Mainly Hubble Stuff
If you're looking for dirt on SpaceX, Marsblog is the place to go.

Hubble's back in the news again. Apparently, no funding is requested for 2006 for repair missions. I'm not surprised, nor am I surprised by the outpouring of interest from affected scientists and politicians. I don't have much of an opinion on this, because while Hubble takes great pictures, a robot rescue mission is likely to cost more than building a replacement vehicle (.pdf study file here). As far as sending a shuttle to do it, I think that would be great, but I think that will only happen through Congressional action. The argument that rings most true to me is that any group that can't talk itself into doing a mission for the fifth or sixth time for a huge PR victory won't be able to talk itself into sending people to Mars.

Here's my own short version of options from good to bad, admittedly with out all the data to rank some of them:

1. Shuttle upgrade mission that: A) replaces the gyros and batteries, B) installs the two new instruments, and C) attaches a de-orbit stage so that it can be brought down when the time comes.
2. Shuttle upgrade mission that does A and B above.
3. Augmented de-orbit stage launched that can latch onto the back of the 'scope, provide gyro stabilization and support the batteries (there's a power umbilical on the back of Hubble, used for servicing, but I don't know if it has the full funcionality to do this). This would allow Hubble to continue in its current state for several more years, then be brought down safely.
4. Basic de-orbit stage that attaches to Hubble and brings it down safely.
5. Full-blown robotic servicing mission that does item 3 as well as 1B.

(Oh yeah, there's also the possibility of moving Hubble to the station orbit, and fixing it from there. This (.pdf document) seems to be a fairly reasonable look at the idea.)
9:11 pm est

Friday, January 21, 2005

More on Elon Musk and SpaceX
I've seen random chatter about Elon Musk and SpaceX's true interest or ability to go the distance with their plans to build and fly the Falcon line of vehicles. Such cases will be harder to make given articles such as this and this where, respectively, it's mentioned that SpaceX is looking to lease the old Atlas launch pads at Cape Canaveral and that SpaceX is looking to have an entry in America's Space Prize

Since the hydrogen/oxygen second-staged Falcon V (code named "BFR" for "Big Rocket" at SpaceX and mentioned in this article) is about the only vehicle capable of economically lifting a 5-7 passenger-carrying payload, it looks like SpaceX will have quite a crisp business in a few years, assuming that there are other teams entering the competition.
8:16 pm est

Thursday, January 20, 2005

American Morning...Again
CNN's American Morning is so far 2-for-2 in providing some blog fodder. Last time, it was NASA's non-interest in assisting Miles O'Brien in following the ISS Diet. This time, the deal has to do with reporters themselves.

Their "Question of the day" had to do with what people thought should be on President Bush's agenda for his second term. A lot of people brought up the typical stuff (education, health care, improving his mastery of English, etc.) and then someone brought up an atypical idea. Here's the quote and the response by Jack Cafferty (full transcript here):

And Mike in Cape May, New Jersey: "The most important thing to do is put a man on Mars before the decade is out."

That's a joke, I think.

Ooops, someone brought up a science-related topic when the media wanted to talk about typical political issues. I'm reminded of John Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. The hosts had him all teed up to play left-wing, right-wing, and he told them that their show was part of the political division within the nation and that they weren't really running a debate show. The hosts' response: "You're funnier on your own show"

Unfortunately, until space is on the regularly-talked-about issues list, occasional lobs from space-interested people will be simply laughed off. Don't get me wrong. I agree with Mike from Cape May in that calling for people to Mars would be important, and if it occurred it would be the most memorable thing that President Bush could do (assuming that the War on Terrorism is going on in some form at that the end of the decade, and it's not ended with some decisive stroke during his second term) a la King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's funding of Columbus. However, without that sort of setup, which won't make it onto a quick email poll submission, "Mars by the end of the decade" will be dismissed as a joke.
4:52 pm est

A Hodgepodge of Stuff
Alan Boyle at MSNBC talks a bit about the potential for Titan.

The Mars meteorite has multiple news sources talking. This discovery is either quite a stroke of luck, or the dynamics of Meridiani Planum are such that lots meteorites are left just sitting out. It'll be interesting to find out, either way.

Jeff Foust has a little insight into The President spending political capital on NASA.
6:22 am est

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Titan Revealed
The images are coming in and excitement seems to be running high. The glitch is getting a little bit of airplay, and while I wish it hadn't happened, it's likely not that big a deal (getting 350 pictures instead of 700 I can live with. If the other shoe drops, and other instrument data is lost...). I'm really excited to hear about some of the results of the other instruments.

I'd be really curious to know what kind of exposure times they used for a cloud-shrouded moon where sunlight is 1% the intensity of Earth levels at the cloud tops.

Of course, all this information will be nothing more than a scientific curiosity (for now, that translates to journal articles and requests for more funding for investingations) until we can actually get out there and do something on Titan.
9:21 pm est

Friday, January 14, 2005

Well, ESA doesn't have en-masse photo release down yet, but it appears that they can build a Titan probe. Some images can be found here. ( is claiming high traffic, so downloads may go slowly. The Saturn site at JPL appears to have melted.)
6:15 pm est

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Differing Opinions
In regards to a comment I made in this article
The current plot for 2004 MN4’s close approach to Earth on April 13th, 2029 makes it a potentially awesome show in the night sky somewhere on the globe. It may be worth traveling to see,

I received one comment linking me to this site, saying that the event won't be very impressive at all, while this website does a quick calculation that says it may be something visibly mobile in the night sky, but would require a 200X magnification to resolve the shape. Hmmm. It'll be a while before we know for sure.
10:00 pm est

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Insight to an Author's Approach
I received a copy of Deception Point by Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code, among other books) and I recommend it for space-savvy people who enjoyed "The Code." I found it interesting to see how he handled a topic that I was familiar with, seeing subtle manipulations of facts (either intentional and necessary for the story, or simply a misunderstanding on the author's part) and how they played into the plot. I did find myself grimacing more reading Deception Point than I did when reading The Da Vinci Code, however, largely because I could pick out the places where the subtle (or not-so-subtle) changes were wrong. Some of the scenes described in the book would also make for a great movie.

Posting has been light and will probably remain so this week. A lot of stuff going on with work and the book. Back soon.
5:54 am est

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Happy 2005!
Not much worth reporting going on recently. The Space Review Article is up. Feedback is light.

If you're looking for some interesting stuff, check out Hobbyspace. In particular, there's an article about Spirit/Opportunity scientist Steve Squyres' opinion on astronauts vs. robots.

Here's another opinion that rings a little true with me. While some of the experiences and sentiments feel the same, my response is different. I'm pressing on, just a little wiser as time goes on.
9:00 pm est

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