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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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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Light Posting
Work is a bit nuts, and I'm wrapping up a project at home so posting will continue to be light. I may have something to say on Saturday. In the meantime, check out this new space blog.
5:18 am est

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Mars Society and Hubble
The Mars Society has released another plea for Hubble. Others have commented on the plea, both on its substance and tone.

I like Hubble. I agree with the statement that a society (or space agency) that can't bring itself to repair Hubble for safety reasons will have trouble sending people to Mars because of safety concerns. I would prefer an argument based on logic and reason over an argument based on hyperbole. The Mars Society argument has some reason and logic it in, but the hyperbole is likely to be too distracting for the greater number of people.
8:05 am est

Burt Rutan Essay Up
My summary of a Rutan talk is now up. I realize that I'm stating the obvious, but this guy has a lot of potential for changing the world of space travel as we know it.
7:42 am est

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Story Behind a bad Story
Dr. Carol Stoker has broken her silence related to the life on Mars flap that hit the news a few weeks ago. Turns out that she was at a party with some friends talking about her research in what she thought was a secure environment. Now, after everything has died down, she's concern that her credibility may be damaged because her name is now associated with the hubbub, despite the fact that she had next to nothing to do with it. I've met Dr. Stoker, and hope that once this all dies down, she'll be able to press on. Jim Oberg has the details here".
6:09 pm est

When your Only Tool is a Hammer...
...the whole world starts to look like a nail. This article discusses the radiation hazard that astronauts face and will continue to face as they move beyond low Earth orbit. After discussing the challenge, they talk to an expert for a resolution. The expert cites new exotic materials like "polyethylene and carbon foams impregnated with hydrogen" as the solution. Since he didn't mention any other, simpler solutions, like using the water or food on board the craft as a shield (both viable options that could cost a lot less), I'm going to guess that he's a materials science specialist. New materials are his tools, that's what he sees as the solution. It's less wrong on his part than on the reporter's for not looking into alternatives.
4:55 am est

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Project of Interest
It's probably not widely known, but there is an orbital flight simulator called orbiter available on the web. I've only played with it a little bit (that whole "wrong operating system thing"), but it seems quite powerful. There are two good parts: 1) it's free and 2) it's expandable. Once you learn some coding and apply some elbow grease (or whatever software/graphics work is called today) you can add your own scenarios to the system and then contribute them to the community. I've been consulting (translation: monitoring the emails and replying when I see a post when I have an opinion) on the Mars Direct Project, an effort to create a visual reality for the Zubrin/Baker plan to go to Mars.
6:33 am est

Press Releases vs. Reporting, and a Moon Plan
As usual, I find it interesting the differing amount of detail found in a news report compared to the press release that it's based on. The first question I had when I heard that Enceladus had an atmosphere was "What is the atmosphere made of?" Of all the web-based reporting I've seen so far, only the press release stated that the atmosphere is likely made of ionized water, although the article mentions Enceladus as the possible source of the "icy E-ring" so it can be inferred that the atmosphere is made of water. I particularly like the way the atmosphere was found using a magnetometer (the details are in the press release).

Robert Zubrin has written a series of op-eds on how to use the moon as a stepping stone to Mars. Part 1, part 2, and Part 3 are out there on the web now. In the pieces, he argues strongly for a heavy-lift launch vehicle as part of the Moon-Mars and beyond architecture, saying that other mission styles requiring multiple launches will make the effort unweildy and likely to fail. I see the logic in that argument, but also believe that by limiting the effort to minimal launches, the program will not leave any infrastructure behind as it moves out. Without infrastructure in orbit, such as an orbital supply depot, a decision by the political class (a term Dr. Zubrin uses repeatedly) could end the program before it built anything useful or even anything flying. With such an infrastructure in place, commercial interests could exploit the remaining resources and keep things going in some manner.

So...many launches make the program unweildy and cancellable, while few launches don't change the mindset of space activity.
6:28 am est

Sunday, March 13, 2005

t/Space - Echoes of the Past?
Earlier, I commented on t/Space and this article about their recently-released complaint about the paperwork required to build the CEV. A little research pointed out the fact that Gary Hudson, listed as the founder of t/Space here has been quoted in the past saying things similar to the t/Space statement. In a space flashback, here is an article where he describes the reason he was leaving Rotary Rocket. Check near the end, where he refers to meeting with bankers for financing. Paraphrasing: "It's hard!"
4:40 pm est

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Administrators, Voyagers, and Russians...Oh My!
The news has it that Dr. Mike Griffin will be the new NASA administrator. He's currently serving at the Applied Physics Lab, but he's worked for NASA before and also has done some advising from outside the agency. He also led In-Q-Tel, the CIA technology incubation company. That's got potential for some very new thoughts. The buzz I've heard so far has been positive.

It's also been revealed that NASA may shut down a series of missions to save money. No word as to whether this is real, or just posturing for more funds, but it brings to light an interesting problem. NASA is an organization designed to do research and development. Historically, once the R&D portion is done, they tend to morph into operations and science as well. Examples here include the shuttle, and the potentially-ending-before-their-time spacecraft. A case could be made that, once science is the only remaining outcome of a project (like Voyager's search for the edge of the solar system), NASA's involvement should end. If other agencies are interested in the science, those agencies should pay for it. Now, in the even more muddled case of The Hubble Space Telescope (letter from Senator), a science organization would not only have to pay, but would also have to do the repair, which is exclusively a NASA regime right now. If we had a wide vairiety of choices for space access, other options would exist.

Here is an article discussing NASA's agreement to launch some uncrewed lunar explorers to the moon using Russian rockets. No word as to how legit the announcement is, but if substantiated it would be interesting, and a statement as to how NASA views the US's launch capability. Of course, there's the whole issue of exporting spacecraft to launch on other countries' rockets...
11:05 am est

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Matter of Placement and a Matter of Paperwork
The National Air and Space Museum issued a press release describing SpaceShipOne’s display in their main museum. As it turns out, SS1 will not take the place of the Wright Flyer, as I speculated here, instead, it will hang between the Spirit of St. Louis and the Bell X-1. The Wright Brother’s plane will return to the center spot of the museum at the end of this year. Source: Space Today

Apparently, t/Space, the startup that caught some attention early in the Crewed Exploration Vehicle work, is starting to chafe under the reporting requirements of NASA. According to this article, they’re weighing their options as to whether or not to stay in the competition. I saw this coming when I saw the draft request for proposal, which included large amounts of descriptions of how a winning contractor should be structured. Of course, large corporations used to bidding on such contracts already have that structure. Source: Transterrestrial Musings. Check out the comment board on this post, when I first saw it, there were 9 postings.
7:51 pm est

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

A Great Idea for a Participatory Space Mission
A article led me to this website for the International Lunar Observatory. The project idea is a series of small antennas launched to the moon with their own support equipment, with the idea that they can be linked together to form an observatory. They've paid for a Phase A study done by Spacedev, who came back saying, essentially, that the project was feasible and that Spacedev could do it. (Big surprise on the second part) Be sure to check out the images they have of the system.

Although there are some problems here, that I’ll get into in a minute, this has the makings of a tremendous participatory space project. Each craft would be a standalone effort, sent to the moon as part of a larger whole. The more antennas on the moon, the better return they’ll provide as a group, but there isn’t necessarily a "magic number" of stations making a pass/fail criteria.

Now for the problems. Based on the published designs, each craft would rely on the sun circling around it and staying up all the time. This kind of architecture is necessary due to the long (14 day) and punishingly cold (-150 degree C, -250 degree F) lunar night. They’ve chosen a south pole landing site for the mission, but the "eternal light" requirement pushes them to theoretical peaks on the south pole that always see the sun. The website says that they're awaiting SMART-1 images for such proof. OK, assuming that the peaks exist, now you have to land on them. This is possible, but would put a new level of precision landing into practice. The website discusses this, describing navigational beacons that would land in the designated area first.

Unfortunately, any other location on the moon would expose the craft to the lunar night. While the Apollo ALSEP packages ran for many lunar cycles, all but Apollo 11's were nuclear powered. Nuclear powered commercial spaceflight might be too much of a leap for a start. Another possibility is using small Radioisotope Heating Units to warm crtical portions of the small stations during the night.

To reiterate...I love the idea, and would love to help make it work. I'm just not sure how to do that right now.

Further browsing found this page that shows an optical-telescope configuration. Interferometry, anyone?
8:34 pm est

Bigelow Aerospace has dropped off the SpaceX launch manifest in favor of a Russian rocket. This is the first loss of a customer for SpaceX. Details here
6:29 am est

Sunday, March 6, 2005

No Loss of Spacecraft, but...d'ooh!
Via Slashdot. Looks like the APXS instruments on Spirit and Opportunity are reversed. According to this article, there were some calibration factors that are different for each instrument, which made the results from each look a little weird. The plan is to re-run the analyses done so far with the correct coefficients. It shouldn't change any major results, but the results will look much cleaner.
6:04 pm est

'Tis a nice Thought, but... has an article talking about Europe's SMART-1 lander, currently orbiting the moon. In the article, they discuss the mission of photographing the old landing sites of manned and unmanned lunar missions. The theme is that this will "put to rest" many conspiracy theories about whether or not we actually landed on the moon (no link, I prefer to give folks of that persuasion the least web traffic possible). It's a nice thought, and when the pictures come out I'll link to them, to be sure. I doubt that the pictures will cause a sensation, or even another FOX network show refuting the conspiracy theories they promoted. (again, no link on purpose) Hopefully, some everyday folks on the street who had their doubts will change their minds when they hear about the pictures, but any hard-core conspirist, who has money to be made by the continuation of the theories, will simply spin a new web about it. I suppose something like "Europe's been bribed to produce the fake images to remain part of the space station program"* or something like that will suffice.

Oh, and has the top-ten theories spouted as reasons we didn't go to the moon spelled out with counterpoints. Anyone who talks about space in everyday situations should have some of these handy, because there's usually someone around who'll ask about it and if you don't have quick answers to them, you'll simply confirm their belief. A more exhaustive discussion on the topics can be found at Bad Astronomy

* Because I've had trouble conveying sarcasm on the net, and taken out of context my quote could be used to declare me a new "conspiracy believer" I want to state NOW that we landed on the moon.
7:18 am est

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