Friday, April 29, 2005
Shuttle, Hubble, and Buzz
8:21 pm est
Well, Discovery will have to wait until at least July to fly. The delay
may make sense, and some of the problems they found on the pad probably need to be addressed...but why didn't they find them
Looks like Hubble has another chance. Mike Griffin
has directed Goddard folks to gear up for a mission so that it can happen if he wants to "pull the trigger" as my brother
says. Earlier comentary of mine on Hubble can be found here
, who did the foreword for SWN, has collaborated with an artist for a children's book called Reaching for the Moon
. He'll be at the National Air and Space Museum
on May 28th. Announcement can be found here
Thursday, April 28, 2005
3:54 am est
is an online telescope. For $7.95 a month, you get unlimited time on "group" missions (public viewing of the 'scope's output
while it points at common objects) and 5 minutes of private time. The telescope is in The Canary Islands, and is scheduled
to watch the Deep Impact
impact. I'm researching whether the system can handle observations of satellites in orbit.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Spacedaily/Soundtrack Take 2
8:27 pm est
Tried to enter this before, but in clearing a pop-up add I closed my work window instead. So, I'll repost the same links
with less commentary and move on to another task in life.
Spacedaily had two good articles today.
had to do with moon and Mars dust. I think the fears are overblown ("Mars dust will burn you"), but it's stuff we need to
keep in mind.
is about silicon-based refrigerators. Apparently, they can get very cold and freeze a lot of mass relative to their size.
Likely useful for liquefying cryogenic propellants.
I'm typing this while listening to the soundtrack
for Mars Underground
. If the music is any indication of the work put into the main product, I'm excited to see it. Who am I kidding, I'm excited
to see it anyway.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Is There a Registrar in the House?
10:24 am est
No, I'm not referring to the archane art of registering for classes in college. ESA's SMART-1
spacecraft is searching for a peak of eternal light on the moon (it'd be a good place for a moonbase
, if you're inclined to build one). Anyway, this article
shows pictures of what's supposed to be the same area of the moon at different times in the lunar day. I can't make heads
or tales of which way is up. I'd like to see an image that is registered, meaning that the same crater is in the same spot
in both pictures. Of course, the scene would look different anyway due to the different shadowing.
Orbital Supply Depots (OSDs) Word Spreading
5:31 am est
I don't claim to be the originator of the idea of caches of supplies in low Earth orbit (LEO), but a Google search for OSDs
leads to several entries
that I'm involved in. This week's SpaceReview
brings them up again in an essay titled Ranking Space Policy Alternatives
. Check items 4 and 8 out specifically. Previous works of mine are here
. I'll also be giving a talk on them at ISDC
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Another SWN Review
8:33 pm est
The April-June 2005 issue of the Space Operations Communicator
is out. They do a review of SWN, which can be found here
. Due to the frame layout of their web page, if you want to read the whole issue, you need to go here
, instead. I consider it quite positive.
Full disclosure notice: I work with the reviewer, Paul Douglas, and the Space Operations Communicator was where I published
one of my first articles, which can be found here
. The article became the basis of a SWN chapter.
New Mars Book
8:29 pm est
I just finished reading Shadows of Medusa
, by Brian Enke. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I've posted my Amazon review, but wanted to add a couple more things. One problem
is the cost of the book ($34.95...yow!), but as the author he had very little input into that. To counter the high cost,
he has his own copies to sell which he'll part with for a much lower price (last I heard it was $20). If you're interested,
contact him through his website
. My next read is Glory be to Mars
, the third in the As it is on Mars
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Perhaps a new Trend in Publishing?
8:55 pm est
According to Hobbyspace
is publishing a science fiction book about the development of a reusable rocket. I read the online version
(only a couple chapters are available now, since the book got picked up for publication...if only I'd archived it) and enjoyed
it. I understand why a literature major wouldn't like the story, because the book is essentially a business case with a few
characters thrown in. I will pick up a copy, though, and as this press release
mentions, the book may become required reading for aerospace engineering students.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Apollo 13: The Technical Side
5:26 am est
Rand Simberg pointed
me to the behind-the-scenes story of Apollo 13
. I'm about half way finished now, but it boils down to the idea that the whole thing wasn't thrown together at the last
minute like the movie
implies. Many of the solutions devised post-explosion were at least partially developed as the result of simulations that
the mission control team ran in advance. Many of the simulations had bad endings (that is, the crew "died") and were accused
of being unrealistic, but they got people thinking of ways around unrealistic scenarios, which by planning standards, Apollo
13 was. Giving the movie some credit, it did a pretty good job technically, and adding all the detail discussed in the article
would have made it unmanageable.
A quick note: in space simulations, "double failures" (two unrelated components failing) are not allowed, because the number
of possibilities for loss of mission beome endless. Technically, Apollo 13 was not a double failure because only the oxygen
tank failed. The problem was that this "failure" took the form of an explosion that also affected the craft's power, environmental,
The Dangers of Slow Posting
5:12 am est
Well, I wanted to call Mike Griffin's confirmation hearing a lovefest, but Jeff Foust
already did. I also wanted to key on his "Call me Mike" line during his NASA all-hands, but space.com
did that. Oh well, if only I could get around this whole scruples thing of posting at work, all would be OK with my blogger
The bottom line is that I'm quite pleased with this choice in NASA Administrator. For the first time, I know people who've
either supervised him in the past or had him as a teacher, and the comments are all positive. I know that pure-space-science
types and folks with an aeronautic focus have their concerns, but I think that we've got the right guy at the helm now to
mix the technical and political issues, as well as the under-developed buisness partnerships required to get (at least some,
hopefully multiples more) of us off this third rock from the sun. In the end, I rank that end has a higher priority than
science-for-published-papers sake, or continuing to hone the edge of aeronautics, which is much closer to being self-supporting
than most of space efforts are at this time.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
If You're Insistent on Building a Moon Base...
8:45 pm est
...the best real estate may have been discovered. This article
discusses a crater ridge near the lunar north pole that may be permanently lit, right near a permanently shaded area, which
may harbor water. The results are preliminary, but things are looking pretty good.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Asteroids of our Past and Future
8:04 pm est
MSN did a reprint of a Washington Post article here
, discussing the asteroid threat. The centerpiece of the article is the chain of events surrounding 2004 MN4, the asteroid
that is the closest call yet
to be discovered. I commented on it throughout December
, and it led to this article
. Rand Simberg has some commentary
on the report, which I agree with, as usual.
Remember that Earth orbit-crossing asteroids are a threat that we can acutally do something about. We know that they've happened
in the past, and that there's a rock out there right now with our planet's name and a certain date written on it. Unfortunately,
we don't know the rock or date yet. While we can warn against tsunamis, there's been no technically feasible method proposed
of controlling the earthquakes that cause them. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters fall into that category
as well. In the case of asteroids, however, we have a way to take control of our destiny - if only we choose to do so. An
asteroid that's set to strike the Earth can be moved with today's technology, although it needs to be built at a scale that
we've not done yet. Here
are some people with good ideas along those lines.
In other news, the Torino Scale has been updated
. To me, it looks like the update is just a little additional disclaimer text in each digit of the scale. When I received
the email, I thought that maybe someone took some of my suggestions
into account, but no. Oh well.
Overstated Schedule Pressure
7:58 pm est
There's a headline on this page
(up on 4/11, sorry I'm not as fast as I'd like to be with these updates) which could lead a reader to believe that NASA has
gone back to its old ways of marching to schedules rather than completion of tasks. "Discovery Will Launch Before July Vows
NASA" does not inspire confidence in a "do what you can with the resources you have" setting. The article itself
is not as strongly worded, however, talking about how they understand that risks remain, but that they need to press on anyway.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Mars Society Recommends SWN to its Members
9:08 am est
Thursday, April 7, 2005
Spacecraft Viewed from Spacecraft
6:17 pm est
a picture of Discovery
rolling out to the pad, taken from the ISS. The resolution seems pretty good. I want to know
if the camera had to be mounted to the station, or if Leroy Chiao held the camera-lens assembly himself. The photo notes
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Big Vote of Confidence for two Hearty Robots
8:12 pm est
Looks like Spirit
have at least 18 months more funding
to keep exploring Mars. This is a pretty long mission extension when compared to the original planned length. It takes
some heat off the team, who doesn't have to worry about piecemeal extensions of 6 months apiece. I'm sure that others will
compare this extension to the potential funding end
for the Voyager spacecraft, but I think that the findings on Mars have much nearer repercussions than finding where the solar
system somantically ends.
I say again that this is a great sign for future mechanisms (rovers and other devices that explorers will need on Mars' surface).
The fact that these rovers have lasted so long means that the dust isn't as big a problem as perhaps thought. There are
a lot of different variables, like a crewed rover traveling much farther and the like, but long-lasting first rovers is a
much better sign than if they'd broken down early on.
Monday, April 4, 2005
TheSpaceReview Review is up
4:38 am est
Friday, April 1, 2005
A Couple Articles on Space Tourism and one on NASA
6:07 pm est
Sir Richard Branson had some words
on his space tourism business on a PR trip to India. Apparently, he's going to fly on the first passenger-carrying flight
along with his parents and two children. It's said that the plans for the craft are complete and that passenger service will
begin in 30 months. There's no mention of the certification process of the vehicle, which may be the toughest issue. In
one "oops", the article says that the trip will be to orbit, instead of orbital altitude or sub-orbital.
has a summary and links to some good articles here
. One discusses the changes at NASA and whether a safety change was actually all that was requested by the CAIB. In all
fairness, if the new focusing that NASA's going through is actually carried out, there will be more than a safety culture
change. This article discusses the "bureaucratic accountability" system in place that makes it look like everything is OK
because enough reports have been submitted. According to the article's author, Robert Zimmerman, the CEV project requires
129 monthly, quarterly, annually and continually updated reports, not a good sign for decreasing oversight.
The same page has a story about X-Rocket
and the beginning of the suborbital space flight business, through the use of a MiG-21 fighter plane (capitalize the sub