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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, April 29, 2005

Shuttle, Hubble, and Buzz
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 until now?

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.

Buzz Aldrin, 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.
8:21 pm est

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Armchair Astronomy
Slooh 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.
3:54 am est

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Spacedaily/Soundtrack Take 2
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.

The first 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.

The second 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.
8:27 pm est

Friday, April 22, 2005

Is There a Registrar in the House?
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.
10:24 am est

Orbital Supply Depots (OSDs) Word Spreading
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 and here. I'll also be giving a talk on them at ISDC.
5:31 am est

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another SWN Review
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.
8:33 pm est

New Mars Book
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 trilogy.
8:29 pm est

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Perhaps a new Trend in Publishing?
According to Hobbyspace, AIAA 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.
8:55 pm est

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Apollo 13: The Technical Side
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, and communications.
5:26 am est

The Dangers of Slow Posting
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 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 world.

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.
5:12 am est

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

If You're Insistent on Building a Moon Base...
...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.
8:45 pm est

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Asteroids of our Past and Future
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.
8:04 pm est

Overstated Schedule Pressure
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.
7:58 pm est

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Mars Society Recommends SWN to its Members
In a recent email bulletin, The Mars Society recommended Space: What Now for its members. Quotables can be found here.
9:08 am est

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Spacecraft Viewed from Spacecraft
Here's 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 enhancement.
6:17 pm est

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Big Vote of Confidence for two Hearty Robots
Looks like Spirit and Opportunity 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.
8:12 pm est

Monday, April 4, 2005

TheSpaceReview Review is up
The Space Review has posted a review of Space: What Now?. The review can be found here. In complete disclosure, I've written for TSR a few times.
4:38 am est

Friday, April 1, 2005

A Couple Articles on Space Tourism and one on NASA
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.

RLV News 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 in suborbital).
6:07 pm est

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