Thursday, June 30, 2005
On for the 13th!
8:05 pm est
It's official. Discovery
is slated for a launch attempt on the 13th of July. Space.com
has the tale.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
A Move and a Reason
8:13 pm est
The SpaceX's Falcon booster will not make its first flight from Vandenberg
(page down the to June 27 entry). The vehicle is ready to go, but geometry got in the way. If you refer to this diagram
of the launch base, you can see that Space Launch Complex (SLC) 3 is north of SLC-4, and the Falcon will fly south as it
leaves the pad. SLC-4 is where the Titan IV launches from. Since the Falcon is on its first flight, there are likely concerns
that its flight path carries it too close to the Titan IV, and if the new booster got destroyed, it may take the Titan with
it. The easiest way to protect the Titan is to keep the Falcon on the ground. This is something that Elon Musk and SpaceX
need to keep in mind if they intend to fly from Vandenberg in the future, because even though the Titan IV flights are ending
out of the West Coast with this flight, future government launches will take place from SLC-6 (and SLC-3's west pad, but that's
an issue for another day). If you look at the map again, you'll see that SLC-6 is also south of SLC-3.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Good Words from the Bad Astronomer
8:20 pm est
If you're asked to say something at a science fair, keep these words
Global Ringing/Tempel pre-Blast
8:16 pm est
Back in the "Days of wine and roses" as described by Opus
, he was shipped a whole bunch of cash to come up with a missile defense system. He got the local scientist, Oliver, to work
on the project who came up with the idea of surrounding Earth with all the dollar bills he'd been shipped. Well, now something
is being proposed to fight global warming. By creating a ring around Earth, a la Saturn
, we'll cut the solar input to our planet and cool it.
Sounds sort of good in theory, but there are some issues, like cooler winters with unaffected summers in the opposite hemisphere.
Of course, depending on where you fall on the impact humans have on our environment, this could be an "undoing" of some damage.
Also, Comet Tempel has possibly given a preview
of the show we'll see on July 4th.
Looks Like it's a "Before" and "After" Thing
3:45 am est
According to the Slooh User Group
email list, here is what's going on related to the Deep Impact impact:
Slooh's first coverage after the Deep
Impact event, will be 5PM - 8PM EDT on Monday, July 4. Slooh will broadcast a special Slooh Radio broadcast during that time,
in addition to our regular scehdule 8PM -10PM (with James Wallace and Bob Berman).
Guess we'll have to rely on
news coverage for the actual moment of impact.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
8:16 pm est
Missed the planetary show
this weekend due to clouds in the west. D'ooh.
Comet Impact Viewing
12:47 pm est
In case you haven't heard, The Deep Impact
mission will lead to first human-made impact with a comet. I'd understood that this site
would allow viewing of the impact, but according to this article
, the Eastern Hemisphere (where Slooh's telescope is located) will be in daylight at collision time. Their site maintains
that they will show the collision. Maybe they have another 'scope planned for monitoring the collision. I'll check on it,
and post here with the answer.
A Couple Good Saturn Images/ Mars Update
5:16 am est
I recommend occasional visits to the Cassini
web page. They update it with noted pictures fairly often, and most of the discoveries don't make the mainstream news.
Some good ones today include:
The thing to remember is that even though these pictures
are awesome, most of the science data from the mission comes from the other instruments
Remember that the Mars Rovers
are still out there, too. Don't miss the sunset
Also, in the "Big News" column, is the fact that the European Mars Express
spacecraft just unfurled its active radar antennas
. It's active scannIng that provides our best data
In just a couple months (actually, 45 days at this writing), another craft
will start its journey to Mars. Of course, it won't arrive until next year.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Please List all the Unkowns we don't Know...
1:30 pm est
It looks like Discovery
may fly on July 13th afterall. This article
points out that many reviews remain, but that things are moving forward. It goes on to cite some uncertainty in debris modeling,
which makes sense.
July 13th would work well for me and my family, as we'll be in South Carolina then and, given proper conditions, could see
the craft going into orbit.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
It's up...but is it Running?
6:09 pm est
, the first attempt at orbiting a solar-sail-propelled craft, was launched today. Unfortunately, nothing has been heard since
. There's still hope, but after a couple more passes through the night Tues-Wed, that hope will fade fast.
The Planetary Society is running an update blog
. Check there for the latest.
I wish this flight well. Solar sails have a lot of potential for use in space, although not typically in the ways described.
The Passing of a Space Legend
5:16 pm est
General Bernard Schriever has died.
people talk about heroes, both sung and unsung, of the space age, but Bernard Schriever was one of them. In his efforts
to quickly build ballistic missiles for the United States, he gave industry a trial run for what they'd later be asked to
do in taking Apollo to the moon. While some of his satellite work
has been declassified, it will be a long time, or possibly never, before we know all the programs that he brought from concept
I met him once, at Maxwell AFB
, in an event called A Gathering of Eagles
. General Schriever was the one I wanted to hear the most, because of his experiences, but he was the quietest (and likely
oldest) of the bunch. His name was taken by an Air Force Base
while he was still alive, which is a rare honor in Air Force history. In my opinion, Los Angeles Air Force Base
deserved his name, because it's where he did most of his most notable work.
Monday, June 20, 2005
All Engineered by one Person?
7:49 pm est
Episodes 1-3 of the Star Wars
saga surprised me that the entire downfall of the Old Republic was engineered by one
person. That's fiction, of course, but if an article in this week's TheSpaceReview
is correct, one person may have been the cause of the rise (and fall) of the space program.
According to this week's article
, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson created the idea of the "Space Race" to win political points against then-President Dwight Eisenhower.
Early reports used hyperbole to stoke fears of what mastery of space could do, and forced Ike to act. This philosophy carried
forward nicely as LBJ moved into the Vice Presidency next to JFK. Next week, Alan Wasser will go into his change of heart,
and decisions forced upon him, as President, to start the gutting of the space program right as it was reaching its pinnacle.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Movie with the Right Idea
6:45 am est
Admittedly well out of sync with when I should have, I just saw GATTACA
last night. In it, a lot of big/up-and-coming stars tell a tale of a not-too-distant future where genetics is all that matters
for success, or at least it's your ticket in the door. Ethan Hawke plays an "In-Valid", who doesn't have the genes, but has
the will to try and make up the difference.
Saturn features prominently in the movie promos, and the reason why comes out in the movie, but the references to space are
largely through slight of hand and distant views of rocket lift-offs. It's casually mentioned that there are approximately
12 flights every day. Now that would be a launch rate that would allow us to get the cost of launching down! Of course,
I don't condone limiting flights to people of perfect genetic makeup...
Friday, June 17, 2005
A Couple'a...Negative...Space Posts
6:59 pm est
A group with one of the worst acronym's I've ever seen, the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), have an opinion
on the Moon-Mars initiative. Of course, few people publish anything that equally weighs both sides of something today, and
based on the title of this post, you can probably guess which way they lean. Likewise, The National Review Online has this piece
, which I'd call negative.
Plenty of folks have taken the time to answer at least one of these pieces (here
, and here
[page down], for example) and a friend of mine challenged the author of the first to a debate. I won't take the time here,
except to say that I disagree with the assertions, and believe that with a narrow enough viewpoint, or a predetermined conclusion,
one can form an iron-clad opinion on just about anything. I believe that humanity's future is brighter with space included
in it, even though I can't argue down every point that someone brings up against space efforts.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Budget Victory, with a Caveat
7:44 pm est
The House of Representatives passed NASA's budget for 2006, winning praise from The Administrator (email received, no web
page to post to at type time). As Jeff Foust points out
, there's an amendment that curtails part of The Patriot Act. Of course, the debate of including policy on spending bills
is one for another day, but President Bush's staff indicates that such an amendment would cause a veto by the man in the big,
white house. It'd be a first, but it could happen. I think it'll all sort itself out, by the time things go through the
Senate and conference, but it's too bad that we couldn't just have a victory.
Also, if you're a big fan on NASA's artist-in-residence
program, it didn't fare well in this round of negotiations.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Space Testimony and a t/Test
7:32 pm est
Well, the Congressional testimony from space turned out to be more circus than substance
. Big surprise.
Although the test was successful, and I've seen their philosophy on the matter, I'm not convinced yet that there's a positive
risk/benefit tradeoff for this launch mode
. The guys from t/Space seem to be aces on building some form of hardware
, and I'm hopeful for the rest of their plans. I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
No Surprises Here
1:24 pm est
This post was originally going to be longer, but I hit some browser problems and got frustrated. Northrop Grumman's design for the CEV
, Spiral 1. is out. There's some discussion on it here
. Apparently, it's been out for a while, but didn't get the fanfare that Lockheed Martin's
In trying to read the tea leaves, neither design is what was wanted, but NG/Boeing is closer.
Of course, there's the other CEV design
, pictured here
, from t/space.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Another Space First
6:32 am est
When the space program started, the "firsts" that took place were definite stepping stones to something greater - first spacewalk,
first rendezvous, first docking, etc. It's definitely a sign of something changing when there's a press release
about the first congressional testimony from space. It's unclear to me how this is a stepping stone to something greater...
Friday, June 10, 2005
Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group Reports
8:15 pm est
A group of folks, asked by NASA HQ to plan the scientific exploration of Mars, has issued its latest report (June 2005)
. They've got some interesting ideas about the things that need to be done before humans can land on Mars. It appears to
be pretty thorough, as they compared long-stay and short-stay missions on Mars, and also compared the cost-benefit of validating
the technology before sending humans. I haven't finished it yet, but I like the approach. Here's the summary of items that
need to be addressed. It's from the executive summary, so it doesn't list the further analysis. I'm summarizing:
- These items can't be separated in their importance according to the report
- Determine the effect Mars dust will have on machinery
- Determine the impact that Mars winds will have on landing and takeoff of large hardware
- Try to find a landing site free of biohazardous lifeforms within reach of what the explorers will reach
- Find a landing site that will allow access to water if ISRU is to be used (Note: These last two items may be in conflict)
- Discover possible toxic effects of Mars dust on humans
- Characterize atmospheric electricity and how it would impact takeoff (this is a new one for me)
- Determine how well and how quickly human-generated biowaste will be broken down by the Martian environment, then determine
its impact on future science
- Characterize the radiation environment on Mars' surface
- Determine the traction characteristics of the Martian soil
- Determine the impact of dust storms on humans on EVA
Thursday, June 9, 2005
Solar Power to Jupiter?
7:55 pm est
A new mission to Jupiter has been announced in its early planning phases. It's called Juno
. The first thing that struck me is the solar arrays. Previous missions to Jupiter and beyond like Pioneer, Voyager
, and Cassini
were/are powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Up until now, the furthest out I knew a solar array-powered
craft planned to go was the Dawn
mission to the asteroids.
Jupiter gets about 4% of the solar power that Earth gets. So, a craft orbiting Jupiter needs solar arrays at least 25X the
size of a craft orbiting Earth using the same amount of power. Another factor is that with the sun so dim, the heating requirements
are a lot higher. One potential saving grace, that may make the whole thing work, is that the mission will orbit the poles.
If Jupiter is approached from the right direction, the craft may always stay in the sun.
If this mission flies, I can hear the song of the no-nukes-in spacers: "That mission could fly with no nuclear power, so
there! No missions should fly." That would be a very narrow line of reasoning, but I don't hold their reasoning powers as
being very broad. I hope that this can be handled correctly so that future nuclear missions, which will do amazing things
including supporting humans missions beyond LEO, can still take place.
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Two Books Underway
8:26 pm est
I had a long drive over the weekend, so I picked up a copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey
on CD for the trip. Hadn't read it in a long time, and I'd never listened to it. There's a pretty good foreword by Sir
Arthur himself, where he talks about a lot of things that have happened since. Two he didn't mention that happened in the
book are asteroid impactors
and Jupiter atmospheric probes
. If you haven't read it in a while, or only saw the move, I recommend it.
The other book I'm reading is Flight
by Chris Kraft. Definitely a different viewpoint of early space efforts from someone who transferred from NACA to NASA.
A couple of heads up: he's not fond of the Germans (at least up to the point I'm at), and definitely has strong opinions
about some of the astronauts that he worked with. In one case, he'd worked with the astronaut in an earlier job and things
Mars Meteor Watchers, Look for the Cepheids!
5:40 pm est
I'd toyed with an idea for a sci-fi book chapter where a group of people on Mars came across an unexpected meteor shower.
To try and give it some realism, I looked through listings from the Minor Planet Center
, trying to find Mars-orbit-crossing comet. Well, it looks like the Mars rover Spirit beat me to it
, making my sci-fi idea less "fi". The researchers in question even found the comet responsible
, and can predict that the next big shower will be on December 20, 2007.
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
A Mars Woodstock?
8:20 pm est
At ISDC 2005
, Bob Zubrin said that 8th annual Mars Society Conference
would be the "Woodstock of Mars." If the increase in attendance from my local group is any indication, he's probably right.
With upcoming NASA reorganization announcements and a plan for Moon, Mars and Beyond expected in the next month or so, there's
likely to be a lot to talk about in Boulder. Hope to see you there.
Monday, June 6, 2005
An Idea Whose Time has Come?
8:18 pm est
There's a relatively large amount of talk on blogs and essay sites about a space journalism organization. Rand Simberg
talks about some issues, while Clark Lindsey
brought up a reason that it might be necessary (UPI dropping their space reporters). Sam Dinkin
proposed something similar about a month ago, right after awarding his Space Journalism Prize.
I don't know how such an organization could organize or pay for itself, but it seems to me that a lot of organizations are
partnering with Space.com
right now. There may be interest in another voice.
Friday, June 3, 2005
More Signs of Change at NASA or...?
12:39 pm est
has just come off it's first successful held-down test firing
. They're following it up with an announcement that NASA announces they've contracted with SpaceX
to "research strategies for future human spaceflight systems for exploration missions and commercial space access." On the
SpaceX website, the hotfire announcement is immediately preceeded by the $100M Air Force Award
So, is the government putting their stock in what they see as a bright prospect, or is SpaceX realizing that they need government
support? Probably a little bit of both. It appears as though the company's already come to a bit of a reality check, in
that their projected December, 2003 launch didn't happen and still hasn't. Elon Musk's goal all along has been crewed spaceflight.
This is going to be fun to watch.
Thursday, June 2, 2005
Better Prediction for Solar Storms
6:27 am est
Radiation is one concern we're going to have to deal with as we leave Earth. It looks like the National Center for Atmospheric
, has come up with a new way
to predict solar storms. The structures appear to only be visible from the side, however. Therefore, we'd need satellites
all the way around the sun to be able to predict a storm in any particular direction.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Earth/Moon Portrait, Political Support for Moon/Mars
9:16 pm est
I like it when a spacecraft flies by Earth and takes some pictures of its original home. MESSENGER
is on its way to do just that. The first released Earth/Moon picture can be found here
Mike Griffin was in Houston this week. Not suprisingly, he and Tom Delay had some positive things
to say about NASA's new Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative.
Looks like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has some issues
with NASA's previous analysis of options for resupplying the ISS. Luckily, the space agency is re-thinking the previous