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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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Saturday, July 30, 2005

10th Planet or Something Else?
The news is hot, and the arguing is set to start. Is the large object outside Pluto's orbit a planet or Kuiper Belt Object? If the new item is a KBO, then shouldn't Pluto be as well? Of course, since this is an academic argument, you can expect a lot of controversy.
6:36 am est

Friday, July 29, 2005

Space Makes White House News
It doesn't happen that often, but space, more specifically, the space shuttle mission and later the grounding of the fleet made the White House press briefing twice this week. Jeff Foust comments on both at Space Politics. The first one, where a reporter pressed the press secretary about missions to Mars, is here. The comments get particularly interesting, relating to journalists who fight their way to become White House correspondents, so that all they are is a pipeline of White House statements. Rand Simberg picked up on the thread on his blog. I've read less about the second story.
7:28 pm est

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Two Announcements Today
Less than two days after Discovery took flight, NASA grounded the fleet again. Turns out, another large piece of foam came off. Indications are that it didn't hit the orbiter, but it's time for a pause to figure out what happened and how to keep it from happening again.

In other news, Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan announced the creation of The Spaceship Company to build spacecraft for suborbital tourism.

As much as my pulse quickened to see the shuttle fly again, the idea of 100 people willing to pay $200,000 each for a flight into space gets much closer to my flying into space.
7:11 pm est

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Taking Flight/Irrelevant Space Reporting
Congrats to the Discovery team and crew for getting us back 'up there.' 140 miles down, millions to go.

The countdown appeared nearly flawless. The reporting (at least on NASA Select online, where I was watching) was less so.

I've talked before about how space reporting is filled with cute, but either oversimplified or wrong statements or analogies. A classic happens whenever a spacecraft enters another planet's orbit , and it's described as "pitching a strike in Yankee Stadium from LA."

Another took place during today's count. While showing footage of some of the new launch monitoring cameras, the announcer stated that the control joystick on one of the cameras was so sensitive that it responded to the operator's heartbeat.

That statement, although it's likely true, is silly. If the joystick is that sensitive, then the camera shouldn't be controlled by a person. The vibration that the heartbeat puts into the system will make the images blurry and less useful. It's likely that the camera points itself, or that a person steering it using the joystick has a control setting to cut the sensitivity. So either the control isn't used or it's de-sensitized for use. In the meantime, people who've watched solely NASA reporting think that it's important for a camera to have such a twitchy control that the image shakes with the operator's pulse.

Once we start focusing on issues that matter, like successful, frequent flight rate, and stop focusing on individual distractions like touchy controls or the chance of an individual part breaking, we'll know that we've moved into a new realm of space utilization. The problem is...what's the transition method from one focus to another?
8:00 pm est

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Return to Flight/Waste use on Mars
Well, NASA thinks they may have got the problem licked, but won't know for sure until the fuel sensor is exposed to hydrogen as part of the countdown. Guess we'll know if they've got it on Tuesday.

Here's an article on "closing the loop" with food and waste on a Mars mission. The researchers spent at least some of their time making their composting scheme work in zero gravity. That's nice to have, I guess, but an assumption of artificial gravity makes all the work moot.
6:27 am est

New Review out
The new Air&Space Smithsonian Magazine is out, and in it, William E. Burrows, author of Deep Black, had some nice things to say about SWN.
5:38 am est

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Good to Have/Antarctic Base/Beyond NASA
I've mentioned it before, but it's good to have a few responses ready for someone you bump into who thinks we didn't land on the moon. has a short but sweet list of some of the top conspiracies you'll hear, and a response to them.

A unique architecture has been chosen for an Antarctic Base. If the modules were round instead of rectangular, and viewed with a red filter, you could almost believe you were on Mars.

Christian Science Monitor hits most of the main points about flying into space outside of a government space program in this piece.
7:19 pm est

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Coherent Argument Against Heavy Lift/Anniversary
I've not read Johnathan Goff before, but he puts together a lot of good pieces into an argument against heavy lift for Moon-to-Mars here. Of course, NASA's stated that they will develop a shuttle-derived launch vehicle means that they either didn't think of these arguments, or they didn't think they're valid. By the by, I don't like it just because he mentions Orbital Supply Depots

Also, take note of Google's tribute to Apollo 11 (only valid on 20 July). They also expanded their map program by adding a moon section. Be sure to zoom in the whole way.

For those into ritual, Rand Simberg has a suggestion.

It gets harder and harder for me to think of grand events fading into memory. Tonight, after explaining to my son what happened 36 years ago, he said "Who's on the moon today?"
7:32 pm est

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Light Posting
I'm on vacation with my family. Should have posted the note earlier, but hey.

With shuttle launch now TBD, we probably won't get to see it from our site here in SC. Given the humidity, it was probably a long shot anyway.
3:42 pm est

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Moonships Take Shape, Zubrin Comments has an article on moon plans coming together. In it, they talk about NASA's decision to use shuttle hardware for a heavy-lift launch vehicle and a CEV-to-LEO craft.

Also, Bob Zubrin emailed out an op-ed giving some good reasons that a CEV needs to be small. He bases the argument on simple calculations based on the to-orbit mass of the shuttle-derived vehicle mentioned above, and therefore I'm sure that there will be a very vocal group who disagree with his conclusions. I agree with his conclusions. I expect it to be posted on the Mars Society website soon, and just posted it on my site in the meantime.
8:12 pm est

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Counterpoint/Some Great D.I. Images
Earlier, I pointed to a two-part article about LBJ and his influence on starting and ending the space race. Today in The Space Review, Dwayne Day pokes some holes in the claims, saying that there are others that he doesn't have time to get into. Having read both sides, Mr. Day's argument makes more sense to me. I haven't validated his dates, but his interperetations of events seem more realistic.

The Deep Impact main page has some great quicktime movies of the impact, both from the Flyby and the Impactor point of view. The mission appears to have caught a lot of interest, though of it is bad. According to Rand Simberg (page to the bottom of the long, rather funny blog entry), the 'bad' post may not be serious. For the record, the comet Tempel 1, which Deep Impact hit, comes closest to Earth on an approach to Mars, so moving its orbit in the short term would take an almost unimaginable amount of energy. One response to this rather odd entry details the case.
7:17 pm est

Monday, July 4, 2005

Deep Impact lived up to its name. In typical NASA-ese, I knew things were looking good when someone on the impactor team reported "loss of downlink." They're reviewing images now and the flyby craft reported ready to go into shield mode as it flew through the comet's debris cloud.

More to come. This incident has given me lots to think about.
1:08 am est

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Ever Wondered?
I avoid political commentary on this site, trying to stick with space-related topics. Here's an entry that includes political commentary in a fictional space perspective. A fine line, I know, but walk it with me. I found this spoof of the original broadcast of War of the Worlds very funny. If you're not familiar with the original, read it first, and then get a feel for what today's media coverage might do with an invasion from Mars.
5:48 am est

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Mars for a Landing/Mars Day
I've posted about the Mars Direct Project in the past, but I wanted to bring them up again. The email link is starting to get some interesting discussions on it, like "I'm having trouble pulling in my landing location error, we may need to add some lift to the entry vehicle to compensate" and other comments of that type. These are people who've taken time to learn orbiter, downloaded the mission files, and have actually flown to Mars on their computers. They may be some of our best experts on what's required to get there right now.

The original hope was to have them here for the Air and Space Museum's Mars Day. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. The event should be fun, anyway and if I can work the time, I'll be there.
3:28 pm est

Return-to-Flight Press Kit Out
If you want the bare information that the press is being handed about the shuttle flight, it can be found on this page (near the bottom). I'm glancing through it, but I don't find it that interesting.

The biggest news, at least through the 4th, is Deep Impact. If you want to watch it live (I plan on getting up to do so), has a few sites listed here.
1:55 pm est

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