Wednesday, August 31, 2005
A Documentary not by Ken Burns
8:27 pm est
In the grand tradition of Spinal Tap
comes The Old Negro Space Program
. I found this very funny, even though it is EXTREMELY politcally incorrect (playing to many stereotypes) and quite vulgar
at times. I really like the laurel branches at the top of the web page.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Rough Times at Michoud
6:57 pm est
The Space Shuttle External Tanks are produced in Louisiana, then barged to Kennedy Space Center for launch. Today's hurricane
passed close to the facility. There's some discussion at Transterrestrial Musings
about how an impact to the tank factory could impact future shuttle (and shuttle-derived) operations. One person commenting
is a little...difficult.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
6:38 pm est
I look forward to seeing Beyond the Moon: Failure is not an Option 2
, but my first thought is that a better name would be After the Moon
, since mission control operations after 1972
never placed anyone further than low Earth orbit.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
The Little Space Company that Could?
8:17 am est
has an interview
's president, Jim Benson. A quick disclosure notice: I own a trivial number of SpaceDev shares that I purchased in 1998
for $300. I don't even know what they're worth today.
The article details Space Dev's plans, moving from microsatellites
and hybrid propulsion
through manned lunar landings in the 2015 timeframe. While it's hard to argue with results, and I have an interest in this
company's succeeding, their schedule seems a bit...agressive.
Friday, August 26, 2005
B.M.O.P (Big Man on Publisher)
6:25 pm est
SWN is published by Publish America
, and guess who's near the top of their "Up in Lights" section? If you're considering publishing a book, I believe that Publish
America delivered what they promised to me. For other opinions, check out this article
, which is linked from the Publish America site.
What's Behind the Solar Array?
6:11 pm est
I check out Bigelow Aerospace's
website at times, hoping to catch more information on America's Space Prize
. Today, the image on their main page caught my eye. In case it changes periodically, I captured today's here
The concept is a Mooncruiser. As I see the image, they have one of their inflatable modules, an ISS node, and a Russian-style
space station node making up the main craft. A Soyuz vehicle is docked with the craft, presumably for a taxi service, and
opposite the Soyuz are some visible legs, presumably of a lunar landing vehicle. On the near side of the vehicle is a propulsion
module of some sort, but given it's size the only type of propulsion that could make sense would be an ion drive.
Very cool conept art, but I'm afraid that it will take a lot of work before it moves beyond that phase. Having the Soyuz
mounted off the centerline would affect the ability to use a large propulsion system (it's possible that there's a non-visible
docking point at the far end of the inflatable unit, but that doesn't answer the mail for the lunar vehicle) because of the
torques involved, and there doesn't appear to be enough solar panels to allow an ion engine to function with any sort of power.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Meteorites for Sale
2:31 pm est
I don't know if I'd ever purchase one, but these guys
have what appears to be quite a selection of meteorites. They even have some from Mars. I heard about one person at The Mars Society Convention 05
who bought a Mars meteorite, then ground up part of it and mixed it into his mortar for a fireplace he installed in his house.
Not a bad conversation piece.
I've seen an etched iron
slice personally, and have to admit that they are beautiful.
2:23 pm est
There's some discussion on the web, here
(in the comments section) and elsewhere about what an "essentially complete" space station would be. I'm willing to bet
that NASA Administrator Mike Griffin
is in the midst of some serious negotiations about what an "essentially complete" is. It's likely that there are differing
levels of interest throughout the world in flying specific modules to the station. No one can come out and say, for example,
that ESA is willing to forgo their launch, until negotiations are complete. So for now, we need to live with the vague term.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Insightful Email Subject Lines?
8:16 am est
I received an email related to this
NASA press release. Anyone can receive such emails using the instructions posted at the bottom of the linked page. Anyway,
the subject of the email was "-end-", obviously an email faux-pas, but strangely appropriate since another nearly one-year
delay between shuttle flights will decrease the number of flights possible by 2010, and may cause a further decrease in the
number of shuttle flights.
6:43 am est
There's an interesting discussion going on over at Transterrestrial Musings
. It has to do with whether NASA is conspiring (or has conspired) to keep private enterprise out of space. The participants
talk around many of the hot-button issues I've heard about, but jam up around whether there's an actual conspiracy
or whether there's simply an organization protecting itself and its interests
. The Dictionary.com
entry for conspiracy
refers to "An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act."
For the record, I don't believe that there's a conspiracy at NASA. The key word for me in the definition is "agreement."
To me, that would mean that a group of people at NASA get together at regular intervals and say "How can we work as a team
to keep private enterprise out of space?" I do believe that NASA, as an agency and individuals, is proud of what it has achieved
and has developed a mindset of how that sort of work should be done. Part of that mindset is fighting strenuously for budget
dollars every year by describing how important your particular project is. The same organization has been burned (Columbia
Mars Polar Lander
, etc) when they do things "differently" than the etherial "right way." When asked about other people's
different ways of doing things, individual NASA workers or the organization itself usually responds with something like "Gosh,
that's not the way we do it, and when we do something different, bad stuff happens."
This takes different forms. I met one long-time NASA worker at The 2005 Mars Society Conference
who, when SpaceShipOne
came up, he pointed out that each flight had at least one thing that, if it'd going any more wrong, they would have lost
the craft and the pilot. After some thought, my response was "do you mean like Gus Grissom's sinking capsule
or John Glenn's heatshield
?" His response got to the core of the issue, in my opinion. He said that NASA never said that they'd offer flights for
paying customers (I seem to remember some half promises of such things leading up to the shuttle program), and that Burt Rutan
was "arrogant" and "belittled the work of thousands of people (NASA) whenever he talked."
There's also the idea of commercial interests "filling space with bulletin boards", as entertainingly (though not completely
correctly) presented in popular fiction
Friday, August 19, 2005
A Parting, Crushing Shot
9:20 pm est
The final report
from the Return to Flight Task Group was released on Wednesday. I haven't read it all (probably won't, just use it as a
reference), but the first part seems to be a step-by-step report on how NASA met most of the recommendations of the Columbia
Accident Investigation Board report. In an addendum, however, seven members of the board describe how meeting the recommendations
did not provide a good overall picture of progress at NASA. They cite four areas where NASA leadership has come up short:
rigor, risk, requirements, and leadership, and have specific examples of each. My favorite part is where they discuss shuttle
launch dates. Their sample chart can be found here
, and it shows how the date was consistently "too close for concerted (well thought-through) effort", yet in the end the time
between launches was over 2 years. The recommendation for future action is for NASA to start out with a realistic launch
date to start, then take a well-considered course of action to get to it. I've seen this same effect in programs that I've
worked on. NASA may have taken the lesson to heart
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
"A Non-Intrusive Mac User"
8:10 pm est
An Asteroid by Any Other Name
7:51 pm est
On June 24th, 2005, 2004 MN4 received an official number, 99942. That made it eligible for a name. The name chosen was Apophis
, a Greek derivation of the Egyptian God Apep, "the Destroyer."
Monday, August 15, 2005
Maelstrom II Reborn
8:29 pm est
At The Mars Society Conference 2005
, I attended a talk given by Jeroen Lapre'. In it, he discussed his efforts to use science fiction and the amazing capabilities
of his employer, Industrial Light and Magic
, to educate children about real science principles. He's turning an Arthur C. Clarke short story called Maelstrom II
into a short film
, using the muscle of ILM to provide a Star Wars
quality in the special effects. He gives a background of how it all
got started here
This project hits a soft spot for me, because I dabbled in the same idea with the same story years ago. I'm glad to see that
it's actually taking form.
Mars Opposition Baloney
8:01 pm est
I've seen emails posted related to this and been asked by one reporter about it so far, so let me answer it here for good.
The following statements are false:
- Mars will be closer to Earth in August of this year than any time in the near past or future
- Mars will be the size of a full moon when it makes the close approach
The following statements are true:
- Mars came quite close to Earth in August of 2003, that is close in planetary terms (~35million miles). Estimates vary
in how frequent such close approaches take place, but they are on the order of tens of thousands of years. At closest approach,
Mars looked like a bright star, but did not get noticably larger than a star, except through a telescope.
- Mars will again come close to Earth in October/November 2005 (details here), but this pass will not be as close as the one was in 2003.
An easy way that usually works to remember whether a close Mars pass is coming is to remember that they usually take place
a couple months after we launch a Mars probe. Snopes has a pretty good writeup about this here
SpaceX on the Move?
7:50 pm est
According to this article
, SpaceX may have to move their launch pad at Vandenberg AFB. Currently, they reside at Space Launch Complex 3 West (SLC-3W).
They got the abandoned pad rather cheaply because no one was using it, and Atlas, which flies out of SLC-3E, was getting
ready to end operations. Well, now Lockheed Martin is ramping up operations on the east pad again, and it looks like they
may be a little anxious about a former dot-com-er with his toy rockets at a nearby pad (note: I think the idea is bunk, but
I'm putting the spin on it that was likely put forward to making it move. I have no firsthand information on this development).
Details are sketchy, but I think Elon should have a case for getting reimbursed for his set-up costs on SLC-3W. It looks
like the government may offer him SLC-4, which will be abandoned as soon as the last Titan IV flies sometime in the future.
Ironically, it's the grounded Titan IV on SLC-4 that kept SpaceX's Falcon booster from flying early, due to launch geometry
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Mars Society Presses on
8:23 am est
Still in Boulder, though due to return home Sunday morning. Last night, conference attendees got to see a preview of The Mars Underground
. I enjoyed it, but believe that some will call it a worshipful acceptance of everything Bob Zubrin says. I believe
that most of the things BZ says will bear out to be true, but don't hype it to the extent that the movie did. I may have
more to say later.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Off to Boulder
6:07 pm est
I'm at The Mars Society's 8th conference until Sunday. No posts likely until I get back.
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
M3? (More Mars Methane?)
5:41 pm est
Some new findings
from Mars, made by Earth-bound telescopes, hint at a much higher production rate of methane in some areas of Mars.
"Reality" TV Moves Into "Space"
5:29 pm est
Ron Howard, producer of Apollo 13
and From the Earth to the Moon
is putting together a "reality" show called
. The participants won't be in space, but in some form of simulator, nevertheless, the idea sounds really cool.
No word on how to sign up, but I'm going to keep a look out.
Asking the Wrong Question
5:18 pm est
If this article
is to be believed, the upcoming repair
is taking place because Wayne Hale asked the following question at a meeting:
Did we have
the engineering knowledge and analysis that would, without a shadow of a doubt, allow us to be 100 percent confident the vehicle
could fly safely during entry?
To me, this is the wrong question. Considering the uncertainties of repairs in
space and new imagery, wouldn't a better question have been:
Do we have the engineering knowledge and analysis
to prove that taking action in this situation will put us in a better situation than we're in right now?
at my volunteer gig today asked about the wisdom of removing shims placed between tiles. I said I didn't have enough information
to have an opinion.
Computer-Generated (Helped) Mars Lake
4:09 am est
image of a Mars lake had a little bit of help from computer technology. Basically, the picture was taken from directly above
and the popular image was created using digital data and colors from that picture.