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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, December 30, 2005

So you Want to fly (or Ride in) a Spaceship?
The FAA Office of Commercial Space has released proposed rules(Acrobat required) for pilots and passengers of commercial spaceflight. The Washington Post has a summary here, though it'll only be available for free for a little while. AP version here. FAA is taking comments until February 27th.

I downloaded a copy, and may give it a deeper read later, but according to the WaPo article and a quick parusal on my part, it looks pretty reasonable. For instance, pilots are required to:
  • Have an FAA pilot's license (no students or sport fliers)
  • Have a pilot-level physical current to the last year
  • Along with crew members, pilots must have a physical and mental state sufficient to carry out safety-related roles
  • Are recommended, but not required, to have a physical
  • Must be trained as to how to respond to emergencies
I can just picture it "Please turn to your right as your crew explains the emergency procedures for this craft. There is one exit, unless the hull splits open and then you don't have to worry about getting out." All kidding aside, this looks like a good start.
2:08 pm est

Random Thoughts
A few interesting items out there nowadays.

A test to see if monitoring the moon constantly for impacts (flashes as a meteor hits the satellite and causes a new crater) hit pay dirt.

The Stardust spacecraft is returning its sample cannister to Earth on January 15th. This is exciting stuff, as it's the first deliberately captured sample from a solid body (the ill-fated Genesis probe was meant to bring back samples of the solar wind, but met a difficult end)brought back to Earth since 1972. If you live in the Western US, you may actually see it. Other commentary here.

If you want your space news delievered with a dose of religion, there's a new space news site on the web called usspacenews. They appear to have some good information on CEV development (as well as testing and potential mission) efforts. I was pointed to the site through their December 28th posting about a possible double CEV flight to circle the moon in 2015. It sounds great, sort of an Apollo 8 redux with an added safety measure of sending two spacecraft. There's an interesting commentary there about the change in culture at NASA since 1968. I'll have to look at the masses, however to figure out how they'll do it with the launch vehicles that are expected to be around at that time. The last timeline I saw had the heavy not available yet, and I'll need to check to see if "The Stick" can send that kind of mass to the moon. Of course, a really ironic twist would happen if the mission has to be a "figure 8" around the moon instead of an actual orbital mission due to vehicle constraints.
9:17 am est

Friday, December 23, 2005

Open the Floodgates
The asteroid threats we're aware of today are due to a relatively loose gathering of telescopes, many of which were designed for other purposes. They've done a pretty good job so far, and have pointed us to one asteroid of greater-than-average interest.

Now, a new telescope is preparing for fist light, and it's the first of a series of four telescopes that when complete will cover a vast majority of the sky looking for much dimmer objects much faster than current 'scopes. Details here. The fact that there may be a series of "false alarms" (real or reported that way) as scientists adjust to their new capabilities is discussed in the article.
5:40 pm est

Telling Quote
I was searching the web yesterday and came across this signoff in a bulletin board:
"Space Amateurs Talk About Missions; Space Professionals Talk About Logistics and Procedures"
5:02 am est

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How Much More Black?
Somewhat... This image of Saturn's moon Rhea is taken from almost directly behind the moon. It would be completely black except that Saturnshine is reflected onto the side of the moon we're looking at. The visible ring is the F ring.
9:32 pm est

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Not Counting my Beagles...
...until the hatch, or at least until someone other than the Beagle Project Leader is interviewed as the sole source. The second article has the image.

Update: The second article is actually pretty good, and talks to some imagery experts. The features remained in pictures taken 6 weeks apart.
9:48 pm est

I Think This may be a Problem
I've given presentations at Balticon, the annual blowout for the Baltimore Science Fiction Society before. The Planetary Society sponsors a science track during the conference, and that's where I give a talk. Anyway, I got my annual invitation to speak, and they mentioned that they're expecting 1900 attendees. FROM BALTIMORE. I'm on the planning committee for the 06 Mars Society Conference and our planning number is less than half of that.

Others have complained about this before, but why are more people (by tens of thousands, since one city can support a conference of 1900 Sci Fi fans while an international space activism conference has fewer) interested in reading, talking about, and sometimes living in another fantasy world, instead of working to bring that world about?

Bottom line: Why doesn't everyone else share my special interest? (and, by the way, I mean space, not necessarily Mars. In fact, any organization working to actually change something would probably like to rack up those kind of numbers.)
9:32 pm est

But What About the Artistry?
I can't help but wonder what Time's editors think when the put together a collection of powerful, well-composed pictures, and the public goes out and votes for the space image(this version isn't from the competition) in a runaway. Vote for your favorite to see the results so far.

Do the editors (and likely photographers) write the victory off as a fluke, perhaps a bunch of sci-fi geeks stuffing the electron box? Do they regret the general public's inability to appreciate the power of the other photos in comparison to the cold image of an icy moon hovering above a beautiful, ringed world? Who knows.

Maybe the voters just think it's cool.
9:10 pm est

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Auroras on Mars!
Apparently, having localized magnetic fields 1/50th the strength of Earth's global model doesn't stop the fourth planet out from having Auroras. So, with our northern lights being Aurora Borealis, and our southern lights being Aurora Australis, would those on Mars be called Aurora Arealis?
10:14 pm est

Monday, December 12, 2005

Skyshow Tonight
The Moon and Mars are aligned with The Pleadies (Check the names of the stars for a Harry Potter 6 clue) tonight. Pretty nice.
8:43 pm est

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lego(tm) of Your Dreams
This goes under the category of "loosely associated" with space because space is the theme of most of my Lego projects with my son. The company's website shows the ability for a new function. Personalized Lego Kits. You download the creator software, build your kit virtually, then upload it to Lego. They send you a box (and probably even directions...they're available in the gallery) with your bricks. Looking at the prices in the gallery, the prices seem reasonable, in comparison to "mainline" Lego kits.

Monday Update: I downloaded the software, but none of the computers I have regular access to can handle it.
4:12 pm est

More on Paraball
Turns out that Paraball is part of a larger project to create a space TV channel over the internet. Here is the associated website. Also, the topic got picked up by slashdot, so there's plenty of grist for the mill there. Be ready for a lot of discussion of "it's impossible" and "another elitist sport" in the discussion threads. I have mixed feelings on those concepts. For one, I think that popular sports (football, basketball, etc) are way overblown today, while "elitist" sports (one mentioned in the threads are polo, although I guess fox hunting would count) don't have sponsorship and require lots of money to participate. Hopefully, this sport could be closer to the popular category.
7:14 am est

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bad Instrumentation, Bad PR, or Both
More conflicting stories out of the Japanese Space Agency, looks like they can't confirm that their asteroid mission gathered any samples. Oh, and by the way, it looks like it might not make it home, either.

Constantly changing your story keeps you in the press, but not in a good way. Maybe it's a case of the press not catching caveats, and reporting that things have happened when the space agency actually said "we think this happened?"
9:10 am est

Paraball, Anyone?
Here's an article about sports in zero-gravity. I snickered as I started to read it, thinking it would be "in ten years we'll be able to...", but this focuses on today's possibilities using Zero-g flights. Of particular interest to me is the creation of a sport specifically for zero-g flights, but scalable to orbital flight. It's called Paraball, and the goal is to start a league with 7 teams in the US and 1 in Canada. I wonder if they need players?
9:04 am est

Friday, December 9, 2005

Earth, Morning/Evening Star
Som graphics on the Mars Rover site shows how Earth appears in the Martian sky, and the orbital position that allows our home to appear that way.
8:08 pm est

Asteroids Gain Mention in new Source
The Washington Post has a free daily called express that they give to DC-area Metro riders each morning. On Thursday, they had a "quick quotes" section that included the mention of Apophis on this website's entry. Noticing that there are only three comments to the posting at blog time, I'm not sure how often the site is frequented.
7:35 pm est

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Science Fan Fiction on Film
Clark Lindsey pointed me to an article about a group of Star Trek fans who have taken to making their own episodes. Two episodes are available online for free download, and the third one has just wrapped filming and should be released in the summer.

I haven't seen the episodes yet, but the production value apparently is quite impressive. Check out the pictures of the third episode. Their effort has caught a lot of interest, as evidenced by Walter Koenig's (Pavel Chekov in the series and movies) participation in the third episode.

In the entry, Clark wishes that a real sci-fi adventure could catch that kind of interest. If only.

It is quite a testament to what today's technology allows a group of motivated people to do.
8:38 pm est

Monday, December 5, 2005

Here's a job I Could Really get in to
The European Space Agency has an Advanced Concepts Team. Based on their website, it appears as though part of their job involves writing short web-based summaries of technologies which may or may not be useful to future space missions.

I came across the website when I did a search on Millisecond Pulsars for Navigation. Basically, a craft would use the timing signals from naturally-occuring time standards (the pulsars) to calculate the craft's position. I'd heard of the concept being researched, and the ESA ACT summary was pretty thorough in pointing out the goods and the bads in the concept. Good: stable time reference, should allow computation of location to within 1000km (useful for some applications, but not others such as planetary approach) Bad: Either the integration time (time to figure out where you are) is on the order of an hour, or multiple antennas of the 10m size are required.

Any sort of independent flight in space will require be greatly assisted by the capability to determine its own position in space. I've got an idea perking which may serve a few needs and perhaps make some money. More to come.
8:09 pm est

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Apparently Coherent Analysis
I've never been a big fan of Jeffrey Bell, a frequent contributor at In my opinion, most of his pieces, while they contain elements of inarguable fact, have enough hyperbole in them to make them unuseful. His latest, however, appears to break that streak. Unfortunately, the method of reading it is a little odd (web page, followed by download for the rest if you're interested), I think it's worth the effort. Essentially, he believes that the ESAS architecture (he calls it Apollo 2) will take much more money than anyone is estimating to do anything worthwhile. Another option that wasn't taken, keeping the original Apollo hardware size, would also have worked and made a much more useful infrastructure for future missions.
3:20 pm est

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Could'a Written Part of the Speech Myself
To start, a disclaimer. I've never claimed to have originated the idea of fuel/supply depots, just thought about them a lot and written about them a bit. I posted earlier about the speech where Mike Griffin brings up supply depots. At the time, I'd only read the cited the article, now lost to url oblivion, not the speech itself (Acrobat Reader required). He actually goes into some interesting detail, including dangling a possible $500M out there (subject to congressional approval, of course, which tends to be the hard part) for early commercial efforts to gain access to ISS. Later, he gets more specific about things that a supply depot could do:
If the Earth departure stage could be refueled on-orbit, the crew and all high-value hardware could be launched using a single SDHLV, and all of this could be sent to the Moon.
Read the whole thing. I'm pretty sure that one speech isn't enough to build a business plan on, but if it's followed with action, there may be enough to build a plan on later.
10:01 pm est

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