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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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Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Passed 8th Grade Science!
The Bad Astronomer pointed me to a website where I could check my science knowledge. As He points out, there are some typos and headscratchers in the questions, but I'd be curious as to how well the average American would do on the test.

You Passed 8th Grade Science
Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!
2:44 pm est

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How do YOU Define the "Doneness" of a Reusable Rocket?
Given that Orbital Sciences has teamed up with Rocketplane Kistler, I've been poking around Rocketplane Kistler's website, and came across their claim that the craft is 75% built. Sounds great, doesn't it? Yet the graphic (Acrobat required) shows a viewgraph version of a cartoon rocket with real pictures of components that are either flight tested or validated separately summing to 75%.

I contend that the last 25% (or maybe the last 5%) of the construction is the hardest part, and what really counts. I remember an old addage in software engineering (maybe it's applied elsewhere, but I haven't heard it): "95% of the work takes 95% of the time. The last 5% takes another 95% of the time."

Further discussion on the topic here and here.
5:24 pm est

Friday, July 28, 2006

Oh the CEV is a Changin'
(sung to the lyrics of Dylan's "oh the times they are a changin'")

It's amazing what a day off does for posting ability.

I found this at NASASpaceflight, talking about the latest redesign of the CEV, making the service module smaller and some other weight-saving changes. I find it interesting that there's talk of switching to the upper stage engine on the Delta II, when there was originally an uproar over using engines from uncrewed vehciles. The engine in question, the RS-68, has now been chosen for use on the Ares V, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
5:58 pm est

Gold Watchin' it?
This kind of article always strikes me funny. NASA is in a budget hole this year, so they're looking to cut where they can. What's one option to look into that's sure to bring out headlines? How about cutting science on the International Space Station? Never mind the fact that ISS research is touted as necessary for the next steps to the moon, Mars and beyond. I don't really buy that argument, but without it there isn't a solid reason to finish the ISS.

I've heard this approach called "Gold watch-ing" an issue. You offer to give up something very dear to you to show your sincerity at cost-cutting, yet giving up the item in question doesn't make any sense. Like offering to sell a priceless family heirloom when money gets tight, even though there are many other items that could go first.
3:15 pm est

I believe I've mentioned before that when I first saw the Ares I (on the right), or Crew Launch Vehicle, I thought it was a media mistake or some sort of joke. Roll control, stability due to it's length, and the fact that it just looked goofy were all factors feeding my initial misgivings. I was quickly corrected, with someone pointing out that, in fact, an SRB-based booster was under consideration. The latest design-revision, making it even longer, merely reinforced by inital misgivings.

Now, NASASpaceflight has an article about an alternative under study. These guys have posted things before and then retracted them, and this idea is listed as being only in case of "serious problems" with the CLV development. Of course, such a course change would lead to further delays.

I hope that people know more than I do in developing the CLV, that my misgivings are purely those of an uninformed bystander, but I'm concerned that some new facts are coming to light, leading to this alternative design.

Update: The Chair Force Engineer has more thoughts, and, being anonymous, he's a little more blunt about it.
12:19 pm est

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Space Summary
Looks like Rand Simberg had an active internet connection during the conference and took some copious notes. Here are some highlights, though he covered other sections as well.

Apparently, The Space Frontier Foundation used the conference to announce their new paper, as profiled by a article. The gist of the paper apparently is "Change course now, NASA"
7/25 Update:  The paper is not available on the web from here (July 25 entry)
8:33 pm est

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ready for More Gear Grinding?
The last time there was a major change in space tourism (when Dennis Tito was training to fly to the space station), NASA sat, stunned, seemingly of the mindset of "If we ignore it, it will go away." At first they refused to train Mr. Tito, and at press conferences the repeated statement was "Partners need to work together." Well, it looks like we're getting set up for another round. Here is a press release from Space Adventures, saying they're now ready to offer spacewalks to customers. Any thoughts on what NASA will say?

In other news, besides the Pope still being Catholic, a non-selectee for the COTS contract has some negative things to say about the selection process.
10:12 am est

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Continued Light Posting but...
Between work schedules and my training for the Disney Marathon, my posting time has been particularly limited. I know, the marathon is in January, but I'm trying to fit training in now so later potential interruptions in the future are more tollerable.

Anyway, I just spotted this dodad. Assuming it works as advertised, the Sky Scout is essentially a space-based star tracker used on satellite, only you hold it in your hand. When you turn it on, it takes a location fix using GPS, then either identifies whatever you point it at or takes you on a tour of the 10 coolest things in the sky at that time. Pretty cool.
8:25 am est

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A New Moon Rising
Looks like Bigelow Aerospace got a good ride on its retired Russian booster, with inflation and solar array deployment looking good as well. Bigelow's release is here. Lots of talk about it here.

This has the potential of becoming something big.
9:56 pm est

Saturday, July 8, 2006

The Space Show: Quick Reference Links
I'll be on The Space Show on Sunday at 3pm ET, along with the artist from I Want to go to Mars, Marilyn Glass. We'll be discussing the book, and anything else that may come up. Here are some handy links for some topics we may hit:
7:43 pm est

Shuttle Stuff
I suppose I've been remiss as a space interest website in not saying something about Discovery's flight. I was at work on launch day, and turned on the proceedings on NASA Select, but haven't followed much since.

I'm happy that we're flying again (and, that we appear to plan to continue to fly. I haven't heard about any more "stand downs" due to foam), but want to see if the nature of the coverage will change. Right now the big focus seems to be "Whew...made it!" In many ways, this is valid, but the fickle media resorts to this kind of coverage after an accident. After a couple more flights the tone is likely to change again. Any delays will receive the same treatment as earlier ones, basically saying "What's wrong with NASA?" Of course, covering all the nuances of that in anything less than an hour-long program would be a waste of time.

In the meantime, as Shuttle moves towards retirement, NASA and their supporting contractors will have to support continued operations under more difficult personnel conditions. Working on a program that's moving towards retirement just isn't a popular choice for most workers.

On an interesting note, I picked up through casual conversation that the new inspection boom, used to check out the thermal protection system after launch, uses so much bandwidth to download its information that ground antennas (sample link) have become important again for downloading "other" information. Of course, before the inspection boom came into use, that "other" information was critical stuff. For me, day to day, this situation translates into one of our ground stations constantly name dropping their support of "Shuttle" in our setup talks. Amusing, but annoying.
6:15 am est

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Another First Image?
As frequent readers know, my posting's been light lately. It's likely to remain that way through the end of this month, as I'm still pulling weird shifts to support GOES 13. Today, we made another step towards checkout of the spacecraft, by releasing the first public image from the Solar X-ray Imager. I'm not sure what I'm looking at (besides the obvious) but the picture looks pretty to me.
7:01 pm est

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Book Gone Final
I Want to go to Mars is now in its publicly-releasable form. Click on the book title to purchase, click here for additional information. The book is only available directly through Hopefully, other options will come soon.
7:50 pm est

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Tom and Discovery
Taken During a Tour of KSC on 6 Oct 2010

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