Saturday, December 30, 2006
More on Asteroids
8:09 am est
Thursday, December 28, 2006
NASA Considering new Media Approach; News Networks Considering Original Reporting
7:11 pm est
I know, I know, it happens all the time, but I saw the headlines NASA's vision lost on Web generation
on CNN and NASA Mulls Celeb Astronauts to Combat Youth Apathy About Space Exploration
on Fox News and thought that the articles may actually be different. Nope, same text in each article.
Anyway, the point in the article(s) is valid. Seemingly stodgy people giving dreary accounts of future missions are not the
way to excite a new generation. The space agency is improving at this, but the state-of-the-practice is racing ahead so much
faster, the kids don't even notice the changes. Something will have to be done. I will be curious to see how NASA toes the
line between public interest building and political lobbying.
Novelty now, Important in the Future
6:08 pm est
In the last days of the shuttle mission that ended last week, some small satellites were ejected from the cargo bay. Turns
out, two of them were built by my company and one took pictures of the mother craft as they separated, as described in this
. Based on the story, it looks like these satellites just flew away from the shuttle, but in the future a stationkeeping/flyaround
capability will be important.
More on Asteroid Missions
6:05 pm est
Space.com has another article
on crewed missions to the near Earth asteroids using the Orion
spacecraft. I've been looking at them myself, and they seem quite cool on the surface, but the line in the article that
I'm focusing on (because it aligns with what I've been finding in my calculations) is:
(Chris) McKay said that
the main question seems to be finding a NEO that allows for missions that are not too long.
So I think they're
having the same issue I am. There are some cool possibilities out there, but many years between them.
A flight to
the fringes of Earth's influence is on the order of 6 weeks. That can be shortened somewhat, at the cost of propellants.
Then comes a motor firing to fly alongside the asteroid, and another at sometime in the future to return. So your mission
is about 3 months long + the time you stay at the asteroid. More to come on this thoughtline...
29 Dec Update: Cool
article on imaging asteroids using radar while gathering better positional data on them here
Further 29 Dec Update: Here
is the JPL website devoted to asteroid RADAR observations. There are 314 asteroids that have been
imaged in this way
measured by RADAR (some of the measurements producing images), and this web page
Snopes at it Again
5:27 pm est
I'd seen these pictures
floating around, claiming to be pictures of the space shuttle lifting off as taken by the ISS. I'd seen similar views of
mountains (can't find them in a quick search), so didn't give the images a lot of thought to their veracity. Turns out Snopes
has the answer
, and the pictures were taken by a NASA high-altitude aircraft.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Continued Busy-ness/Holiday Greetings
2:09 pm est
Work has settled down a bit, just in time for a last burst of effort preparing for Christmas in our family. Shuttle's down
safe, with some apparently newsworth gnashing over whether the craft would land at White Sands. Over at Lulu
today, I saw that I Want to go to Mars
was ranked at a nice round 1000. Don't worry if it changed, I have a screen
print. It's not the NYT bestseller list, but hey, this is POD.
Enjoy your particular brand of winter solstice commemoration, especially if its Festivus
. I'll likely have a couple posts during the week, but had to get the Festivus joke in.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
6:16 pm est
Work continues to be nuts, though I believe I see the end of the tunnel. My wife appears to think it's a train. One cool
thing about monitoring a spacecraft with space environment sensors on board is that you can watch events like this
unfold in real time, albiet through graphs produced by magnetometers.
Friday, December 8, 2006
The Often Unspoken, Very Important Part of Science
4:47 am est
You can have the snazziest instrument in the world and put it in orbit around a distant planet. It's that kind of information
which usually makes the news, but sometimes, just having that instrument there for the right period of time makes all the
difference in scientific discovery.
Apparently undaunted by its recent demise
, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) continues to make discoveries. Seriously, the images in question were taken in 2005, so
there isn't much of a mystery there, though good job to the science team on keeping the discovery quiet until now. This is
especially notable with the practice at Cassini's webpage
of posting recent images. If MGS was doing the same thing, then keeping this discovery under wraps was incredible, and probably
a sign of lack of interest in the mission.
Anyway, on to the discovery, and there are actually two. The one which caught the most press is the discovery of recent fluid flows
(it's being hyped as water, which I believe it is, but I accept the fact that it could be something else) on Mars. The article
shows how the discovery was made using images taken over several years by the MGS. Phil Plait
has a more rigorous scientific discussion of the topic, as well as information on the other discovery, proof of recent cratering
. The recent cratering discovery, showing dark material thrown up as part of the impacts, is another sign that makes the
liquid flow (looking lite by contrast) discovery more likely.
Saturday, December 2, 2006
6:59 am est
When I grew up, one of my favorite toys was Lego
. I've enjoyed re-discovering it with my son as he's gotten kits as gifts for various occasions. Lego's come a long way
since my day. With much more specialized pieces to fit their Star Wars
and other themes, along with the ability to virtually design and then order your own Lego kit
, I'd say the company has grown up well. I have heard that Mindstorms
, while cool, suffer a bit mechanically because the Lego bricks tend to come apart, but I've never witnessed it mysefl.
Anyway, I'll never claim this level
of intensity, but I took some time after moving to my new position with Landsat to build a model of Landsat 7
. I'll let others judge how good it looks based on an image of the craft here
. I built a model of Landsat 5 as well, but didn't take a picture before taking it into work.
Friday, December 1, 2006
5:20 am est
I've talked before about "The Stick" and roll control. Rand Simberg
also has some issues with the issue. I'm not sure that the article he links to shows any new systemic problems with it,
Reading his post gave me a thought. The Sidewinder
air-to-air missile has a similar propulsion scheme to "The Stick," and meets roll control needs with items called rollerons
(described on the Sidewinder webpage), which are very simple gyro-stabilized fins. A lot of analysis is necessary to figure
out if they'd work throughout the flight regime, but it's a lot simpler than other solutions mentioned. In fact, they may
be too simple for use on a manned spacecraft, since one of the bragging rights for space missions is the number of moving