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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, December 30, 2006

More on Asteroids
CNN has an article on asteroids' threat and promise here.

In it, they discuss an upcoming Planetary Defense Conference. I'm going to try and attend.
8:09 am est

Thursday, December 28, 2006

NASA Considering new Media Approach; News Networks Considering Original Reporting
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.
7:11 pm est

Novelty now, Important in the Future
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 press release. 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.
6:08 pm est

More on Asteroid Missions 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 lists them.
6:05 pm est

Snopes at it Again
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.
5:27 pm est

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Continued Busy-ness/Holiday Greetings
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.
2:09 pm est

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Been Busy
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.
6:16 pm est

Friday, December 8, 2006

The Often Unspoken, Very Important Part of Science
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.
4:47 am est

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Lego-ized Satellite
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.
6:59 am est

Friday, December 1, 2006

Roll Control...Again
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, though.

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 parts...
5:20 am est

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