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 http://spacewhatnow.com/SWN
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
CSI: JPL (NEO)
7:07 pm est
Translation: Crime Scene Investigation: Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Near Earth Objects)
I'm pretty sure that many
of the scientists and astronomers involved rolled their eyes a bit, but I think that this video
is awesome. It tells the tale of how Apophis
rose and fell on the NEO threat level.
More of this kind of work would go a long way for public outreach. One caveat:
the scientists involved have to be VERY involved throughout the process. Otherwise, small errors will appear and could cause
5:52 am est
Lost a Sea Launch
booster and payload on the pad. They cut live satellite transmission as soon as the explosion started, which seems a little
silly to me since the important image
got out. Maybe they'll broadcast the next one on a tape delay. That will fix the public relations disaster (not). Rand Simberg
suggests a remedy I agree with, though the comments get...odd, as they have been recently.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
It's not the Bunny Suit, it's the Site Broadcast
5:01 am est
Any space fan paying attention to the 2004 presidential campaign knows about, and grimaced over, the bunny suit incident
. In it, Senator Kerry visited a space shuttle during its processing, and, like everyone who goes into a spacecraft on a
factory floor, wore a clean or "bunny" suit. The suits are practical, not attractive, and when pictures of the presidential
candidate were released, NASA was accused of smearing Senator Kerry's campaign. One commentator in particular said that a
presidential candidate should NEVER look like a Teletubby
. Well, an investigation was conducted, and while the bunny photos were not a problem, the fact that Sen. Kerry's speech was broadcast to NASA workers using federally-purchased TVs and equipment
was a problem. No real punishment will take place, since NASA asked for advice and was told that the action was OK, but
it just goes to show that it's not the big stuff that draws the headlines that burns, it's the little stuff no one thought
Captain Cook's Namesake Ship Prepped for Flight
4:50 am est
got to fly both return-to-flight missions, and Atlantis
followed the second of those, yet Endeavour
sat patiently, likely being used for parts, since its last flight in 2002
. A blog entry
details some of its return-to-flight activities. I've always had a soft spot for Endeavor
, since I got to see it
fly out of Palmdale after its assembly (pictured above until 2/6) and saw it on the pad on an early trip that I took to Kennedy
Space Center. Then, during it's first flight
, I spotted an astronaut acquaintance of mine as CapCom, wrote him a letter saying so, then got invited to this launch
, which remains the only shuttle launch I've seen.
"Acceptable Reasons" and "Real Reasons"
4:31 am est
Mike Griffin gave a speech (while standing at the same podium used by JFK to deliver his Rice University
speech) describing reasons we go into space. To me, it definitely brings out some points that need to be part of the discussion.
's the speech (Acrobat required), and here's a sample of the logic:
It is my contention that the products of our
space program are today’s cathedrals. The space program addresses the Real Reasons why humans do things. It satisfies the
desire to compete, but in a safe and productive manner, rather than in a harmful manner. It speaks abundantly to our sense
of human curiosity, of wonder and awe at the unknown. Who doesn’t look at a picture of the Crab Nebula, synthesized from visible-light
Hubble photographs and Chandra x-ray images, and say “Oh my God?” Who can look at that and not experience a sense of wonder?
Monday, January 29, 2007
New Hurdle to Being a Stellar Voyager: Taxes
6:12 pm est
Think you can win your way into space with a win
in a contest? Think again. Here
is a story about a guy who won a contest, but couldn't pay the taxes. Result: He gave up the flight. The article mentions
that Virgin Galactic prize winners received a check for $100,000 which could be used to cover taxes.
Update: Space-shot.com, the guys I linked to as a sample of a spaceflight contest, now includes cash with many of their prizes.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Another Hurdle Cleared?
8:24 pm est
One of the arguments that I've heard against panspermia
was the likely inability for bacteria (or any other life form) to survive the shock of being blasted into space as part of
a meteor impact. According to this article fragment
, tests have been done exposing bacteria to explosive pressures equivalent to a meteorite impact, and showing that the bacteria
can survive it.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
But my DirecTV wasn't Impacted
12:27 pm est
is an article about the jamming of a French satellite's signal. No word whether it's intentional or not, but I have my thoughts.
The article mentions other instances, and I'm afraid that this is something we'll need to get used to happening in the future.
Worth a Click
7:31 am est
I'm poking around at some resources at JPL, and found this page
full of spacecraft concept images as well as some eye-catching mission data. There doesn't seem to be any real order to
Documenting a Great Adventure?
6:49 am est
It's starting to look like someone at NASA read my article in Space Times
about ways to gain public interest and acceptance
of the Moon/Mars and Beyond mission. Here
is a link to discussion of a "TV Special" on Project Constellation.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
My Ambassadorship is in
6:16 pm est
Battle Room, Anyone?
5:03 am est
In the sci-fi classic Ender's Game
, children are taught battle tactics in a zero-g environment in orbit. After reading about Paraball
, a sport (hopefully, eventually) which will be played using a commercially-available
zero-gravity aircraft, I thought that a battle room game could also be popular. The problem was that the aircraft used in
the commercial Zero-G flights would be very cramped. Enter the Dreamlifter
, an oversized 747 that Boeing is using to deliver parts for 787 production. Standing inside it must feel like you're standing
in an aircraft hanger, only you're standing inside an aircraft. There are a couple issues, however, one being that only three
are being built, and the other that Boeing is not planning any commercial sales of the craft.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Fermi Paradox Resolved?
7:58 am est
One of the serious arguments against UFOs and extra terrestrial life in general has been the Fermi paradox
, boiled down to "If there are so many aliens out there, they could fill the galaxy in a matter of millions of years. The
galaxy is billions of years old, so where are they?"
This new article
discusses some mathematical study that may explain the paradox. I've been unable to access the full paper linked in the
article. To me, the problem is that the refutiation seems too simple, to the point where the paradox never existed.
Frame Dragging Confirmed...Again?
7:48 am est
an announcement in New Scientist that Einstein's prediction of frame dragging
has been confirmed via low-tech methods analyzing data from Mars Global Surveyor
. To add some intrigue to the story, the article points out that this confirmation beats ou the science team for Gravity Probe-B
This all tickled a memory for me, and I found this article
describing the confirmation of frame dragging using Earth-orbiting satellites and announced soon after the launch of Gravity
Probe-B. It occurred to me that using Earth satellites would make more sense anyway, because there are a lot more of them
and a lot more tracking data from each of them.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
A Comet and Some Good Discussion
2:47 pm est Phil Plait
has an awesome picture of Comet McNaught. Makes me really wish that the mix of clouds and obliviousness on my
part prevented me from seeing it myself.
has a Q&A session with Dr. Doug Stanley about rumored development problems with the Ares boosters for the Moon
and Mars. I Googled Dr. Stanley, and the first hit on his name was this discussion, but he speaks like someone who's
involved the the trade studies going on today. This would be an interesting and (I think) excellent approach to take
when such rumors surface...putting an expert "on line" to let them answer questions from people who have an interest in the
topic, though with wildly different knowledge levels, and therefore wildly different gullibility levels. Here's my favorite
I will also take this opportunity to address on the record some of the alleged "issues" with the ARES 1 vehicle from "anonymous
sources" that have been discussed in this forum and certain NASA-Related-Personal-Axe-to-Grind-Single-Source-is-Good-Enough-Blog
Friday, January 19, 2007
A Couple Issues with this one
5:09 am est
I usually have little comment on Jeff Bell's pieces, except to say I find few points that I can argue within them. His latest piece
, while providing a penetrating analysis into the possibilities of the true goals of the COTS program, touches on a couple
points that I have some personal experience with and that experience counters at least part of those specific arguments.
This is the section:
Musk made a foolish decision to move his R and D program from the convenient and well-equipped
Vandenberg AFB to a tiny sandbar on Kwajalein Atoll. The US military base at Kwaj is devoted to testing solid-fuel anti-missiles
and has little to offer except an airstrip. The vast distance and huge time zone difference between Kwaj and California has
led to inordinate expense and delay. SpaceX is actually flying in liquid oxygen by air from Honolulu to supplement the inadequate
But the biggest nightmare at Kwaj is the extraordinary corrosion environment. A friend of mine who once worked at a tracking
site quite close to the SpaceX facility reports that it was constantly swept by fine salt spray which required him to wash
off his glasses every four hours. The main base stocked a variety of expensive high-tech greases and oils which were used
to coat every metal surface - even painted or anodized parts.
SpaceX ignored all this hard-won experience and used incompatible alloys in its Merlin engine that encouraged electrolytic
corrosion and led to the Falcon I launch failure. Musk has been quoted as saying that the market will allow SpaceX at most
two more failures. Previous experience (e.g. Boeing's stillborn Delta III) suggests he is right.
The first point,
with Elon chosing to move his operation from Vandenberg to Kwaj, is just off. My understanding is that Elon was perfectly
happy to launch off of SLC 3W on the West Coast, but that the contractor operating SLC 3E didn't want "hobby rocketeers" experimenting
right next to their national asset (the launch pad, along with a rocket and payload that's occassionally located there).
After being forced off the base, Elon put the best face on it he could, pointing out some of the advantages of flying out
of Kwaj, but that shouldn't be mistaken as the island having been his first choice.
Also, I've worked at Vandenberg, and can state that the corrosion environment there is pretty bad. I don't have experience
at Kwajalein, so I can't compare the two. There are cliffs along the coastline at Vandenberg which may provide some protection
from the sea spray that are nonexistent on the island. I'm not sure whether a launch from Vandenberg would have suffered
the same fate as one from Kwaj, assuming the same period of exposure to the salt air there. In an ironic twist, if Elon had
been able to win the argument to keep his first launch out of Vandenberg, he might have had to relocate to Kwaj after the
failure. The SLC 3E contractor, would have a much stronger argument against "hobby rocketeers" with launch failure footage
to back it up. This would have led to a much longer timeline between the first flight and upcoming second flight
of Falcon I.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
More Viking Life Discovery Controversy
9:15 am est
There's a new slant
to the arguments over whether the Viking
landers discovered life on Mars. This new (at least to me) argument claims that Viking discovered, then rapidly killed,
life based on a water/hydrogen perioxide mixture. This announcement led to at least one press release from a "Science-Faith
Think Tank" stating that such a finding was impossible because all life started on Earth. I got suspicious of the press release
when the lead-in text referred to the quotees as "renowned" and "internationally respected." A link to the press release
and the group in question was witheld on purpose.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
8:35 pm est
Looks like some scenarios are starting to get out
about what happened to Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). According to the article, current thinking is that a software upload
may be the problem, but The Bad Astronomer
has a source saying that doesn't sound like the whole story. One comment says that it was a parameter update, not a software
update. That's a pretty fine hair, given the way some satellite software is designed, but I guess the best idea is just to
wait until the investigation is complete.
Looky What Someone Found in their Bathroom
8:27 pm est
An iron meteorite
seems to have landed in a New Jersey Bathroom
. If it turns out to be a Pallasite
, it'll be worth some serious money, though if it were a Pallasite there'd probably be a mention in the article.
7:24 am est
There's been a lot going on around here lately, one item of interest was preparation for the Disney Marathon
. Well, it happened on the 7th of January, and I followed it up with just under a week in the mouse house. I finished my race
with a time about 5 minutes faster than my previous marathon, and my wife completed her first half marathon, which was her
goal. Anyone interested can find more pictures of the race (with some pretty cool scenery, by the way) here
. Unofficial times and placings are here
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
8:32 am est
at The Space Review points out reasons why we shouldn't be concerned about sending people to Mars due to bacterial cross-contamination.
I've glanced through the article and agree with most of the arguments, but believe the article would have a lot more weight
to it if it were written by someone skilled in infectious diseases instead of an aerospace engineer.
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