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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, April 28, 2007

As an Early Blogger (Bloggist?) Would say: Heh!
Looking through the model gallery mentioned in the previous post. Came across this one.

"He's dead, Jim!"
5:32 pm est

Just Another Corporate Press Release...Except
Here's a company crowing about winning the latest solar array contract from JPL for the cruise stage of the Mars Science Lander. Good on 'em for winning the contract, but here's the portion of the release that caught my eye:
EMCORE is the world's largest manufacturer of highly efficient radiation hard solar cells for space power applications. With a beginning-of-life (BOL) conversion efficiency of 28.5% and the option for a patented, onboard monolithic bypass diode, EMCORE's industry leading multi-junction solar cells can provide the highest power to interplanetary spacecrafts and earth orbiting satellites. These advanced solar cells have also been adapted for use in terrestrial concentrator applications and have attained conversion efficiencies in excess of 37%.
37% is some serious conversion efficiency for solar cells. Granted, the application is here on Earth with concentrators, but still. "Back in the day" when I was going through school, conversion efficiencies of greater than 20% were big news. Of course, since it's part of their crow piece, it's possible that they're citing the best of all worlds and giving the theoretical performance...but why would a company want to do that?
3:21 pm est

Everything but the dust on the Arrays
Here is an awesome replica (1:1 scale) of (one of) the Mars Exploration Rovers. This is better than the model on display at the Air and Space Museum in DC. This link hooked me into the Starship Modeler website, and their gallerywhere people can post their latest creations and talk about their methods.

While I have no room to talk on this front, when I look at images like this I'm reminded of a quote from Dave Barry (likely paraphrased):
"There is a fine line between a hobby and a mental illness"
3:07 pm est

Friday, April 27, 2007

Very Cool
Most news sources are giving Stephen Hawking's flight on Zero-G's aircraft a lot of air time. He seems to be using the time to point out our need to explore space. Good on him. The images and video are quite inspiring to me.
8:17 pm est

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Very Likely it was Coming, but cool Anyway
A planet has been found in the habitable zone of another star. The article is here. We've been finding planets outside the solar system for a while now, but this one has a couple of cool things going on:
  • It's location relative to its sun makes it likely that liquid water could exist on its surface (assuming it has an atmosphere)
  • The planet orbits a red dwarf star, which is a pretty common type, even though many of them aren't visible in the night sky. Red dwarf stars have lifetimes longer than our sun, so that would give planetary life plenty of time to evolve
So far, the planet has the unimaginative name Gliese 581 c. Give that one some time to perk.

Update: I just read the Wikipedia article on red dwarf stars. Pretty interesting.
6:50 pm est

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lessons Learned
A Google search just brought me across this website, NASA's public lessons-learned data. Kind of interesting (I know, in a geeky way) to browse through the different lessons that have taken place over the years. Of course, with each lesson learned, there's a story of discovery, anxiety, and recovery...but those details aren't included in most entries.
4:03 am est

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gamble Your way into Space?
Buzz has been talking about doing it for a while, but he recently announced his Sharespace Stakes officially. Sam Dinkin (among others) has comments here.
4:29 am est

Friday, April 20, 2007

When it has to be there in 1 rev...Orbital Express
DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has been carrying out a pretty important experiment over the last few weeks. They had some trouble getting started, but things appear to be going well now. Orbital Express is demonstrating propellant transfer, component upgrade, and multiple autonomous rendezvous in space. Here is a roundup of the procurement and action so far.
4:45 am est

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Occultation Captured!
There's a YouTube video of asteroid 411 Xanthe occulting the star Iota Cancri. You can hear the clock beeps for precise timing in the background that will be used to pull information out of the event. I hope to participate in one of these some day.
6:16 pm est

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Amateur Astronomy Maximus
Thanks to The Bad Astronomer (congrats to Phil for his recent life changes, by the way...I wish him the best) I've been turned on to the assistance amateur astronomers can provide in learning about asteroids. By following the directions on this website, someone with a telescope, a tape recorder, and a precision time source can gather information on the shape of an asteroid, or possibly discover a moon. Might be a reason to move to a less light-poluted area...
8:05 pm est

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gravity Probe-B Doesn't Prove Frame Dragging...Luckily, Someone else did Already
One of the ongoing dramas within space efforts is how the world changes while you spend a significant portion of your career getting a mission to fly. In some cases, like Iridium, the changing world contributes to the collapse of a business plan. In the case of scientific endeavors, it means that the Einstein theory your mission was designed and built to prove has already been poven through a different means by the time your spacecraft gets on orbit. That fact comes to light in this article about Gravity Probe-B
4:16 pm est

Seems a bit Silly, but...
I haven't spent too much time on the astronaut marathon story. It's novel, to be sure, and got Charles Simonyi, the private space traveler, mentioned again. I found her time interesting at 4:23 finish time compared to her qualifying 3:29. It was warm in the station, and I typically run slower on treadmills than on the ground, but she had the option of lightening the chords holding her down. Maybe a certain tension was required for the race. Arthur C. Clarke had a great subplot about the first marathon on the moon in Hammer of God.
4:08 am est

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why is this news?
There's no link, deliberately. Why is the dollar figure paid to the Columbia astronauts' families considered news? I haven't read any of the articles, and don't care to.
8:39 pm est

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Commercially-Available Interplanetary Trajectories
While doing some research, I came across the website for Space Flight Solutions. The company has software available to plan your own space missions. If you don't have the resources to buy the software, they'll do the planning for you. Two separate software solutions cover traditional ballistic trajectories and low-thrust missions. For those keeping an eye on pesky asteroids, there's a white paper available on the main web page about mission opportunities to one in particular, generated using their software.
6:00 pm est

I Didn't know any were Still Flying
Kennedy Space Center issued a press release saying that they'll be simulating suborbital flights from their shuttle runway using F-104 Starfighters flown by an airshow company. I've never seen one fly, although I did see a wrecked one along an active flightline in Turkey.

Looks like they've chosen a path they hope to recommend for suborbital flights, and want the F-104's to follow the path, breaking the sound barrier where suborbital craft are expected to. They'll monitor the sonic boom and evaluate any environmental impact.
5:20 am est

Friday, April 13, 2007

Smoking Memory Location Found
A preliminary report is out on the loss of Mars Global Surveyor. Looks like a mix of relatively-recent upload problems combined with some problematic embedded fault protection routines worked together to bring the unexpected end to a long-running mision.
4:09 pm est

Propellant Contamination?
This article brings up a dispute over a key Stardust mission finding. Where the discovery of osbornite was announced earlier, new papers question whether that may be due to the propellants used by the spacecraft or the booster during flight.

I'm hoping that it's just an omission from the article, that people actually proposing this idea have thought about the fact that propellant residue would be on the surface of the collectors, while actual stardust would have penetrated the collector and be found inside.
4:03 am est

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For the Person who has Everything...
Got a space fan on your gift list and can't think of what to get them? How about a shelf-sized Near Earth Asteroid, either with or without a stand. The models are based on radar images or, in some cases, on images sent back from missions to the asteroids in question. The models are produced by this company, and they don't seem to market the models themselves. They do have one additional model in their inventory, 1999 KW4, an asteroid with a moon.

As a really nerdy practical joke, it might be funny to get Itokawa without a stand and throw it in with a bunch of potatoes! You may get the model back with a few peeler marks on it, though.
4:30 pm est

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

This Makes more Sense has an article about SpaceDev entering negotiations to use the Atlas V to put their spacecraft into orbit. That idea makes more sense than their earlier plans that I saw, where Space Dev would develop their own, all-hybrid launch vehicle. If both this deal and the Bigelow Aerospace one go through, Atlas V should have a pretty busy manifest. Once again, I hope it works!
3:27 pm est

Well, That Would have been Easier!
For my NEO mission essay and its Space Review summary, I used the orbit diagram function at JPL's NEO web site. Today, while researching another project, I found another page on the site that does all the calculations I was doing, and will sort NEOs by close approach distance or even close approach velocity. The good news is that one of the asteroids I talked about, 2000 SG344, shows up on the close approach list. My 'golden child' NEO, 1991VG, is not on the list, though. The statement that I made in the essay, that close approach asteroids with low velocity differences are rare, stands.
3:14 pm est

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Sounds Great, Hope it Works
Bigelow Aerospace is set to present their busines plan at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs this week. He gave Aviation Week a preview.

I must say, Bigelow Aerospace has come a long way since when I was researching SWN, but they have a long way to go to be flying three flights per month to their space assets in 2016. I wish them the best.
2:35 pm est

I'm Wash
While I don't consider myself a real Browncoat, I really do enjoy the show Firefly. By the by, the movie continuing the story of those characters has recently become the number 1 ranked sci-fi movie by sci-fi fans (it beat out Star Wars, which to me wasn't sci-fi, more of a science fantasy). Anyway, I took the test to find out which character I'm most like and my results are to the right along with a link so you can find out yourself. The test is a little obvious as to which character you're being tested on with each question. My favorite question: Are you crazy?

Update, while finding a link to Browncoats, I found this link to the annual Browncoats Ball. It's nearby, and I'm considering going, so I guess I am a Browncoat.

Update: For later, when the results are no longer posted to the right, click here for the quiz.
1:38 pm est

Lego Landsat Work Continues
I just got and assembled the Lego Landsat satellites I designed using Lego's Digital Designer software. Overall, I'm happy with the results, but I'm not ready to make the model links public yet because there's a problem with the directions. More news as it develops.
1:13 pm est

...And Charles Makes Five
The fifth space tourist, Charles Simonyi, is on his way to the ISS. Story here.

Update: Space Adventures (the company that brokered the flight for Mr. Simonyi) sent an email out before NASA PA did.
1:05 pm est

Based on this Space Review article, I just got a copy of Cowboy Bebop, volume 1. I've not followed the anime culture that much (unless Speed Racer counts, which I watched as a kid...I didn't know that a live action movie was coming out) so I hadn't heard much about it. I've enjoyed the first episodes that I've seen however, though I'm a little bummed that they try to make asteroid life look much like life on Earth outdoors with domed structures. The crime stories work for me...there's no way we're getting away from that in the future. I especially find the TV show the main character watches that caters to bounty hunters entertaining.
1:01 pm est

Thursday, April 5, 2007

It's Spam
Well, preliminary results from my experiment are in and the vast majority of the list signups I've received are spam. Oh well.
3:47 am est

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

How to die in Grizzly Ways, Randomly
I've run copies of The Mars Simulation Project on previous computers of mine, but during some upgrade somewhere it stopped working and eventually I just forgot about it.  They just released version 2.8.  It's pretty cool.  You kick off the scenario, and ~130 simulated people go about their lives on Mars.  They cook, they sleep, they get sick, they get hurt, normal stuff.  Anyone who's taken the Myers-Briggs personality testing will recognize the four-letter codes attached to each actor in the simulation.  Things go wrong, and sometimes that involves deaths.  I lost a group of people to some sort of decompression recently.  Also, you can change the simulation, changing names of carriers and how certain malfunctions affect systems.  Who knows?  Maybe you could write a book about watching one of these simulations.
8:50 pm est

Novel, but is it Useful?
Here is a story about delivering movies to movie theaters via satellite.  I guess it makes sense in the case of some very backwoods movie theaters, but most would be close enough to some sort of civilization to hook into a high-speed internet connection...a cheaper, more efficient way of delivering the data, methinks.  This strikes me as a sign of an underutilized comm infrastructure.
Update:  I read the article a little closer, and it turns out they're still in the experimental phase.  Broadband is still an option.  I guess they tried delivering hard drives overland.  I wonder what that datarate translates to?
8:34 pm est

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Jury Duty
My lucky number came up today, which basically boils down to my sitting in a room awaiting a call that may not come. In the meantime, I have my computer and sporadic internet access, so I wrote these posts during the day and had to wait until now to post themů
8:29 pm est

Amazing Shot, Proposed by a Public Submission
Photos continue to dribble in from New Horizons and its flyby of Jupiter. Here is the latest, and it's a beauty. Io and Europa are both visible as solar-illuminated crescents, while Jupiter also illuminates Io, with 3 visible volcanoes. I also like the sharp contrast with the unlit portion of Io, visible as a black gash between. Europa, at a different point in its orbit, is not illuminated by Jupiter. I think my favorite part of the image is that it was suggested by a space enthusiast. I missed the announcement, but apparently the New Horizons team put out trajectory data for the flyby and asked the public to suggest the best pictures to take. There were nine opportunities in all, and more images taken during those opportunities are on the way.
8:28 pm est

Another Group of People in a can in Moscow
Imagine 500 days with the same small group of people in a cramped space going through simulated launches, emergencies and daily life. When it's all over, you step out of the simulator having experiencedů500 days in a can in Moscow. This simulation is apparently on its way. I really have mixed feelings about how well these reflect very much about space exploration. I believe that crews who will be spending a long time together need to do some sort of training in this manner, to try and discovery any personality conflicts that could come out in deep space, but the idea of taking non-candidates or hopeful candidates for such a mission and exposing them to a long period of isolation opens up a greater chance of negative press than the possibilities of gathering useful data for crew dynamics. Testing life support systems and the like definitely have a payoff. Simulations that The Mars Society run, such as the 4-month mission scheduled to take place this year, have an advantage in that the locale is exotic, people get to go outside, and real research on the site can take place as part of the effort...though I've spoken with some people who believe that the possibility of negative press is strong through those efforts as well.
8:24 pm est

Proposed Flagship Missions
Looks like NASA is talking about big planetary missions again. Here is a summary of some being considered. Included are missions to Europa, Titan, and Venus. The Titan and Venus missions are balloon missions (though, as pointed out in the article, a balloon supporting a mission to Venus would not really look like a balloon as we think of it, more like a submarine) with long-term investigations going on. I guess the big question is whether or not there's money in the budget for the big plans.
8:19 pm est

Monday, April 2, 2007

Now Cleared for Public Release
My brother and his wife are expecting a baby, meaning I'm about to be an uncle. I posted this news earlier, but found out afterward that only family knew the news at that time. Congrats to Chuck and Deb, pictured at the right on their wedding day. It was a Civil War reenactment wedding, held in South Central Pennsylvania on the anniversary of the same weekend that the Confederacy was in town, warming up for Gettysburg.
3:54 am est

Space Sports
Astronomy Picture of the Day reports on the first space Quidditch match. Special bonus to anyone who spots the literary error.
3:47 am est

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