Saturday, April 28, 2007
As an Early Blogger (Bloggist?) Would say: Heh!
5:32 pm est
Looking through the model gallery
mentioned in the previous post. Came across this one
"He's dead, Jim!"
Just Another Corporate Press Release...Except
3:21 pm est
'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?
Everything but the dust on the Arrays
3:07 pm est
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 gallery
where 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
Friday, April 27, 2007
8:17 pm est
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.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Very Likely it was Coming, but cool Anyway
6:50 pm est
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:
location relative to its sun makes it likely that liquid water could exist on its surface (assuming it has an atmosphere)
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.
Monday, April 23, 2007
4:03 am est
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.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Gamble Your way into Space?
4:29 am est
has been talking about doing it for a while, but he recently announced
his Sharespace Stakes officially. Sam Dinkin (among others) has comments here
Friday, April 20, 2007
When it has to be there in 1 rev...Orbital Express
4:45 am est
(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.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
6:16 pm est
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.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Amateur Astronomy Maximus
8:05 pm est
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...
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Gravity Probe-B Doesn't Prove Frame Dragging...Luckily, Someone else did Already
4:16 pm est
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
Seems a bit Silly, but...
4:08 am est
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.
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
6:00 pm est
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
I Didn't know any were Still Flying
5:20 am est
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.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Smoking Memory Location Found
4:09 pm est
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.
4:03 am est
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
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.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
For the Person who has Everything...
4:30 pm est
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
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.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
This Makes more Sense
3:27 pm est
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!
Well, That Would have been Easier!
3:14 pm est
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.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Sounds Great, Hope it Works
2:35 pm est
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.
1:38 pm est
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
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.
Lego Landsat Work Continues
1:13 pm est
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.
...And Charles Makes Five
1:05 pm est
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.
1:01 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.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
3:47 am est
Well, preliminary results from my experiment
are in and the vast majority of the list signups I've received are spam. Oh well.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
How to die in Grizzly Ways, Randomly
8:50 pm est
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
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.
Novel, but is it Useful?
8:34 pm est 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
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
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
8:28 pm est
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.
Another Group of People in a can in Moscow
8:24 pm est
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.
Proposed Flagship Missions
8:19 pm est
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.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Now Cleared for Public Release
3:54 am est
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
3:47 am est