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, May 30, 2007
More Discussion at SpacePolitics
6:35 pm est
is some discussion based on a talk that Dr. Paul Spudis gave at ISDC. There's a link to a letter where a consultant blasts
NASA pretty strongly (and the aerospace industry as well) for being pretty insular and only hearing what they want to hear
because they're only listening to each other. Unfortunately, the letter starts off with some fairly personal attacks on the
people he (assuming it's a he) worked with, but once you get past that, the outsiders view of space conferences is pretty
interesting. There's also a link to a space marketing study that listed the two top popular efforts for the space program
as building solar satellites and protecting the Earth from NEOs and comets. For the first one to have any chance of working,
launch costs must go down by orders of magnitude AND lunar resources must come into play. The second one is a good idea,
in my mind.
Dr. Spudis himself gets involved in the discussion.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Reports, not as Art
10:34 am est
The full version
(large file, Acrobat required) of NASA's study on NEOs and their mitigation is now online.
Planets as Art
10:23 am est
I've posted earlier about the USGS's Earth as Art
collection. Now, there's a Mars as Art
collection. The Mars as Art collection uses images taken by multiple spacecraft/rovers while Earth as Art focuses on Landsat
Friday, May 25, 2007
7:15 pm est
While the virtual world (Second Life, World of Warcraft) bug hasn't bitten me, I've long nursed a near addiction to a strategy
game played over the internet called Starcraft
. Though ancient by gaming standards (it came out in the dark ages of 1998!), I still enjoy it and recently taught my son
how to play. It's age also allows me to get away with using old computers for my daily routine. Well, the time may be coming
to upgrade. Starcraft II
has been announced.
See you on the Battle Net.
Glad the Wheel Broke?
4:01 am est
The recent silicate discovery
made by the rover Spirit
was made due to the wheel that froze up in 2006. The rover drags that wheel along using the power of the other five,
and that dragging makes a trench. The trench exposed the silicate material that would have gone unseen if the wheel were
functioning. More discussion here
Lots of Disappearances, Possibly Explained
3:54 am est
has an article saying that a comet exploding in the sky over North America (or forming a crater in a retreating ice sheet)
12,900 years ago would explain a lot of disappearances throughout the continent, as well as a global cooling taking place
right around that time. Ancient peoples as well as large mammals would have been the victims. I realize that I'm kinda stuck
on impacts right now, and we'll see how this stands up as a theory, but this explanation seems to pull alot of things together.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
In the Trailer?
3:47 am est
controls their launches from a tractor-trailer. Someone from Wired
was either there as an observer, or got a pretty involved transcript, salty language
and all. Combined with some interview time with Elon Musk, they put together this article
. Can't wait to read it all.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
4:04 am est
The Mars Exploration Rovers
are still doing their job on The Red Planet. Spirit just made another huge discovery
A patch of Martian soil analyzed by NASA's rover Spirit is so rich in silica that it may provide some of the
strongest evidence yet that ancient Mars was much wetter than it is now. The processes that could have produced such a concentrated
deposit of silica require the presence of water.
4:00 am est
Tim Pickens was instrumental in getting Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne
to fly. Air and Space Smithsonian has an article
on Tim's contributions. I'm glad that they pointed out the following point:
Fuel efficiency is not critical for
suborbital tourist vehicles like Rutanís; instead, reliability and safety are paramount. For the much more difficult task
of lofting payloads to low Earth orbit, hybrid engines are significantly less efficient than the time-honored pairing of kerosene
and liquid oxygen.
Hybrid engines have been a bit overprescribed, probably due to their success with SS1, but
the math falls apart pretty quickly when you need to go much faster, like to orbital speeds.
Such a fine Sight to see
3:54 am est
Saturday night's celestial show of Venus and the moon was spectacular. I played lazy and didn't get my telescope out, but
luckily others didn't. Space Weather
has a collection, and this
is my favorite. The photographer overexposed the lit portion of the moon so that the other part, lit by Earthshine, showed
detail. Venus just dazzles.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
5:48 am est
There's a pretty heavy discussion going on at Space Politics
about NASA's current direction and whether or not it will get us anywhere. Some of the posters seem pretty Knowledgeable.
Set aside a significant period of time if you plan to read it.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
New Writing Frontiers
4:42 am est
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Water "Fountains" on Enceladus Explained. Oh, and There's a Liquid Ocean too
3:56 am est
Mission has definitely reached the phase where (from the general public's view) it just hangs out in the background, making
quiet discoveries. That's great, in my opinion, because in the early phases of a mission, where big press conferences are
the norm, scientists are asked questions that make them take huge leaps based on a picture or two. Now, with Cassini, everyone
involved in the mission gets a chance to look at the data for a while and publish their thoughts in the form of a paper.
A new one
proposes a reason for the fountains
seen on Saturn's moon, Enceladus. Basically, the moon gets "kneaded" by Saturns gravity in the moon's eliptical path around
the planet, which forces ice to rub together at the cracks. This rubbing creates friction, which generates heat. Once the
temperature of the ice reaches a certain point, the water flashes to vapor and you have a fountain. I find it interesting
that a liquid ocean under Enceladus, necessary for the theory to work, isn't mentioned until the 9th paragraph.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
8:03 pm est
Those familiar with my past
know that I spent a year overseas at a spacetrack base in Turkey. It occurred to me recently that I've been home from that
tour for ten years. The fact was brought home even moreso today, when I got word that one of the troops I was there with
is getting ready to retire from the service. Thank you, Brent King.
The picture on the right (deleted one week after this post) is of the unit I was in. Anyone who's served overseas knows that
things can get a little...eccentric, and that shows in the picture. Our radome is behind us. I'm the one holding the US
flag. Brent is holding the Turkish flag.
On a side note, I haven't been able to give blood since my time there, because US military bases imported beef from the UK.
I was over there in the midst of the mad cow mania. Oh well, one universal donor taken out of the picture.
4:13 am est
(this is where the big versions of the pictures are) over at NASASpaceflight about changes to the Orion
I wonder what kind of revelations and discussions would have happened if the internet existed while Apollo was going through
its multiple design iterations.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Not a Meteorite
4:54 am est
A couple months ago, there was some hubbub about a meteorite hitting a house in New Jersey. Some people questioned the conclusion,
but now the final answer
is in. the metal is stainless steel, so it's not a meteorite. No one seems to know what it is, though.
Lots More Reading for Planetary Defense Lovers
4:48 am est
, I talked about a summary report sent to Congress about the NEO threat. The B612 Foundation
, whose focus is such things, had some commentary
(no permalink, page down to item 15 on the list) on the released report. One of their biggest problems was the rumored existence
of a larger report, produced for internal NASA use only. Considering how unhappy B612 was with the released report, they
wanted to see the larger report to get more detail on why some of the recommendations were made in the smaller version.
Now, the veil has been pulled back, although in a clunky, large form. A black and white scanned version of the large (23
megs!) report is now available
(again, no permalink, but it's news item 16 in the B612 archives, and at the top at the time of this posting). Technical
critiques of the new version can also be found there, and word is that a Freedom of Information Act request is in to NASA
to get the big report released. So, there's more to come.
Monday, May 7, 2007
A Boost for Space's Future
A methane rocket engine has been fired
8:13 pm est
. This isn't the first such engine, and it's not the most powerful ever fired, but this engine has the unique distinction
of being an active program. Others have fired and been shut down. The article touches on the fact that methane fuel is important
due to its relative ease of storage and the ability to make it or find it in many places around the solar system.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
5:29 am est
I've been on business travel for most of the week. A buddy of mine got banged up pretty good in a bicycle accident (speedy
recovery, Darren!) and we visited him yesterday. Meanwhile, between the loss of Wally Schirra
and the Space Glove Competition
(suggested by bloggist Rand Simberg
), things have been pretty busy.
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