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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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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Discussion at SpacePolitics
Here 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.
6:35 pm est

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Reports, not as Art
The full version (large file, Acrobat required) of NASA's study on NEOs and their mitigation is now online.
10:34 am est

Planets as Art
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 imagery.
10:23 am est

Friday, May 25, 2007

Antaro Adun!
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.
7:15 pm est

Glad the Wheel Broke?
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.
4:01 am est

Lots of Disappearances, Possibly Explained
New Scientist 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.
3:54 am est

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In the Trailer?
SpaceX 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.
3:47 am est

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

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.
4:04 am est

Big Player
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.
4:00 am est

Such a fine Sight to see
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.
3:54 am est

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Heavy Comments
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.
5:48 am est

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New Writing Frontiers
4 Frounteirs Corporation's website, Crazy4Mars has a new short story posted. Readers of this blog may recognize the author's name.
4:42 am est

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Water "Fountains" on Enceladus Explained. Oh, and There's a Liquid Ocean too
The Cassini 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.
3:56 am est

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ten Years?
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.
8:03 pm est

Orion Evolving
Some details and discussion (this is where the big versions of the pictures are) over at NASASpaceflight about changes to the Orion spacecraft.

I wonder what kind of revelations and discussions would have happened if the internet existed while Apollo was going through its multiple design iterations.
4:13 am est

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Not a Meteorite
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.
4:54 am est

Lots More Reading for Planetary Defense Lovers
Earlier, 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.
4:48 am est

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Boost for Space's Future
A methane rocket engine has been fired. 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.
8:13 pm est

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Lite Posting
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.
5:29 am est

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