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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, June 27, 2007

Another Piece to the Puzzle?
One of the most puzzling events in human history is the Tunguska event, a massive explosion in 1908 in the forests of Siberia (note: some of the dates used in the article use the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian). Many possibilities to the cause have been forwarded, from an asteroid, comet, a UFO to even a small black hole. The event was recorded worldwide on seismographs, but data gathering was frustrated by difficult travel, and not many expeditions made it to the site in a reasonable time to survey the damage. One puzzling thing about the event was the lack of an impact crater, then thought to be a necessary part of any 'normal' impact. It looks like a crater may have been found. The claim sounds OK so far, but requires another (scheduled) expedition. If verified, it's possible that pieces of the impactor itself may be gathered.

As an aside, here is a list of places where the Tunguska event appears in fiction. Growing up, I was a fan of both The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, but I'd never heard of their crossover novel The Alien Factor.
4:00 am est

Monday, June 25, 2007

Light Posting
As the dates show in recent posts, I haven't been as active recently. Nothing is really catching my fancy. Here are a few items
  • A Mars terraforming project for this century...sounds cool, and I'd love it to happen but it sounds a bit optimistic
  • Keep and eye on Dawn as the mission winds down to launch
  • The Bad Astronomer links to, and discusses a way for new stars to transfer their angular momentum to the dust disks surrounding them (note: anti-creationist 'spin' included)
5:01 pm est

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I've been skydiving a few times, as a tandem (you wear an instructor on your back as well as a parachute, and can free-fall on your first jump), static line (the 'traditional' way of starting out, you jump from the plane with a line attached to the rip cord), and free fall with an instructor holding on to me.

I didn't have the location, presence of mind, or timing to do what Sgt. Eric Thompson did. He jumped from an airplane, with an instructor on his back and a photographer following them down. At the same time, a Delta II rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force base and broke through the clouds. The picture is quite amazing.

Of course, due to sensory overload, he may not remember seeing the flight himself, but he has some great memories and drinkin' stories to share.
7:34 pm est

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My wife asked me the loaded question a couple days ago. "What do you want to do for Father's Day?" Of course, the answer "Sit around in my underwear and re-watch extended versions of Lord of the Rings" wouldn't have been a good response. So, I dredged up something I'd heard about, tried half-heartedly a couple times, but never succeeded at. Geocaching was my more acceptable answer. We found our first cache today, probably partially because I chose an easy one for our two year old to navigate with us. I had fun, and I think we'll do it again. Registration is free, and odds are there's a cache near you within a walk or a short drive and then a walk. When you find the cache, you sign the log, leave something, and take a trinket.

Oh, how is this space related? The only way you can search for a geocache is by using GPS Satellites and a (best hand-held or wrist-mounted) receiver (the link is to the unit I got for Christmas). My early space experience was in getting early GPS spacecraft into their operational orbit to complete the initial constellation, and I note with a smile that the Wikipedia article on GPS has an image of my old wing patch.
7:55 pm est

It all Started with a Simulation
In 1999, as The Air Force ramped up for the launch of an experimental satellite for sea winds prediciton, I was tasked with writing a training scenario for the whole launch team (range, weather, launch vehcile operations, and satellite operations) including people from out of town. That satellite was called QuikSCAT. I had a good time with the scenario, finding some conflicting launch criteria in the constraints documents, and showing training scenes from From the Earth to the Moon as a lead-in for the team. My most memorable moment was driving back to the briefing room (the simulation was spread around the base) wondering how my scenario had been accepted. Turns out they liked it as a learning experience.

Fast forward a few years. That satellite, originally designed as a testbed (a previous satellite carried a similar payload, but failed before the full capabilities could be exploited, so QuikSCAT was meant as a test for rapid-replacements) has become part of operational hurricane prediction. This leads to articles such as this, reporting on a letter to Congress about upcoming uncertainties in hurricane predictions if QuikSCAT fails (by the way, I don't really like the title, because most satellties could fail at any time...), and this, a report on the head of the National Hurricane Center getting reprimanded for saying many of the same things in public as are in the letter.

I won't comment much on this, as my closeness to the project, however imagined, could make things sticky. I will state my standard thoughts when such things come up:
  1. We'll probably never have the whole story
  2. The more sensational a claim made, the more skeptically you should look at it
  3. Ask yourself what the parties have to gain (monetarily, politcially, etc) from any piece of reported news
12:55 pm est

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Are the Docking Connections Compatible?
Looks like Firefly and Serenity are headed up to the ISS. DVD versions of the TV show and the movie based upon it are going to join the growing collection of DVDs there. Here is a website hyping the fact, and their opening graphic shows the ship Serenity (Firefly class) in 'proximity operations' to the space station. Given the number of technical reviews a craft requires before getting so close (more hours required than actually produced for the show...possibly more hours required than actually expended to make the show), the science fiction of the scene moves into bureaucratic fiction as well.

While I think this is cool, I look forward to the day when space travel is frequent enough that people don't get this excited about such a fact.
5:23 am est

A Family Vacation Photo Required?
NASA is building an upgraded Apollo Capsule for our return to the Moon travel to Mars and Beyond. That capsule had two sections, a service module and a command module, which needed to be connected during flight for electrical power, computer signals, and fluid flow (water was generated on the service module and needed to be piped to the command module, and it's likely that cooling fluids also needed to pass).

So, there's a team designing a similar connector for the new Orion spacecraft, and they wanted to take a look at how the old version solved certain problems because they couldn't get a full version of the blueprints. According to this article, the team was just kinda stuck until one of them saw a family vacation photo (on the internet!) of this spacecraft (a picture from my own vacation archives) and realized that there was one existing near-flight-ready Apollo capsule. I hope that the article is just overplaying a fun fact that somone had seen the picture, not that the luck of a family vacation photo was actually required for the discovery of this critical piece of hardware. If it was just luck, how many times do we need to get lucky to learn more of the lessons of Apollo? What happens if we don't get lucky enough?
5:02 am est

Fly Atlantis
I missed the live launch on TV, but caught some replays. Glad to see the shuttle up again. I guess we need to make a trip down there with the kids to try and see one before 2010...

On the topic of launches, did a gallery of 20 great launches. In my opinion it's a little weighted to standard looking shuttle launches, but one really caught my eye where the shadow of the shuttle's plume seemed to point right to the moon. It got picked up by Astronomy Picture of the Day, where they have a larger version available.

While I've seen a shuttle launch, and recommend it to anyone, the most amazing live launch I've seen was a Ttian IV in October of 1997 going into a bank of low clouds at night. The transition of the clouds being lit from below to being lit from within to being lit from above looked like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here is a similar shot, though it's only one image and it isn't the launch I was at.
4:45 am est

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Space Needs You!
Though I don't talk about it much, I've come to the realization that Congress is a major player in space for good, evil, and mostly indifference. I do lobby Congress on occasion, and keep my conscience clear by saying that I do it as a volunteer instead of a paid lobbyist. The events actually will teach any participant a lot about how our system of government works, and while I'm sure you won't be happy about all the things you'll learn, you'll be glad you know them. It's also pretty cool to get to meet a bunch of people who think in a similar way. Funny things can happen as well, as I was involved in the "counterfeit incident" described in this article. The Moon-Mars Blitz is scheduled to happen on Monday and Tuesday next week, with training on Sunday. Sign up here, and I'll see you there.
4:11 am est

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Awards, for What?
The Bad Astronomer (now relocated to Boulder) has a post about Lisa Nowak, NASA's wayward astronaut. She's in line for a spaceflight medal. Much discussion ensues.
2:13 pm est

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