Friday, February 29, 2008
New (though unnecessary) Planetary Mnemonic
5:01 am est
During the "is Pluto a planet?" discussion a couple years ago, for a moment it looked like there were going to be 11 planets.
Ceres, the largest asteroid and Eris, a spherical Kuiper Belt
object were going to be added to the mix. The problem is, it's likely that there are many other objects out there which
would fit the criteria of 'planet' by those standards. We'd eventually have something like 500 planets to remember. In my
opinion, saner heads prevailed and the new category 'dwarf planet' was created. So now we know of 8 planets and a few dwarves
, with more to come. Oh, and in the vein of 'a protest for every cause', if you have strong feelings about Pluto's 'demotion',
you can always go here
Apparently, during the short time where there were to be 11 planets, National Geographic put out a call for a new memory-jogger
for kids to remember their planets by. A girl from Montana won
with this entry:
My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants
Cute, but overcome
by events. Looks like it's all part of a publicity campaign for a new book. Too bad it's spreading confusion about our solar
system in the meantime.
Note: When I posted
on this a few years ago, Eris hadn't been named.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
No Joy in Mudville
6:02 pm est
The Planetary Society announced results
of the Apophis Design Competition. My team is conspicuously absent from the awardees. Congrats to the winners, and the
important thing is that we get more involved in this effort.
I'll be posting details on our submitted design soon.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Update on MSL and MSR
9:19 pm est
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and Mars Sample Return (MSR) are discussed in this article
in Av. Week. MSL looks like the budget will top $2B, and they'll know in the next 100 days whether a launch in 2009 is possible.
MSR has $68M earmakred for it so far, though the expected cost of the US portion is $3.3B.
I wish this were cheaper and easier. I believe it can become both.
Another old Warhorse, Nearing End-of-life...(?)
4:07 pm est
Apparently, the Ulysses
spacecraft is experiencing some difficulties related to a decrease in power production. JPL put out a press release
about it. The question mark in the title relates to the fact that they're having trouble with their X-band transmitter,
one that gives us some problems on Landsat 5. Maybe some crosstalk will help...
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Moon Turned to Blood...
5:11 am est
Almost missed the eclipse last night. I was working late, and the sky was cloudy at ~8pm, so I thought we were toast. My
mom called at 9:20, saying she was looking at the moon. I went outside and the skies were crystal clear. 'Ol Luna put on
quite a show.
I thought all the talk of 'no more total lunar eclipses until 2010' referred to viewers in the Continental United States,
but according to Mr. Eclipse
, it's for the whole world.
Be sure to mark your calendar for the 2017 eclipse
in the heartland of the US.
5:00 am est
Looks like the DoD is claiming success
in the impact of USA 193. Details will come over time. One quibble with the article: it looks like the meme of when the
US did this before has morphed to the year 1989. A friend of mine confirmed that the satellite he was working on ( SolWind
) was hit in 1985. Wikipedia
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Went out again tonight to see USA 193, and it didn't show while I was looking. That means either bad position data (ephemeris)
at Heavens-above (a first that I've seen, though I haven't used them for much other than spotting the ISS), or the satellite
entered the atmosphere and ended all debate. I'm leaning towards bad ephemeris because it gets a lot harder to predict as
there's more atmospheric drag. I would have stayed out longer, except that a decaying satellite moves faster (long story
on that one), so I would have been too late to start.
9:19 pm est
It's a bird, it's a Plane,
6:37 am est
It's USA 193
! I took the kids out last night to see the wayward satellite. It was obviously moving faster than a 'normal' orbiting object
such as the ISS, which makes sense since USA 193 is in a much lower orbit. If you want to see it in your neck of the woods,
find your location at Heavens Above
, and look for the brightest objects to pass by that night. You may have to hurry, though. According to CNN
, they're gonna try to "shoot it down" on Thursday. Discussion on why shoot it down is in quotes can be found here
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Dead Sea, Dead Mars?
7:01 am est
A new press release
from JPL says the Mars rovers findings indicate that the ancient water on Mars (that they've discovered) was very salty.
This "sharpens" the question about whether or not life could have existed there, since the Dead Sea
has very limited life within it. Of course, the fact that two rovers landed in places where very salty water existed doesn't
mean that the water was very salty everywhere on the planet, but it does increase the odds that all the water was salty.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
10:45 am est
got back into space on Thursday. Looks like all went well except for the mandatory minor glitch for the news
to obsess over throughout the mission. Internet restrictions in my workplace that day limited my following the event to web-posted
updates and NASA-updated stills. The sick spacewalker
story is also drawing some attention ("What? We're not entitled to the specifics of a crewmember's illness?").
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
DSS and ITV Analysis
9:33 pm est
The aside in the previously-mentioned Av Week article talks about two spacecraft necessary for near-Earth and interplanetary
missions proposed by Robert Farquhar. They are:
The Deep Space Shuttle (DSS), with:
- A service module with chemical propulsion. Four people could live in it for 50
- Detachable return capsule
- Methane/LOX propulsion system (365 sec Isp)
- Drop tanks
- Delta-V capacity of 5-6
The Interplanetary Transfer Vehicle (ITV), boasts:
- Crew module aple to support 5-6 people for up to three
- Propulsion module - no dV mentioned, though the potential for nuclear propulsion is mentioned
- Detachable capsule
like the DSS
Hope no one is really worked up for the analysis on this, 'cause I gotta get to bed.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Reason to Read the Hardcopy
9:35 pm est
, I commented on an Aviation Week article talking about the people meeting soon to discuss alternatives to the current implementation
of the Vision for Space Exploration (I know, according to the memo, I'm supposed to call it something else...). Today, I
found the actual magazine around the office, and discovered a text cutout describing a mission to asteroid 1999 AO10
using a space unit called a Deep Space Shuttle, in acronym speak, that's the DSS. The writeup is kind of interesting, and
I'll write a bit about it soon.
Monday, February 4, 2008
More Bigelow Numbers
6:38 pm est
Here's a Space.com article
about upcoming Bigelow Aerospace plans. The launch rates they're talking about are a lot higher than the Atlas V
would have otherwise. They say the method of carrying people has yet to be decided. I suppose that's for another press
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Slow News Day
6:42 am est
A sure sign of a slow news day is a front page article
on space in the Washington Post. Of course, Saturday starts out slow.
The article gives a pretty good summary of the current state of affairs, and mentions the upcoming conference
about alternatives to the Vision for Space Exploration, which apparently is being renamed
as the United States Space Exploration Policy (page down to the Feb 1 1:11pm entry). I guess policy sound more official