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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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Friday, April 25, 2008

Starting to Show Some Age
Looks like Opportunity's shoulder joint is acting up. I'm amazed the equipment has lasted this long, and I think it bodes well for future exploration on Mars that the dust there will be manageable for the equipment at least. Potential toxicity is another unknown, though I rarely hear parallels drawn between Mars dust and Earth dust.
8:41 pm est

Congress Recognizes Landsat
Well, I doubt that many (any?) Congresspeople would be able to pick a Landsat spacecraft (the program I currently work on) from a lineup, but they did take some time to put in the record the contributions the program has made, and their desire to see it continue. It's too bad that they didn't get more specific describing HOW Landsat would keep going into the future (LDCM, NLIP, etc.), but I guess it's an honor to just be mentioned.

On a humorous note, when I searched for just the bill number "HR 891" here, I came across a bill called the "Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act", and laughed out loud.
7:54 pm est

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You Go, Stephen!
Dr. Stephen Hawking has some more thoughts related to life on other planets, and whether or not we should be trying to get out there. I agree with his ideas that we should devote a small portion of our GDP to that effort.

And, as a blast from the past (related to NOVA's coverage of Sir Isaac Newton), Here is a classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Data plays cards with Newton, Einstein, and Dr. Hawking (who played himself).
7:08 pm est

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hard (almost no) Landing
Saturday's return from the ISS was rougher than originally thought. Jim Oberg has the details. I haven't read them yet, but he's usually got the skinny.
6:02 pm est

New Landsat Spacecraft Contractor Chosen
Well, they'd chosen the instrument vendor and booster vendor. All that was missing was the connection between the two. That's been rectified today. General Dynamics (formerly Spectrum Astro) will be building the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (likely to be called Landsat 8 eventually) spacecraft. Nothing mentioned in the release about which option was taken (note: the Goddard website isn't updated with the new GD logo next to the satellites...they're still listed as Spectrum Astro), but my guess is that it's one of the higher-end buses.
5:45 pm est

Monday, April 21, 2008

NEO Discussion at ISDC
The last week of May will see the International Space Development Conference here in DC. I've been involved in getting a NEO and Planetary Defense plenary discussion as well as a separate track going on Saturday. The events and current confirmed attendees are listed in the schedule (download the pdf).
7:14 pm est

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Week in Review
It's been a weird week, with no real time to post. Here are some of the highlights as I see 'em:
  • There's the story of a 13-year-old boy who, the news says, proved scientists wrong about the 2029 encounter with Apophis. One problem...he did no such thing. NASA's statement saying "no, we had it right, and here are some details why" came soon thereafter. I recently made a graph of a person's likelihood to make a useless, useful, and paradigm-shifting observation based on their knowledge level on the subject, and may have to post it soon. One note: The only group at fault in this is the media for reporting such a story without more fact checking.
  • I'd forgotten about the 2009 'test flight' of the CEV that President Bush specified in his 2004 announcement of our new direction in space. Well, looks like a cobbled-together rocket is scheduled to fly, though it may be delayed.
  • Mars Phoenix is on target for its north-pole landing on Mars. I haven't looked that closely, but there's been little mention about how short its mission will be. Since it's landing at a pole, the sun angle will change radically over time, and it will have to be shut down, unlikely to be heard from again. That shouldn't stop it from doing some great work, just from keeping going like the Mars rovers.
5:51 am est

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Auroras from the side
I was looking through the spaceflight gallery today, and came across this gem, showing the auroras as viewed from the space shuttle and/or station. It's not a high-res picture, so I'm not sure of its source. I like the effect of the auroras showing up over the lit side of the Earth, because of the darkness of space beyond. What floors me most is that you can see some astronomical objects in the picture as well. I believe the brighter dots to be photographic artifacts (though they could be bright stars), but the galaxy in the upper left is fairly obvious. The upper right appears to show a nebula, but it seems a bit big.
7:39 pm est

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

One of the Things that Makes Battlestar Galactica Different
The start of the season premiere was a huge space battle, with some of the best special effects I've ever seen. After the battle, nothing was mentioned about repair actions, even though some ships were lost and others suffered heavy damage. Star Trek or other shows could have made a whole episode out of the repair effort. In BSG, the focus was on other things, and the repairs happened in the background.
5:03 am est

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mars Discussions at Space Politics
Here is some commenting action going on over at Space Politics about a hearing over NASA's implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration, or whatever it's new term is nowadays.

In case you're wondering, I don't have comments open on my posts because my blogging software doesn't allow it. Plus, I think the low numbers of comments (translated into readers by some multiple) might bruise my fragile ego.
3:15 pm est

Interesting Development
Looks like there's some legislation in the works to give NASA the lead role in near Earth object defense. It's good to see that someone's thinking about this, but I'm not sure if NASA is the group to lead it. Surely they'd have a role to play, but other agencies (DoD, Homeland Security, FEMA) have more experience in the overall problem.
6:17 am est

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Revving up for Galactica
In case you've been living under a rock or something, Battlestar Galactica will start its fourth and final season on Friday night at 10PM on the East Coast. I'm quite excited. As a little teaser, the cast of the show gave the top ten list on David Letterman a couple weeks ago. #6 and #5 are precious.
8:01 pm est

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Propellant Depot Talks
Many perspectives on propellant depots. I don't see much to disagree with, though my idea for boilloff is to use the hydrogen boiloff to cool the oxygen, then use both chemicals to make water for use by the visiting craft.

The presentations have ways to embed them in a web page, but my blog engine doesn't allow me to place them between posts. Oh well.
7:43 pm est

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