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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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Monday, July 28, 2008

Sweet Plane
Virgin Galactic released pictures of their new plane today. News articles are everywhere, but here are the original images.
8:53 pm est

GPS Mystery
Another lightly-space related post because it uses data from a GPS receiver. At the right (here for the archives) is a 3-D plot I made with data from my GPS receiver after doing something. The axes are latitude, longitude and meters of altitude. Some hints:

Hint one (highlight the line below for the hint):
I was with my family

Hint two (added on Tuesday):
The timespan was six minutes

Hint three: this link

Answer (highlight the line below for the answer):
Riding a Ferris Wheel
8:24 pm est

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lunar Museum
Here is an interesting article about a talk related to how human-made relics placed on the moon need to be treated.

I think I like the idea of leaving the Apollo 11 site alone for now, but visiting one of the others. Apollo 17's site in particular, seems to have materials meant for long-term exposure to lunar conditions and eventual return. Of course, the Google Lunar X-Prize guys have no plans to return anything to Earth, so for now I guess the Apollo 12, 14, 15, and 16 locations are the best candidates.
8:55 am est

Transitional Time
Not much newsworthy to comment on right now as I see it. Phoenix is still trucking along, getting a mission extension and continuing to 'tickle' the ice on the Red Planet.

In the 'other projects' category, I'm close to wrapping up a correspondence course for the Air Force, but also have to ramp up for some presentations at the Mars Society conference in August. My project submission was selected as a finalist in the Mars project challenge. I'll also be running a long track (according to the schedule and some email traffic) about private Mars exploration options. August will be a pivotal time.
5:30 am est

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wow Factor
Saw Goddard Space Flight Center's Science on a Sphere today. I knew it was in the visitor's center, but just didn't have an occasion to see it. I'm pretty impressed how well the digital camera picked up the image with me just holding the camera. Image will be posted on the right side for a week or so.
6:18 pm est

Managing Expectations
A new Russian/European spacecraft design has been announced. It makes a lot more sense than the previous design. I think the Kliper design could have worked, but not with the funding likely to be assigned to it.
6:08 pm est

Sunday, July 20, 2008

39th Anniversary
I'm on vacation, taking some time to read First Man. Be sure to pause a moment today and remember humankind's first step on another world. If you want to mark the occasion formally, you can always use this.
6:41 am est

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jaw Dropper
Check out this movie taken by the spacecraft formerly known as Deep Impact:

That's our home, with our moon transiting (passing between) the spacecraft and the planet. To quote Neo from The Matrix, "Whoa."

Press release here.
5:08 am est

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Retirement gets Another one
I met Benton Clark a few years ago, when he gave a talk at Johns Hopkins. He's great to talk to, and this article hints at the reasons why. He's very soft spoken, yet knowledgeable. As the article puts it he's "hanging up the slide rule" for now, but he'll still be around.
6:36 am est

Monday, July 14, 2008

Round one Down
I submitted a proposal for the Mars Project Challenge over at The Mars Society. Just announced in the finalists list, looks like I've got to put a presentation together for the conference.

Another challenge!
4:19 pm est

Another Round of Mars Sample Return Reports Begins?
Here's an article about a study presented at a recent conference discussing Mars Sample Return (MSR). Note the snazzy name "iMars" used. The article links to the report. They're talking about flying in the 2018-2023 timeframe, and spend much of the report talking about gathering samples. The mission architecture (lander, orbiting Earth Return Vehicle, propellants carried all the way to Mars' surface and back) looks much the same as others proposed in the past.

I've only scanned through it so far, but they seem to be assuming that only their vehicle will land on the surface to gather samples. I didn't see any mention about the possibility of other rovers gathering samples and bringing them to the central point. I think some sort of prize system (award for safely delivered unique sample) that would do that could improve the science return of the mission in a huge way.
5:24 am est

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wish 'em Luck
Here is an article about some people who are trying to build their own Gemini capsule and fly into orbit. They're looking for donations of $100M. Seems like a tall order.
7:18 am est

A Video you won't see here
Given my new imbedding power, I trolled a bit yesterday for some video footage to put up. I found a promising entry about 9/11's ground zero as seen from space, but when I watched it, there were text overlays about 9/11 conspiracies as part of the footage. Blech. If you want to go to YouTube to find it yourself, feel free, but it won't get a free link from here.
7:15 am est

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Analysis/Repairs in Space
A spacewalk took place today to remove and examine pyro charges on the Soyuz vehicle which will take the crew home. There must have been some pretty serious concerns about those components, to risk this type of effort.

I still look forward to when this sort of thing is commonplace, including the standardized spare parts on orbit to fix them.

Saturday Update: Thinking about it, it's probably more remarkable that they used knives to do the work than the fact that they worked with the explosive charges. Explosives can be made pretty safe, but a knife near a space suit...
8:27 pm est

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

First Embedding Attempt
Let's see if this works. I first saw it at Bad Astronomy:

6:40 pm est

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Looks like one of the many reasons to anticipate SpaceX's Falcon launch this summer (the launch date is under review again [the linked article is about a delay due to range conflicts. There's been talk of another due to an engine defect, but I can't find an article on that right now]) is the deployment of a solar sail named NanoSail D. Solar sails hold a lot of promise for an interesting set of space missions such as a pole-sitter (pdf document) satellite (I'm not sure if the term satellite fits in this case, since it doesn't actually orbit Earth), and an asteroid sample return mission.

Since the Falcon I flight is meant as a test of Operationally Responsive Space (ORS), the range conflict delay should be catching a lot of attention. Right now, it doesn't matter how quickly a rocket can launch, the infrastructure to support each launch is so fragile, and so ossified in a methodology requiring multiple days of tests before clearing a spacecraft to launch (and limited in personnel to do the same process any faster), that no significant tempo increase will take place. If launches are to become frequent, the idea has to take hold where the previous launch served as the test of the equipment for the current launch. That's a big philosophical jump.

I wonder if Elon has looked into building his own range support equipment? It would have to be manned by a civil servant or military range officer (don't want a SpaceX employee making the decision of whether or not to destroy a SpaceX booster), but I think the equipment could be owned by the company...
5:49 am est

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Final(?) Refutation
Recently, the Direct proposal has gotten some airplay as a possible alternative to NASA's Ares boosters to lift us back to the moon and on to Mars. NASA's felt the heat, and issued some statements about why Direct doesn't work. Some have said that the responses are arguing by assertion, not fact. A new, more detailed paper is now out, and this article links to it.

I think there's some goal post moving going on. This quote in particular:
The Ares V heavy lift launch vehicle will use two 5.5-segment solid rocket boosters and six RS-68s, thus enabling it to carry up to 70 metric tons (156,600 pounds) of payload to trans-lunar injection orbit
cites the payload capabilities of the latest Ares V, with 5.5 solid segments and 6 RS-68 engines. This change was made public only recently, based on evolving analysis at NASA. Direct hasn't responded to it yet.

Monday Update: In a discussion group that I'm a part of, a friend pointed out that NASA's set the architecture for getting 75 metric tons to trans-lunar injection. Their mission design does it with one (improved!) Ares V launch and one Ares I launch. Direct's concept utilizes propellant storage and transfer on-orbit. Point conceded.

Also: According to Clarke Lindsey and a NASASpaceflight post, Direct will respond to NASA's paper. Also, note Clarke's idea for a lift infrastructure for ESAS in a comment near the bottom. Save yourself frustration by paging down past gm's comments.
11:41 am est

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Governor Called
The Delta II launch has been granted a reprieve. There are enough boosters to fly until 2015 at NASA's projected launch rates, and a decision about restarting production can be put off until 2012.
6:49 pm est

Wish it were Bigger, Built in America, and Stationed near Venus but...
...Canada's NEOSSat is a move in the right direction. It's a microsatellite with a telescope aboard designed to discover NEOs and track Earth-orbiting satellitess. I'll be curious to see how it performs compared to Earth-based platforms.
6:45 pm est

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