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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, July 30, 2010

They didn't Change the Scale, but the Graphic Looks Familiar
In late 2004, an asteroid now called Apophis made a minor news splash when it achieved the highest ranking on the Torino Scale at 4. Soon afterwards, I proposed an alteration to the scale which took into account destructive potential as well as chance of impact in a ranking. I never got much feedback on my proposal, but if you look at my proposed diagram and compare it to the Wikipedia diagram describing the scale, you'll see some similarities in approach.
8:50 pm est

More Unnecessary Asteroid Hoopla
Some news sources just uncovered some old information about an asteroid with the preliminary designator 1999 RQ36, which has the number 101955 assigned to it, meaning that astronomers have a pretty good solution on its orbit. It's also a relatively rare asteroid that we have a radar-generated image of. Anyway, when new tracking info came in a couple years ago, astronomers discovered that the rock had a 1-in-1000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2182. They recorded it and moved on to the next asteroid discovery. An article got published in news sources refining some of the data (last year), and suddenly, it makes news in July. Go figure. The asteroid makes a relatively close approach to Earth in August of next year, when we'll get some more tracking data. Let's see if anyone is paying attention then.

Interestingly, the asteroid topped the list of potential impactors at the time of this writing, but it has no Torino Scale ranking as of now.
8:40 pm est

More Deafening Silence from Spirit
Spirit has not phoned home. The article discusses the deeper meanings of this longer-than expected quiet time. They're hopeful to hear from the rover again, but it's possible that they won't.
8:27 pm est

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If the Internet Seemed a Little Slow Yesterday...
It was probably because the long-awaited sequel to arguably the most popular strategy game ever, Starcraft, came out. Millions of geeks (including me) have waited 12 years for the day. As a surprise, the company provided two 'guest passes' with each game, allowing friends to download a copy for free and play it for 7 hours. The download was estimated to take 5 hours on my brother's cable modem, so 'twasn't small. Discussion of the game (including its South Korean professional leagues and TV channels devoted to watching competitions) here.

So far, I'm enjoying the game.
4:46 am est

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The 1st is Space Related, the Rest are Just Funny
18 Weird Bathrooms

I think my favorite is the one which, from the outside, is all mirrors, but when you're inside it you feel like you're in a glass room.
5:28 pm est

Friday, July 23, 2010

Analysis of the Senate Proposal
Here is some discussion of the senate proposal. I pretty much agree with his conclusions that the senate version is likely the best we can hope for.
2:20 pm est

Commercial Entity Reveals some Details of its Efforts
Boeing, working with its partner Bigelow Aerospace released new images of its CST-100 Capsule recently.
1:20 am est

Another Compromise?
Well, The Senate took one whack at NASA's budget for 2011, now it's The House's turn. To me, it looks like they're starving the commercial effort in order to make it look like they're giving sufficient funds for a government-developed booster. Given that logic, neither program will succeed and Congress will get the space program it deserves.
12:26 am est

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spooling up!
Crewed captive-cary testing started on the VSS Enterprise. More reporting here.
7:09 pm est

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oh Great, a Compromise
The space policy announced by The Obama Administration is the policy I know the most about, and it's the one I agree with the most. I acknowledge that it is atypical of just about every other policy so far (where else has this Administration and Congress said "Less government is better?") but will take it as it is. The old program (Constellation) had a decent shot at putting some civil servants somewhere 'cool' by 2030-ish. The Obama plan (as originally proposed) had the possibility of placing thousands of people in orbit by the same timeframe.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, some Congresspeople, who didn't see the long-term effects of their actions over the last 6 years, have suddenly panicked thinking that they need to appear to be a champion for space to save their (the Congresspeople's) jobs. In response, they are floating what they consider to be a compromise which cuts into commercial crew services to incompletely fund NASA developing a new booster. I see this as greatly increasing the odds neither will work.
7:57 pm est

If not Nemesis, then what?
I've seen snippets on and off for quite a while about reasons for regular mass extinctions throughout Earth's history. One classic potential cause was Nemesis, a dark companion orbiting the sun with a period of approximately 27 million years. Each time this companion passed through the Oort cloud, comets would rain through the inner solar system, wiping out species with abandon. Well, a survey of those extinctions over the last 500 million years shows them to be 'too regular.' Over 500 million years, the period of Nemesis would be expected to change as the sun drifted close to other stars. Since the extinctions happen every 27 million years like clockwork, what could be causing them?
7:47 pm est

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Challenges and Opportunities
This article about dwindling nuclear power supplies led me to look up the mission mentioned within, the Outer Planet Flagship Mission. The two major contenders are the Europa Jupiter System Mission and the Titan Saturn System Mission. Both look exciting, and I notice the Saturn mission is looking at an ion engine system (a pdf file).
3:42 pm est

Another Day, Another Flyby
Rosetta completed its flyby of asteroid 21 Lutetia yesterday. The photos look spectacular.

Update: Just glanced through the Wikipedia article. I didn't know that Lutetia was an anomalous M-type asteroid. More data will be interesting.
3:12 pm est

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Right! This Calls for Immediate Discussion!
Congress has a bill proposed to form a commission on planetary defense. I guess having a commission is better than not having a commission.
8:44 pm est

Really Big Rocket's Red (and Green and Blue) Glare
This article from NPR reminded me of the Starfish Prime in-space detonation of a 1.4 megaton nuclear device. I'd heard about it before, mainly due to the electromagnetic pulse effects it had on Hawaii. In other searches, I found this video summary of the event, as well as an old Civil Defense movie. Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, my only exposure to Civil Defense was the old signs in my high school basement, but it must have been quite an effort.
7:50 pm est

From the People who Brought you
6 laws that looked great on paper but insane everywhere else (all articles are moderately NSFW), and 10 important things they didn't teach you in school, comes 6 reasons space travel will always suck.

While they get a lot of their info correct (there is an issue when they talk about tethered generation of artificial gravity, where they say a tether won't let you get from one part of a spacecraft to just live in one part) my primary answer to this argument is that sailing on wooden vessels always sucked, yet we did a lot with them.
5:22 am est

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Silent Spirit
According to a NASA update, the Spirit rover has been silent since March 22nd. I hadn't heard about it until now. Best estimate is that power levels got low and the rover went into a deep sleep until power levels rise again. Hope to hear from the six-wheeled wonder again!
1:43 pm est

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Unplanned Shuttle Extension Continues
News from NASA says the last two launches are delayed into November of 2010 and February of 2011 respectively. I'm curious how it plays with workforce retention.
4:23 pm est

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