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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, October 29, 2010

Tens Billions of Earthlike Planets?
That's the estimate based on long-term observations in Hawaii. We'll know more when Kepler's results are in.

There must be quite a bit of politics and gaming involved when a space mission launches to test something that someone on the ground has been working on for a long time. The person on the ground knows the space mission is coming, and may need to rush their final research to get a paper out before the spacecraft's results are published.
6:20 am est

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vesta: The Movie
An earlier post talked about how Hubble was helping the Dawn team in their planned approach to Vesta. Here's the movie.
7:34 am est

Heavy Water?
It's hard to think of the Earth as having a changing gravity field, but it does. It turns out that rainfall can affect the local gravity.
6:10 am est

Virgin Galactic Going Orbital?
Sir Richard Branson drops more than a hint.
6:07 am est

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rand Simberg Comparing Astronauts to Chilean Miners
Guess who actually had it better in some ways? Better read the article.
7:44 pm est

A First Step in a new Direction for NASA?
I may write more about this later, but one of the remaining roles that would be left for NASA if its share of flights into space decreases is space rescue. It would be expensive, but arguably worth it, to keep a rocket and spacecraft on standby ready to rescue a craft or the inhabitants of a space station. In order to do so well, standardized interfaces are required, and today a website came online specifying just such an interface.
7:40 pm est

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Winds, New Tack
I've spoken with Bob Zubrin many times in the past about launch architectures, and this is a major departure for him. More discussion here.
8:55 am est

Friday, October 15, 2010

We Built our Satellite too Robustly
One of the first things I learned in satellite operations is that most of them aren't designed to be shut down easily. I'm aware of at least two cases where a satellite came back to life after being 'decommissioned,' being a nuisance to others who use the same frequency. The case of Galaxy 15 is unique, in that the ground lost control of the satellite a few months ago, and the company that built it expected the craft to lose earth lock in August. Well, it's still going.
9:01 pm est

Selection Document Released on SpaceX's Potentially Huge Contract
While there's been much discussion on SpaceX's potential as a supplier for the Commercial Crew and Cargo efforts, there are other areas where NASA needs launch services. Given the retirement of the Delta II booster, there's a big hole in relatively cheap launches. NASA and SpaceX moved a little closer today, though I'll note that given the potential payout of the contract ($15B) and cost of a Falcon 9 to geostationary orbit ($56M), it would take about 267 launches to max out the contract.

Update: While I'm still pretty happy with my snarkiness on the 267 launches comment, the launch services are spread among many providers. It'll take a lot fewer of the other companys' launches to max out the contract. Also, it looks like today's press release was more about the source selection statement on the linked web page instead of the award, which happened in September.
4:47 pm est

Sunday, October 10, 2010

NewSpace Works on Sundays
Congrats to SpaceShip2! First free flight.

Now, if they can just get an engine working...

Update: video
8:03 pm est

Treats for the Body and Mind
Halloween is coming. My wife and I take turns staying at home, and this year is mine. When I do that, I usually break out the telescope on the front lawn and let kids (and their parents) glimpse the cosmos. This year, it looks like Jupiter and/or the moon will be on the agenda.
6:57 am est

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How to Express?
I've been discussing space policy on and off with varying groups of people since February, covering cheap contractors, propellant depots, heavy lift, and many other dimensions. I haven't been able to pull my thoughts together into a coherent presentation so far, but a presentation in November may drive me to do so.

Where to start...
8:41 pm est

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hubble Helps out Dawn
Remember the Dawn Spacecraft, headed to Vesta and Ceres? The mission just got a helping hand from Hubble in refining Vesta's spin axis.
8:34 pm est

Another Water-Rich Asteroid
UCF researchers have found another asteroid with water and organics on it. That makes two so far, though it's unclear how many they've surveyed. That info would help form an estimate of the percentages of asteroids with water. By a quick eye look, both 24 Themis and 65 Cybele are in similar orbits, so it's possible that the researchers have found a line where, any asteroids beyond are likely to have water.
8:19 pm est

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Windy Day to Visit Discovery
Just wrapped up a multi-day meeting at Kennedy Space Center. The last afternoon was spent on a tour of the complex. Got to head out to pad 39A, where Discovery is undergoing final preps for launch in a couple weeks. Didn't have a big camera with me, but that's what cell phones are for nowadays.

Visitors centers focusing on past achievements always give me mixed feelings. I may write about it more later.
7:29 pm est

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Tom and Discovery
Taken During a Tour of KSC on 6 Oct 2010

TEMPOł Update
Click on the picture to go to the Mars Society TEMPOł Page

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