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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, January 31, 2011

Where I'll be on February 13th
The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) invited me to speak at their monthly meeting about the past and future of human spaceflight. I told them it wouldn't be a NASA ra-ra session. It even got picked up by the Washington Post.
7:08 pm est

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Missed a post on the Anniversary
I guess I'm in shock that yesterday was the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I was in English class my senior year in High School, when someone who'd been listening to the radio during lunch told me the shuttle exploded. I was known, and continue to be known, as a space geek in any group that I'm in. My teacher ran out to get a television set, which came in with no antenna. Turns out, if I touched the antenna posts on the back of the set, we could pull in audio from a local news station. That's when we heard the term 'unsurvivable incident' but didn't see the video until later.

Life changes as well, and that senior in high school is now a volunteer with Cub Scouts who had a pinewood derby to run Friday night. Ad astra, per pinetum?
11:55 am est

Was Sputnik a Strategic Blunder by The Soviet Union?
Taylor Dinerman thinks so.
6:52 am est

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Co-orbiting Binary Stars
An official map of the 12 Colonies of Kobol has been released. This is all part of the lead up to Blood and Chrome, the new chapter of the Battlestar Galactica story
4:39 pm est

It Sure Looks 'Spacey'
This time-exposure photo of lightning acting within a volcano's plume is awesome!
4:35 pm est

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Rented Room with a View is reporting that Bigelow Aerospace is in negotiations to place an inflatable module at the ISS. It would likely double the open space on the station.

Update: Strike my size estimation. The module would be a subscale demonstrator. I'll be curious to see how they'd get it to the vicinity of the station. ATV? HTV? Once it got close, the station arm could grab it and place it where desired.
8:01 pm est

5 Whatatons?
JPL issued a press release adding information to last year's impact on Jupiter. The discovery of the impact was unique because it was first spotted by an amateur, who alerted the professional astronomy community. Based on the follow-up observations, astronomers believe that the object which met its end in Jupiter's atmosphere was an asteroid, because it released much more energy (5 Gigatons(!)) than a comet would have.

We need to learn a lot more about how common these events are.
7:58 pm est

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How Many Pickup Trucks Could Delta IV Heavy Carry?
Every bizarre comparison you could imagine, at
9:57 pm est

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Curse Breaking?
Solar sails are a classic technology from science fiction that have some real-world applications. There's been very little flight testing on the technology, and those that have taken place have been fraught with booster failures and other forms of bad luck. Hopefully, that's changing. NASA just announced successful deployment of Nanosail-D, while Japan had a successful flight with a much more aggressive test last year. I like the Japanese touch of adding a micro/pico satellite with a camera that separated from the main body and took pictures of the deployed sail.

Update: Looks like the curse was in place for a while...the Nanosail-D satellite didn't deploy when it was supposed to. Eventual deployment came as a surprise. Also, if astrophotography is your thing, and NASA have put together a contest to image Nanosail-D.
2:25 pm est

Another Missile Flies from the California West Coast
I was in Los Angeles this week, teaching a class for work. We changed the lunch schedule so we could monitor this launch and run outside to see the contrail. I think there'd be a major PR value to fighting that huge flash of hydrogen at launch. For people who don't know what's going it, it's pretty disconcerting.
6:55 am est

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Old Classics get an Upgrade
While surfing the new Macintosh App Store (it's part of the latest version upgrade, so you don't need to use the web) for free software, I came across the Pangea Arcade. The tagline is "3 classically-inspired arcade games," but that doesn't do it justice. This is Asteroids, Missile Command, and Centipede like you've never seen them. Amazing graphics, stereo sound, 3-D options, and some additional gameplay really remind you how much has changed since you begged your parents for quarters to play the video game in the corner of the store.
6:53 am est

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is There a Pileup at the Exit?
I got a new press release yesterday about another astronaut leaving the program, following announcements on January 4th and December 10th. This makes sense. With the wind-down of the shuttle program, some astronauts aren't going to want to retrain to a new system. With over 100 astronauts in the office, I'm guessing we'll be seeing a lot more of these. I wonder if some astronauts leave the office requesting not to have it announced?
6:32 am est

Mars Update
A few days ago, the National Air and Space Museum hosted a Mars Program Update with a lot of good information on the recent past and plans for Mars exploration.

Note: Sometimes, the web page initially starts mid-video, but if you click on the thumbnail image below it will start the video from the beginning.
5:46 am est

Friday, January 14, 2011

This Should end well (Not!)
One thing I've been told when dealing with Congress is that they don't like to be told they were wrong in the past. It makes Congresspeople cranky. Some people are like that, but most people don't hold the future budgets of a government agency in their hands. For example, if a Congressional Staffer is asking why the budget for a program is so messed up, it isn't wise to say "Because you (Congress) had us on continuing resolution for 6 months of last year, then gave us one year's worth of money to spend in the other six months which we couldn't do." Instead you're told to say something like "Higher headquarters priorities (within Congressional guidance, of course) outweighed other priorities on my program."

That kind of guidance is what makes me surprised that NASA recently told Congress that NASA couldn't do what Congress asked them to do with what Congress gave them in the budget. In another twist, the NASA Inspector General asked Congress to stop telling NASA to fund rockets that won't get built. Congress, being the mature organization it is, is taking it all in stride throwing a hissy fit.

I just hope some form of human presence in space can survive all this.

Saturday morning update: HEFT, Lies and Videotape

Saturday evening update: Yeah, I want a booster designed based on the requirement that it's the law, not based on utility or economy. We live in interesting times.
9:54 pm est

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Well Played
In a rare case of a major national story having a space angle, this weekend's shooting in Tuscon, AZ may impact a space shuttle mission currently scheduled for April. Gabrielle Giffords, the Congressional Representative shot on Saturday, is the wife of Mark Kelly, currently scheduled to command STS-134. Today, NASA announced that Rick Sturckow will serve as the backup commander for the mission. The press release states that Mark Kelly is still the commander for the mission, but that he has other priorities in his life right now. Assigning the backup commander allows training to continue. I think this is a good way to handle a bad situation, and expect that eventually, barring some amazing recovery, Mark Kelly will drop from his position.
6:49 pm est

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Futzing around with some of the links I just used in the previous post, I found this site. It appears to be related to the Russian Space Program, but could just as easily be some teenager with an active imagination. The Soyuz-K talk about circling the moon is similar to proposals made by Space Adventures, however.
8:42 pm est

According to the Space Coalition, Russia is increasing the production rate of its Soyuz Capsules. This means that there will be seats for sale in missions to the International Space Station. Not that I can go, but I'm happy to see others able to pay their way into space. This may be in response to a recent successful flight of a US-built spacecraft...
8:31 pm est

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mars Program Review at Air&Space
The National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall will host a Mars Program Review on the 13th of January from 10:30-12:30. It will be in their Moving Beyond Earth Gallery, a new one shaping up in the building. I visited it with my family on the 1st of January, and it's pretty cool. Lots of video projectors which will be used in the presentation.

If you can't make it, you can watch live on NASA TV or catch it later on YouTube, with details listed at the link.
6:51 pm est

Interesting Twist for EELV
The Defense Secretary has gone on the record saying that, in the upcoming belt tightening at The Pentagon, EELV is safe from cuts.
6:45 pm est

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Favorite Phrases so far...
NASA's released their Commercial Crew Transportation Services requirements. My favorite requirements that I spotted on my first perusal:
  • 5.2.7 The CCTS shall be designed to tolerate inadvertent operator action
    (minimum of one inadvertent action), as identified by a human error analysis, without causing a catastrophic event. (All I can picture is a "Are you sure you want to blow the hatch?" double-check dialog box followed by a "This action prevented by CCTS 5.2.7" error message even if the operator clicks 'Yes')
  • 5.2.8 The CCTS shall tolerate inadvertent operator action in the presence of any single system failure. (This one strikes me as a little...difficult to anticipate)
12:28 am est

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