Monday, January 31, 2011
Where I'll be on February 13th
7:08 pm est
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
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.
11:55 am est
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?
Was Sputnik a Strategic Blunder by The Soviet Union?
6:52 am est
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Co-orbiting Binary Stars
4:39 pm est
It Sure Looks 'Spacey'
4:35 pm est
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A Rented Room with a View
8:01 pm est
Space.com 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
Once it got close, the station arm could grab it and place it where desired.
7:58 pm est
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.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
How Many Pickup Trucks Could Delta IV Heavy Carry?
9:57 pm est
Saturday, January 22, 2011
2:25 pm est
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, Spaceweather.com
and NASA have put together a contest
to image Nanosail-D.
Another Missile Flies from the California West Coast
6:55 am est
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.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Old Classics get an Upgrade
6:53 am est
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.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Is There a Pileup at the Exit?
6:32 am est
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?
5:46 am est
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.
Friday, January 14, 2011
This Should end well (Not!)
9:54 pm est
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.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
6:49 pm est
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.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
8:42 pm est
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
8:31 pm est
Friday, January 7, 2011
Mars Program Review at Air&Space
6:51 pm est
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.
Interesting Twist for EELV
6:45 pm est
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Favorite Phrases so far...
12:28 am est
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
(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)