Thursday, March 31, 2005
5:18 am est
Work is a bit nuts, and I'm wrapping up a project at home so posting will continue to be light. I may have something to say
on Saturday. In the meantime, check out this new space blog
Saturday, March 26, 2005
The Mars Society and Hubble
The Mars Society
8:05 am est
has released another plea
for Hubble. Others have commented
on the plea, both on its substance and tone.
I like Hubble. I agree with the statement that a society (or space agency) that can't bring itself to repair Hubble for safety
reasons will have trouble sending people to Mars because of safety concerns. I would prefer an argument based on logic and
reason over an argument based on hyperbole. The Mars Society argument has some reason and logic it in, but the hyperbole
is likely to be too distracting for the greater number of people.
Burt Rutan Essay Up
7:42 am est
My summary of a Rutan talk is now up
. I realize that I'm stating the obvious, but this guy has a lot of potential for changing the world of space travel as we
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The Story Behind a bad Story
6:09 pm est
Dr. Carol Stoker has broken her silence related to the life on Mars
flap that hit the news a few weeks ago. Turns out that she was at a party with some friends talking about her research in
what she thought was a secure environment. Now, after everything has died down, she's concern that her credibility may be
damaged because her name is now associated with the hubbub, despite the fact that she had next to nothing to do with it.
I've met Dr. Stoker, and hope that once this all dies down, she'll be able to press on. Jim Oberg has the details here
When your Only Tool is a Hammer...
4:55 am est
...the whole world starts to look like a nail. This article
discusses the radiation hazard that astronauts face and will continue to face as they move beyond low Earth orbit. After
discussing the challenge, they talk to an expert for a resolution. The expert cites new exotic materials like "polyethylene
and carbon foams impregnated with hydrogen" as the solution. Since he didn't mention any other, simpler solutions, like using
the water or food on board the craft as a shield (both viable options that could cost a lot less), I'm going to guess that
he's a materials science specialist. New materials are his tools, that's what he sees as the solution. It's less wrong on
his part than on the reporter's for not looking into alternatives.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
A Project of Interest
6:33 am est
It's probably not widely known, but there is an orbital flight simulator called orbiter
available on the web. I've only played with it a little bit (that whole "wrong operating system thing"), but it seems quite
powerful. There are two good parts: 1) it's free and 2) it's expandable. Once you learn some coding and apply some elbow
grease (or whatever software/graphics work is called today) you can add your own scenarios to the system and then contribute
them to the community. I've been consulting (translation: monitoring the emails and replying when I see a post when I have
an opinion) on the Mars Direct Project
, an effort to create a visual reality for the Zubrin/Baker plan to go to Mars.
Press Releases vs. Reporting, and a Moon Plan
6:28 am est
As usual, I find it interesting the differing amount of detail found in a news report
compared to the press release
that it's based on. The first question I had when I heard that Enceladus had an atmosphere was "What is the atmosphere made
of?" Of all the web-based reporting I've seen so far, only the press release stated that the atmosphere is likely made of
ionized water, although the Space.com article mentions Enceladus as the possible source of the "icy E-ring" so it can be inferred
that the atmosphere is made of water. I particularly like the way the atmosphere was found using a magnetometer (the details
are in the press release).
Robert Zubrin has written a series of op-eds on how to use the moon as a stepping stone to Mars. Part 1
, part 2
, and Part 3
are out there on the web now. In the pieces, he argues strongly for a heavy-lift launch vehicle as part of the Moon-Mars
and beyond architecture, saying that other mission styles requiring multiple launches will make the effort unweildy and likely
to fail. I see the logic in that argument, but also believe that by limiting the effort to minimal launches, the program
will not leave any infrastructure behind as it moves out. Without infrastructure in orbit, such as an orbital supply depot
, a decision by the political class (a term Dr. Zubrin uses repeatedly) could end the program before it built anything useful
or even anything flying. With such an infrastructure in place, commercial interests could exploit the remaining resources
and keep things going in some manner.
So...many launches make the program unweildy and cancellable, while few launches don't change the mindset of space activity.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
t/Space - Echoes of the Past?
4:40 pm est
Earlier, I commented
on t/Space and this article
about their recently-released complaint about the paperwork required to build the CEV. A little research pointed out the
fact that Gary Hudson, listed as the founder of t/Space here
has been quoted in the past saying things similar to the t/Space statement. In a space flashback, here
is an article where he describes the reason he was leaving Rotary Rocket. Check near the end, where he refers to meeting
with bankers for financing. Paraphrasing: "It's hard!"
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Administrators, Voyagers, and Russians...Oh My!
11:05 am est
has it that Dr. Mike Griffin will be the new NASA administrator. He's currently serving at the Applied Physics Lab, but
he's worked for NASA before and also has done some advising
from outside the agency. He also led In-Q-Tel, the CIA technology incubation company. That's got potential for some very
new thoughts. The buzz I've heard so far has been positive.
It's also been revealed that NASA may shut down a series of missions
to save money. No word as to whether this is real, or just posturing for more funds, but it brings to light an interesting
problem. NASA is an organization designed to do research and development. Historically, once the R&D portion is done, they
tend to morph into operations and science as well. Examples here include the shuttle, and the potentially-ending-before-their-time
spacecraft. A case could be made that, once science is the only remaining outcome of a project (like Voyager
for the edge of the solar system), NASA's involvement should end. If other agencies are interested in the science, those
agencies should pay for it. Now, in the even more muddled case of The Hubble Space Telescope (letter from Senator)
, a science organization would not only have to pay, but would also have to do the repair, which is exclusively a NASA regime
right now. If we had a wide vairiety of choices for space access, other options would exist.
is an article discussing NASA's agreement to launch some uncrewed lunar explorers to the moon using Russian rockets. No
word as to how legit the announcement is, but if substantiated it would be interesting, and a statement as to how NASA views
the US's launch capability. Of course, there's the whole issue of exporting spacecraft to launch on other countries' rockets...
Thursday, March 10, 2005
A Matter of Placement and a Matter of Paperwork
7:51 pm est
The National Air and Space Museum
issued a press release
display in their main museum. As it turns out, SS1 will not take the place of the Wright Flyer, as I speculated here
, instead, it will hang between the Spirit of St. Louis and the Bell X-1. The Wright Brother’s plane will return to the center
spot of the museum at the end of this year. Source: Space Today
, the startup that caught some attention early in the Crewed Exploration Vehicle
work, is starting to chafe under the reporting requirements of NASA. According to this article
, they’re weighing their options as to whether or not to stay in the competition. I saw this coming when I saw the draft
request for proposal
, which included large amounts of descriptions of how a winning contractor should be structured. Of course, large corporations
used to bidding on such contracts already have that structure. Source: Transterrestrial Musings
. Check out the comment board on this post, when I first saw it, there were 9 postings.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
A Great Idea for a Participatory Space Mission
8:34 pm est
A space.com article
led me to this website
for the International Lunar Observatory. The project idea is a series of small antennas launched to the moon with their
own support equipment, with the idea that they can be linked together to form an observatory. They've paid for a Phase A study
done by Spacedev
, who came back saying, essentially, that the project was feasible and that Spacedev could do it. (Big surprise on the second
part) Be sure to check out the images
they have of the system.
Although there are some problems here, that I’ll get into in a minute, this has the makings of a tremendous participatory
space project. Each craft would be a standalone effort, sent to the moon as part of a larger whole. The more antennas on
the moon, the better return they’ll provide as a group, but there isn’t necessarily a "magic number" of stations making a
Now for the problems. Based on the published designs, each craft would rely on the sun circling around it and staying up
all the time. This kind of architecture is necessary due to the long (14 day) and punishingly cold (-150 degree C, -250 degree
F) lunar night. They’ve chosen a south pole landing site for the mission, but the "eternal light" requirement pushes them
to theoretical peaks on the south pole that always see the sun. The website says that they're awaiting SMART-1
images for such proof. OK, assuming that the peaks exist, now you have to land on them. This is possible, but would put
a new level of precision landing into practice. The website discusses this, describing navigational beacons that would land
in the designated area first.
Unfortunately, any other location on the moon would expose the craft to the lunar night. While the Apollo ALSEP
packages ran for many lunar cycles, all but Apollo 11's were nuclear powered. Nuclear powered commercial spaceflight might
be too much of a leap for a start. Another possibility is using small Radioisotope Heating Units
to warm crtical portions of the small stations during the night.
To reiterate...I love the idea, and would love to help make it work. I'm just not sure how to do that right now.
Further browsing found this page
that shows an optical-telescope configuration. Interferometry
6:29 am est
has dropped off the SpaceX
launch manifest in favor of a Russian rocket. This is the first loss of a customer for SpaceX. Details here
Sunday, March 6, 2005
No Loss of Spacecraft, but...d'ooh!
6:04 pm est
. Looks like the APXS
instruments on Spirit
are reversed. According to this article
, there were some calibration factors that are different for each instrument, which made the results from each look a little
weird. The plan is to re-run the analyses done so far with the correct coefficients. It shouldn't change any major results,
but the results will look much cleaner.
'Tis a nice Thought, but...
7:18 am est
has an article
talking about Europe's SMART-1
lander, currently orbiting the moon. In the article, they discuss the mission of photographing the old landing sites
of manned and unmanned lunar missions. The theme is that this will "put to rest" many conspiracy theories about whether
or not we actually landed on the moon (no link, I prefer to give folks of that persuasion the least web traffic possible).
It's a nice thought, and when the pictures come out I'll link to them, to be sure. I doubt that the pictures will cause
a sensation, or even another FOX network show refuting the conspiracy theories they promoted. (again, no link on purpose)
Hopefully, some everyday folks on the street who had their doubts will change their minds when they hear about the pictures,
but any hard-core conspirist, who has money to be made by the continuation of the theories, will simply spin a new web about
it. I suppose something like "Europe's been bribed to produce the fake images to remain part of the space station program"*
or something like that will suffice.
Oh, and Space.com has the top-ten theories
spouted as reasons we didn't go to the moon spelled out with counterpoints. Anyone who talks about space in everyday situations
should have some of these handy, because there's usually someone around who'll ask about it and if you don't have quick answers
to them, you'll simply confirm their belief. A more exhaustive discussion on the topics can be found at Bad Astronomy
* Because I've had trouble conveying sarcasm on the net, and taken out of context my quote could be used to declare me a new
"conspiracy believer" I want to state NOW that we landed on the moon.