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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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Thursday, November 25, 2010

L2 or Bust!
Lockheed Martin's deep thinkers are back at it, proposing an Orion mission to the far side of the moon. Some advantages:
  • Astronauts on an L2-Farside mission would travel 15 percent farther from Earth than the Apollo astronauts did - and spend almost three times longer in deep space.
  • Each flight would prove out the Orion capsule's life support systems for one-month duration missions before attempting a six-month-long asteroid mission.
  • It would demonstrate the high speed reentry capability needed for return from the moon or deep space 40 percent to 50 percent faster than reentry from low-Earth orbit.
  • The mission would measure astronauts' radiation dose from cosmic rays and solar flares to verify that Orion provides sufficient protection, as it is designed to do. Currently the medical effects of deep space radiation are not well understood, so a one-month mission would improve our understanding without exposing astronauts to excessive risk.
Morning Update: There's a fine line here. I think this sort of mission is cool, as long as the Orion does not serve to compete against commercial spacecraft doing the 'milk run' deliveries to the ISS and other LEO destinations.
9:52 pm est

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Physics and Engineering, Easy. Bureaucracy, not so Much
In a few weeks, SpaceX will launch its first operational Dragon spacecraft into Earth orbit. The launch will get a lot of attention (more if something goes wrong), but the much bigger news, in my opinion, came on Monday, when the FAA issued its first license for a commercial company to return something from orbit. A successful launch is simply a triumph over physics and engineering which, while they are difficult, are predictable at their core. Bureaucracy, with its paperwork and approvals, is inherently unpredictable. Fly Dragon, blaze a path for others to follow.
9:24 pm est

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Earth as Art 3
The US Geological Survey has published another batch of images taken of our planet's surface, chosen for their artistic flair. It's called, somewhat unimaginatively, Earth as Art 3
5:19 pm est

Another Castle Episode, Another Firefly Reference
An earlier reference to Nathan Fillion's old show is what got me interested in his new show. The most recent episode ("Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind", no permalink) had a scene that involved Castle suddenly breaking into Chinese. Becket asked him "Semester abroad?" His response: "No, just an old TV show I love."
5:17 pm est

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coming Train Wreck in Commercial Crewed Spaceflight
Optimistic companies wanting to supply rides into orbit for NASA astronauts are about to collide with a 260 page (draft, with links to 74 other documents) requirements document according to Wayne Hale. More discussion here.

Update: Posted in haste?
7:07 pm est

>50% of Photography is Location
This picture deserves some serious recognition. While it appears to have been enhanced a bit from the original, the sci-fi theme of an astronaut looking at their home will always have appeal.
6:27 pm est

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Multimission Modular Spacecraft have gone Before
NASA just let a contract for modular space vehicles. The effort is in conjunction with the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space. Could be interesting.
8:43 pm est

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blazing new Bureaucratic Frontiers
SpaceX moved the launch date for their first Dragon flight into December. In the article, they say that Discovery's delays play a part, but that the FAA hasn't granted them a license for the reentry part of their demonstration flight yet. I'm assuming that future applications will go smoother, and thank SpaceX for their patience to blaze the trail.
9:08 pm est

Mystery Missile
I'd very much like to see the raw footage of the event that has a bunch of people worked up. My initial impression is that it's much more likely to be a contrail than a missile The Pentagon didn't know about. While there's talk about 'bright exhaust' (could be a reflection of the plane) and 'moving way too fast' (appears to move faster when zoomed in) at this blog, without seeing the whole video, along with its zooms and changing angles, it's hard tell.
6:48 pm est

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rediscovery: Project Gemini History
I was reminded of a good book I read once: On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini. Luckily, it's also available online. The history is part of a more involved Gemini history page.

To me, Project Gemini is one of the great unsung moments of human spaceflight, when a small group of people took a project from idea through completion in about 5 years for about $1.2B then-year dollars (about $6B of today's dollars...that's just the NASA portion of the budget, but it's still less than NASA spent on Ares I alone before it was cancelled). Who thinks that could be done today? Of course, there were some shortcuts taken, in that the capsule design was called an extension of the Mercury capsule, allowing McDonnell Douglas to build it without a formal competition, and the Titan II was available, and could launch the capsule with minor improvements. Amazing what some smart buying can do!

Update: In a recent trip to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, I came across this display of a Blue Gemini. Wikipedia says that Blue Gemini and Gemini-B are different programs...may have to look into that. It was supposed to be part of the Manned Orbital Laboratory, and actually demonstrated the idea of piercing the heat shield of a capsule with a hatch. I think that technology would make the design of spacecraft much simpler, so that a crew capsule could actually fly atop their living quarters.
7:29 pm est

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shuttle Delays
Looks like a fuel leak will keep Discovery's last mission from starting for a few weeks. With the additional mission up in the air due to Congressional upheaval, that leaves one or two missions left for shuttles. So, the sunset mission patch for Atlantis might have been drawn too early.
7:24 pm est

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All These Peanut-Shaped Worlds are Yours...
The EPOXI spacecraft just completed its flyby of Comet Hartley 2, and it's sending back images. The "contact binary" seems to be a common shape for comets and asteroids.

Update: Video now up.
3:57 pm est

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