Monday, February 27, 2006

MRO close to Mars orbit insertion

From a CNN article , Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will insert into Mars orbit on March 10th.
"It's going to be difficult to get it into orbit," Doug McCuistion, who heads the NASA Mars Exploration Program, said at a briefing. "Mars is hard, Mars can be unpredictable, but we've got a good team here."

NASA has only a 65 percent success rate in getting space probes to orbit Mars, as opposed to a more than 80 percent success rate in managing to land spacecrafts on its surface, he said.

The tricky part is getting the orbiter to slow down enough to be captured by the planet's gravity.

"We're getting into the dangerous portion of the mission," said James Graf, the project's manager.

The JPL/NASA website for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Space X Launch update From Kwaj

Just got an update from Elon and Space X on the Falcon I launch:
The tentative launch window for the maiden flight of Falcon 1 is March 20 through 25. The gating items are receiving a shipment of liquid oxygen (LOX) from Hawaii and switching out the 2nd stage tank. Obviously, long term operations on Kwaj will require that we install a state-of-the-art, high reliability LOX plant on island. In the meantime, we will get through first launch with LOX shipments from Hawaii and whatever output we can generate from the sad, old clunker of a LOX plant that we currently own.

We are also replacing the 2nd stage tank, following discovery of a small leak. Fortunately, a Falcon 2nd stage tank just barely fits through the door of a standard cargo airplane (no C-17 required), so the flight is relatively inexpensive and readily available. Fixing the leak in the tank being shipped back is not a huge task, but also not something easily done far away from the factory. Countdown procedures have been modified to prevent such leaks from developing in the future.
The static fire performed during the last countdown attempt was really helpful as a preflight systems checkout, so we will be doing one again three or four days before the next countdown (most likely March 17). In addition, we are doing another systems review with DARPA, AF and NASA in early March.


Kwaj is part of the Marshall Islands Atolls. It is the site ofthe Army's The Reagan Test Site(RTS) which
"The Reagan Test Site encompasses approximately 750,000 square miles, although the total land area is only about 70 square miles."

"RTS is one of several tracking stations located around the globe that provides nearly continuous coverage of all manned space flight missions. Working in close cooperation with NASA, RTS has participated in numerous space experiments, providing ground radar and optical observation of experimental objects."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pluto's Not Lonely anymore!

Yesterday in Nature here Scientists are using Hubble Space telescope to help guide New Horizons to Pluto and chart the two new moons and rings around the planet.

Those planning NASA's New Horizons mission, now en route first to a gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007 and then its July 2015 appointment with Pluto, are now adding to their to-do list highly resolved imaging and spectroscopy of the newly discovered satellites. Refining these satellites' sizes and their orbital positions in nine years' time will also be a priority for observations to follow those currently being reported2. Both on its way in and out of the Pluto system, New Horizons' instruments will canvass the orbit plane for more satellites, rings and other telltale signs that might reveal the origin and evolution of this close-knit family. Pluto is a lonely place no more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

UAE and Space Ports

I saw this on Drudge over the weekend about the UAE wanting to build a spaceport in Singapore. Here's the article:

Spaceport Shuffle

Deals are also in place to construct a $265 million spaceport at the Ras Al-Khaimah International Airport in Ras Al-Khaimah – the northernmost of seven emirates the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – with a $115 million facility to be built near Singapore’s Changi International Airport, Space Adventures officials said.

“After we initiate operations here, we look forward to expanding operations outside of the United Arab Emirates,” Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, crown prince of Ras Al-Khaimah, in a statement.

Anderson said Al Qasimi has been extremely supportive and invested $30 million into the spaceport project.

Space Adventures is also working with a consortium of investors in Singapore to develop Spaceport Singapore, a facility that will offer not only suborbital spaceflights, but also astronaut training, parabolic flights to simulate weightlessness, and other high-altitude attractions.

“With the proposed Spaceport Singapore, we now stand at the threshold of an unprecedented opportunity to launch into space practically from our own backyard,” said Lim Neo Chian, chief of the Singapore Tourism Board, in a statement.

The announcement of both spaceports does not rule out American spaceport in Space Adventures’ future, though several unrelated projects are already underway in the U.S.

“We’re still analyzing potential locations,” Anderson said. “We’d love to be opening a spaceport in the United States.”

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nasa climate scientist speaks!

I'm not so approving of gagging a scientist but I wonder how for sure we know that the last ice age (about 14,000 years ago) and the current glacial warming has the higher temperatures. The data we have is from tree rings and show the growth patterns. We did not have exact temperature readings 14,000 years ago. Our record of temperature readings are about 100 years old. I think we should analyze this data more. Yes we are in a climatic change. But we have so much more technical equipment to measure and record data. Here is Dr. Hansen's own words from the Independent online:
This new satellite data is a remarkable advance. We are seeing for the first time the detailed behavior of the ice streams that are draining the Greenland ice sheet. They show that Greenland seems to be losing at least 200 cubic kilometers of ice a year. It is different from even two years ago, when people still said the ice sheet was in balance.

He goes on to detail the rapid break up of the ice shelves. He then states:
Our understanding of what is going on is very new. Today's forecasts of sea-level rise use climate models of the ice sheets that say they can only disintegrate over a thousand years or more. But we can now see that the models are almost worthless. They treat the ice sheets like a single block of ice that will slowly melt. But what is happening is much more dynamic.

I agree this is very new. Our old models of ice shelves melting are way off.
How fast can this go? Right now, I think our best measure is what happened in the past. We know that, for instance, 14,000 years ago sea levels rose by 20m in 400 years - that is five meters in a century. This was towards the end of the last ice age, so there was more ice around. But, on the other hand, temperatures were not warming as fast as today.

How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today - which is what we expect later this century - sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth's history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.

Again, he is looking at the past climatic record. One, the last ice age was three degrees warmer than today, but the Sea levels are going to be higher (20MM previously to 25MM currently).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Science Openness?

Griffin has since promised scientific openness and changes in public affairs policy. Sherwood Boehlert, the Republican chairman of the House Science Committee, said today that Congressional regulators will be watching the agency's internal inquiry into the matter and expects to see policy changed to prevent a repeat of recent incidents.

"I have high hopes NASA will end up being a model of how agencies can gaurantee scientific openness," Boehlert said in a statement praising Griffin for tackling the issue.

The top Democrat on the committee, Bart Gordon of Tennessee, also said he was heartened to hear that NASA was taking the specific case of global warming scientist James Hansen seriously.

However, Gordon said he is concerned that the Hansen incident is just one of many similar incidents throughout the federal government's science-related agencies. He said strict political control of science results "permeates this entire administration."
The members of the committee, in their opening statements, unanimously expressed concerns about NASA's intention to move $2 billion worth of science funding to pay for the 17 or so space shuttle

HT Florida Today

Links from Space Politics on the NASA hearings today here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Sci-Fi profile type

You scored as Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix). You can change the world around you. You have a strong will and a high technical aptitude. Is it possible you are the one? Now if only Agent Smith would quit beating up your friends.

Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Serenity (Firefly)


Moya (Farscape)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

Friday, February 10, 2006

Where no Passengers have gone before

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta says travelers could soon boldly go where no passengers have gone before -- into space.
HT Drudge

A few years ago some mocked the idea of space tourism. As a child I read Robert E. Heinlein’s books. The "Past Though Tomorrow" series had stories on commercial and passenger travel in space. It is now a reality. As other forms of travel are "commercially" possible more and more travelers will go into space.

With the problems the shuttle is having with launch debris, we should focus on alternative ways of getting out of earths gravity. The space elevator is an excellent choice. We have to get out of the "rocket" mentality. Commercial space has to make the jump and take the lead. NASA and the government bureaucracy will not make that leap. Granted we still need rockets, but for passenger travel the elevator is more efficient and safer.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Danes in Space

After all the hoopla on Denmark and publishing sensitive cartoons I wanted to promote the Danish National Space Program. They are working on the coatings of optics used in the NuStar space telescope. Description from the website:
The Danish National Space Center plays an important part in the mission by coating, calibrating and testing the optic for NuSTAR. This optic uses X-ray supermirrors which is based on depth graded multilayer structures capable of reflecting X-rays at energies up to 100 keV at reasonable graze angles.

From the NuStar NASA site:
By focusing X-rays at higher energy; up to 80 keV, NuSTAR will answer fundamental questions about the Universe: How are black holes distributed through the cosmos? How were the elements that compose our bodies and the Earth forged in the explosions of massive stars? What powers the most extreme active galaxies? Perhaps most exciting is the opportunity to fill a blank map with wonders we have not yet dreamed of: NuSTAR offers the opportunity to explore our Universe in an entirely new way.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ivan Ivanovich transmits no more!

The ISS spacewalkers yesterday let loose SpaceSat-1. The Russian space suit was to transmit several messages to be received by ham radio operators around the world. Readings of suit temperature, battery power levels and time since leaving the ISS were to be reported to mission control. Alas, the suit malfunctioned right after deployment. Goodbye, Ivan Ivanovich!
"No more transmissions are being received by ham radio operators ... It may have ceased operating very shortly after its deployment," said NASA commentator Rob Navias, speculating its batteries became too cold.

Comet Tempel has Water

Comet Temple 1 was impacted back in July 2005 by Deep Impact. Data taken from the probe has three pockets of water along with lots of dust.
Tempel 1 has a surface area of roughly 45 square miles, or 1.2 billion square feet. The area taken up by the water ice, however, is only 300,000 square feet. The rest of the comet surface is dust.

"It's like a seven-acre skating rink of snowy dirt," said study co-author Peter Schultz of Brown University.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Shifting away from the Vision?

Q Scott, the President's moon/Mars mission, plan -- I mean, what's going to come of that? There's a lot of concern about the gap when the shuttle is retired and the new vehicle hasn't come into play yet.

DR. MARBURGER: There's lots of other science that's important, and there are lots of other initiatives in other agencies that are important for our country. This initiative focuses on things that we think have especially high leverage for future innovation. And that's what this is focused on. Space exploration is another issue, it's another important area for the country, but it's not part of this initiative.

Q Does this indicate any shifting of priorities away from that as a top priority?

DR. MARBURGER: No, there's no shift of priorities for the other areas.

HT Space Politics

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

48 years of Space Exploration

On Jan. 31 1958 the United States entered into the space race by the launch of the Explorer I. It had a Geiger counter that detected the radiation belt around the earth called the Van Allen Belt (named after James Van Allen who designed the experiment.) Sputnik was 184 pounds was larger then Explorer, which weighted 31 pounds. Explorer had more components than Sputnik, two radio transmitters and the cosmic ray instrument. On the other hand, Sputnik had two transmitters to broadcast on frequencies at 20 and 40 MHz. The whole world heard it on shortwave radio.

Here's an article about the a reject nose cone thought to be that from Explorer I. (HT OC Register)

Hail Columbia!

Top row, from left: David M. Brown, mission specialist; William C. McCool, pilot; and Michael P. Anderson, payload commander.

Bottom row, from left: Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick D. Husband, mission commander; Laurel B. Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist from the Israeli Space Agency.

The NASA Remberance page for Columiba is here and here.
The Space.Com Columbia Tragedy page is here
Chris Valentine's Video tribute here and the Columiba page here.