Friday, June 30, 2006

30 years ago on MARS

Viking I historic landing will be 30 years on July 4th. (1976 is when I graduated from High School also). My father was working for John H. Ransom Labs in Camarillo, CA at the time. His company worked on some of the optical parts in Viking's camera. The prisms they manufactured gave Viking a 360 degree picture of the Martian landscape. A great mission and look at what we can do 30 years later. Viking could not move but had a robot arm. Spirit and Opportunity are still working after two years on Mars. They were suppose to last about 6 months. Here's a site with Viking images.

One day to go!

The shuttle will blast off tomorrow weather perminting. Here is the NASA count down clock.

(HT from Instapundant) By Rand Simberg at NRO here:

What those who criticize Dr. Griffin’s decision to move forward with the launch are implicitly saying is that the astronauts’ lives, and the vehicle, aren’t worth the mission, and that they have, in fact, infinite value relative to it. Every month that we delay the return to flight costs hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, with an army of shuttle technicians sitting around, their skills getting rusty (which brings its own risks). Moreover, no matter how much more time and money is spent in trying to reduce the risk, “safe” will always be a relative, not an absolute term. If completing the station, if finishing this particular mission, is worth anything, it’s worth doing sooner, rather than later, so we can sooner free up the resources for more adventurous activities that are (or at least should be) perceived as being worth the risk of life. Paul Dietz, a frequent commenter to my blog, has noted that if we really wanted to indicate national seriousness about opening up the space frontier, we would, starting right now, with great fanfare, set up a dedicated national cemetery for those who would be expected to lose their lives in that long-term endeavor, and provide it with lots of acreage.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Shuttle Crew arrives

Shuttle Launch Countdown starts on Wednesday

From NASA:

NASA Space Shuttle Discovery's Launch Countdown Begins June 28

NASA will begin the countdown for the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery at 5 p.m. EDT June 28. The countdown includes nearly 28 hours of built-in hold time leading to a scheduled launch at about 3:49 p.m. on July 1. The launch window extends for nearly five minutes. The launch team at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will conduct the countdown from the newly renovated Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center.

This mission is designated STS-121. It is the 115th shuttle flight and the 18th U.S. flight to the International Space Station. Discovery's mission is scheduled to last about 12 days and end with 10:45 a.m. landing at Kennedy on July 13. The crew will test new equipment and procedures to improve shuttle safety, as well as deliver supplies and make repairs to the International Space Station.


Launch-3 Days (Wednesday, June 28): Countdown begins at the T-43 hour mark (5 p.m.)

Launch-2 Days (Thursday, June 29)
Remove mid-deck and flight-deck platforms (1 a.m.);
Complete preparation to load power reactant storage and distribution system (4 a.m.)
Activate and test navigational systems (6 a.m.);
Flight deck preliminary inspections complete (9 a.m.)
Enter first built-in hold at T-27 hours for duration of 4 hours (9 a.m.); Clear launch pad of all non-essential personnel; Perform test of the vehicle's pyrotechnic initiator controllers
Resume countdown (1 p.m.) Begin operations to load cryogenic reactants into Discovery's fuel cell storage tanks (2:30 p.m.)
Enter 4-hour built-in hold at T-19 hours (9 p.m.); Demate orbiter mid-body umbilical unit (9:30 p.m.) Resume orbiter and ground support equipment closeouts

Launch-1 Day (Friday, June 30)
Resume countdown (1 a.m.); Final preparations of shuttle's three main engines for main propellant tanking and flight (1 a.m.); Begin filling pad sound suppression system water tank (2 a.m.); Pad sound suppression system water tank filling complete (5 a.m.); Close out the tail service masts on the mobile launcher platform

Enter planned hold at T-11 hours for 13 hours, 53 minutes (9 a.m.);
Begin star tracker functional checks (9:50 a.m.); Activate orbiter's inertial measurement units; Activate the orbiter's communications systems; Install film in numerous cameras on the launch pad (10:55 a.m.); Flight crew equipment late stow (2:50 p.m.); Move Rotating Service Structure (RSS) to the park position (6:30 p.m.); Perform ascent switch list; Fuel cell flow-through purge complete Resume countdown at T-11 hours (10:53 p.m.)

Launch Day (Saturday, July 1)
Activate the orbiter's fuel cells (12:02 a.m.); Clear the blast danger area of all non-essential personnel; Switch Discovery's purge air to gaseous nitrogen (12:53 a.m.)
Enter planned 2-hour built-in hold at the T-6 hour mark (3:53 a.m.); Launch team verifies no violations of launch commit criteria prior to cryogenic loading of the external tank; Clear pad of all personnel
Resume countdown (5:53 a.m.); Chill down of propellant transfer lines (5:53 a.m.); Begin loading the external tank with about 500,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants (about 6:03 a.m.); Complete filling the external tank with its flight load of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants (about 8:53 a.m.); Final Inspection Team proceed to launch pad
Enter planned 3-hour built-in hold at T-3 hours (8:53 a.m.); Perform inertial measurement unit preflight calibration; Align Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA) tracking antennas; Perform open loop test with Eastern Range
Resume countdown at T-3 hours (11:53 a.m.); Crew departs Operations and Checkout Building for the pad (11:58 a.m.); Complete closeout preparations in the white room
Check cockpit switch configurations; Flight crew begins entry into the orbiter (about 12:28 p.m.); Astronauts perform air-to-ground voice checks with Launch and Mission Control. Begin to close Discovery's crew hatch (about 1:38 p.m.); Begin Eastern Range final network open loop command checks; Perform hatch seal and cabin leak checks; Complete white room closeout; Closeout crew moves to fallback area; Primary ascent guidance data is transferred to the backup flight system
Enter planned 10-minute hold at T-20 minutes (2:33 p.m.); NASA test director conducts final launch team briefings; Complete inertial measurement unit preflight alignments
Resume countdown at T-20 minutes (2:43 p.m.); Transition the orbiter's onboard computers to launch configuration; Start fuel cell thermal conditioning; Close orbiter cabin vent valves; Transition backup flight system to launch configuration
Enter estimated 40-minute hold at T-9 minutes (2:54 p.m.); Launch director, mission management team and NASA test director conduct final polls for go/no go to launch
Resume countdown at T-9 minutes (about 3:40 p.m.); Start automatic ground launch sequencer; Retract orbiter crew access arm (T-7:30); Start mission recorders (T-6:15)
Start Auxiliary Power Units (T-5:00); Arm SRB and ET range safety safe and arm devices (T-5:00); Start liquid oxygen drainback (T-4:55); Start orbiter aerosurface profile test (T-3:55); Start main engine gimbal profile test (T-3:30); Pressurize liquid oxygen tank (T-2:55);
Begin retraction of the gaseous oxygen vent arm (T-2:55); Fuel cells to internal reactants
(T-2:35); Pressurize liquid hydrogen tank (T-1:57); Deactivate bi-pod heaters (T-1:52); Deactivate SRB joint heaters (T-0:60 seconds); Orbiter transfers from ground to internal power (T-0:50 seconds); Ground Launch Sequencer go for auto sequence start (T-0:31 seconds); SRB gimbal profile (T-0:21 seconds); Ignition of three space shuttle main engines (T-6.6 seconds); SRB ignition and liftoff (T-0)

Commander Steve Lindsey; Pilot Mark Kelly; mission specialists Michael Fossum, Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, Piers Sellers and Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency

# 5:15 a.m. Crew wakes up
# 10:10 a.m. Breakfast
# 10:48 a.m. Weather briefing for STS-121 commander and two crew members
# 11:30 a.m. Astronauts put on flight suits
# 11:58 a.m. Depart for launch pad
# 12:28 p.m. Arrive at white room and begin to enter Discovery
# 1:43 p.m. Close crew hatch
# 3:49 p.m. Launch

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pluto's New Moons Nix and Hydra

The two small moons found last year have been named Nix and Hydra by the (here) IAU.
In mythology, Nix is the goddess of darkness and night, befitting a satellite orbiting distant Pluto, the god of the underworld. Nix is also the mother of Charon, relevant to the giant impact believed to have created Pluto's three satellites, indicating Charon was borne of the material from which Nix formed. Hydra is the terrifying monster with the body of a serpent and nine heads, befitting the outermost moon of Pluto, the ninth planet in the solar system.

The Moons were discovered by the Hubble Telescope and a team of researchers from Southwest Research Institute, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md and the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Update on North Korean Missile

Here's the Reuters story on our US missile program.
The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

"It's good to be ready," the official said

I hope to God it is so! Good to hear we are ready.

Japan is nervous. They are building a missile defense system using Aegis.

Japan plans to equip half a dozen, or more, of its Aegis warships with the SM-3, to provide protection from North Korean, or Chinese, ballistic missiles. The SM-3 missile has been one of the bright spots in the American anti-missile effort. Japan has also agreed to contribute a billion dollars to the three billion dollar development work being done on the SM-3. The U.S. has already stationed Aegis SM-3 equipped ships off the coast of Korea, to provide protection against North Korean missiles.

It's good Japan has bought the Aegis Anti-Missle system. Hopefully they will use it if The North does strike.
"If North Korea test-launches a missile, naturally Japan and the United States will take stern measures," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the government spokesman, suggesting the possibility of economic sanctions.

Japanese officials are exchanging information "around the clock" on a possible launch of the Taepodong-2, which has a range of 3,500 to 6,000 kilometers (2,200 to 3,750 miles), said defense chief Fukushiro Nukaga in Tokyo.

It appears that China does not want North Korea to test the "waters" to see what Japan and the US will do.
But South Korean officials and analysts say North Korea will not actually fire the missile because it is sure to trigger strong punitive measures from the international community, which could threaten the economic survival of the communist regime already suffering from U.S.-led financial sanctions over its nuclear program and financial illegalities.
China opposes the prospective missile launch as it could be used by Japan to step up its efforts toward its missile defenses and stronger security ties with the United States.

"The North's missile threat seems aimed at gaining leverage as its nuclear card is losing effectiveness. With the missile card in hand, the Kim Jong Il regime seeks to have direct talks with the United States," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea specialist at Dongguk University in Seoul.

"If North Korea fires the missile, it is aimed at tightening its grip on the people. This indicates a crack in the North's social control system and serious conflicts among power elite," he said.

According to intelligence sources, the North's state control has been weakened since its economic reform measures in 2002, which brought about negative fallout, including tremendous inflation.

**Update Captian Ed on the TCS article on "Star Wars" here.

A Brief History--On Earth?

I heard about this by Steven Hawking last week. I do believe he is right about survival of the Human species by colonizing space.
"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking said. "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

However, I don't think global warming will get us. The risk from a Nuke being released by a Terrorist group is greater. Colonizing space is good insurance for Human survival. Space is the Place!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ready for a test?

Will the US use the missle defense system if North Korea launches?

A two-stage Taepodong-2 missile could hit parts of the United States, while a three-stage Taepodong-2 could range all of North America, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the US Senate in February 2005.

Previous unclassified Defense Department estimates date back to 1997, when a report put the Taepodong-2 missile's range at between 4,000 and 6,000 kilometers (2,500-3,750 miles) , and the Taepodong-1 at 1,500 km (940 miles).

The United States has been working feverishly, with mixed success, to field missile defenses capable of countering a limited missile attack by North Korea.

A North Korean launch would mark the first real test of the US system, which currently consists of an array of tracking and targeting radars and at least 11 interceptor missiles in silos in Alaska and California.

US Aegis warships have been modified for missile defense missions. Several are stationed in the western Pacific.

Their Spy-1 radars are capable of tracking missile launches. The US Missile Defense Agency also has been testing capabilities of warships to shoot down short and medium range missiles with interceptor missiles.

Last November, a US Navy cruiser intercepted a mock warhead after it separated from a medium-range missile in a test pover the Pacific.

Bill Gertz says the US might test the Missle system out here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shuttle Crew gets ready

Image above: STS121-S-002 (5 April 2006) -- These seven astronauts take a break from training to pose for the STS-121 crew portrait. From the left are astronauts Stephanie D. Wilson, Michael E. Fossum, both mission specialists; Steven W. Lindsey, commander; Piers J. Sellers, mission specialist; Mark E. Kelly, pilot; European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter of Germany; and Lisa M. Nowak, both mission specialists. Image credit: NASA

Monday, June 12, 2006

First storm of the season

Alberto is a Stage 1 Hurricane now. Here's the GOES image.

National Hurricane Center site here.

The NASA Hurricane site is here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Cloudsat images

The first images from Cloudsat are in. They show the 3-D aspects of clouds instead of the flat satellite pictures shown on the weather channel.
"We're seeing the atmosphere as we've never seen it before," said Deborah Vane, CloudSat deputy principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We're no longer looking at clouds like images on a flat piece of paper, but instead we're peering into the clouds and seeing their layered complexity."

The first-ever millimeter wavelength radar, CloudSat's Cloud-Profiling Radar is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than typical weather radar. It can observe clouds and precipitation in a way never before possible, distinguishing between cloud particles and precipitation. Its measurements are expected to offer new insights into how fresh water is created from water vapor and how much of this water falls to the surface as rain and snow.

CloudSat was launched April 28 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., along with NASA's Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations satellite. Both satellites will orbit 705 kilometers (438 miles) above Earth aboard NASA's "A-Train" constellation of five Earth Observing System satellites. The A-Train satellites will work together to provide new insights into the global distribution and evolution of clouds to improve weather forecasting and climate prediction.

CloudSat is managed by JPL, which developed the radar instrument with hardware contributions from the Canadian Space Agency. Colorado State University provides scientific leadership and science data processing and distribution. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., designed and built the spacecraft. The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Department of Energy contributed resources. U.S. and international universities and research centers support the mission science team.

The flat image is on top (circled) while the bottom image is the 3-D of the same cloud formation here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Space Race

The National Geographic Channel has a great 2 part series on the Space Race between USSR and USA. Here is the interactive site on NGC. Its on tonight. Here's the time listings.

From Denver Post on William Gray

I've been telling people for some time this guy William Gray has (OVER) 50 years of climate data on Hurricanes. He said the record doesn't lie and the global warming freaks have it wrong. HT to Drudge (and RUSH talked about it too) on this Denver Post here.
"Let's just say a crowd of baby boomers and yuppies have hijacked this thing," Gray says. "It's about politics. Very few people have experience with some real data. I think that there is so much general lack of knowledge on this. I've been at this over 50 years down in the trenches working, thinking and teaching."

Gray acknowledges that we've had some warming the past 30 years. "I don't question that," he explains. "And humans might have caused a very slight amount of this warming. Very slight. But this warming trend is not going to keep on going. My belief is that three, four years from now, the globe will start to cool again, as it did from the middle '40s to the middle '70s."

Both Gray and Pielke say there are many younger scientists who voice their concerns about global warming hysteria privately but would never jeopardize their careers by speaking up.

"Plenty of young people tell me they don't believe it," he says. "But they won't touch this at all. If they're smart, they'll say: 'I'm going to let this run its course.' It's a sort of mild McCarthyism. I just believe in telling the truth the best I can. I was

I love it! Just when ALGORE's movie comes out.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hurricane forcast for 2006

USA today has Max Mayfield and his prediction for the 2006 Hurricane season.
Mayfield, who has barnstormed hurricane country for weeks to preach the gospel of readiness, sees trouble in a recent poll of coastal residents in 12 Atlantic and Gulf states. The survey of 1,100 people by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found that more than half don't feel vulnerable to hurricanes, and three in five have no family disaster plan.

The poll, released in mid-May by the National Hurricane Survival Initiative, a public-private partnership that includes the hurricane center, also found that more than two-thirds of the respondents have no hurricane survival kit. And half erroneously believe that masking tape makes windows shatterproof in a storm. Thirteen percent say they wouldn't evacuate, even if ordered to leave.

I wonder what if the ratio is the same for California residents prepaired to face Earthquakes?

Another site to check out is William Gray's Colorado State here.

Droids on the ISS

Saw this on Free Republic:
Six years ago, MIT engineering Professor David Miller showed the movie Star Wars to his students on their first day of class. There's a scene Miller is particularly fond of, the one where Luke Skywalker spars with a floating battle droid. Miller stood up and pointed: "I want you to build me some of those."

So they did. With support from the Department of Defense and NASA, Miller's undergraduates built five working droids. And now, one of them is onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

How cool is that? The article goes on why small satellites are needed and how difficult it is to gather them together to work on moving other vehicles in space. (Ever been in a crowd of people?)
Tiny satellites are a hot new idea in space exploration: Instead of launching one big, heavy satellite to do a job, why not launch lots of little ones? They can orbit Earth in tandem, each doing their own small part of the overall mission. If a solar flare zaps one satellite—no problem. The rest can close ranks and carry on. Launch costs are reduced, too, because tiny satellites can hitch a ride inside larger payloads, getting to space almost free of charge.

But there's a problem: Flying in formation is trickier than it sounds. Ask a crowd of people to line up single file, and they'll be able to figure it out and do it rather easily. Getting a group of orbiting satellites to do the same thing, it turns out, is extremely hard.

Shuttle Launch a go (so far)

Here's theNYT article on the Shuttle launch upcoming in July.
Although there is still a risk of dangerous foam debris, NASA officials cleared the space shuttle's external fuel tank on Wednesday for launching of the Discovery in July, after a year on the ground.

Shuttle program officials, meeting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said enough modifications had been made on the tank since the last shuttle flight to give them confidence that the foam risk was minor.

N. Wayne Hale Jr., manager of the shuttle program, said at a news conference that foam debris from different areas on the fuel tank would continue to come off and pose some risk of damaging a shuttle. But he called the risk "acceptable" and said, "We have eliminated the largest hazards."

Repeating a note often sounded by NASA officials and astronauts, Mr. Hale said the shuttle would always be risky to fly.

Michael D. Leinbach, the shuttle launching director at Kennedy, said the Discovery should be ready to launch within a window lasting from July 1 through July 19. In the approach to that window, managers will have unusually long contingency time, almost two weeks, to deal with problems that might arise.

Mr. Leinbach also said the shuttle Atlantis was on schedule to roll out to its launching pad on July 25 in anticipation of a mission beginning Aug. 28 or shortly thereafter.

--Space is risky business to begin with.

From Space Today net here:
NASA managers concluded Wednesday that foam shedding from the space shuttle's external tank does not pose a significant risk to the shuttle orbiter, clearing the way for next month's launch of the shuttle Discovery. Officials concluded that while foam will fall off the tank during the launch, the hazards posed by large chunks of foam have been mitigated so that those risks are in line with other aspects of the shuttle system. That risk could be further decreased with on later missions if NASA decides to proceed with the removal of foam "ice/frost ramps" on the external tank that are particularly prone to shedding. The decision allows NASA to proceed with preparations for the launch next month of the shuttle Discovery on mission STS-121: the launch window for that flight runs from July 1-19. An official launch date will be set during a flight readiness review in mid-June.

From Florida Today:
"It's a risky vehicle to fly, and nobody should mistake that. There are a number of things that can cause bad outcomes on this vehicle," shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said.

But the chance of potentially catastrophic damage from foam debris "is consistent with the entire overall risk we fly with the space shuttle," he added.

Hale's comments came at the conclusion of a two-day review considered key to clearing Discovery for launch of NASA's second flight since the 2003 Columbia accident.