Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hurricane (Non)Activity and GW

William Gray's article on Hurricane Activity and Global Warming at Wall Street Journal Online here:
Some scientists, journalists and activists see a direct link between the post-1995 upswing in Atlantic hurricanes and global warming brought on by human-induced greenhouse gas increases. This belief, however, is unsupported by long-term Atlantic and global observations.

Consider, for example, the intensity of U.S. land-falling hurricanes over time -- keeping in mind that the periods must be long enough to reveal long-term trends. During the most recent 50-year period, 1957 to 2006, 83 hurricanes hit the United States, 34 of them major. In contrast, during the 50-year period from 1900 to 1949, 101 hurricanes (22% more) made U.S. landfall, including 39 (or 15% more) major hurricanes.

The hypothesis that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the number of hurricanes fails by an even wider margin when we compare two other multi-decade periods: 1925-1965 and 1966-2006. In the 41 years from 1925-1965, there were 39 U.S. land-falling major hurricanes. In the 1966-2006 period there were 22 such storms -- only 56% as many. Even though global mean temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.4 Celsius and CO2 by 20%, the number of major hurricanes hitting the U.S. declined.

Mr Gray attributes the 1995 in Hurricane increase in the Atlantic due to the currents strength increasing. The climate modelers don't account for ocean current activity along with the atmospheric activity.

The Weather girl....

From NYT here.
Q: Your coverage of global warming has been controversial. Are you surprised?
A: In a way, yes. To me, global warming isn’t a political issue, it’s a scientific one. But a lot of people out there think you’re being an advocate when you talk climate science.

Last December, I wrote a blog about how reticent some broadcast meteorologists are about reporting on climate change. Meteorologists — they are the forecasters — have training in atmospheric science. Many are certified by the American Meteorological Society. I suggested there’s a disconnect when they use their A.M.S. seal for on-camera credibility and refuse to give viewers accurate information on climate. The society has a very clear statement saying that global warming is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The next thing I knew, I was being denounced on the Web sites of Senator James Inhofe, Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh. The Weather Channel’s own Web site got about 4,000 e-mails in one day, mostly angry. Some went, ‘Listen here, weather girl, just give me my five-day forecast and shut up.’

Q: Rush Limbaugh accused you of Stalinism. Did you suggest that meteorologists who doubt global warming should be fired?

A: I didn’t exactly say that. I was talking about the American Meteorological Society’s seal of approval. I was saying the A.M.S. should test applicants on climate change as part of their certification process. They test on other aspects of weather science.

A lot of viewers want to know about climate change. They are experiencing events they perceive as unusual and they want to know if there’s a connection to global warming. Certainly when Katrina hit, they wanted to know if it was global warming or not. Most Americans get their daily dose of science through their televised weather report. Given that fact, I think it’s the responsibility of broadcast meteorologists to provide viewers with scientific answers.

Like the 4,000 who responded to the Weather Channel website, I just want my 5 day forecast! Not a diatribe on how fossil fuels are the case of "Global Warming!"

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Get the story right

James Oberg gets it right (BBC doesn't)

Jim Oberg states what is alarming is the health issues of the Astronauts and getting on shuttle flights with medical conditions that the NASA flight surgeons don't know about. It is an example of facts vs. hearsay. Here is the Health review report from NASA.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Explosion at Mojave Spaceport

An explosion killed two people and critically injured four others at a Mojave Desert airport site used by the pioneering aerospace company that sent the first private manned rocket into space, authorities said.

The blast at a Mojave Air and Space Port facility belonging to Scaled Composites LLC also left some toxic material, said Kern County fire Capt. Doug Johnston.

Scaled is the Mojave-based builder of SpaceShipOne, the first private manned rocket to reach space, and is developing a successor for the new space tourism business Virgin Galactic.

Aerospace designer Burt Rutan, who heads Scaled, told The Associated Press he had no information and was heading to the scene.

I heard that Northup Grumman is going to purchase 100 percent of Scaled Compsites LLC (they currently own 40%)

UPDATE: More complete story over at LA Times here. HT Transterrestrial Musings.
A third worker died at the hospital. God Speed and rest in peace.

Astronauts Drunk on the job

Boy, what a bad day for the space program! From USA Today here:
Report: Astronauts flew while intoxicated

Aviation Week & Space Technology says it has obtained a draft report that says NASA allowed astronauts to fly while intoxicated on two occasions.

The respected trade publication, which doesn't identify its sources, says members of a government panel found evidence to suggest "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts during the 12-hour period before launches. Astronauts aren't supposed to consume alcohol during that period.

The panel, established after astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested in February, doesn't identify any pilots or crewmembers by name in its report, the trade publication says.

Aviation Week says NASA wouldn't comment on the report. The space agency is scheduled to hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon. The report will be available for download at noon tomorrow.

USA TODAY is trying to confirm this report.

I think I'll go back to reading The Deathly Hallows now.....

Sabotage of ISS computer (Not the Shuttle!)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - A space program worker deliberately damaged a computer that is supposed to fly aboard shuttle Endeavour in less than two weeks, an act of sabotage that was caught before the equipment was loaded onto the spaceship, NASA said Thursday.

The unidentified employee, who works for a NASA subcontractor, cut wires inside the computer that is supposed to be delivered to the international space station by Endeavour, said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief. The worker also damaged a similar computer that was not meant to fly to space.

The sabotage occurred outside Florida. Gerstenmaier did not identify the subcontractor or where the damage took place.

NASA's inspector general office is investigating.

NASA hopes to fix the computer and launch it Aug. 7 as planned aboard Endeavour. The computer is designed for use aboard the space station, not the shuttle, and the damage would have posed no danger to either shuttle or station astronauts, Gerstenmaier said.

Flame Trench says the damage has been fixed and was not part of the United Alliance Strike at KSC.
Update: The company involved is from Houston, "Invocon, a 20-year-old company that employs about 30 people, has worked with Boeing since 2004."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The STS 118 Mission

This upcoming mission is called the "Barbara Morgan Mission" because she was the back up Educator in Space for Christa. This mission is special to Orange County because Tracy Caldwell is a grad from Cal State Fullerton and an OC Resident.
In 1986, Morgan returned to teaching for 12 years, while working with NASA's education program. But in 1998, she was accepted as a mission specialist. She no longer had a free ride as a teacher; she had to pull her weight to get a mission.

"I just know her as an astronaut from the astronaut office," Shuttle Commander Scott Kelly said Wednesday.

Kelly said Morgan won't focus on education during this mission.

"We could not do the flight if we had one person dedicated just to education," he said. "We need her to do space shuttle stuff."

Morgan, despite protests, has become the mission's star, a role she doesn't like.

"She has no control," Kelly said. "I know it bothers her when she hears things like, 'This is the Barbara Morgan mission.' It bothers her more than it bothers the rest of us."

While Morgan downplays her relationship with McAuliffe, Mission Specialist Tracy Caldwell openly credits the late teacher with setting her on a career path to become an astronaut.

The nation's first educator/astronaut showed Caldwell, then a high school student, that the astronaut corps wasn't limited to test pilots.

"She was a tremendous motivator," said Caldwell, who will choreograph the mission's spacewalks. "I didn't know Christa personally. It was what Christa represented.

"She was something so tangible to me."

Rovers still alive

The rovers Opportunity and Spirit are still alive despite the Mars dust storms here.
"The outlook for both Opportunity and Spirit depends on the weather, which makes it unpredictable," said JPL's John Callas, project manager for both rovers. "If the weather holds where it is now or gets better, the rovers will be OK. If it gets worse, the situation becomes more complex.

The descent of Opportunity into the Victoria crater is on hold waiting for the dust storms to subside.
Update from JPL/NASA here:
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity sent signals Monday morning, July 23, indicating its power situation improved slightly during the days when it obeyed commands to refrain from communicating with Earth in order to conserve power.

Dust storms on Mars in recent weeks have darkened skies over both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. The rovers rely on electricity that their solar panels generate from sunlight. By last week, output from Opportunity's solar panels had dropped by about 80 percent from a month earlier.

Rover controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., commanded Opportunity last week to go into a very low-power state and to communicate only once every three days. The rover transmitted a small amount of information today. Next scheduled transmission will be Thursday, July 26, though controllers may command Opportunity to send information on Tuesday, July 24.

Meanwhile, communications from Spirit over the weekend indicated that the sky had cleared slightly at Spirit's location on the other side of Mars from Opportunity.

"The outlook for both Opportunity and Spirit depends on the weather, which makes it unpredictable," said JPL's John Callas, project manager for both rovers. "If the weather holds where it is now or gets better, the rovers will be OK. If it gets worse, the situation becomes more complex.

Saturn V restored

The Houston exhibit is not quite the caliber of the interactive museum-tourist attraction complex that was constructed around the restored Saturn 5 on display at the spaceport here at Kennedy Space Center. Still, historians and space enthusiasts are celebrating the rocket's rescue from what had been an undignified fate.

"To allow these three remaining monuments to degrade to the point of destruction would have stolen from the next generation and their descendants the opportunity to fully appreciate the sheer power and force it took to achieve landing 12 men on the moon," said Robert Pearlman, a space memorabilia expert and editor of the Web site collectspace.com.

The differences in the facility can be traced to their purpose and cost. KSC's facility was envisioned, designed and built from the beginning not just as a structure to protect the mammoth Saturn 5 rocket but to be a tourist showcase, Pearlman said.

At JSC, the facility was built as a temporary building to protect the rocket and allow for a climate-controlled environment for the restoration work. The aesthetics of a tourist destination were not the prime concern, he said.

"Hopefully, as more funding can be raised, a similar display can be built for JSC's Saturn 5, allowing a partial return to the majestic sight of the giant moon booster welcoming visitors to the home of Mission Control and the astronauts," Pearlman said.

Socal programs get more Budget dollars than NASA does

From Space Review by Jeff Brooks here:
How does NASA’s budget compare with the amount of money the federal government spends on social programs? In the 2007 budget, the funding for social programs (calculated here as the budgets for the Department of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Social Security, Agriculture, and Labor) adds up to a whopping $1.581 trillion. For every $1 the federal government spends on NASA, it spends $98 on social programs. In other words, if we cut spending on social programs by a mere one percent, we could very nearly double NASA’s budget.

Hands down social programs get more dollars than our space program does.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Moon Landing 38 years ago

From Astronomy Picture of the Day here.
The anniversary was on Friday but was too busy to post anything. I plan to post this week on lots of space stuff.

The sandstorm on Mars might doom the Mars rovers here.

The ISS has to toss a refrigerator-sized coolant tank overboard.

17 days until STS-118 here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

O-Ring problem again?

I thought it ironic that the Mission that Barbara Morgan is on there would be an O ring situation.
A NASA team is studying why recent batches of O-rings have a higher-than-usual number of specks of unmixed rubber, similar to bits of flour in a partially mixed bowl of cake batter. If such specks are too large or too close together, they can make the rings stiffer. The specks, detected by X-ray, are about the size of a grain of salt.

On Challenger, the rings were so stiff from cold weather that hot gases escaped from the booster, igniting the fuel.

Accident investigators condemned NASA for indifference to repeated O-ring problems.

By contrast, NASA has done weeks of testing on the latest O-ring issue. Initial tests show the rings with the defects are as strong and resilient as they should be, but more tests will be run through Saturday, says Jody Singer, head of NASA's solid-rocket motor project.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Endeavour Crew at the Cape

Commander Scott Kelly expressed the crew's pleasure at being at KSC, their hope for good weather on launch day and their appreciation to the hardworking technicians who are preparing the shuttle on Pad 39A.

"We look forward to flying (Endeavour) for all the people who have put their heart and soul into this vehicle," said Kelly.

He introduced the crew, pilot Charlie Hobaugh and five mission specialists: Tracy Caldwell, Al Drew, Rick Mastracchio, Barbara Morgan and Dave Williams of the Canadian Space Agency. At the International Space Station, the crew will install a truss, replace a gyroscope, test a power system, and deliver cargo and spare parts.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Human Nature to error

Fixed It!

I saw this on Drudge and Flame Trench. Some of the comments on FT were about poor Management at NASA. I see this as a TYPO and human nature to error. There will be those who will point a finger and say that's why NASA is a poorly managed organization.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More flack at NHC

From Palm Beach Post here.
Not long after taking over in January, Proenza had earned both praise and scrutiny after criticizing his higher-ups at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for spending on a National Weather Service birthday party and, most importantly, for not making firm plans to replace the aging QuikSCAT satellite. NOAA has argued QuikSCAT is just one part of its research arsenal.

Supervisors later scolded Proenza for his public posturing. And last Monday, NOAA sent the assessment team down. Then, later last week, some hurricane center forecasters publicly said Proenza had made too big a deal of the satellite. That led to Thursday’s staff memo, signed by 23 hurricane center staffers.

"The center needs a new director, and, with the heart of the hurricane season fast approaching, urges the Department of Commerce to make this happen as quickly as possible. The effective functioning of the National Hurricane Center is at stake," the memo said.

The NOAA assessment team had told employees last week in a message that it was returning today to be available to employees who had not had an opportunity last week, NOAA spokesman Anson Franklin said today.

"The independent assessment team is taking a look at a variety of issues involving operations at the National Hurricane Center," Franklin said from Washington. "That includes budget, technology and operations. They have a pretty broad mandate. We will just see when they finish what their findings are."

That report is expected July 20. Anson said NOAA had no official comment on the employees’ protest letter. And, he said of Proenza’s job status, "he’s still director of the hurricane center."

Update** Proenza has been replaced at the NHC, the mutiny has success:
Lautenbacher said the changes came as a result of the initial assessment of a team of inspectors, who found a high level of anxiety and disruption at the center -- too much for the center to adequately fulfill its mission.

About 70 percent of the staff last week called for Proenza's ouster, saying his public campaign for more federal funding was eroding public confidence in the center.

The trouble started about three months ago, when Proenza criticized his superiors at NOAA for failing to plan a replacement for the QuikSCAT satellite, which has outlived its life expectancy. He said when it dies, hurricane forecast accuracy will be significantly hurt.

Forecasters felt that he had misinformed the public, saying that they have the technological firepower to continue making accuracy forecasts.

Proenza was unavailable for comment on Monday. Officials said he returned to Fort Worth, Texas, his previous home, to take care of "personal business."

He was named the hurricane center director in January, replacing the popular Max Mayfield, who was known for providing a calm but strong sense of leadership.

Prior to coming to the hurricane center, Proenza, 62, was director of the National Weather Service's Southern Region, based in Fort Worth.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Polar Mesospheric Clouds

From NASA.Gov here:
The first observations of these "night-shining" clouds by a satellite named "AIM" which means Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, occurred above 70 degrees north latitude on May 25. People on the ground began seeing the clouds on June 6 over Northern Europe. AIM is the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of these unusual clouds.

These mystifying clouds are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs, when they are viewed from space and referred to as "night-shining" clouds or Noctilucent Clouds, when viewed by observers on Earth. The clouds form in an upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere called the mesosphere during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season which began in mid-May and extends through the end of August and are being seen by AIM’s instruments more frequently as the season progresses. They are also seen in the high latitudes during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.

Build your own rocket

Right here at NASA 101 Build your own rocket.

Dawn's Launch has been moved to September

By William K. Hartmann Courtesy of UCLA
Dawn's Launch to the Asteroid belt mission to Vesta and Ceres has been moved to September. It seems that July's launch window is small and it might conflict with another mission being launched in August.
The launch of NASA's Dawn spacecraft, a mission that will explore the two largest objects in the asteroid belt in an effort to answer questions about the formation of our solar system, has been rescheduled to September.

The decision was made Saturday to move the launch to September after careful review by NASA's Science Mission Directorate officials, working with Dawn mission managers, the Dawn principal investigator, and with the concurrence of the NASA Administrator.

Primary reasons for the move were a combination of highly limited launch opportunities for Dawn in July and the potential impact to launch preparations for the upcoming Phoenix Mars Lander mission, set for early August. A September launch for Dawn maintains all of the science mission goals a July launch would have provided.

Mission Timeline

Launch Summer 2007
Mars gravity assist March 2009
Vesta arrival September 2011
Vesta departure April 2012
Ceres arrival February 2015
End of primary mission July 2015

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dust Storms on Mars

There are concerns that the dust storms will effect the Mars Rovers mission.
A giant dust storm that now covers nearly the entire southern hemisphere of Mars could permanently jeopardize the future of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, officials told SPACE.com today.

The new and potentially bleak outlook is a stark shift from the prognosis earlier this week. Further compounding the threat to the rovers, a second large dust storm has recently appeared on the Red Planet.

The first and largest dusty squall has reduced direct sunlight to Mars' surface by nearly 99 percent, an unprecedented threat for the solar-powered rovers. If the storm keeps up and thickens with even more dust, officials fear the rovers' batteries may empty and silence the robotic explorers forever.

"This is a scary storm," said Mark Lemmon, a planetary scientist at Texas A&M University and member of the rover team. "If it gets any worse, we'll enter into some uncharted territory. There's been a lot of discussion about what we're going to do if (the rovers) don't have enough power to run during the day."

The Rovers are showing wear after 3 years of exploring Mars. Opportunity's robotic arm joint has a broken wire. One of Spirits six wheels is stuck so the other five have to drive it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

NOAA investiages Hurricane Center and more

NOAA does a unannounced review of the National Hurricane Center here:
Center Director Bill Proenza has been chastised by his bosses, after he publicly complained about budget shortfalls and the federal government's failure to replace a key aging satellite that his forecasters use.

Commerce Undersecretary Conrad Lautenbacher said the review that started Monday was launched because he became aware "of concerns about (the hurricane center's) ability to meet its mission." He did not give specifics.

(The conspiracy theorist in me says its Global Warming that is driving this investigation. NOT!) I think it could be that GW and the Katrina response has NOAA worried about the NHC performance.

From the Accuweather Global Warming Blog about the cover up on temperature readings at NOAA sites here:
The Roger Pielke Sr. Research group has been trying without much success to obtain official photos of the U.S. Historical Climate Network (HCN) recording sites from NOAA since 2002. The HCN sites are used to diagnose the monthly and yearly surface temperature anomalies across the United States. The U.S. data is also included in the global temperature anomalies that we are constantly seeing in the media.

Here is the link to Climate Science blog here.

Again, the reporting stations of the HCN are done by volunteers. I think NOAA is protecting them from the conspiracy theorist nuts and possible inconsistencies of reporting data from the stations.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Endevor loaded up in VAB

The Flame Trench folks have it here. Apparently the replacement workers are in force due to a strike with United Space Alliance workers.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More claims of AL GORES's are batted down

Many of the assertions Gore makes in his movie, ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' have been refuted by science, both before and after he made them. Gore can show sincerity in his plea for scientific honesty by publicly acknowledging where science has rebutted his claims.

Read the scientific claims here that are refuted by Scientists.

Venus and Saturn

Minuteman with Saturn and Venus

A nice picture from Spaceweather.com here.
The planets (Saturn and Venus) will be 1 degree apart this weekend.
Science dude has the scoop here.
"When Venus passes south of Saturn July 1, it will mark the closest conjunction between two bright planets this year. The two planets will drift more than 2 Moon-widths (1°) apart just 1 night later. By July 7, Venus and Saturn will be separated by almost 8 Moon-widths (4°)."

By the way, Atlantis is ready for its piggy back ride to KSC via 747 here.