Moon Race Left an Empty Space
John F. Kennedy
Library recently released an audio
recording from November 21, 1962 made in the White House Cabinet
Room where a spirited discussion took place among Kennedy, the NASA
administrator James Webb and several other participants.
Kennedy wanted Webb to understand fully
that the Moon landing was the top,and really only, priority. Webb
argued for a broad program of science and technology development
which would set the stage for the Moon landing but also build a
lasting space infrastructure.
Kennedy, however, emphasized that he
was "not that interested in space" and the competition
with the Soviets was the only justification for the space program
and its enormous budget.
Space enthusiasts have long lamented
the fact that after the huge expenditure for Apollo there was, in
fact, little real space infrastructure left. No low cost access
to space, no permanent Moon base or space station, and no human
Mars exploration program.
The tight schedule for landing on the
Moon within a decade forced the quick and dirty capsule on a
missile approach rather than an X-15 spaceplane derivative like
While getting to the Moon was a huge
and proud accomplishment, more foresight by the leadership might
have created a true spacefaring nation.
Countdown * RLV
Poly Space Systems Starbooster 2001-C successfully
took off and landed safely on May 20, 2001.
Student rocketeers aim for increasingly ambitious
goals these days as illustrated by two separate projects. The projects
involve not only powerful engines and sizable airframes but also
intend the rockets to possess full reusability.
The student engineering
Poly Space Systems consists primarily of students
at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
It has made progress on a technology demonstrator project sponsored
by NASA Langley and the California
Space Authority and in cooperation with Starcraft
They are developing sub-scale models
of Buzz Aldrin's StarBooster
design. Recently they launched a 10ft, 80lb (~36kg) model of
the winged vehicle. After reaching 3500 ft. the vehicle began
a dive downward to gain airspeed and then, under radio ground
control, pulled up into a horizontal glide.
After another dive and pull up
into level flight, the craft was brought down to 1500 ft where
it popped out a parachute for a safe landing:
The video at [--Time Out--]StarBooster
2001-C Launch (MPEG Format) shows the vehicle initially diving
vertically and then pulling up, to the cheers of onlookers, to level
The other project involves a collaboration of students
at the AIAA
CSULB Student Chapter of California State University of Long
Beach with the company Garvey
Spacecraft Corporation, and the amateur rocket club Reaction
Rocket Society. The students received a $110k grant from the
The collaboration recently launched the Kimbo
VI / Prospector 1 for its first successful flight. The vehicle
rode to 8000ft on a 1000 lbf-thrust engine developed by CSULB.
All components of the rocket were recovered undamaged.
series of rockets aims to develop low cost reusable technologies.
The series begun when John Garvey of Garvey
Spacecraft Corporation sought to continue the progress made
by the DC-X project but on an even lower budget.
Note that these rockets are not intended to break
altitude records. The emphasis is on robust reusability and gradually
increasing the size and sophistication of the vehicles.
Building * Space
Students Given Cheap Access to Edge of Space
Launch costs to orbit remain very high
- order of $10000/kg - and launch arrangements require complicated
negotiations and long lead times. For student projects, especially
in high schools and undergraduate colleges, this means the payloads
often reach space long after many students who contributed to the
project graduate. Seeing a project through from beginning to end,
the ideal learning situation, becomes difficult in a 1-2 year time
of Space Sciences gets around this
problem by launching student payloads on high altitude balloons.
They don't travel nearly as high as satellites but they get above
a good deal of the atomosphere and provide many of the same technical
challenges. Balloons, of course, also offer much lower costs and
is a a non-profit organization in Denver, Colorado that promotes
science and education. Using amateur radio projects riding on high
altitude balloon, the group has launched and recovered over 40 student
payloads since 1990. The balloons typically reach 100,000 ft (~33km),
well into the stratosphere.
See their website
and these links for more information about their innovative projects:
Planet Wide Dust Storms:
Catch the Latest Mars Weather Reports
Despite thin air and very cold, dry
conditions, the Mars atmosphere is nevertheless remarkably dynamic.
From planetwide dust storms to wide temperature variations, Mars
weather will offer residents a plentiful topic for small talk just
like on earth.
Global Surveyor Mission Status monitors the planet with visible
light cameras and other sensors. You can find animations of recent
dust storms, temperature variations and other weather information
at these MGS sites:
(See also the earlier report
on bizzare features seen in Martian images and typically caused
by temperature variations on a seasonal basis.)
First Geocaching, Now Geodashing
Discussed here in a report
back in January, the GPS treasuring hunting game Geocaching
continues to grow in popularity. Many websites
now provide lots of info and cache locations for your treasure hunting
The newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav
now gets hundreds of messages a day on subjects such as geocaching,
hardware tips, maps, etc.
New GPS activities also have appeared.
for example, involves competing with others to reach all of a set
of dashpoints (i.e. waypoints or landmarks identified by their longitude/latitude
coordinates) in the shortest amount of time. The dashpoints could
be confined in an area reachable in a day or to locations scattered
around the whole world.
A less frantic activity is the
GPS Adventure Game in which you attempt to complete a cross-word
puzzle. Each waypoint comes with a clue. You will need combine the
clue with what you see at the landmark to figure out the word or
phrase. For example, a clue of "bird or fowl" is not very
meaningful until you go to the waypoint in front of the NBC building
in New York City. The NBC logo is the peacock.
Perhaps the simplest GPS recreation
is simply to exchange waypoint lists with fellow explorers. These
lists provide locations for interesting, or just hard to find, landmarks
that you reach sequentially on hikes in the wilderness or just a
drive in the country.