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The Space Gazette

Space for Everyone      -     March 2, 2002     -         Vol. 2 No.5

The Spacefaring Web 2.3:
Kind Words for the
NASA Budget

John Carter McKnight

The new NASA budget is rich in subtle messages for the space movement. So far we are making only the most tentative efforts to process, let alone respond to, those messages. I claim no expertise whatsoever in legislative analysis, and I look forward to hearing from those more knowledgeable than I. But there are several points to be made with regard to the recurring themes of this column. In brief, I see the budget as the beginning of a call to complementarity, or a view of NASA as a grouping of nodes in, rather than a militant alternative to, the Spacefaring Web.


Space Tourism

Want to Go to Space?
Take a Number!

Mir Corp's Proposed Commercial Space Stationn
Commercial space station proposed
by MirCorp & Russian Space Agency.
Press Release Sept.4.01

The line to the Soyuz launchpad is getting longer and longer. While Mark Shuttleworth awaits his ride in April, there comes the news that a TV production company wants to book Lance Bass of the NSYNC pop group on the November Soyuz taxi mission to the space station. They would build a whole show around his training and flight, which would probably include him doing a song or two from space.

Then it turned out that ahead of him in line was a Polish businessman, Leszek Czarnecki, who is soon to start spaceflight training in Russia.

There was also an earlier report that two potential space tourists were already in training. (This training can also be arranged as an "adventure" experience for its own sake and doesn't necessarily mean that it will lead to a flight.)

It is well known that Titanic director James Cameron has been trying to arrange a trip to the station. However, he wants to carry out an extensive film project that includes a spacewalk for himself. This involves far more training and use of the station facilities and crew time than the other space tourists. While he would pay for the trip, this will be more of joint NASA/Cameron documentary production than a space tourist trip and will take a long time to arrange if ever.

As indicated in the Space Tourism section, there are also plans by other TV production companies to send game show and "reality TV" contest winners to the ISS.

So a rough estimate indicates at least a dozen seats can be filled already with just the currently publicized requests for space trips.

The Space Tourist Business - Not for the Fainthearted

The space tourism business is certainly undergoing a tumultuous birth. Dennis Tito's flight, for example, was famous not just because it was the first tourist trip to space but also because of the the huge battle that NASA fought to block his flight.

NASA has since become reconciled to tourist visits to the ISS. Recently a set of guidelines were agreed to by all the station partneres NASA Releases Space Traveler Guidelines - Spaceref - Feb.1.02.

Meanwhile, the business of arranging flights on the Russian rockets to the station continues to provide a separate source of entertainment. For the next several years there will be two Soyuz taxi flights per year that will have a spare seat available for tourists. The exact rules, if there are any, for reserving those seats are only known to the Russian Space Agency Rosaviakosmos.

The primary players competing for those seats are MirCorp (and its partner travel agent company Incredible Adventures) and Space Adventures. MirCorp started the whole space tourism business by attempting to arrange a flight for Tito to the Mir station. When Mir was de-orbited, though, he switched to Space Adventures who set up a trip instead to the ISS.

Space Adventures offers many different exotic tourist packages and has led the way in offering space related tourist adventures such as zero-gravity plane flights, cosmonaut training, and high altitude MIG jet fighter flights. It is even taking reservations for sub-orbital rocket rides in a few years when a suitable vehicle is available.

There apparently is some bad blood between the two companies over the Tito arrangements. Walt Anderson, the billionaire investor in MirCorp, wrote an angry letter to Aviation Week & Space Technology last summer stating that Space Adventures had little or nothing to do with Tito's trip.

When MirCorp announced that it was negotiating the seat for Lance, a spokesman for Rosaviakosmos angrily proclaimed that MirCorp had no right to sell seats on the Soyuz: Russia says 'N Sync's Bass will not blast off - Reuters/Yahoo - Feb.21.02. However, these statements are probably just the opening salvos in negotiations to sell the seats to the highest bidder. Similar announcements were made during the long period leading up to Tito's flight and last fall we heard that Stallworth's flight had been canceled after his requests for extra time on the station and other requirements were rejected.

The Start of Something Big?

While the current space tourism situation is messy, it is tremendously encouraging that even at $20 million per shot there exists such a big demand for seats. This indicates that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and a huge market awaits for those who can lower the launch prices significantly.

For interesting discussions on the future of space tourism, see the proceedings from the Space Tourism Conference, June 25, 2001 held in Washington, D.C.

Space Movies

Dish - An Australian Delight

The movie Dish, released in 2000, was one of the most successful movies in Australian history. The story, though, is far from the big budget action movie - i.e. Mad Max style - that one might expect for such big ticket sales.

Instead the film is based on the true story of Australia's role in tracking and communicating with the Apollo spacecraft via a radio telescope located near a small town in New South Wales called Parkes.

The film follows the antics of a likable bunch of small town characters in the days leading up to July 20, 1969 as they deal with suddenly becoming crucial links in humankind's greatest feat.

By the accident of orbital mechanics and the spin of the earth, they are the ones needed to receive the signals when Armstrong sets foot on the Moon. If they screw up, the whole world will know it.

"Heartfelt ","gentle, joyful piece of comedy", "real sense of soul", and "warm, uplifting and inspiring" are the kind of descriptions given by critics to the film and they certainly fit.

Unfortunately, because of the off-beat storyline and easy going manner of the movie, when the film reached the US in 2001, it got essentially zero marketing and very limited distribution.

However, it's now available on DVD and videotape. I recently watched the DVD version and found it a wonderful tribute to "real" people and their reactions to an amazing situation. The movie also brings a genuine sense of wonder and delight in the reality of humans actually going to the Moon.

I definitely give the film the HobbySpace 5 Sstars recommendation.

(Actually, as outlined by Mike Dinn's website, the radio telescope at Honeysuckle Creek was the lead facility in communicating with the Apollo spacecraft and Parkes only took a limited supporting role. However, the film was only inspired by the events of the time and could just as easily been set in Honeysuckle Creek.)

Recent Link Highlights

Here are some items of interest that have been added to HobbySpace recently:

Simulators - check out Eagle Lander 3D. Ron Monsen's sophisticated 3D simulation of the Apollo lunar lander is now available for downloading.(~8MB)

Space Services - continuing to expand this section that lists various services that deal directly with the consumer. It now includes resources about direct-to-home TV & internet, satellite radio, satellite phones, and GPS.

Find previous space news in
Articles Index 1999-2002


See also  
Space Headlines
RLV News
News Links

The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG

Space Music

Yuri's Night --
Party On, Space Dude...

Yuri's Night: The World Space Party

Last year the Yuri's Night group helped to organize parties across the globe in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Yuri Gargarin's, and humankind's, first flight into space.

Happily, the organizers are aiming to make April 12 into an annual space party day.

Be sure to attend or hold a party this year in celebration of both Yuri's triumph and the joy of space exploration.


John Glenn Celebrates
Anniversary of his First Spaceflight

February 20th marked the 40th anniversary of John Glenn's Mercury flight in which he became the first American to orbit the earth.

A number of special events marked the occasion. The original remaining Mercury astronauts visited the Kennedy Space Center and reminisced about the exciting early days of the US space program.

Last of Mercury 7 mark historic flight into orbit - Florida Today - Feb.25.02

Mercury crew set for visit to KSC - Florida Today - Feb.19.02 (includes 2 video clips)

Glenn also gave the Wernher von Braun Memorial Lecture at the National Air & Space museum. You can watch a 90min clip of the speech streamed from CSPAN (check CSPAN's archives if no longer listed.)

Find more about John Glenn in the biography section of Space History.

Merteorite Collecting

Mars Meteorites

The world of meterorite collecting has been excited by the discovery of 5 Mars meteorites in Antarctica, Oman and the Sahara.

Martian rocks bonanza - BBC - Jan.28.02
Rock hunters bag five Mars meteorites - CNN.com - Jan.24.02

These are among the most rare and desired of all meteorites and draw top prices.

See the Mars Meteorites page at JPL for more information about the recent finds.

To see how a meteorite is identified as coming from Mars, check the links in the Space Life section.

As indicated above, meteorites are most often found in exotic locations. The adventure travel agency Space Adventures recently organized a trip to Antarctica just to hunt for meteorites. Read about their discoveries atthe SA website: Space Adventures Team Discovers Over 30 Meteorites In Antarctica - Space Adventures PR - Jan.29.02

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