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The Space Gazette

Space for Everyone      -     August 2, 2002     -         Vol. 2 No.15

The Spacefaring Web 2.11:
Writing in the Infrared

John Carter McKnight

Ideas and technologies that were recently only the wildest speculation now are hotly, even violently, debated worldwide. But not the prospect of a spacefaring future. While many address opportunities in space, their work seems to fall into a cultural blind spot, present but unseen. It's as if they were writing in the infrared: something is there, discernable by anyone sufficiently attuned. The world at large, though, literally cannot see the writing on the wall.


Barsoom's Legacy

John Carter McKnight

Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known as the creator of Tarzan, wrote ten novels set on a fictional Mars known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. Published between 1912 and 1948, these popular stories provided seminal inspiration for generations of youngsters who would grow into scientists and science fiction writers, including the likes of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan. Writing in 1971, Bradbury (Mars and the Mind of Man, p.17) went so far as to say that "I also admit the terrible fact that Edgar Rice Burroughs was in some ways my father.. thousands of wild-eyed boys have fallen in love with [him] and had their lives changed forever. He has probably changed more destinies than any other writer in American history." Yet within a few years of Bradbury's writing, Barsoom had virtually disappeared from bookstore shelves and the popular imagination. Burroughs' decline holds important lessons for the marketing of Mars, as entertainment, educational subject, governmental program or private initiative.


Investing: In Space Services, Reusable Spacecraft

Space ServiceSats
Cargo to ISS, satellite repair, etc ...

USAF Factsheet for SMV
The US Air Force's Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV) concept.

When a satellite runs out of the fuel needed to maintain its orbit and attitude, no gas truck is available nearby for a fill-up.

Proposals for dedicated unmanned vehicles to service satellites and space stations have long been around but are only now obtaining real funding.

The Air Force, for example, is keen on launching a Space Maneuver Vehicle that could provide a range of services including refueling of spy satellites, fast reconnaissance in an emergency (e.g. to look at ground targets for which no spysat will soon have an opportunity to observe), and surveillance and investigation of unknown space objects.

The X-37 project, along with the sub-scale X-40 test vehicle, is intended to develop the technology for such an SMV. The SMV could be launched on top of an expendable rocket or in a shuttle bay and after spending up to a year in orbit, would return to earth for refurbishment and reuse.

The DARPA Orbital Express Space Operations Architecture (ASTRO) program is developing a non-reusable spacecraft that will demonstrate "on orbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites". Reconfiguring refers to replacing modules and other hardware on the target satellite. This would require a manipulator arm with considerable dexterity.

Cargo Vans to the ISS

The International Space Station currently relies on the Space Shuttle and Russian Progress module flights for fresh supplies. Only the shuttle can take cargo, such as materials generated by microgravity experiments, back to earth.

NASA would like to have a backup to these vehicles and has begun the "Alternate Access" program to encourage private firms to develop new spacecraft to carry out these service missions.

Recently, SLI announced that it would spread $10.8 million among four companies for Alternate Access studies:

NASA awards contracts to investigate commercial services to supply International Space Station - NASA PR - July.12.02

The two largest aerospace companes, Boeing and Lockheed Martin were included, not surprisingly, but the other two winners were the small startup companies Andrews Space & Technology, and Constellation Services International.

CSI includes several space activists including Charles E. Miller, founder of ProSpace and David W. Anderman, a director of Space Frontier Foundation. Walt Anderson is also an advisor.

CSI will obtain $2.3 million grant to develop further the design of its LEO Express(SM) Space Cargo System that could be launched on an expendable or a reusable like Kistler Aerospace's K-1.

Andews is teaming with Alenia Spazio, Spacehab, Northrop-Grumman to "evaluate innovative technologies including recoverable, reusable and expendable systems as well as ballistic and winged re-entry designs."

The Incentives Approach

The Alternate Access program is a move towards the incentive approach to development of new spacecraft and launch vehicle that space activists have been pushing NASA to follow. Instead of dictating to contractors exactly how vehicles should be built, NASA will just state what final goal it has and the contractors can decide for themselves how best to fulfill that goal.

In the Space Investing section, the In Space Services category lists some companies aiming to develop on orbit servicing as well as assembly of spacecraft.

  Space Music

Happenings in MusicSpace

There have been some interesting news items in the world of space music recently:

Moby Space

The rock musician Moby recently got a tour of the Johnson Space Center and was quite impressed. See his online log (select the item about the Houston Visit on July 17, 2002) for his impressions and the article Pop star Moby goes to space camp - CNN.com - July.29.02

His most recent album includes We Are All Made Of Stars (3 related video webcasts available at the Moby website), which he performed on the Saturday Nigh Live TV show.

Space Filk Collectables

This July an original Minus Ten and Counting cassette tape was sold on eBay for $162.50. The tape was the first anthology of space filk when it was released in 1983. Various copyright conflicts have prevented it from being re-released in CD.

Sun Rings

Terry Riley's new Sun Rings composition will premier this fall in a concert by the Kronos Quartet. The NASA commissioned work incorporates audio clips of radio transmissions from the Voyager spacecraft. Articles about the piece have begun to appear:

Other Space News and Links of Interest

Amateur Astronomers Save Us from Killer Asteroid: As mentioned here many times and discussed in the Astronomy section, amateurs still make serious contributions to science. Discoveries of asteroids, in particular, are frequently first made by amateurs.

Recently, there were many news stories about the possibility that an asteroid might impact the Earth in 2019: Caveat Impactor - Science@NASA - July.26.02.

Now some amateur astronomers report that their orbit measurements of the asteroid's orbit indicate the large body will not, in fact, come significantly close to the earth:
2019 asteroid given all clear: New observations made by amateur astronomers in Austria have ruled out the chance of a two-kilometre asteroid hitting the Earth on 1 February 2019. - New Scientist - July.30.02

Anyone with a pair of binoculars will have a chance to see an asteroid on August 18th when 2002 NY2 passes just 1.3 times farther away than the Moon.

Look at that Asteroid: A big space rock will soon come so close to Earth that sky watchers can see it through binoculars. - Science@NASA - July.30.02

Arctic Mars Log: Check out Robert Zubrin's Letters from Mars during his stay at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) for its 2002 summer session that recently ended.

Student Astronomers via the Net - As discussed here several times, there are increasing opportunities available for students to use advanced and very powerful telescopes via the internet.

For example, some high school students will soon be making observations remotely into the ultra-clear skys above the mountains of Chile: U.S. High School Students To Control Web Telescope In Chile - ScienceDaily Magazine - July.18.02

See the Robotic Telescopes sub-section of Astronomy for more information on remote observation programs for students and amateurs.


[Updated Aug.3.02]

Find previous space news in
Articles Index 1999-2002


See also  
Space Headlines
RLV News
News Links

Activism, SpaceLife: Moon

Lunar Renaissance

The Moon is making a comeback on Earth. Humans last set foot on our nearest celestial neighbor in 1972. Now there are increasing calls to return, starting with robotic landers.

The National Research Council included a mission to the south pole of the Moon on its latest list of priorities recommended to NASA: New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy - NRC - July.02.

The report states that "Exploring a large impact basin located near the lunar South Pole will provide insight into the early history of the Earth-Moon system".

NASA's Robotic Return Mission to the Moon - Space.com - Aug.1.02

Also, the indications of water ice detected by the Lunar Prospector could be investigated directly.

At the recent Return to the Moon Symposium, sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation, scientists, engineers, and space enthusiasts gather to discuss a wide range of possible lunar missions.

Astronomy observatories on the far side, solar arrays to gather power to beam to earth, electrolysis of ice to provide LOX/LH for rockets, lunar cemetaries, and knowledge databanks safeguarded in lunar repositories were some of the projects discussed.

Europe is also showing increasing enthusiasm for lunar exploration. ESA, in fact, will launch the SMART-1 probe to the moon in 2003.

The low cost technology demonstrator will use a high resolution camera to image the lunar surface and also carry a number of other instruments to study the Moon.

In June at the two week long lunararchitecture-lunar base 2002 workshop in Nordwijk , The Netherlands, students worked with senior scientists and engineers to examine a number of lunar base designs. Inflatable structures were particularly popular:
Scientists, Dreamers Continue Refining Ideas for Future Lunar Bases - Space.com - July.18.02

Private companies are also planning missions to the Moon. Transorbital will send within a year or so an orbiter that will broadcast high definition TV imagery of the surface. The spacecraft will also carry a time capsule with messages and mementos from paying customers.

LunaCorp is making slow progress in gathering sponsors to pay for its lunar rover and Applied Space Resources is working on its commercial sample return mission.
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