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The Space Log
Space for Everyone      -    May 2003

May.30.03 New Interview

Interview with Constance Adams - check out my latest interview. This time I talk with the architect for the TransHab Inflatable Space Station Module project. Though the module was never built, the technology holds great promise for future structures in space.

May.30.03 Space News

ACCESS over NASA... Philip Chapman proposes a new agency to promote private space development - The Failure of NASA And A Way Out by Philip K. Chapman - SpaceDaily - May.30.03

Making a big splash ... This analysis of an asteroid impact shows the devastation possible even if it lands way out in an ocean -- Massive tsunami sweeps Atlantic Coast in asteroid impact scenario for March 16, 2880 - UCSC PR - May.27.03. Though the threat from this asteroid is far off, a currently unknown asteroid or comet could be headed our way even sooner. We need an infrastructure in space as soon as possible so that when such a threat is discovered, we can do something about it.

China racing to space... This essay proposes that the China space program should be taken seriously - The race into space by Robert Walker - The Washington Times - May.29.03. I don't see China's program as a threat and instead see some competition as a great way to awaken the US to the importance of space development.

Deliveries from space... Current transportation both to and from space has precluded serious development of products in space. The limited amount of microgravity research carried out so far in space as yielded hints of possible industrial products that could eventually be made there but it will be a long time before this work reaches an advanced level of development. As discussed in my Future section, I think that consumer items such as exotic glass and metal artworks may become the first moneymaking products from space.

However, there is still the problem of expensive transportation. One low cost approach for the down trip is to use simple unmanned pods similar to the way that spysats returned cannisters of film before film was replaced by digitial transmission. Now we see that the Japanese are, in fact, exploring this sort of capsule technique for returning space materials - Japan Recovers Capsule That Carried Made-In-Space Product - Space.com - May.30.03

May.27.03 Space News

More great space books ... Richard Godwin of Apogee Books contacted me about their "multitude of new books including the official SpaceDay publication entitled Vision of Future Space Transportation and our latest biography by Sy Liebergot Apollo EECOM."

Apogee's growing collection includes books in many underserved areas especially in space history. See also their space models and toys section. Note that many of their books come with CDs or DVDs.


Associating with Space Art ... Rick Sternbach, Senior Illustrator Emeritus with Star Trek, Paramount Pictures, has become editor for the e-Pulsar webletter of the I.A.A.A. (International Association of Astronomical Artists).

He wrote to tell me they have a new look to the bi-monthly publication (see above). Also, he says the I.A.A.A. is actively seeking new members and associates. You don't need to be an artist to join as an associate - just a keen interest in supporting and following developments in space art.

Microgravity science ain't so bad... As discussed here recently, the sweeping dismissals of microgravity science often heard in the media from some scientists are nothing but rhetorical bombast for their battle to switch money from NASA to the programs they are interested in. However, I also emphasized that microgravity science alone cannot justify the huge costs of NASA's human spaceflight program.

The research done by the Houston Chronicle for the article - Shuttle science: Does it pay off? Space-based research brings modest results - Houston Chronicle - May.24.03 - supports both assertions. The research does produce novel results that get published in top journals. However, none of the research has exactly set the world afire with excitement and can't come close to reasonable cost effectiveness.

Note that the total amount of time in space that has gone into these experiments is very small compared to the many person-years that typically go into a project in a ground based lab. The fact that solid results came from these short studies is very promising.

However, as this article indicates - NASA budget cuts, delays endanger space experiments - HoustonChronicle.com - May.24.03 - the very expensive way that NASA runs the human spaceflight program, means that good science often never gets a chance to be done in space at all.

Ironically, if NASA switched from its science focus for human spaceflight to concentrating on getting the most number of humans into space in the cheapest possible manner, it would actually benefit science done in space far more than what it is doing now.

May.24.03 Space News

National Space Society Meet ... The NSS will meet this weekend in San Jose, California for its annual meeting : National Space Society's 2003 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) . Some of the local press has noticed the space spirit on display - Bay Area spaceniks aim high - Oakland Tribune Online - May.22.03.

I couldn't make it myself but I know at least two bloggers who are attending - Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musing and Michael Mealling of Rocketforge. I expect they will do nice summaries of the meeting if not daily log entries from San Jose.

May.22.03 Space News

Rocketry on the run... The government goes after those subversive rocketeers - May 24th Rocketry Impacts - Space-Rockets.com - May.22.03. (This item found via Transterrestrial Musing.)

Great space shots ... Space Station astronaut grabs a rare photo of two simultaneous Iridium Flares : Double Iridium Flare - Space Station Picture of the Day - May.21.03 ...

... Meanwhile, the Mars Global Surveyor circling Mars takes a break from imaging the surface of the Red Planet to look back home and take a super photo showing both Earth and Jupiter, as well as a Jupiter moon : Alien Earth: Mars Global Surveyor photographs Earth from Mars orbit - Science@NASA - May.22.03

Satellite radio looking real... As mentioned here several times, Satellite Radio has become very important for restoring faith in commercial space following the catastrophes of Iridium and Globalstar. After a rough startup in the midst of an economic slowdown, it looks increasingly likely that the satellite radio ventures will indeed become successful ones.

Though many observers didn't think a pay radio service would attract sufficient subscribers to become profitable, both of the US satellite radio firms are showing strong subscriber growth. With fewer start up problems, XM Radio built a big lead on Sirius and now has over 500,000 subscribers. However, Sirius is overcoming various financial and technical difficulties and has recently reached 60,000 subscribers - Sirius Roars Back At XM - Forbes - May.22.03. Both predict that by the end of 2004 they will attain the two to three million subscribers needed to achieve breakeven.

As this article - Reality May Be Catching Up With Satellite Radio Hype - The Street - May.22.03 - indicates, it looks like satellite radio will be a hit and a big boost to space commerce. [I sold my XM and Sirius stock after their recent run up in price but I may buy some back since things look better and better.]

May.21.03 Space News

Rocketry, students, & the future... Jeff Foust writes about the recent Team America Rocketry Challenge rocketry competition (see pictures below) where "hundreds of high school students gather[ed] in a muddy Virginia field on a rainy Saturday this month" : The young rocketeer's guide to range safety - The Space Review - May.21.03. He reports that "they were there to launch rockets and boost their chances of pursuing a career in space."

May.20.03 Space News

Team rocketry ... Jeff Foust attended the finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge rocketry competition held in Virginia back on May.11.03 and sent me the above photos. (Click on these thumbnails for larger images.)

May.16.03 Space News

SkyLab memories ... America's first space station gets some recognition on its 30th anniversary - Elegy To A Space Station by Rand Simberg - Transterrestrial Musings - May.15.03.

Mars Today... Check out this daily update on Mars :

"Mars as it is Today : The Mars Today poster is produced daily by Howard Houben of the Mars Global Circulation Model Group for the Center for Mars Exploration at NASA's Ames Research Center. The poster depicts current conditions on Mars and its relationship to Earth in six panels."

Space Settlement ruckus... John Carter McKnight's recently wrote an essay (that went a bit overboard in this editor's opinion) in attacking a press release by the Moon Society/ Artemis Society in support of Alan Wasser's Space Settlement Initiative. The Initiative advocates that the government sell plots on the Moon to motivate private development.

However, Michael Mealling notes that Mr. McKnight mistakenly attributed the press release to those groups went it actually came from Wasser's organization : Smells Like Body Odor - Rocket Forge - Michael Mealling ...

Nevertheless, others have vigorously responded to the general theme of the essay that it is a bad idea for activists to push the Initiative until after greater progress is made in basic space development. Mark Whittington, for example, gave an item by item rebutted and Wasser later posted his own response. (Thanks to Rand Simberg for posting updates on this debate.)

See the Ownership of Space Resources... section for more details on the issue of space property ownership. (Note that the Space Settlement Manifesto involves the completely separate topic of whether human settlement of space should be the primary goal for both the government space program and private development. Ownership of property is a side issue.)

May.12.03 Space News

Rocketry Finals...The finals to the Team America Rocketry Challenge, sponsored by NAR & AIA, took place last Saturday in Great Meadow, Virginia. The national model rocket competition for U.S. high school and junior high school students challenges students "to design, build, and fly a multi-stage model rocket carrying two raw eggs and an electronic altimeter to exactly 1500 feet, returning both eggs intact."

Several hundred students from 36 states participated. The top five teams shared a total prize pool of approximately $50,000 in savings bonds, and approximately $9,000 in cash awards will be divided among the sponsoring teachers' departments.

Articles about the event:

Space advocacy meetings...Here are some upcoming meetings of interest to space enthusiasts:

May.9.03 New Sponsors

I would like to thank two new advertisers for recently placing their banners at HobbySpace and helping to support the site:

I'd also like to thank my other sponsors Transorbital, Spaceflori, and SpaceToys.com for their continuing support.

HobbySpace takes up a huge amount of my time and is still far from generating a sufficient income to justify all that but these sponsors definitely help the cause.

- Clark

May.9.03 Space News

Send your name to a Comet... NASA's Deep Impact mission will smack into Comet Tempel 1 on July 4th 2005. Your name can be aboard that spacecraft if you register now at Deep Impact: Send Your Name to a Comet!. See also the article Your Name Could Make a 'Deep Impact' on a Comet - JPL - May.8.03

The Japanese Muses-C mission just left for an asteroid (Japan launches asteroid probe [Muses-C] - BBC - May.9.03 ) carrying names registered under a joint program - "Star Prince" Muses-C - with the ISAS and the Planetary Society of Japan.

Streams of airliners... Checkout this amazing video - Day in the Life of air traffic over the United States - that shows the flow of airliners over the US. Posted at Aerospace Technology Enterprise - NASA. (Link found at Boing Boing.)

May.8.03 Space News

Space Activist Clearinghouse... Peter Kokh is a long time space activist and editor of the Moon Miners Manifesto, a newsletter that has provided a wealth of ideas on lunar exploration and settlement since 1986.

Kokh now has opened The Space Chapter Hub. This site offers a central location for local chapters affiliated with any of the space organizations to share resources, ideas, and plans. The site is fairly new but already provides sections on models & exhibits, transparency sets, chapter handbooks, and more.

Space contests with government purses... The X PRIZE seeks to provide incentives for development of reusable launch vehicle technology. It offers a $10 million dollar prize to the first team to launch a 3 person vehicle to 100km and back safely and repeats the feat with the same vehicle within 2 weeks.

The X PRIZE is patterned after the aviation prizes early in the previous century that gave a tremendous boost to the development of new and improved aircraft. It is often suggested that such prizes should be offered for other space goals such as the first orbital RLV, the first rover on the Moon, and even the first crewed mission to Mars. However, it will be very difficult to raise from private sources the money to fund the prizes to the level that could significantly offset the costs of such undertakings.

So the obvious solution to this is to seek government money, but the precedents for public money supporting such technological prizes is limited. At least until now.

The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced the DARPA Grand Challenge. This contest will award $1 million to the team whose robotic autonomous vehicle makes it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas along a designated route within a specified time limit. The rules are quite tough and its not clear anyone will win the competition in the next year or two. However, the contest will surely motivate many teams to compete and will advance the technology significantly.

See also the article at Smart Robot Autos Tough It Out - Wired - May.7.03.

So with this precedent there is no reason similar prizes could not be offered for achieving important milestones in space development.

Real space science ... I would be the last to claim that pure scientific research carried out by people in space justifies the large expenditures on human spaceflight. Only a long term commitment to space settlement justifies such expense.

However, sweeping proclaimations that no interesting and novel science can come from microgravity research are simply wrong. As this article shows Space station unlocks new world of crystals - New Scientist - May.10.03, very interesting phenomena can be seen and studied in space that are not possible in a high gravity environment.

Other articles and sites listed in the Microgravity section emphasize that a wide range of interesting studies in areas such as combustion science, crystallization, biology are seeing very intersting and promising results that deserve continuing support.

May.7.03 Space News

To space in a heartbeat... Mark Shuttleworth reflects on his trip to space and the aftermath : My year of living famously, by Afronaut Mark [Shuttleworth] - IOL - May.5.03.

Q: "Lastly, will you go to space again?"

A : "I believe so. In another 20 years it will be much more accessible, much more conventional and easier to get a ride up there."

"But hell, if there is an opportunity to fly up there professionally, and do some edge of the envelope risky type work up there, where I'd learn as much, I'd do it in a heartbeat. "

May.5.03 Space News

ZERO-G attention... Peter Diamandis gave an interesting status report on the ZERO-G company, which he co-founded, at the recent Space Access Society meeting. The company will begin this summer to offer rides on a Boeing 727 cargo plane that follow parabolic trajectories to produce periods of weightlessness.

The latest issue of the Economist magazine gives a generally postive review of the company Space tourism - Economist.com - May.1.03.

Satellites boosted Cable TV ... The battle between direct-to-home Satellite TV and cable TV in the US and around the world has become an increasingly competitive one. However, most people don't realize that cable TV itself depends on satellite delivery of programming. (Your local cable providers headquarters is probably surrounded by several giant satellite dishes.) In fact the introduction of this service back in the 1970s is what vastly expanded the number of stations that cable could provide and gave the industry the boost that made it so common today.

SatNews has been posting a series of articles about the history of communications satellites. The latest article - Enter Cable and Broadcasting - Part 8 - discusses the introduction of satellites to the cable industry and in particular discusses the history of Ted Turner's invention of the "superstation".

May.3.03 Space News

Students glide to Mars... The BIG BLUE (Baseline Inflatable Glider Balloon Launch Unmanned Experiment) project is led by students at the University of Kentucky. They are studying designs for gliders that could fly in the Mars atmosphere. They plan to release prototypes at high altitudes where atmospheric density matches that on Mars.

To pack the long wings needed to obtain lift in such thin air the wings are initially flexible and rolled up into a tight package. An epoxy resin is embedded in the material and when the wings unfurl the UV light from the sun cures and hardens the epoxy, making the wings stiff and strong.

For more info see Instant Glider: Just add Light - Science@NASA - May.2.03

Soaking with GPS... Yet another GPS application has appeared : locating remote hot springs for lovers of natural hot tubs. The site Soak.Net -- A place for natural hot springs resources gives the coordinates for springs all over the US.

'Soakers' Use Tech to Get Wet: GPS, Web Site Help Adventuresome Find Natural Hot Springs - ABC News - May.2.03

May.3.03 15 Astronauts Offer Experiences & Artifacts for Auction

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and collectSPACE.com
Organize Sale to Raise Scholarships Titusville, FL

(May 1, 2003) - The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), in cooperation with collectSPACE, the leading online community for space memorabilia collectors, debuted today the online catalog for its first Astronaut Experiences and Space Memorabilia Silent Auction.

Bidding begins May 24, simultaneously online and in Washington, DC at a astronaut-studded gala hosted by Sims & Hankow Enterprises at the Capital Hilton Hotel.

More than 15 former NASA astronauts are participating in the auction by consigning personal possessions or lending their time by taking part in activities with winner bidders.

"This is the first time the members of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation have, in a major effort, offered personal items or services to be sold at a silent auction," said James Lovell, Apollo 13 commander and Chairman of the Foundation. "We became involved only because we have confidence in the sponsors and their ability to produce a first-rate event that will greatly benefit our scholarships."

"We are honored to host this auction for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation," said Robert Pearlman, editor and founder of ollectSPACE.com. "Collectors can now help students succeed in their studies by doing what already comes naturally, buying astronaut memorabilia and experiences."

For his part, Lovell contributed both an Apollo 13 mission emblem that flew to the Moon and a private dinner with him and his wife. "I also wanted to contribute something more personal, and I hit on the idea on hosting a dinner for four, along with my wife Marilyn, at my restaurant, Lovellís of Lake Forest, in the Chicago suburbs. I look forward to sharing a meal with the top bidders," said Lovell.

Robert Crippen, four-time flier including as pilot of the first Space Shuttle launch, is offering to take four people on a personal tour of the Kennedy Space Center. Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott will guide a similar tour at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Apollo 15ís Al Worden will play a round of golf with his lot's winner. John Glenn, the first American to orbit and the oldest person to venture into space aboard a shuttle 37 years later, will hold a telephone conversation with another lucky bidder.

Before he died in 1998, Alan Shepard, Americaís first man in space who later walked on the moon on Apollo 14, left two items to the Foundation, with instructions that they one day be sold to raise money for the scholarship program. Alan had been chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for its first 13 years, until Lovell succeeded him in 1997. The items are rare models of his Mercury Freedom 7 capsule and the Antares Lunar Module that he steered to the surface of the Moon.

The models were presented to Shepard by the manufacturers of his two spacecraft - the Mercury by McDonnell Aircraft in 1961, and the Lunar Module by Grumman Aerospace in 1971. These are exquisitly-crafted replicas that are the centerpieces of Foundationís auction items.

Among the other astronauts consigning items or experiences are Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Mike Collins (Apollo 11), Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14), Charles Duke (Apollo 16), Skylab astronauts Jack Lousma, William Pogue, Jerry Carr, and Paul Weitz, and Space Shuttle commander Rick Hauck.

Through the years, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships to 158 college science and engineering students. ASF currently awards $144,500 annually to 17 students.

"Our short-term goal is to increase the annual payout to $200,000," said Lovell. "This auction should help us meet that target."

About the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation: The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1984 by the six surviving members of Americaís original Mercury astronauts and Mrs. Betty Grissom, widow of the seventh, Gus Grissom, William Douglas, Project Mercury M.D. and businessman Henri Landwirth. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundationís goal is to facilitate the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships to upper level college students and those pursuing masters or doctorates in the fields of science and engineering. The ASFís headquarters is located at the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which is adjacent to Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida. For more information, call 321-269-6119 or visit www.astronautscholarship.org

About collectSPACE.com : Founded on July 20, 1999, the 30th anniversary of the first Moon landing, collectSPACE.com is the leading website dedicated to space memorabilia and artifacts. The site features an exclusive astronaut appearance calendar, original news articles and interviews, a directory of space collectors worldwide and an online memorabilia consignment shop, buySPACE.

May.1.03 Space News

GPS proliferation... GPS is getting used for all sorts of tasks such as tracking grocery carts Satellite-guided carts for frustrated shoppers - CNN.com - Apr.30.03 and for hailing cabs. NPR did a piece this week on geocaching.

Continue to April 2003 articles in archive

HobbySpace News Articles Index 1999-2003


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