Dec.31, 2003 Space News
Mars jamboree... The Planetary
Society is hosting a two day event in Pasadena on January 3-4 to
celebrate (they hope!) the landing of the Spirit rover on Mars.
"Wild About Mars" With The Planetary Society - Dec.29.03.
About Mars spectacular will include big array of
Special Guests such as Ray Bradbury. For those who can't make
it to Pasadena there will be some webcasts.
Note: NASA news conferences
and other programs about the Mars and Stardust missions will be
webcast. Check the Spacecast
section here for links to NASA TV sites. See the NASA
TV Landing Page for schedules of broadcasts
Other 2003 reviews... In the
past year Robert Pearlman continued to develop collectSpace,
the premier space memorabilia site. Here is his survey of 2003:
history shaped 2003 events" - collectSPACE - Dec.31.03
... Rand Simberg reviews major
space developments in 2003 and what may develop in the coming year:
with the old, in with the new - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.31.03
2003 - a good
year for private space development and public participation.
Here are some of the highlights:
- On Dec.17th SpaceShipOne
flew the first supersonic flight for a privately developed vehicle.
Clearly in the lead to win the X PRIZE in 2004.
- Several other suborbital RLV projects made solid progress
and show increasing professionalism. Other items of interest:
- Projects like Canadian
Vinci, and Starchaser
succeeded in attracting lots of sponsors.
Rockets began hiring engineers and establishing itself
in Norman, Oklahoma. While it is entered in the X PRIZE,
the company primarily is aiming at the remote sensing and
reconaissance market with its large payload launcher.
- Elon Musk's SpaceX
unveiled in Washington D.C. the Falcon
I, which will become the first orbital launcher developed
entirely with private funds.
- The Columbia disaster led to a suspension of tourist flights
to the ISS but high interest remained. In December Space Adventures
that two persons have purchased rides on Soyuz capsules to the
Touch the Stars, the space music album long in development;
was released in December.
- Patti Labelle gave a heart-wrenching performance of Way
Up There, written by Tena
Clark, during the memorial for the Columbia astronauts
at the National Cathedral in Washington DC.
Dec.29, 2003 Space News
Mars the God of War leads 2
to 1 going into the second half of Earth's latest attack on its
red neighbor. As Rocket Man notes - Mars
- A 60% Failure Rate - Rocket Man Blog - Dec.27.03, the failure
of the Japanese Nozomi probe and the likely failure of the Beagle
2 lander continue a tale of woe interrupted only by the occasional
success such as the Mars Express.
We should remember, though, that space has offered many tough challenges
that were eventually overcome. It took about a dozen launches before
the Air Force finally suceeded in recovering its first spy satellite
photos of the Soviet Union during the start of the space age. It
took NASA nearly as many tries to land safely an unmanned vehicle
on the Moon in the years leading up to the Apollo manned landings.
The Martian missions have been spread out over many decades due
to the long distances and big budgets involved. So the practice-makes-close-to-perfect
process has been stretched out as well. I hope the two Mars rover
missions in January will show that we are nearing the upper half
of the learning curve and will result in a final score of 3 to 2
over the Mars beast.
Note: Don't give up hope completely on the Beagle 2. It has happened
before that a spacecraft has been nearly given up for dead and then
suddenly it sprang to life. For example, the AMSAT
AO-40 satellite launched in November 15, 2000 went silent
after it fired its booster to go into a higher orbit. Most people
assumed the booster had exploded and destroyed the spacecraft. But
efforts to contact it continued for several weeks and the faithful
were rewarded when on Christmas day the satellite finally responded
to ground commands. Perhaps in this case, the Beagle's silent night
will lead to a joyous New Year revival.
Aerospace art contest is sponsored
annually by Aviation Week. The latest issue shows the winners and
is available on line: Aviation
Week's Aerospace Art Awards In Cooporation With The American Society
of Aviation Artists - AWST - Dec.28.03
Satellite radio rising steadily
in popularity and stock price: Critic's
Notebook: High-Tech Quirkiness Restores Radio's Magic - NY Times
- Dec.26.03 * Satellite
Radio Is On the Rise : XM, Sirius Report Improved Sales - Washington
Post - Dec.27.03
Space in Miniature... Space
modeler and author Mike Mackowski has released another of his monographs
on the art of building rocket and spacecraft scale models:
Apollo CSM Spacecraft
Modeling Book Published
The sixth book in the Space In Miniature (S.I.M.) series, "Apollo
CSM," has just been published. This volume, the first of a pair
on the Apollo spacecraft, describes the configuration history
of the Command and Service Module (CSM) that carried astronauts
to the moon and back. The magazine-style publication has 61 pages
of descriptive text, drawings, and photos designed to provide
the modeler with all the information needed to build an accurate
scale reproduction of any of the manned Apollo missions.
The historical section of this volume was written by David Weeks,
who also created the numerous drawings that show all of the spacecraft's
colors and markings and how they varied from the early Block I
vehicles, through the Block II lunar-capable spacecraft, to the
variations for Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Chronological
tables of all the Apollo missions, NASA drawings, and Weeks' text
explain how the spacecraft evolved over those programs. There
is also a thorough section on modeling the Apollo CSM, including
a detailed review by Karl Dodenhoff of the Monogram 1/32nd scale
kit, a list of all kits ever produced of the CSM, plus over twenty
The editor of the series, Mike Mackowski, points out that while
the book is printed in black ink, links to color versions of all
of the photos used are available at the SIM website, www.spaceinminiature.com.
As with the other books in the series ("A Scale Spacecraft Primer,"
"Gemini," "Space Shuttle," "Soviet Spacecraft," and "Mercury"),
the new book is not intended to be a history of the Apollo program.
Instead, it is designed to provide the serious "real space" modeler
with the scale data and modeling information that cannot be found
anywhere else. Mackowski is an aerospace engineer and long-time
modeler who is recognized by many members of the International
Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS) as one of the top experts on spacecraft
More information and on line ordering is available at www.spaceinminiature.com.
Mike can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 1022 W. Juanita Ave., Gilbert, Arizona, USA 85233-2558.
Dec.24, 2003 Space News
Happy Holidays to Everybody!! Postings
will be infrequent over the next week or so. I'll be in Knoxville,
Tennessee visiting relatives and friends.
The Rocket Company saga continues...
I've posted two
new chapters for your holiday reading.
Mars news... For quick listing
of news sites for the latest on the Mars missions, see this list
in the Living Space section. You may also want to use
Touch the Stars
Space music CD (hear mp3s on line)
Christmas came early for me
last week when I got a pre-release copy of the space music album
Touch the Stars from Prometheus
Music. This project
has been in development for several years and I've mentioned it
many times. It was worth the wait! The music is super (mp3s
of several of the songs are available on line). The seventeen songs
include a wonderfully diverse selection of artists and musical styles.
Producers Kristoph Klover and Eli Goldberg have done a wonderful
job with a long and very challenging project. The packaging is top
quality and includes a 31 page (Yes, 31! Count'em) booklet with
excellent graphics, all of the lyrics, and essays by Robert Zubrin
Zubrin gives the history of the project, which began with a space
song contest in 1997 sponsored by the National
Space Society. With its success, he later had the Mars
Society hold its own Mars song contest. The entries on the CD
include winning songs from these competitions, other original music
and classic filk
tunes such as Jordin Kare's Fire
in the Sky. (Its lyrics left Buzz Aldrin in tears in the
aftermath of Columbia.) These songs are sure to become the folk
songs and anthems of our future space communities.
The CD will become available on Dec.30th but you can pre-order
Dec.23, 2003 Space News
Which imperative to choose?
The Space Imperatives Conference on December 18th in Washington
DC, sponsored by Aviation Week and organized by Buzz Aldrin, offered
a full day of talks and discussions on the future of US space policy.
Panelists Argue Cases For Moon, Mars Exploration - Aerospace Daily
A segment of the meeting was broadcast on CSPAN.
The video will be on line for a couple of weeks (enter "space"
in the video search.)
Most of the discussion was about where to go - the Moon or Mars.
Rand Simberg says they should have focused instead on why we go
into space in the first place (hint: it's not for science.) A
Vision, Not a Destination - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.22.03
Taylor Dinerman argues that until NASA gets more money, new missions
are not feasible anyway: (Space)
history accelerates by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Dec.22.03
It wasn't all just NASA and the major aerospace conglomerates dominiating
discussions in Washington last week: Jeff
Greason's speech at the AvWeek "Century of Flight" celebration at
the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Washington D.C. - XCOR Aerospace
Comet encounter... Mars will
be getting everybody's attention in the next few weeks as the Beagle
2, Mars Express, and the US Mars rovers assault the Red Planet.
However, we shouldn't ignore the Stardust
spacecraft that will encounter the Wild 2 comet on January 2 and
grab some of its material for return to the earth: On
comet! Vehicle blitzin' toward meeting: Scientists hope flyby in
space delivers gift - tiny bits of debris - Rocky Mountain News
- Dec.23.03 (via spacetoday.net)
Dec.22, 2003 Space News
Is your name on Mars? The NASA
program to invite the public to put their name on a DVD that
would go with the Mars rovers was a big success: 'Message
in a bottle' to Mars takes on form of mini-DVDs: Robotic explorers
to carry names of 4 million Earthlings - HoustonChronicle.com -
Dec.21.03 . I hope and expect such vicarious
participation in space travel will become common.
Dec.21, 2003 Space News
Private space & science...
From his writings and appearances in television documentaries and
interviews, I've always found Timothy
Ferris to be an articulate and engaging commentator on astronomy
and space science. However, as far as space development is concerned,
he usually took the conventional NASA/government centered view on
how it will proceed. So I was quite surprised by his editorial -
New Pathway to the Stars by Timothy Ferris - NY Times - Dec.21.03
- in which he holds space entrepreneurs to be key players in future
space development, particularly with regard to developing a lunar
The astronomer Sir Martin Rees has also recently promoted space
entreprenourship as a strong component in space development (see
News item and this article)
and believes that it will assist science as well. Perhaps this is
part of a trend. Though Ferris is not a researcher himself, he has
strong ties to the astrophysics and space science community. So
I hope that their views will influence not only the general public
but also the many scientists who still take it for granted that
space should always remain an Antarctic-like reserve just for robotic
exploration and little else.
News briefs ... From a newsgroup
posting I came across this paper
model of the ISS and of other
spacecraft at the Italian MARS
Center(Microgravity Advanced Research and Support Center)....
... A honeymoon suite with
a view: Russia
touts "space honeymoon" for 40 million dollars - SpaceDaily - Dec.21.03
Dec.20, 2003 Space News
Tech : New ways to fly ...
One hundred years after the Wright Brothers first powered flight,
we tend to take flying for granted and to think that the basic technology
and science of flight has reached a plateau. In fact, new facets
of aerodynamics and ways to exploit them continue to appear and
probably will indefinitely.
For example, I've mentioned several times the Fanwing,
invented by amateur aviation enthusiast Patrick Peebles. The fanwing
uses a completely new technique for creating lift. A fan, similar
to the blades in a push lawn mower, pulls air over the top of the
wing and thus creates lift and is very efficient in doing so.
Several prototypes, each of increasing size, have now proven the
concept. The latest prototype, which lifted 8kg, shows that the
system could already provide for a lightweight portable UAV that
could, for example, carry video equipment for reconaissance. (See
The prototypes have show that fanwing vehicles cannot stall, offer
low fuel consumption, can takeoff in a short distance (VTOL may
eventually be possible), and possess several other advantages.
Today I came across an article about yet another flying technique:
Saucer May Yet Take Flight - Wired - Dec.20.03. I had heard
of the Ekip years ago but lost track of the project. This site Aviation
Concern "EKIP" provides a lot of information on the very odd
I don't understand the aerodynamics of how it works but somehow
the round, beetle-like shape of the body provides lift. The Ekip
Flying vehicles "EKIP" are a new generation of aircraft of high
load-carrying capacity, capable to perform takeoff and landing
from airfields of any category, from the ground and water surfaces.
Specific costs of cargo and passenger transportation aboard the
flying vehicles "EKIP" are 1.3-1.5 times lower than on modern
airplanes. The aircraft "EKIP" ensure more comfort for the passengers
and higher level of safety of flight.
Note that it uses an air cushion, hover technique for takeoff and
landing. A small model version has now flown.
The Russian concern has been struggling for years to raise money
to build a large prototype. Now, according to the Wired article,
the US Navy will collaborate with the Russians to build a 230kg
As we also saw this week with the supersonic flight of the SpaceShopOne,
there are many aerospace innovations and surprises awaiting us in
the next hundred years.
Dec.19, 2003 Space News
Mars, England, and money...
Mars has begun to make the headlines as the ESA and NASA missions
close in on the Red Planet. The Planetary Society offers an interesting
profile of the Beagle 2 project and its main proponent in Man
with a Mars Mission: The Making of Beagle 2 - Planetary Society
Among other things, this article emphasizes the difficulties there
were in raising money for the British Beagle 2 project. Of all the
countries involved in space, Britain has made its opposition to
manned space the most explicit. No British funds go even indirectly
to manned projects. I know there are many social and historical
reasons for this but probably one of the primary reasons is the
greater influence on governmental policy in Britain by academic
scientists than in other countries.
It has long been de rigour in scientific circles to oppose human
spaceflight programs. Scientists argue that the money
should go to their projects, which they hold to be much more productive
and beneficial than putting people into space. However, some scientists,
such as the late Carl Sagan, pointed out that space science funding
in the US actually rose and fell along with funding for human spaceflight.
This makes sense because both types of ventures are expensive, they
both have long term rather than short term payoffs, and enthusiasm
for human spaceflight always means enthusiasm for robotic missions
as well since they are needed as forerunners.
We see in the case of Britain that zeroing out human spaceflight
funding did not produce a windfall for space science. In fact, it
probably reduced funding for space science as well because without
the excitement and visibility of a manned program there resulted
lower interest in all types of space exploration.
Note that Britain is not a poor country. It has enjoyed solid growth
since its economic nadir of the 1970s and now has per capita GDP
as high as France and Germany. Britain could well afford a much
more vigorous and exciting space program but until such a program
includes human spaceflight, I doubt that, even with a successful
Beagle 2 mission, their program will go much beyond its current
News briefs ... Sounds like
the space tourist mission to the ISS will take place even if the
shuttle is not back in service: Space
tourist could be shipped to ISS in 2004 - ITAR-TASS - Dec.19.03
will carry out another space burial mission this April.
Reuters reports on their business: Holiday
givers turn to star calls, moon burials - Yahoo/Reuters - Dec.19.03
... The Spitzer
Space Telescope (originally called the Space Infrared Telescope
Facility) goes into operation: NASA
Releases Dazzling Images From New Space Telescope - NASA - Dec.18.03...
... Robert Zubrin says Mars
analog simulations prove the value of people for exploring the Red
pioneer says simulation isn't just a game: Arctic mission shows
that humans can outdo robots, a commander claims - MSNBC - Dec.18.03
Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth: Find Photos zoom
in on a particular location, such as your home town, with the imagery
taken by astronauts from orbit.
Tech brief ... Check out the
amazing video of the Sony Qrio robot running, throwing and dancing:
Mobs - Qrio robot - Dec.18.03 * 'Running'
Robot Gets Off Ground - Wired - Dec.18.03
Dec.18, 2003 Space News
Mars analog exploration ... The
Association of Mars
Explorers - The Mars Club is an "association for explorers
of Mars or the Mars-analog environments on Earth." The group's
19 Founding members included Nobel Laureate Baruch Blumberg and
Charles Cockell leads the organization. The group promotes the exploration
of the amazingly diverse Martian surface. Until there are human
missions there, they will focus on Mars-like areas on Earth:
Martian analog environments are environments that are similar
to Mars, like regions in Antarctica or the Arctic. At the time
of writing there have been no human expeditions to Mars. Those
that have an interest in Martian exploration can find expression
of their ambitions through these environments. Mars analog environments
also underscore the connections between Earth and Mars explorers
and their common vision of exploration.
of Mars Explorers calls for station on Mars - SpaceRef - Dec.17.03
Astronomy outreach... The Astronomical
Society of the Pacific and NASA announced recently the the formation
of the Night
Sky Network - a nationwide coalition of astromy clubs to promote
astronomy to the public. They will provide astronomy clubs with
educational materials and training to assist with public outreach
Outreach ToolKits and Training vailable from the Astronomical Society
of the Pacific and NASA - Astronomical Society of the Pacific -
Space jumping from suborbital
vehicles could become a thrill sport. Cheryl Stearns is a pioneer
in the pursuit of practical space
thin air: Early in 2005, champion skydiver Cheryl Stearns will make
the highest free-fall jump in history from the edge of space. -
New Scientist - Dec.19.03
News briefs... Planetary scientist
Paul Spudis argues to make the Moon a major goal for human spaceflight:
golden frontier - The Washington Times - Dec.18.03 ...
... But maybe lunar settlement
will more likely come from private commercial projects rather than
government largess: Trust
greed to boldly take man where he has never gone before - CITIZEN-TIMES.com(
Asheville NC) - Dec.17.03 (via spacetoday.net)
... This Christmas give your
favorite space cadet a highly detailed full scale replica of the
ISS laboratory Destiny: For
$1.65 million, this space module is all yours - HoustonChronicle.com
... Alfred Differ invites
to participate in a Christmas
Filk Song Contest - Frontier Files Online - Dec.17.03
Dec.17, 2003 Space News
Space tourism - alive & flying...
I wish I had saved links to all of those articles where
people dismissed space tourist
visits to the ISS as a two-off, so to speak. Lance Bass coming
up short and the long gap since Shuttleworth's flight supposedly
proved that there was no market there. It's clear, though, that
the market is just getting started:
For those who actually listened, this announcement is no big surprise
Adventures and the Russian space companies have been saying
all along that there really are plenty enough people with more than
enough money to buy all the available Soyuz seats for several years.
Real space action... You must
have seen some of those sci-fi B-movies where the brave Mars explorers
must survive a pounding by meteoroids and then a deadly dust storm.
Well, they were actually half realistic: Dust
storm could provide challenge to Mars landers - spacetoday.net -
Traditional space ... Keith
Cowing noticed something odd the other day in a video from the ISS:
is Money Stuck to the Wall of the International Space Station? -
Spaceref - Dec.10.03. Expedition 8 Astronaut Michael Foale heard
about his observation and reported that it's part of a tradition
that started on Mir where "we used to use the dollar bill to
ask a favor of the other person - for example, to watch a movie
by saying 'may I buy entrance to the movie please?' And you would
present the bill to the other person." Evolving
Traditions Aboard the International Space Station - SpaceRef - Dec.15.03
If you multiplied the current space population by, say, one hundred
and many were staying there indefinitely (I'm assuming a rotating
station with artificial gravity, etc.), you can easily imagine many
traditions developing and, before you know it, you got a unique
space culture with its own eccentricities and heritage.
News briefs... Space Frontier
propagates the "entrepreneurs,
not NASA" meme: Return
to the Moon: This Time to Stay! Government Must Partner with Commercial
Firms to Succeed - Space Frontier Foundation - Dec.12.03 ...
... NY Times reports on the
support for nuclear powered spacecraft among space scientists: Nuclear-Powered
Spacecraft Is Proposed for Voyage to Jupiter -NY Times - Dec.15.03
... Space communication with
Internet protocols is now available on some new spacecraft and probably
will be very common in a few years: NASA
Takes the Internet into Space - E-Commerce News - Dec.13.03
Dec.15, 2003 Space News
News briefs ... Instead of
analyzing rockets and spacecraft, today Rocket Man looks at why
humans would want to go to space in the first place: The
Goal of Human Spaceflight - Rocket Man Blog - Dec.15.03...
... Taylor Dinerman comments
on the upcoming Mars landings and their significance for future
Mars, to Mars - The Space Review - Dec.15.03...
... Aviation Week is commemorating
of 100 years of powered flight with a series of articles on the
history of aerospace including this one by Craig Covault: Rocketry
Advanced Quickly Propelled by War, Politics and Human Exploration
- Aviation Week - Dec.14.03 ...
... A group of space scientists
believe that the search for life on other planets and their moons
can be "a unifying theme'' for solar system exploration: Search
for extraterrestrial life moves to forefront : In S.F., space scientists
agree on central theme for exploration - SF Gate - Dec.15.03
Dec.14, 2003 Space News
Cash over Space... The Florida
lottery has rejected a proposal from Space
Adventures that it award a ride to the Space Station as a prize.
The lottery officials cited focus group studies that indicated little
interest in choosing such a flight over a cash award. Lottery
regulars pick cash over space: Company pitched Soyuz ride as prize
- Florida Today - Dec.12.03
I don't find this the least bit surprising since, even as an obvious
space fan(atic), I certainly would rather take the cash. The $20M
(probably more like $10M) equivalent is just too much of a life
altering windfall to blow on a one week experience, no matter how
wonderful. I would take the money and not only live well but also
invest in various space companies and causes that will make it a
lot cheaper in the long run to go to space.
Besides, as I argued in this article,
I don't believe you will ever get a majority of people wanting to
go to space no matter what the cost. Everybody has different interests
and there is nothing wrong with not being interested in space travel.
However, even if only ten or fifteen per cent of the population
shows a strong enthusiasm for space, that is plenty big enough to
build a huge tourist industry and eventually a vast space community.
poll of wealthy households found that 19% were willing to buy
a ride on a suborbital space tourist rocket. Florida lottery officials
and others will focus on the 81% that have no desire to ride a rocket.
To suborbital rocket developers, however, that 19% represents a
market of at least a million customers willing to spend $50-100K
on a space ride. That's more than enough on which to grow a profitable
News briefs... Robert Zubrin
gives an excellent introduction to space radiation and its risks
in this response to the NY
Times article discussed here
Times Misrepresents Mars Radiation Danger- The Mars Society - Dec.10.03
... This article gives an illuminating
discussion of dark matter and energy: Has
XMM-Newton cast doubt over dark energy? - Spaceflight Now - Dec.12.03
... More about the Mars
Sundials project: Mars
Sundial to Help Teach Kids About Time, Sun - National Geographic
- Dec.9.03 ...
... The joy of being a space
a blast in space engineering - TheStar.com - Dec.14.03 (via
Dec.12, 2003 Space News
Touch the Stars
Space music CD (hear mp3s on line)
Space music recognition...
Centennial of Flight Commission website has a nice review of
and Space Music. I especially appreciate the link there to my
I was contacted back in 2002 by a person working on the Centennial
website after she heard Elaine
'Zine song via a link on my page. She wanted information
on obtaining permission to use the song on the site. I told her
how to reach Elaine and recommended that she also include the space
filk classic Witness's
Waltz in the collection. I gave her the address of Eli Goldberg
of Prometheus Music who was putting together the space
music CD that includes Waltz.
When I checked the Centennial website several months ago I didn't
see anything about space music and assumed they had dropped that
part of the project. So it's great to see now that it is in fact
included. Roger Guillemette has written a very nice essay and I
really like the link section!
Restoring a Gemini... Follow
the restoration of the Gemini 6 capsule at the Kansas
Cosmosphere via the Restoration
Journal Gemini 6 by Jim Remar - collectSPACE and the webcam
in the workshop there. The Gemini 6 mission was "[c]ommanded
by Wally Schirra and piloted by Tom Stafford[...]the spacecraft
performed the first ever rendezvous in Earth orbit with another
manned spacecraft, Gemini 7."
News briefs... Keith Cowing
says the administration will take its time before deciding on a
new space policy: Space
Policy Effort for NASA's Future Focusing in on Final Decision By
the President - SpaceRef - Dec.10.03...
... Gee, maybe humans are
pretty good afterall at observation and pattern recognition: Strange
Lights Imaged, Astronauts Not Crazy - Space.com - Dec.10.03.
... More about the Mars
Sundials project: Night
Lights: Interview with Woody Sullivan - Astrobiology Magazine -
Dec.10, 2003 Space News
News briefs... Rand Simberg
comments on the confusion of aims and means in discussions of space
Learned - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.10.03 ...
... Leonard David reviews
airplanes and balloons for exploring Mars and other planets and
moons that possess atmospheres: Aircraft
for Other Worlds - Space.com - Dec.10.03 ...
... A new book on space colonies
is coming out. Here's an excerpt: Orbital
Space Colonies: Fundamentals by Al Globus ...
... Aviation Week and Buzz
Aldrin are holding a conference in Washington DC on Thursday December
18th called the Next
Century of Flight Space Imperatives Conference - Agenda
(this item via Jeff
Dec.9, 2003 Space News
Alt.space gets attention in
this space.com article: Alternate
Universe: Human Spaceflight Without NASA? - Space.com - Dec.9.03.
(See comments at Transterrestrial
Musings.) I like the term alt.space,
coined by Rick Tumlinson, and I think it will become an accepted
description of the non-NASA/Big Aerospace community of space advocates
and small startup companies that want to do space in a new, more
robust and incremental way.
Versus big goverment... I've
noted here the reports on a possible new US space policy that includes
a return to the Moon. See previous items on Dec.
4, Dec. 5,and
public is happy to back such a government program if it doesn't
cost much: Most
back a new flight to moon as long as it's in economy class - USATODAY.com
However, as Gregg
Easterbrook notes, it's hard to believe that NASA as its currently
organized and run, could possibly do it cheaply. (See also Goodnight,
Moon - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.8.03.) Without taking
advantage of the new ideas from the alt.space world, such program
will become another big expensive fiasco like the ISS and the X-33.
shields... This report about space radiation - Mars
Mission's Invisible Enemy: Radiation - NY Times - Dec.9.03 -
offers an interesting overview of the research going on in this
area.It notes what a lot of such articles for popular reading don't,
which is that we live amid significant radiation on the surface
of the earth; radiation doesn't just exist in space.
However, it implies that the challenge of space radiation, especially
from protons and heavy ions, might be too difficult to overcome.
This is NOT, in fact, an insoluable problem. As the article discusses,
you can always increase shielding to get radiation of any type down
to whatever levels you want. The challenge for space transportation
designers is to provide shielding that minimizes the amount of mass
and still provides sufficient protection to avoid deleterious health
affects. It looks like NASA is finally getting serious about carrying
out experiments in this area and, I hope, they do lots of work actually
in space. This would be a great task for the ISS.
Note that shielding mass is not a problem for settlements on the
Moon and Mars since they can use local materials. Even on the surface,
the rates are not intolerable. This article - Humans
'could survive Mars visit' - BBC - Dec.9.03 - reports that radiation
exposure on Mars would average about twice what the ISS occupants
currently receive. This, however, assumes the same level of shielding.
The Martians can simply double the effective shielding to get the
same dosage as the ISS.
[Update Dec.14.03: Robert Zubrin gives an excellent introduction
to space radiation and its risks in this response to the NY Times
Times Misrepresents Mars Radiation Danger- The Mars Society - Dec.10.03]
News briefs... Interview with
a leader in SETI projects: The
Big Crunch: Interview with Dan Werthimer - Astrobiology Magazine
- Dec.8.03 ...
... Globalstar finally gets
bought and will come out of bankruptcy. Thermo
Capital Partners Completes Agreement to Acquire Globalstar - Globalstar
Dec.8, 2003 Space News
Onward, outward, or not... Discussions
continue not only in the press but also in the White House apparently
as to whether or not the President will put forward a new space
policy that explicitly gives the Moon and/or Mars exploration and
settlement as the primary goals for NASA's human spaceflight program.
Here are a sampling of articles:
News briefs... A new satellite
based broadband service has opened (satellite downlaod, telephone
line uplink) SkyWay
USA - Highspeed Broadband Solutions ...
... India's space infrastructure
continues to expand. They now are developing LH2/LOX engines: India
Fires Supercool-Fuel Rocket - Wired - Dec.5.03 ...
... Kurt A. Foge sent me a
note about his ebook: 3-D
Star Maps of Nearby Stars, the Pleiades, Orion, and the Local Group.
It explains how to "make stellariums, a scale model of the
Solar System" and includes a "brief explanation about
interstellar travel". He says it is a "great resource
for astronomers, schools, and science fiction writers. ... [and]
for science projects."
Dec.6, 2003 Space News
Way up there to the Grammys... The
Up There by Tena Clark, which I mentioned several times
and made a song of the month in March, has been nominated for a
Grammy award. NASA
Song Soars To Grammy Nomination - NASA - Dec.5.03
NASA, which commissioned the song, has also posted audio and video
files for Patti LaBelle’s amazing performance of the song at the
February 6th Columbia memorial service at the Washington National
Anthem Gets Grammy Nod - NASA - Dec.5.03
Medieval star guides... Check
out these two sites: Replica
Instruments - Richard A. Paselk and The
Astrolabe - for pictures and descriptions of beautiful astronomical
instruments of the middle ages.
Earth Radio provides a subscription service with
several streamed radio channels including two dedicated to Space
news and reports.
Mars preparations ... Check
out this interesting article on the extensive preparations for directing
the exploration of Mars by the NASA
rovers scheduled to land in January (the ESA Beagle
2 will land on Christmas day): NASA's
Mars Rover Strategy Will Be Coordinated in a Military-like Manner
- AWST STORY - Nov.30.03
Dec.5, 2003 Space News
Moon manifesto... Participants
in a recent Lunar
symposium issue declaration in support of return to the Moon:
Declaration Signed Advocating Return to the Moon By Leonard David
- Space.com - Dec.5.03
Space startups seminar this
weekend in Pasadena: Caltech
to host seminar on market for private space ventures - Pasadena
Star News - Dec.5.03 (via spacetoday.net)
Update on space policy... The
President still hasn't decided on a space policy:
Michael Mealling of Rocketforge urges
the President to follow a new path instead of yet another NASA detour:
Time To Propagate The "Entrepreneurs, Not NASA" Meme - RocketForge
C. Blake Powers (Laughing Wolf
weblog) sends a letter
to the President along similar lines and advises the President
"to let us not send NASA back to the Moon, or on to Mars.
Instead, let us send the best and brightest that are America to
these places and beyond. The solar system is too vast for one
single organization; but, it is just right for a country founded
in individual liberty and the right to pursue life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. Let loose the almost unlimited potential
that is private, free enterprise. Reward those that succeed, and
mourn not those that fail..."
(LInk via TransterrestrialMusings)
Buzz makes makes similar suggestions
Me to L 1 by Buzz Aldrin - NY TImes - Dec.5.03 - "the space
agency has shut the door on the smaller, entrepreneurial companies
that are responsible for some of the most innovative current thinking
on space technology"
Dec.4, 2003 Space News
Back to the Moon... There are
hints, but no confirmation, that President Bush will outline an
ambitious new long term space policy that will include plans to
return to the Moon.
[Update Dec.5.03: Still unknown
what the policy will be: White
House denies new space policy imminent - Spacetoday.net - Dec.4.03]
News briefs... NY Times editors
appreciate the precariousness of life on earth but don't come to
the logical conclusion that expanding into space will help to protect
and safeguard our existence: A
Meteoric View of Life - NY Times - Dec.4.03 ...
[Update Dec.5.03: Rand Simberg
agrees with my criticism and also points
out the misuse of the word meteor in the editorial, which I
overlooked. Meteor is the flash of light produced by a meteoroid
object, which becomes a meteorite if it survives reentry
and comes to rest on the earth.]
... The SNOE
project was at the high-end of University student
satellite projects but still very low budget compared
to most science satellites: University
Of Colorado's 'Little Satellite That Did' Set For Re-entry In Coming
Days - ScienceDaily - Dec.3.03 ...
... It may have failed as a
phone company but Globalstar and its collaborators continue to develop
interesting new applications for the constellation of satellites:
introduces $99 Satellite Data Transmitter and One-Stop Shop for
Globalstar Simplex Data Services - SENS - Dec.3.03 at AeroAstro
SENS (Sensor Enabled Notification System).
Dec.3, 2003 Space News
Hams receive Mars Express signals ...
I have mentioned several times the Mars
mission planned by the German AMSAT-DL group (see this overview:
Mars with P5-A by Karl Meinzer, pdf 700KB). The biggest challenge
of the mission is not, as you might expect, the propulsion system.
The booster used for the AO-40
satellite (previously known as P3-D) will get the spacecraft there
just fine. Maintaining communication with the satellite will actually
be the hard part, especially when the link must rely on a low power
isotropic antenna. As occasionally happens for any satellite, the
spacecraft can go into a safe mode, lose attitude control, and no
longer point its high gain attenna at earth.
Fortunately, the German group was given ownership of a defunct
20m antenna station at Bochum. They have rebuilt much of the system
and it has paid off. On November 16th the group received signals
from the ESA
Mars Express probe that will reach the Red Planet this month:
5-A, first reception of MARS EXPRESS - AMSAT-DL.
"It was probably the first time that such a signal was received
by amateur radio operators."
Since then they have repeated the feat and also picked up signals
from NASA's Mars
Odyssey that has been orbiting Mars since 2001.
This article - Reception
of Mars Spacecrafts by Radio Amateurs by James Miller G3RUH - AMSAT-DL
- Nov.24.03 - discusses how hams can also pick up signals from
the Mars probes with small dishes. As indicated above, the big dish
will only be required when the P5-A is using its low gain antenna.
So picking up the signals from these probes is quite feasible.
Note that organizing teams of hams around the world to maintain
constant contact with the P5-A, which could launch as early as 2007
if funding is found, will be a big priority. However, knowing the
ham community, I'm sure they will rise to the challenge. Also, I'm
sure that many student groups will get involved.
Amateur Mars balloon... The
German Mars Society
chapter has proposed that the P5-D carry its ARCHIMEDES
(link uses a German to English translator) experiment, also known
as the Aerial Robot Carrying High-resolution Imaging, a Magnetometric
Experiment and Direct Environmental Sensing. The spacecraft would
release the ARCHIMEDES when P5-D reaches Mars and then, as described
in this P5-A overview To
Mars with P5-A by Karl Meinzer (pdf 700KB),
"...a small solid propellant rocket would be ignited which
makes this satellite enter the Mars atmosphere. A heat shield
would decelerate the satellite, and at about 10 km altitude a
balloon would unfold and be inflated. This balloon will then fly
around Mars a few times taken along by the high velocity winds
of the upper Mars atmosphere and send pictures and other data
of this flight to P5-A."
Via T.L. James (Louisiana
Mars Society -- Archimedes) came word that the German team recently
had "successfully tested the inflation of a balloon for use
on its planned Archimedes Mars balloon mission". See the English
translation of the announcement.
Filtering Mars air for fuel...
The modern approach to Mars missions, such as Robert Zubrin's Mars
Direct scheme, assumes that lots of resources will be obtained
from Mars itself rather than carrying it there. This greatly reduces
the costs for the missions. For example, the Martian atmosphere
is very thin but nevertheless holds plenty of CO2 that can be combined
with hydrogen to produce methane for fuel to use in a return vehicle.
(This process also produces water.)
Accumulating the CO2, however, is not trivial because other contaminating
gases must be filtered out. This article - Membranes
on Mars: Thin membranes developed by NASA-funded researchers could
help people go to Mars--and clean the air here on Earth. - Science@NASA
- Dec.3.03 - reports on progress in developing a system that
will provide very pure CO2.
Other info on living off of Mars resources can be found in the
Life - In Situ Resource Utilization section. See, for
example, this page Surface
Systems - A Crewed Mission to Mars - NASA available from Mars
Exploration:A Tour of Past, Present, and Future Exploration - NSSDC
Dec.2, 2003 Space News
Solar Sci-Fi thriller...This
View from Zero:
A Science Fiction Thriller by Thomas Hunter (2002) is a
hard sci-fi novel based on a colonized solar system scenario.
See the Forward
for an introduction to the book.
As I indicated in my Solar
Sci-Fi essay, I hope such fiction becomes more popular.
I noted to Mr. Hunter that I thought this might be possible as the
Star Trek/Star Wars milieus, which I've long enjoyed, seem exhausted.
I agree with your comments on the Star Trek/Star Wars fads. Although
they are fun and entertaining, we seem to have gotten stuck in
a rut of the media's rendition of future life in the galaxy, where
the vast majority of the aliens submit to the English language-for
our sake, and by some miracle there is sound in space, as hot-shot
pilots swoosh through the vacuum in "winged" fighters, doing hairpin
turns in tight spaces, and taking for granted that every flat
surface has gravity.
No doubt, some day those challenges will be met. But these days,
gravitational physics is the most complex mathematics we know;
hardly solvable by the flick of a switch. The storyline possibilities
for near future space travel and colonization are endless. I'm
very glad you've decided to focus on that. I know it will become
popular if it is presented in a fascinating and entertaining way-without
having to lose the integrity of real science.
After all, we are at the age where we could be doing all these
things for real. If presented in what-if scenario's, the power
of imagination has unlimited potential.
See also his
graphical overview to the rotating space habitats that provide
artificial gravity and wide open spaces for thousands of occupants.
Additional information about the Gerard
O'Neill style space colonies is available here in the Life
in Space: Colonies, Habitats, and Space Industry section.
Most people probably know such habitat designs from the Babylon
5 series. However, I was disappointed that the show did not make
more of the large open, sunny spaces available on such stations.
Colony Art, such as these
works, for an idea of how living in space can be far from the
submarine style existence usually depicted on TV and in the movies.
News briefs... Review of Robert
Zubrin's ideas for reaching Mars: Some
thoughts on Mars Direct - The Space Review - Dec.1.03 ...
... Satellite imagery and video-game
Game Maker Uses Satellite Imagery To Recreate Battles - Space News
- Dec..03 ...
... Shuttle simulation ride
planned for KSC: KSC
hopes shuttle attraction will draw crowds: Visitor Complex duels
with Disney for enthusiasts - Florida Today - Nov.29.03\
Tech brief ... This cool unicycle
concept vehicle doesn't exist yet but indicates what can develop
beyond the Segway: the Embrio
Recreational Products * Comin'
In on a Wheel and a Prayer - Wired - Nov.30.03 .
to November 2003 articles in archive