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The Space Log
Space for Everyone      -    September 2002

Sept.29.2002 : Interview with Composer Blair Joscelyne

Man Conquers Space
Surfaces Rendered

Blair Joscelyne, the Australian composer of the soundtrack for the Man Conquers Space alternate space history documentary, kindly agreed to do an interview with me.

He provides interesting background to the unusual film project and reveals fascinating details of the creative and technical aspects of making a soundtrack.

Blair also put together a special sound clip consisting of three pieces out of twelve from the score and posted it at mp3.com.au. A full orchestra consisting of students from the the University of Western Sydney and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music performed the composition.

David Sander, creator and director of the film, has also agreed to carry out an intereview with me in the near future.

These begin what I hope will be a long series of interviews of participants in the HobbySpace world of ever expanding public involvement with space exploration and development.

Please proceed to the Joscelyne interview...

Sept.29.2002 : One Giant Hop for Armadillo - RLV News

Sept.29.2002 : Consumer Space Sneaks Up On Us

Something like the following scene could easily happen today:

John Smith pulls into his driveway but doesn't get out of the car for several minutes. He wants to finish listening to a favorite blues song coming out of his brand new satellite digital radio. It's impossible to find great music like that on any of his local FM stations. It's also great that he can listen to a station all the way to the lake and back without needing to scan the dial continually as stations go in and out of range. Finally, he reluctantly shuts off the car and grabs the detachable radio to take into the house.

Before going in, though, he unhooks his boat trailer from the car. The trip to the lake today was a big success. He snagged a couple of huge catfish at one of his favorite fishing spots. With his GPS navigator he can locate the spots quickly and accurately.

While walking into the house he ponders a friend's recommendation to get a satellite phone. The prices have come way down and it's annoying that he can't reach the family or his office on his cell phone while out on the lake or when he rides up in the hills on his mountain bike. The dual mode phones also use cheaper cell rates when a signal appears. Besides, as a volunteer on the rescue squad he likes the added insurance of a phone that's always guaranteed to work even during a blackout or disaster like the tornado that hit the area last year.

After settling down in front of his digital satellite direct-to-home TV, he first checks out the weather channel and notes that the satellite maps indicate clear weather for another trip to the lake tomorrow.

He would like to check the really detailed weather maps and other info on the Internet but the dialup rate is so terribly slow. He's thinking of adding satellite broadband internet since it will be decades, if ever, before cable or DSL ever reaches his house out here.

Flipping channels he comes across a call-in discussion on C-SPAN (Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network) concerning the space program. After listening for a bit he grabs the phone to put in his two cents and for one of the first times is actually put on the air. He boldly proclaims, "Why in the world are we wasting money in space when we got all these problems down here...."

Such a scenario is clearly not farfetched. A wide array of space services that deal directly with the consumer have arisen with relatively little fanfare. Despite the current gloom over a drop in commercial satellite launches, which is due mostly to the general recession in all areas of telecommunication, space businesses continue to grow steadily in size and in importance to the world's economy.

Unfortunately, many people, even those who take the most advantage of them, don't make the connection between these services and space and the need to keep investing and developing our space infrastructure.

While we may never build starships that can travel faster than the speed of light, that limit has certainly been broken by the speed at which we take new space technologies and services completely for granted.

Sept.29.2002 : Space Activism News Briefs...

Here are some recent miscellaneous items related to pushing society forward in space:

* Be sure to find a space discussion forum that deals with the issues that you are most interested in. Besides offering a place to debate and rant, they are great places to find out about space news and upcoming events.

There are many forums available such as, for example, SpaceADG - Space Exploration Advocacy Group in the Yahoo Space Groups. More space related forums are listed in the Activism section and the Space Links section.

*A couple of interesting essays can be found at

*You could win a trip to the National Space Society's yearly meeting in San Jose, California next May if you can come up with the best knock-em, sock-em letter in support of space that is accepted by a newspaper. See NSS Letters-to-the-Editors Campaign. This is in support of World Space Week Oct. 4-11.

Meanwhile, be sure to sign the The Planetary Society's on line PETITION in support of space exploration and specifically of missions to Pluto and Europa.

* Looks like Sean O'Keefe plans major changes in NASA's long term goals:

Sept.29.2002 : Flometrics Does Rockets & Fuel Pumps-RLV News

Sept.27.2002 : A Beltway Pessimist+SLI Contractors in Limbo-RLV News

Sept.26.2002 : Space Volunteers

Say that Lockheed-Martin put out a notice announcing that the company would accept part time volunteers to work on its reusable rocket projects. Or Boeing offered to let students work on the design of a commercial space station module.

Would you jump at the opportunity? Many space enthusiasts certainly would. They would love to work on a "real" space project if there was some way they could contribute part-time and not risk the loss of their "day job".

John Powell is trying to offer something like this with JP Aerospace. The organization of volunteers in Rancho Cordova, California has for the past 23 years pursued a number space related projects including the development and launching of sounding rockets and high-altitude balloons, and the innovative Pongsat program for students.

Recently it won an Air Force grant for high-altitude sounding rocket launches. To obtain bigger facilities and a wider area in which to operate, the program will use a new spaceport site in Fort Stockton, Texas:

John says that although parts of the organization will now involve full time employees, it has so many projects to handle it will continue to welcome volunteers to help carry them out.

Note that AMSAT projects have operated in a similar way with mostly students and volunteers building the satellites, while some projects involved paid university staff. Several of the X Prize projects also welcome volunteer efforts.

We might see more of this kind of professional/amateur/student collaboration in space startup companies. The sophistication of the highly successful AMSAT spacecraft show that highly motivated volunteer workers can provide excellent results. The startups would do well to "leverage" such volunteer resources to boost their projects.

Sept.25.2002 : A Hard Sci-Fi Contest

Have you been mulling that perfect sci-fi plot in your head for years? Now's the time to finally put it on paper. Enter the The Clarke-Bradbury Science Fiction International Competition for 2003. with a 2500 word short story that uses science fiction technologies related to "space travel, exploration and settlement."

" 'Technology' must be seen to be both the inspiration for the story and the focus of its realization." Contest deadline is Feb.28.2003. Open to those between 15 and 30 years of age.

(If you can't think up a great plot, try Themes/Genres in Science Fiction by Kay Fowler)

The contest is organized by the project at European Space Agency called ITSF - Innovative Technologies From Science Fiction For Space Applications. This unusual program seeks to gather farsighted new ideas from the minds of science fiction writers.

[My thanks go to Paula Berinstein for the contest link. She has been selected as one of the judges.]

Sept.24.2002 : Getting to Mars On a Budget

The Russian space company RSC Energia has developed a comprehensive scheme for a human mission to Mars :

(Thanks to Spacetoday.net for these links.) They claim the plan would allow 6 people to go to Mars by 2015 for $14 billion. Another proposal earlier this year by a different Russian design team said it would take $20 billion.

Of course, Russia doesn't have the money to do even the cheaper plan now or for two or three decades at the earliest.

The proposals, however, still provide a good basis on which discussions of Mars mission costs should build. The infamous NASA report in 1989 that said it would take $250 billion to go to Mars has long been refuted. Instead, as Robert Zubrin has maintained, it looks increasingly clear that we (by "we" I mean an international team with substantial Russian involvement) could in fact go to Mars in 10 or 15 years if NASA received a 2 to 3 billion dollar increase in its yearly budget for a Mars program. That's of the same scale as the ISS.

There have been reports that O'Keefe wants to change the emphasis of the agency away for microgravity experiments in LEO and towards developing technologies for deep space exploration. Without an explicit mandate for a Mars mission, the agency could carry out a large range of preparatory work that would allow for a low budget crewed Mars mission later when conditions are more suitable.

An interesting aspect of the RSC proposal, for example, is the use of electric propulsion for the crew vehicle. In this plan the 300N ion engine would require a huge 15MW solar array. For comparison, the ISS solar array when completed will provide a mere 110KW.

In the US the VASIMR plasma engine has been proposed for a Mars vehicle but these plans assume the availability of a nuclear reactor for electrical power. O'Keefe has already proposed a renewed space reactor program to provide power for unmanned science missions such as a probe to Pluto. He should combined this with accelerated developing of high thrust electrical engines such as VASIMR that could broaden the capabilities to include heavy payloads and manned vehicles.

Sept.24.2002 : Beating Those Ol'Expendable Rocket Blues - RLV News

Sept.23.2002 : ISS Hams Get Some PR

Florida Today gives a nice overview of ham radio on the ISS in the article : Ham radio connects astronauts with Earth - Florida Today - Sept.23.02. Note that MSNBC keeps an archive of ham radio sessions between astronauts and classrooms.

Sept.23.2002 : A Starman Sails Away

Sad to hear that the brilliant scientist, sci-fi author, and futurist Robert Forward has died - Obituary: Dr. Robert L. Forward | SpaceRef . A colorful character, he loved to illustrate how science and engineering could be marvelously exciting when you mix in some uninhibited imagination. He recently worked in the area of Space Tethers but he contributed to many other advanced concepts such as several starship designs. See, for example, the microwave driven Starwisp sail, and the Fission Fragment Sail.

Sept.23.2002 : Microgravity for Artists and Scientists

The MIR - Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research program invites European artists and scientists to submit proposals for projects to be carried out during parabolic flights. Also, other facilities are available such as neutral bouyancy tanks used for cosmonaut training.

Call for proposals - deadline 21 October 2002 - "Opportunity for Art or Science projects in variable gravity (including zero gravity) ...and other Artistic projects at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre"

Sept.23.2002 : Natural Space Art

Speaking of space art, NASA Goddard just issued this item- 'The Sun as Art' Brings New Light to SOHO Images - NASA - Sept.23.02 - about the artistic use of images of the sun taken with the SOHO orbiting observatory. See the The Sun as Art gallery.

Also, check out the Our Earth as Art site that displays beautiful images obtained by remote sensing satellites.

Sept.23.2002 : O'Keefe Tries to Get an Old Elephant to Dance- RLV News

Sept.22.2002 : MARS Deimos Odyssey Rocket Launch a Success!

MARS Deimos Odyssey Launch

The British MARS rocketry group reports that the launch of their Demos Odyssey rocket was successful this afternoon, including full recovery of both the booster and payload sections. They are examining the telemetry for altitude determination but the hybrid rocket motor fired for the full 20 seconds as planned and followed a straight trajectory.

Congratulations to the MARS team! I hope they broke the UK & European amateur rocketry altitude record as they hoped. Now we can look forward to their next project, which is to launch the two-stage hybrid motor powered Deimos 3 to above 100km (62miles).

[Speed record for UK rocket - BBC - Sept.24.02]

Sept.21.2002 : All Go for MARS Space

Reports late yesterday from the Black Rock Desert, Nevada launch site for the MARS Deimos Odyssey Rocket launch are on schedule for this weekend.

Sept.20.2002 : The Next Japanese RVT (Reusable Vehicle Test) - RLV News

Sept.20.2002 : CSXT Rocket Failure?

There are reports on the rec.models.rockets newsgroup that the CSXT rocket failed at around 5000ft. There's no news on the CSXT web site since Tuesday. Hope the failure is a false rumor. Will report here when more news available.

[Sept.23.2002 : The CSXT site now confirms that the launch last Thursday failed soon after launch. This posting at rec.models.rockets gives more info on the failure.

Sept.27.2002 Amateur rocket fizzles in record attempt - CNN.com - Sept.27.02 * Amateur Rocketeers Regroup After Booster Explodes - Space.com - Sept.25.02

Sept.19.2002 : Amateur Rocketeers Go for Space

Primera Mission Profile
The Civilian Space Experimental Team (CSXT) aims to exceed the
50 nautical mile space boundary.

Two amateur rocket groups are going for high altitude rocket records this week.

As reported in the RLV News section, the Civilian Space Experimental Team (CSXT) aims to exceed 50 nautical miles with its Primera rocket vehicle. This would set a new world record for amateur rocketry and would cross into space according to an unofficial US altitude boundary (see the entry on the space boundary question).

The first launch window at the test site in Black Rock Desert in Nevada was set for September 17th but there is no report yet on the CSXT web site about whether a launch attempt occurred. [According to the latest report (as of evening on Sept.19th) on the CSXT web site, bad weather forced postponment of the Tuesday launch.]

Deimos-Odyssey Rocket
Members of the British MARS rocketry club handle the
Deimos-Odyssey high altitude, hybrid powered rocket.

This weekend the British MARS rocketry club will attempt to break the UK and European amateur rocket altitude record with the launch of their Deimos-Odyssey high altitude, hybrid powered rocket from a desert location (not yet revealed).

The Mars group set that record when it successfully launched the Phobos EAV amateur rocket in June of 2000 to almost 10 1/2 km (35,0000ft )also from Black Rock Desert in Nevada. See more about the MARS attempt in the RLV News section.

Sept.18.2002 : Who Says Space is Expensive - RLV News

Sept.18.2002 : Lance is Back

The Pepsi space promotion campaign mentioned below will include a sponsorship of Lance Bass's flight to the ISS:

If things proceed quickly, he may squeeze in enough training to make the October Soyuz launch. Otherwise, he will go in April.

Here's another article about the Pepsi promotion: Pepsi counts down to astronomical giveaway - Guardian - Sept.18.02

Sept.18.2002 : German Space Films and a Space Age Kid

Mark Wade writes an essay - Space Cadet - about growing up with space in mind during the 1950's and 1960's. He includes an interesting factoid about how clips from a couple of German space films, begun under the Nazi's but never finished, ended up in short films promoting space to post-Sputnik kids in the US: The Space Explorers .

Space Movies, Personal Space Histories.

Sept.17.2002 : Pepsi Next Generation

Looks like Pepsi is planning a big space promotion. The company will purchase a seat on a Soyuz flight to the ISS and run a contest in which the winner gets the ride:

Pepsi Marketing Looks to Outer Space: Negotiations Under Way for Seat on Russian Space Shuttle - AdAge - Sept.16.02

(Thanks to Spacetoday.net for first noticing this link.)

Space.com thinks a contest winner would need "several months of training" : Pepsi Deal on Space Tourism Sounds Sweet but Lacks Fizz - Space.com - Sept.17.02. Dennis Tito, however, has said that most of the training he got was unnecessary, e.g. learning deep technical details of the Soyuz vehicle. He thought the tourist training period could easily be reduced to a few weeks, e.g. mostly learning not to touch any buttons!

[Even Ferrai is jumping on the space wagon: Ferrari paints space red - BBC - Sept.17.02]

Related Resources: Space Advertising and Sponsorships, Space Tourism Contests

Sept.17.2002 : European Students Go Weightless

The European Space Agency runs a program in which students can propose microgravity experiments and then perform them on an Airbus flying parabolic trajectories:

Floating students at work - ESA - Sept.16.02.

If the experiments are especially interesting, they can graduate to flights on the Russian FOTON spacecraft: Outreach experiments on FOTON

European students compete for the chance to experience weightlessness on a parabolic flight in this program at the European Space Agency. Groups of 4 students design and propose an experiment to run during the flight on an Airbus 300.

Related Resources: Space Tourism - Microgravity Flights , Space Education and Space Science

A New Format

Instead of the previous bi-weekly updates, this HobbySpace News section will now take on more of a web log approach with frequent addition of new items. This will be similar to my RLV News section except that entries will involve the whole range of HobbySpace related interests rather than just reusable launchers.

The name is changed from Space Gazette to the The Space Logger to reflect this new approach. Note that longer articles will still be posted here but they may continue onto separate pages.

Sept.16.2002 : Amateur Planet Hunters

Amateur astronomers make significant contributions to science in a number of areas including asteroid and comet finding and supernova detection - see Amateur Astronomy Projects. Now they can even participate in the hunt for planets around other stars.

The TransitSearch.org (Exosolar Planet Hunting) Program seeks to organize amateur astronomers to begin systematic long term monitoring of nearby (a relative term!) stars for the slight diminution in brightness that occurs when a star's planet crosses between the star and our line of sight.

So far over 90 exosolar planets have been found by professional astronomers who monitor thousands of light bands for slight shifts in frequency due to the Doppler effect when the planet pulls on the star. (See the Doppler Shift Due to Stellar Wobble at Exoplanet.org.) This technique requires expensive equipment to carry out. Also, it does not provide the angle of inclination of the planet to the star.

Amateur astronomers today can obtain "highly affordable small telescopes equipped with sensitive and stable CCD (charge coupled device) detectors, and controlled by laptop computers." These are capable of detecting the slight change in brightness when a gas giant (e.g. Jupiter or Saturn) sized planet comes between us and the star.

Transitsearch.org has begun coordinating the search for planet transits of 5 candidate stars.

[Amateurs Invited to Join Planet Search - Space.com - Sept.25.02 ]

Related resources: Exosolar Planets Links, Realistic Planetary & Steller System Modeling & Textures in Simulations section.

Sept.16.2002 : Amateur Discovers Moon (Rocket)

Speaking of amateur rocket discoveries, there was considerable attention given recently to the announcement by Bill Yeung, an advanced amateur astronomer who concentrates on asteroid observations, that he had seen a previously unknown object orbiting the earth: New moon found around Earth - BBC - Sept.11.02.

Initialy reports though it could be our third moon (for info on our second moon, see Cruithne, Earths "second moon" - Bob Jenkins ) but over the next few days it became apparent that the object was more likely to be a spent rocket stage from Apollo 12. Newly Discovered Object Could be a Leftover Apollo Rocket Stage Paul Chodas - Sept.11.02 . [Proposal: Removing Earth's Radiation Belts - Space.com - Sept.16.02 ]

Sept.16.2002 : Space and Rocketry Competitions

The Education and Space Contests sections lists a number of space related competitions in which students can participate. Here are a couple of recent ones I found especially interesting:

* Team America Rocketry Challenge - National Association of Rocketry & AIA are sponsoring a "national model rocket competition for U.S. high school and junior high school students." The organizations "challenge you 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. The top five teams will share in 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." Application deadline - November 15, 2002

* DIME 2003: Dropping In a Microgravity Environment -NASA Glenn Research Center sponsors this annual student competition for proposing, designing, building and operating a microgravity drop tower science experiment. Check out the video webcasts (Realmedia) of previous student drop tower experiments.

Selected teams win a trip to NASA Glenn to operate their experiment. Proposals are due in early November each year and teams from the fifty United States, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico are eligible to participate. See the DIME web site for contest rules and other information. Request a CD-ROM with contest rules and other educator resources by sending e-mail request to: dime@grc.nasa.gov (Thanks to NASA's Richard DeLombard for telling me about this program.)

Sept.16.2002 : Lance Grounded but Not Space Sponsorships

Unfortunately, it looks like singer Lance Bass will not get his flight to the ISS this October. He would have attracted enormous interest to his flight from young people, most of whom otherwise show no interest in space.

Unlike Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, Bass could not afford to pay his own way and instead relied on a promoter to organize a group of corporate sponsors. Over several weeks there were back and forth clams and counter-claims between the Russian Space Agency and Bass's rep (who more than once said the check was in the mail) over the failure to deliver the space fare until the deal finally fell apart and Bass was officially removed from the flight. (He is still in Moscow, though, trying to arrange a ride on the next Soyuz flight next April.)

Since few people are wealthy enough to pay the full $10 to $20 million (the exact price has never been revealed but probably is considerably less than the $20 million usually claimed), sponsorship arrangements will be necessary to expand the range of people who can go to orbit. Lance's failure will be taken by many as a sign that this approach is not viable but I think that is a mistake.

Almost any deal in show business is messy. Producers and directors will tell many horror stories of deals that got made for a movie or TV show but then collapsed at the last minute. Many successful movies, e.g. The Lord of the Rings, have tortured financial histories and came very close to never reaching the screen.

As discussed in James Oberg's nice review of Soviet and Russian attempts at space tourism - Can Lance Bass Sing His Way Into Space by James Oberg -SpaceDaily - Aug.28.02 - the Russian Space Agency just isn't designed for these sorts of show biz arrangements.

Ideally, an intermediary group would simply buy a set of rides with its own money and do the wheeling and dealing itself to fill the seats. This would insulate the Russian Agency while providing the flexibility and assurance that corporate sponsors need when they are asked to provide big bucks.

Unfortunately, the current set of middle players - Mir Corp & Space Adventures - don't have the capital required to purchase seats on their own. But we can expect that such a space tourist business structure will develop eventually.

Sept.16.2002 : Space Tourism => Public Space Travel

According to my friend Jeff Foust, a space analyst at Futron and publisher of Spacetoday.net, the official name for space tourism is now Public Space Travel. This is not just to sound less frivolous, but to indicate that those who pay for space flights could include not only those going just for the sheer fun of it but also journalists, artists, students going to carry out experiments, and others who don't really fit under the tourist category but are not professional astronauts either.

Sept.16.2002 : Cool NASA Astrobiology Site

NASA's Astrobiology Institute is using a web log type format (but its not a personal log) for the Astrobiology Magazine. The site offers frequently updated news and articles over a wide range of areas related to life in space - e.g. SETI, exosolar planets, Mars water, etc.

Check out the big set of Flash panorama displays including Mars Pathfinder and Viking photos, Jupiter's aurora, etc.

HobbySpace News Articles Index 1999-2002


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