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The Space Log
Space for Everyone      -    June 2003

June.30.03 Space News

Student planes to honor Columbia... On July 4th paper airplanes made by children from around the world will be released from a balloon at 100,000 feet to fly to the ground. The announcement Children From California To Berlin Honor Shuttle Columbia Astronauts With Oklahoma's Global Space League And Omniplex - Press Release - June.30.03 says that students made and decorated the planes "to express why they want to become scientific explorers...Each plane honors the memory of the scientist-explorers onboard the last flight of the Shuttle Columbia."

The planes include a registration sticker that "instructs the finder to register it at www.okspaceplanes.com" so that the students can "track where and when the planes are found."

Organized by the Global Space League , with the help of the Kirkpatrick Science and Air Space Museum at the Omniplex in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the project is one in a series of events meant to encourage student involvement with scientists and engineers. This year the planes come not only from Oklahoma and other states but also from Germany where the organization spacebenefit.org hosted a booth at a fair In Berlin where participants could make planes for the event.

Virgin astronaut... Richard Branson of the Virgin empire may take a trip to space : Multi-millionaire space cowboys queue up to take tourism to the limit - Independent - June.29.03.

Free satellite tracker... The free and open source program PREDICT - A Satellite Tracking/Orbital Prediction Program, developed by John A. Magliacane (KD2BD), is now available for Linux/Unix. This powerful program was previously only available as a DOS program. See the program details and screen saves on the program home page.

A lunar story ... This new novel looks interesting - Launch Out by Philip R. Harris (sample text) - It's about "space enterprise, lunar industrialization, and settlement....The story covers two decades of activities by space entrepreneurs to prepare, place, and support sixteen technauts or workers on the Moon."

Tech notes... A new coating technology could indicate when a spacecraft's exterior has been damaged: Feeling the danger: Coatings made from a new class of nanomaterials can detect when their underlying structures are about to fail and cause an accident - Economist.com - June.19.03 ...

... As if from a Star Trek episode, this new LCD screen from Philips can function as a mirror and a display : Philips Unveils Mirror: Pricey combo device lets you watch TV, data, or yourself -TVPCWorld.com - June.11.03 * Philips integrates TV into mirror - Optics.org - June 2003

June.27.03 Space News

Letters from the space front... Find an archive of Ed Lu's letters from space at Greetings Earthlings - Ed Lu's Musings from Space - HSF - International Space Station.

Mars Arctic Updates... Follow the mission of the Mars Society team at its Flashline Mars Arctic Station on Devon Island this summer.

[July 15.03 - Correction : Mars on Earth at Mars.tv - SpaceRef reports on NASA's Haughton-Mars Project, which is separate from the Mars Society Devon Island projects.]

Senators shortchange rocketry... According to the ARSA Legislative Update - RocketForge - June.25.03, it appears that Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Herbert Kohl (D-Wisconsin) severely undercut the bill to free hobby rocketry of ridiculous new regulations.

Private solar sail project update... The Cosmos 1 solar sail, funded by the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, assembly is proceeding towards completion in July and launch in September. [Via Kaido Kert].

June.24.03 Space News

Citizen scientists meeting... The Society for Amateur Scientists will hold its Citizen Scientist Conference in Pasadena, July 17-20, 2003, Pasadena, California on the CalTech campus. They have a great lineup of speakers including John Powell of JP Aerospace who will talk about the organization's innovative PongSats educational program.

China and Space... The growing Chinese space program has begun gradually to get more attention. Here are some recent articles and discussions about the significance of this development:

June.22.03 Space News

Pervasive GPS ... This excellent article - The Sky's the Limit - Fast Company - July.03 - reports on the rapidly expanding range of applications of GPS. Eventually it will be a part of just about any commercial system that moves: cargo containers, trucks, taxis, company owned laptops, you name it. Expensive consumer items such as cars and big screen TVs will also include an embedded GPS/communication combo device so that if they are stolen they will be quickly located.

As indicated in the article, tracking of industrial goods with GPS and satellite communications systems is one of those industries that is growing but still largely under the radar of the media and the general public. Probably in a year or two it will become so pervasive that it will be hailed as an over-the-night success. See the Tracking / Messaging / Data Monitoring with GEO & LEO Satellites section for links to companies and other resources in this area.

June.21.03 Space News

British space SciFi series comebacks... A couple of classic British near future space scifi TV series seem to be getting more attention. Moonbase 3 debuted in 1973 with 6 episodes. It is said to provide a high quality, realistic style approach to events on a lunar base in 2003! See the links for detailed summaries of the episodes.

The series was feared lost but copies were found in the early 1990s in the US. The series is now available on DVD in the UK [commission link]. US users will need to use PC DVD software or a DVD player that ignores the region coding.

Similarly, in 1987 the 9 episodes of Star Cops followed the struggles of a detective to solve crimes committed on the harsh space frontier of the early 21st century. It also only lasted one season but the number of fans has continued to grow from reruns and tapes (see, for example, this review). Several sites provide detailed summaries of the episodes. (StarCops.com is an excellent site.) It will also be released on DVD in the UK at the end of the year.

[Thanks go to a HobbySpace visitor who asked a question about British space scifi and while investigating it I came across these series.]

June.20.03 Space News

A Station on the Moon and Sun... Checkout the great pictures taken by John Locker of the ISS transiting the Moon and the Sun: Space snapper catches unusual views - BBC - June.19.03 . (Item via the MarsBlog).

Jamming in orbit... Astronaut Ed Lu talks about playing an electronic piano on the Space Station in this recent article at Spaceflight Now.

BTW: His independently produced EdLu.com web site is quite impressive.

June.19.03 Space News

Informing the Senator... The letter Dear Senator Hatch by John Wickman to Senator Orrin Hatch lays out very clearly the case against the BATFE's (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) ridiculous justifications for its heavyhanded rules on hobby rocketry fuels.

Regular updates on the campaign against these rules at Homeland Security/Safe Explosives Act News at the America Rocketry Society of America.

TechTV has done a show on hobby rocketry and the fuel controversy : Tech Boosts Rocketry: Watch amateur rocketeers blast miniature missiles to the edge of space - TechTV - June.16.03. Broadcast scheduled for June 22.

June.18.03 Space News

Space tourism - alive and well ... The failure of Lance Bass to raise sufficient funds to go to the ISS and then the suspension by the Russians after the Columbia accident of the whole tourist program, led some to claim that space tourism had come and gone.

Today, though, Space Adventures and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency announced that they have agreed to send two tourists to the ISS in early 2005: Rocket Available: Explorers Wanted - Space Adventures Announces First Commercial Mission to the International Space Station - Space Adventures - June.18.03

For Those Who Can Afford It, 2 New Chances to Fly to Space - NY Times -June.18.03.

Also, the article - Tourist-Class Soyuz Seats Open for International Space Station Trip - Space.com - June.18.03 - reveals that Space Adventures has more than 10 candidates in "various stages of being ready for orbital flight."

This indicates that even at the $20M or so per flight, the space tourism market is alive and well. This could have big implications for companies trying to raise money to build low cost reusable launch vehicles for both suborbital and orbital tourist trips. They can now point to these flights as proof of a viable and potentially huge market as ticket prices come down.

New Arctic Mars crew... The Mars Society announced its new crew for this summer's session at the Flashline Mars Arctic Station on Devon Island. This eighth crew will carry out a 4-week mission, the longest so far.

June.17.03 Space News

Rocketry battles... A couple of senators, particularly Herbert Kohl (D-Wisc), on the Judiciary committee are standing in the way of freeing hobby rocketry from onerous and unwarranted regulations. Letters & faxes are needed to move them out of the way. See Senate Bill S724 Progress Report at the Amateur Rocket Society of America congressional action page for information on how you can help and this entry at Rocketforge.

Launching a point of light... The International Peace Star Project seeks to launch a "large, inflatable, earth-orbiting, reflective sphere", similar to the early Echo satellite. The object would be visible to the naked eye and would provide a "constant reminder of the beauty that surrounds us and the importance of peace to our future" according to the projects founders : Father And Daughter Propose Launching 'Peace Star' Satellite - Peace Star - June.16.03

A study by the University of Michigan's Department of Aerospace Engineering indicates the satellite would cost about $17 million dollars. The project is seeking out sponsorships.

Note: Many astronomers may not express peaceful thoughts when they consider dealing with yet another bright satellite passing through their telescope views.

June.16.03 Space News

Taking the kids to Mars... The Planetary Society and the LEGO company provided mini-DVDs that were bolted to the sides of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars landers. They include the names of 4 million people collected by NASA. The images of Astrobots "robotic minifigures suited up for space" which "appear as part of the structure that mounts the mini-DVD onto each spacecraft."

The two robotic explorers - Biff Starling and Sandy Moondust - will maintain a "blog" from space at Astrobots Diary so that kids can follow their Mars adventures.

Satellite Seeing-eye... A European program seeks to provide better guidance for the blind via GPS technology: GPS to Help the Blind Navigate - Wired - June.14.03.

Selecting satellite radio ... If you are trying to decide which satellite radio system to use, this article might help : XM or Sirius? - Fortune.com - June.11.03 .

Simulator news ... The freeware OrbiterSim space simulator recently got "slashdotted" : Orbiter Sim Gets You Spaced - Slashdot - June.10.03.

Kids are into space sims : Virtual shuttle flight like real thing - KnoxNews - June.13.03.

June.11.03 Space Activists Helping Rocketeers

One of my original motivations for HobbySpace was to encourage more interaction between space advocates and hobbyists in space related fields such as rocketry, amateur satellites and radio. Historically these groups operated in completely different universes that seldom overlapped.

However, in the past few years there seemed to gradually be more interaction among these groups. Advanced rocketeers, for example, are launching sophisticated vehicles that are approaching the boundary of space and a few are even building X PRIZE manned vehicles. Space advocate groups have begun to support some of these projects as they start to get involved in more hands-on, near-term activities.

The following letter from Brian Chase, executive director of the National Space Society, shows how space advocates can be of great help to rocketry at a time when it is under great threat from oppressive regulations and needs as much help as it can get.

I congratulate Brian on taking the NSS in this direction and helping out the rocketeers.

Mr. James P. Ficaretta
Program Manager
Room 5150
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
P.O. Box 50221
Washington, D.C. 20091-0221

SUBJECT: Response to Notice of Proposed Rulemaking No. 968, Commerce in Explosives (2000R-9P), 68 Fed. Reg. 4406 (Jan. 29, 2003)

Dear Mr. Ficaretta:

I am writing on behalf of the 22,000 members of the National Space Society to express our concern about proposed ATFE rule no. 968 that would irreparably impact model rocketry.

While I fully understand the need to review and reform existing regulations regarding explosive materials in light of critical homeland security matters, this proposed rule could substantially harm, if not outright eliminate, hobby and model rocket activities.

While I am certain that you have received numerous letters and other correspondence outlining the challenges in enforcing such a rule, as well as the technical rationale for providing an exemption for model rocketry, I want to highlight another vital reason for modifying the exemption for this activity.

As you may be aware, our nation is facing a critical shortage of U.S. citizens with technical and scientific training, which impacts critical industries such as the aerospace sector. In the November 2002 report issued by the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry – a group commissioned by the President and the U.S. Congress – the Commission points out that “it is imperative that the U.S. aerospace industry remains healthy to preserve the balance of our leadership today and to ensure our continued leadership tomorrow.”

They place a tremendous emphasis on this continued leadership – which has implications for our future economic and national security – and focus on the “graying of the workforce,” writing that “compounding the [aerospace] workforce crisis is the failure of the U.S. K-12 education system to properly equip U.S. students with the math, science, and technological skills needed to advance the U.S. aerospace industry.”

The field of model rocketry provides a fun, enjoyable pastime that simultaneously encourages students to consider technical fields for academic study, and the adults who participate in model rocketry often use their activities to support educational outreach in their local communities. To move forward with regulations that would substantially limit their activities could do grave harm to a recruiting mechanism that helps the United States maintain its long-term aerospace leadership.

I know that the model rocketry community is committed to cooperating with the federal government to help ensure domestic security, and I encourage you to work constructively with them as all parties seek a resolution to this matter. Additionally, the National Space Society recommends the following change to (a) (7) in § 55.141 Exemptions to reflect the concerns mentioned above:

(v) Model rocket motors consisting of ammonium perchlorate composite propellant, black powder, or non-detonable rocket propellant and designed as single use motors or as reload kits;

(vi) Commercially manufactured black powder in quantities not to exceed two pounds, safety and pyrotechnic fuses, quick and slow matches, electric matches and igniters when used in model rocket motors.

I appreciate your consideration of this very serious matter, and hope that ATFE will consider modifying the exemptions to ensure we do not unintentionally harm our future leadership in aerospace. This is not just a matter that concerns us in the present, but one that reaches decades into our future, and I want to ensure the best and brightest young minds today choose to enter fields that will help the U.S. maintain its economic and military leadership around the globe in the years ahead.

If you would like additional information on the Commission report I referenced above, it is available online at www.aerospacecommission.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can provide additional information.

Brian E. Chase
Executive Director

All space advocates, even with no personal involvement in rocketry, should pitch in and help them as well. See the Space-Rockets.com site for the latest on Congressional action to repeal these regulations.

June.10.03 Space News

Galaxy Explorer Summer Camps... The Galaxy Explorers program will sponsor five summer camps this summer in Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. See the announcement for details.

The Galaxy Explorers program is for grades 3 -11. It "seeks to inspire and educate kids in space related science and engineering. Galaxy Explorers was created to prepare children for the future; a future that advances a space faring civilization. Kids will learn with fun educational materials at monthly 'Mission Team' meetings and on occasional field trips."

If you are an adult who would like to get involved in this growing program, you can find info on their website.

June.9.03 Space News

Space oddity... Some find it odd that people like to participate in space exploration more than they like paying for a small elite to enjoy it: Oddity: Space exhibits more popular than space itself - Denver Post.com - June.8.03

Explore Mars Now or miss out... The ExploreMarsNow site uses state of the art web techniques to present a marvelous window on Mars exploration and settlement in the not so distant future. The site just won a "Webby" award in the science category.

Oppportunity and Spirit going to Mars... Sofi Collis, a 9 year old 3rd grade student from Arizona, won the The Planetary Society' & LEGO's contest to name the rovers that will soon be launched for a landing on Mars in December.

Space sponsorships... LEGO, which helped to sponsor the rover naming contest mentioned above, is showing how sponsoring space related projects pays off for everyone. The projects get very much needed funding and the company gets great exposure:

June.7.03 Space News

Mars Rover Naming Day... The winner of NASA's contest to name the Mars rovers will be announced this weekend : NASA To Announce Mars Robotic Rover Names on Sunday - SpaceRef - June.5.03.

Watch the webcast of the announcement from JPL : Launch of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Webcast - JPL. Then stay tuned on that channel to watch the launch of Mer-A at 2:44 EST.

Successful space auction... Congratulations to collectSpace and its collaborators in the big success of its recent "silent auction to raise scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination, and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major. All items auctioned were consigned by the astronauts and their families. Full proceeds benefited the ASF [Astronaut Scholarship Fund]". More info at Silent Auction - Over $58,000 raised! - CollectSpace - May.24.03

Red Mars TV... Looks like Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars book will become an eight part mini-series - Hurd Goes To Mars - Sci Fi Wire - June.6.03 .(Found via spacetoday.net.) This short news item only mentions Red Mars, the first book of Robinson's trilogy. Perhaps like the Dune series, they will wait to see how successful it is before deciding to do the other two books.

James Cameron had shown interest in doing a mini-series of the trilogy but he said recently that he had too many projects going on at the moment to do any space related ones for awhile.

June.5.03 New Interview

An Interview with Larry Young - in my latest interview I talk with creator and writer of the Astronauts in Trouble comic book series (or graphic novel if you're an adult and don't want people to know that you read comic books). The series makes near-future space sci-fi seem hip and fun again for young and old.

Blogging back ... They always appear whenever there is a space event that makes the front page section. Whether its a good event, such as the launching of a probe to Mars, or a bad one, such as the Columbia disaster, they spring up like a particularly ugly variety of mushrooms that may not be poisonous but is certainly devoid of all nutritional value.

I'm talking about essays on the editorial pages by people who have not thought about space for years, if ever, but now from reading an article, or at least looking at the headline of one, they feel quite knowledgeable enough to expound witlessly about the waste and error of space exploration. And of course, they always write about the originality and rebelliousness of their brave dissent, which in fact consists entirely of trite cliches fully in synch with the opinions of their peers.

Usually a letter to the editor in response doesn't make it into the newspaper, especially if it gives a detailed rebuttal. However, the power of the internet, now allows some to hit back forcefully and probably reach more people than the sum of all those reading the letters to the editor sections in all the world.

Weblogs have become an internet phenomena and are starting to challenge editorial pages for the eye of the reading public. The most popular ones get hit rates approaching those of the most popular news sites. And there are many good space weblogs (see a short list.)

The blogger example that inspired this item is by T.L. James at the Lousiana Mars Society weblog where he skewers an especially unsightly toadstool: Guardian Op-Ed Moonbattery - Louisiana Mars Society - June.4.03. Links to good blog entries like this get passed around (I first saw it via Rand Simberg's weblog) so even when they are on a less well known blogger, they can end up being read by a lot of people.

June.3.03 Space News

Rocketry campaign needs you ... The efforts in the Senate to bar over-regulation of hobby rocketry has generally been successful. Now the campaign needs your help in the House of Representatives. See the Congressional Action Page for advice on who you should send a letter to.

Music & Art Riding to Mars ... Music from the group Blur and art from Daimen Hirst are on their way to Mars via the Beagle II lander just launched this week. A swatch of red Ferrari paint is going as well:

Continue to May 2003 articles in archive

HobbySpace News Articles Index 1999-2003


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