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The Space Log
Space for Everyone - December 2004

December.31.2004 Space News

Space past and future ... Alan Boyle reflects on the past year in space: Back to the future frontier: The year in space: 2004 marked by success and stress - MSNBC - Dec.28.04 while Mark Whittington makes some space related predictions - Curmudgeons Corner - Dec.30.0.

News briefs... Students will have the opportunity to build copies of the SS1: Incredible Opportunity!! Students and Young Professionals Wanted for the Chance of a Lifetime - Space Race News! - Dec.30.04 ...

... The FAA/AST has added an education related section to its web site: Commercial Space Transportation - FAA / AST - Education...

... Amateur astronomers once again show they are capable of leading edge research: Amateurs Detect Possible Exoplanet Ring-like Structure - Sky and Telescope - Dec.29.04 ...

... Alan Boyle posts satellite pictures of the tsunami: Tsunami seen from space - CosmicLog/MSNBC - Dec.30.04 ...

... Philip Corneille has built a big collection of Mars exploration related materials and is adding more every day at Mars Literature.

The SpaceShow this week:

Sunday January 2, 2005, 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time - features Peter Kokh, President of The Moon Society.

Ed.: Peter has long been a proponent of lunar settlement and edits the Moon Miners' Manifesto periodical, which discusses various practical aspects of building communities on the Moon. Seems like every time I come up with a cool idea for a lunar manufactured product (e.g. glass artwork made from lunar materials) or lunar architecture (e.g. light-piping the sun into living quarters), he has already thought of it long ago and worked out the details.

On Tuesday, Dec. 28th, David interviewed Tom Olson of the Colony Fund about space development during 2004 and the possibilities for 2005.

Also, he recently interviewed Richard Westfall of Galactic Mining Industries about "tele-possession" of asteroids and lunar sites via remotely controlled exploration spacecraft.

December.29.2004 Space News

News briefs... MP3s are available for the winning songs in the 2004 Mars Society space song contest: Roget de Lisle finalists ...

... Lots of info regarding "living off the land" in space: Cosmochemistry and Human Exploration by G. Jeffrey Taylor ...

... A reporter finds space camp more fun than he expected: Surviving Space Camp - Wired - Jan.05 issue ...

... Space enabled businesses show some growth and progress: Satellite radio sees subscriber growth - CNET - Dec.27.04 * Clawing back demand for satellites - BBC - Dec.26.04 ...

... The EXPLORE: Space Travel Dictionary and Encyclopedia site looks like a good addition to online space references...

... Here's a list of major space developments in 2004: Space awards - Curmudgeons Corner - Dec.26.04

December.23.2004 Space News

News briefs... The prospects look poor for the student satellites placed on the first Delta IV Heavy launch:

... The Music2Titan songs placed on the Huygens probe, which will enter the atmosphere of Titan in January, have now been released to the public. Samples can be heard here. One of the songs is available for free but you have to register with iTunes to access it and to buy the other three...

... A near miss occurred before we even knew it was coming: Small Asteroid Passes Between Satellites and Earth - Space.com - Dec.22.04. More on Current Impact Risks and NEO Earth Close Approaches at NASA - JPL Near Earth Object Program. (Link via C. Pooley)...

... Mars just gets more interesting all the time: Mars Express finds evidence of active volcanism - spacetoday.net - Dec.23.04...

... While those living in urban and suburban areas have DSL or cable broadband, satellite broadband is currently the best option for those in rural areas. The company AgriStar uses a Hughes DIRECTWAY satellite [now HughesNet] to explicitly target agricultural/rural market: AgriStar Connecting Rural U.S. to Internet - SkyREPORT.com - Dec.23.04...

... While commercial satellite builders and launchers still struggle with a weak market, , it's been a great year for services enabled by satellites: 12 Days of a Satellite Christmas - A Look Back at 2004 - SkyREPORT.com - Dec.23.04...

... Ken Schweitzer wrote to tell me he has revamped the SpaceInvestor.com web site. It will let start-ups and smaller companies "increase their exposure to the investment and business community through showcasing their company's profile." ...

... I hope projects like the SpaceShipOne will rekindle interest by young people in space development, and in science and engineering in general: Rediscovering the final frontier: A new exhibit at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry lets visitors explore space without leaving the ground. - St. Petersburg Times - Dec.23.04

SciTech news ... Tests of the UrbanAero prototype vehicle have been successful according to news posted recently on their website. No new pictures or videos but there is this X-Hawk brochure (pdf ) ...

... Maybe the X-Hawk will use a parachute as a safety backup: Huge parachute designed to save crashing planes - CNN.com - Dec22.04

December.21.2004 Space News

Space history news ... An avid space history buff, John Putorack, builds his own Block I Apollo Guidance Computer Replica (link via NASA Watch). More links to computer and other Apollo equipment projects and information in the Apollo equipment subsection...

... Sven Grahn, a Swedish space history buff, posts a report on Luna 3 - the first view of the moon's far side. See also Don P. Mitchell's collection of .Soviet Moon Images and his history of The Soviet Exploration of Venus...

... As I suspected, one historian often seen commenting in the press on any and all space matters doesn't actually know very much about space matters: Professor Grinch - The Space Review - Dec.20.04

News briefs ... Via the article Thinking big at Bigelow Aerospace - The Space Review - Dec.20.04, I remembered this interesting list of potential products for in space manufacture: Beyond the Satellites: Stimulating a New Wave of Commercial Space Development -Bigelow Aerospac/Patton Boggs - Dec.15.00 - list of products for in space manufacture ...

... Via Ken Murphy I heard that Frau im Mond, one of the first attempts at a realistic sci-fi space movie, is now available on DVD: Amazon.com: DVD: Woman in the Moon (1931) * Kino Film: Woman in the Moon ...

... CSA has put together a nice educational site on satellites and their benefits to society: Visions from Above: Satellites in Our Lives - California Space Authority (CSA)

The SpaceShow this week:

Tuesday Dec. 21, 2004, 7:30-8:30 pm (Pacific Time) - The show features John Garvey, CEO of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation. John is often mentioned in the Advanced Rocketry News section here with regard to various experimental rocketry projects, especially those in collaboration with students at Cal State Long Beach.

Sunday Dec. 26, 2004, 7-8:15 pm (Pacific Time) - This show features "Richard Westfall regarding telepossession of extraterrestrial resources with leveraged financing of commercial space projects."

SciTech news ... This sounds like a material worthy of the description "futuristic": Testing Their Metal [Metal Rubber] - Technology Review - Dec.18.04 ...

... Here's a photo of a hot looking high performance hybrid sports car: The Future of the Car: Plug-In Hybrids? - Alternative Energy Blog - Alt-Energy.org - Dec.17.04....

... And this article - Why the future is hybrid - Economist/FuelCellWorks - Dec.17.04 - discusses "plug-in hybrids", which allow for pure battery power for short distance commuting. Sounds like a great intermediate system. The following generation could then go to either to fuel cells or long capacity batteries if such are ever developed.

December.20.2004 Space News

Space music news ... I recently received a very nice CD made by Janet Robbins and titled Carrying the Bag of Hearts/Interpreting the Birth of Stars Vol. 1. (Here are some mp3 samples). I've enjoyed meditative styles of music ever since I first heard the radio program Hearts of Space while living in the Bay area back in the 1970s.

Her first track is entitled At the Heart of a Spiral Galaxy (M51's close encounter) and was inspired by the Whirlpool Galaxy's interaction with the companion galaxy, NGC 5195.

An earlier album title All The Worlds was released in 1997. (Amazon) ...

... At a somewhat lower plane of musical space travel, the soundtrack to the Trekkies 2 documentry has been released: Amazon.

News briefs... The Space Station Sim developers are looking for people to test their program: Vision Videogames Seeks Game Testers for SpaceStationSIM Game- i-Newswire.com - Dec.20.04....

... Here's a huge list of references dealing with lunar development [collected by Ken Murphy]: Lunar Bibliography - The Return To The Moon Board ...

... Alan Boyle - 101 years of flight - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Dec.17.04 - and Rand Simberg - A Century And A Year - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.17.04 - remembered the significance of December 17th to both aeronautics and astronautics...

... VOA looks at the B612 Foundation and its campaign to develop the technology needed to save Earth someday: Former Astronaut, Engineers Hope to Deflect Asteroid - VOA News - Dec.17.04...

... Boeing's Connexion satellite broadband service to airline passengers may start streaming TV as well: Boeing casts eyes on live TV over Connexion service - InfoWorld- Dec.17.04

SciTech briefs... Maybe some kids like the fact that occasionally their birthday comes on a Saturday: Remaking the calendar - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Dec.17.04 ...

... The very light jet (VLJ) Eclipse gets the first set of flight engines of the type with which it will go into production and the company holds a roll out of the Eclipse 500 test aircraft.

December.17.2004 Space News

News briefs ... NASA does in fact seem to be funding lunar resource extraction research more vigorously these days. Here's one such interesting project: SA man makes moon magic - News24.com - Dec.14.04 (via Rand Simberg) * British Titanium plc (BTi)to receive US$14.32M funding from NASA to deliver a process to produce oxygen on the moon from lunar regolith. - BritishTitanium/i-newswire - Dec.16.04 ...

... The effort to save the decaying Saturn in Huntsville needs more funding: Save the Saturn effort needs a boost: Space Center must get 700 more tag orders by Jan. 31 - Huntsville Times - Dec.16.04 ...

... Maybe AARP will start negotiating special discounts for senior space travelers: Seattleite proves age is no barrier to space records - Seattle PI - Dec.16.04 * Space Adventures' Client Sets Guinness World Record 80 year-old Seattle resident becomes world's oldest woman to experience zero-gravity - SpaceAdventures - Nov.29.04 ...

... Heavy metal comes crashing into Star Trek at Warp 11. Check out the rave reviews.

Space tracking via the Web... Tracking of various activities via satellites and the Web is becoming more and more common. Following migratory animals is one common example. Here are a couple of other interesting tracking projects I came across this week:

Near space competition to space... High altitude platforms like that flown by Sanswire Networks may eat into some of the comsat business: Not quite out of this world: After years of hype, a new, cheaper way to blanket cities with wireless coverage may finally be about to get off the ground - Economist.com - Dec.2.04.

However, Internet via satellite has not caught on except for remote areas, which won't be served by the floating platforms anyway. Satellite TV and radio are quite economical and not threatened at all by these platforms. So I don't think these and other near space platforms will have much impact on the satellite business.

SciTech news briefs... Maybe there will someday be a 100 meter sprint race between Honda's robot ( Honda Worldwide | HDTV | ASIMO (Research Model) - Running at 3km/h * Bipedal robot learns to run - New Scientist - Dec.16.04) and Sony's ( World's First Running Humanoid Robot - Sony - Dec.13.03 * 'Running' Robot Gets Off Ground - Wired - Dec.18.03)...

... From Alan Boyle comes news - Flight plan for the future - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Dec.15.04 - that NASA and other agencies are making progress at developing an air control system that will allow "greater use of small-scale aviation systems". These can range from very light jets (VLJ) such as the Eclipse to personal flying vehicles such as the Skycar. More info at Next Generation Air Transportation System : Joint Planning & Development Office.

December.15.2004 Space News

It was a dark and sand-stormy night on Mars ... You have another chance to win fame and glory for your sci-fi short story writing skills by entering The Clarke-Bradbury Science Fiction Competition for 2005. The deadline is February 25, 2005. More info at A chance to imagine the future - ESA - Dec.13.04.

Space shelter... Michael Huang has opened the web site - Spaceflight or Extinction - to provide resources regarding the topic of space as a place for safekeeping of humanity and civilization in case of an earth-wide catastrophe.

See also his recent article - Saganís rationale for human spaceflight - The Space Review - Nov.8.04.

More lunar hydrogen... With regard to hydrogen on the Moon (see earlier item), Rand Simberg says water is very much the preferable source: A Little Too Optimistic - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.15.04.

Even if there is no ice on the Moon, though, I would be astonished if analysis showed that it costs more to make water from local hydrogen and oxygen than to bring it from earth.

In situ resource exploitation (for both the Moon and Mars) is a complicated subject that NASA should have been studying intensely for years but has not. Maybe with the VSE initiative, it will finally become a high priority for the agency. There is also the obvious need to put a rover on one of the poles to find out exactly what form the hydrogen is in.

News briefs ... Alan Boyle reports on high-altitude alternatives to satellites: Near space gets nearer - MSNBC - Dec.14.04. I've frequently mentioned the group JP Aerospace, which is pursuing both near and far space projects with an interesting pro/am organizational approach. ...

...If you are interested in commercial spaceflight, you might want to consider attending the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in February, 2005.

SciTech brief... OK, we can now start the countdown to a Michael Crichton type book/movie about the approaching menace of meat-eating, self-replicating robots: Ecobot Eats Dead Flies for Fuel - Wired News - Dec.15.04. (Another good reason to flee to space...)

Space sim discount... This Christmas give yourself a cool space simulator:

A-OK! The Wings of Mercury Price Break
New Price for realistic spacecraft simulation

December 14, 2004. Brick, NJ - Pyramid Design has announce an across the board price reduction for its award-winning simulation product, A-OK! The Wings of Mercury.

A-OK! The Wings of Mercury is now priced at $29.95 (was $59.95) and $14.95 (was $29.95) for an upgrade from 2.x. A demo version, which can be upgraded to a full version right from the program, is available for download at the A-OK! WoM web site. (www.pyramiddesign.us/aokwom). Educational institutions can get a site license for $199.95 (was $349.95).


A-OK! The Wings of Mercury simulates America's first spacecraft, Project Mercury, and opens a new frontier in computer simulations. The operation of every gauge, light and switch in the spacecraft is simulated to a high degree of fidelity. So accurate are the spacecraft systems that users consult reproductions of the actual flight documentation used by the Mercury astronauts. The simulator can generate hundreds of failure scenarios that require split-second decisions to survive.

A-OK! The Wings of Mercury ships with A-OK! Mission Control Center, an application that simulates the consoles at Mercury mission control.

A-OK! The Wings of Mercury also ships with a suite of tools that allows users to edit the launch and landing areas, calculate retrofire and ground station contact times and other mission-critical tasks.

The demo version is restricted to sub-orbital, non-networked simulations and does not allow the use of the A-OK! Tool Kit. In addition, to removing these restrictions, registered users will be entitled to free updates from version 3.0 to 3.9 and priority in bug reporting and follow-up.


December.14.2004 Space News

News briefs ... The VSE will not cost $1 Trillion and it is not a humans-to-Mars program (except as a very long term goal) but it's tough to get that message across to the press according to Dwayne Day:Old myths never die, they just (sorta) fade away - The Space Review - Dec.13.04 ...

... Some people, though, consider Mars to be the only worthwhile goal in space: Mars: the only goal for humanity - The Space Review - Dec.13.04...

... A distinguished Senator once seriously proposed making Mars the joint goal of the US and USSR: The Senator from Hawaii - The Space Review - Dec.13.04...

... More about radiation protection via magnetic fields: Riding in Magnetic Bubbles - Astrobiology Magazine - Dec.12.04 ...

... The SpaceShipOne generated a high paying collectible: "SpaceShip-flown rocket to be auctioned" - collectSPACE - Dec.13.04 ...

... Robert Klieinberger's Lunar Rocket & Rover Co., Inc. (non-flash site) company is offering high school and college students the chance to fly payloads on the firm's sounding rockets: Opportunity for a School to Build a Payload - CSA (CSA): - Dec.13.04. Here is brochure (pdf) about the company's rocketry educational programs. ...

... So maybe life started on Mars and then got transported to Earth via a rocket blasted off the planet by an asteroid impact, or vice versa: Life-Swapping Scenarios for Earth and Mars - Space.com - Dec.13.04 ...

Hydrogen is the valuable thing... I've occasionally heard it said that while the Lunar Prospector definitely detected hydrogen that doesn't necessarily mean that the hydrogen is in water ice. This can leave the impression that it would be a big disappointment if the hydrogen signal was not from water. But as Alan Binder, leader of the Lunar Prospector project, indicates in this article - Lunar Ice: 'Cold Traps' Eyed for Exploration - Space.com - Dec.14.04 - it's not a big deal if there is no water.

Oxides are very abundant in the lunar regolith. So you can always combine oxygen, which you will be extracting for air to breath anyway, with extracted hydrogen to make water (or to use for rocket propulsion).

"Itís totally irrelevant what form the hydrogen is inÖwhether itís solar wind implanted hydrogen or whether it is water. We just have to know what equipment to take. Thatís because you harvest solar wind hydrogen one way and you harvest the water ice another way. Itís still good news," Binder explained.

"In both cases, itís the hydrogen that is the valuable thing," Binder concluded, "because thereís plenty of oxygen around. We know that you can crack the rocks and get the metal and oxygen out."

SciTech brief... I suggested recently that hybrid autos should be marketed on the basis of performance rather than fuel saving. This article - Rivals Join To Develop Hybrid-Car Technology: DaimlerChrysler, GM Had Spurned Gas-Electric Idea - Washington Post - Dec.14.04 - indicates this may become the standard approach. An industry analyst states, "Automakers are shifting their marketing strategy away from being 'green' towards 'guilt-free performance.' We believe this will propel hybrid technology into the mass market"...

... The site Tech-novel-gy offers news and resources on cool new technologies, both current and in a sci-fi future.

December.13.2004 Space News

The SpaceShow this week:

The Thursday Dec. 14, 2004, 7:30-8:30PM Pacific Time- "Scott Sullivan, author of 'Virtual LM' and 'Virtual Apollo' discusses these books with Space Show listeners."

The Tuesday Dec. 16, 2004, 7-8:15PM Pacific Time- "Robert Zimmerman returns for this special program to examine the pending Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 legislation waiting for the President's signature. "

Sunday December 19, 2004, 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time - "Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz provides us with a current space law update."

Sunday December 19, 2004, 5:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time - "Frank Sietzen returns for this special and timely space program update."

A recent addition to the archive includes David Criswell, a well known proponent of solar energy delivered via the Moon.

News briefs ... Here is more info on the student nanosats that will ride piggyback on the first Delta 4 launch: The DemoSat/Nanosat-2 payload - Spaceflight Now - Dec.1.04...

... The first launch attempt, however, was canceled. You can follow the status of the preparations for the next launch attempt at Spaceflight Now and you can watch the launch via the webcast at Delta IV Heavy Demonstration Launch Live Webcast...

... Speaking of amateur satellites, check out the updated Amateur Satellite Resource Guide - amsat.org (pdf) ...

... The food supply problems on the ISS - No Snacks in Space - NASA Watch - Dec.10.04 - inspired Tom Hill to suggest a new attraction for space tourists: The ISS Diet ...

... Aviation Week gives an extensive overview of the space exploration options that NASA must choose from in the next few years: Outer Solar System Beckons, but Moon/Mars Focus Could Slow Exploration There - Aviation Week - Dec.12.04 ...

... The choices will apparently be made by a new administrator: Reports: O'Keefe resignation imminent - spacetoday.net - Dec.12.04

SciTech briefs... I recently mentioned a NY Times article about a super high resolution, large format camera. Ben Huset sent me a link to the web site of Clifford Ross, the inventor of the camera, where you can find more information about the camera. There are also gallery pages filled with his amazing photographs...

... Check out the status of the development of LVJ (Very Light Jets), which may lead to faster travel via air taxi services from small, local airports: In The Works - Aviation Int. News/Eclipse Aviation - Dec.1.04

December.10.2004 Space News

Space history book sale... Brian Stephenson at ApolloSpaceBooks.com tells me that he is looking to sell the remaining 4000 copies (out of a printing of 50,000) of Man's Greatest Adventure! .

The book, which includes a forward by James Lovell, Commander of Apollo 13, is described as a "rare, commemorative, photo-filled coffee table styled reference book chronicling the Apollo Missions 7 through 17."

Brian wants to sell the entire inventory in bulk quantities and will offer a "substantially discounted price." He suggests the books would offer "excellent fund-raisers for schools, clubs, etc."

Sci-fi comes true (occasionally)... This article - Where Science, Fiction Meet: A Seattle museum is Paul Allen's homage to a genre that evolved from 'pulp' into literature, and influenced real discovery along the way. - LA Times - Dec.10.04 - starts off with this nice observation:

In 1947, Robert A. Heinlein published a novel called "Rocket Ship Galileo," about a group of whiz kids who build their own ship and fly into space.

This summer, 57 years after the book, SpaceShipOne was launched from the Mojave Desert, becoming the first manned spaceflight by private citizens. The accomplishment capped a remarkable story about a group of whizzes who decided one day to build their own ship and fly into space.

News briefs ... NASA's 2004 booklet on spinoffs from space development is now available online (pdf)...

... Looks like Orbital Recovery has gotten yet another customer for its space tug service: Propellant tank problem jeopardizes satellite - spacetoday.net - Dec.10.04 ...

... Europe decides to build Galileo, its own GPS system: Europe presses ahead on sat-nav - BBC - Dec.10.04 ...

... Launching from the Esrange Facility in northern Sweden has its challenges: Into space from the icy-cold Arctic - ESA - Dec.10.04 ...

... Sound like just about everything you could possibly want to know about Apollo 17 is available in the new DVD set from Spacecraft Films: "Apollo 17: End of the Beginning" - collectSPACE - Dec.10.04

December.9.2004 Space News

Mars/Zubrin documentary... A snazzy documentary about Robert Zubrin and "his struggle to get the first human mission to Mars off the ground" will be released in 2005: The Mars Underground - Ocule Entertainment (Via NASA Watch). Check out the slick trailer.

The web page for the move says that it was

"S[s]hot entirely in breathtaking High Definition (HD) and directed by accomplished documentarian, Scott J. Gill (Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, The Blood Earth), THE MARS UNDERGROUND brings to life Dr. Zubrinís vision, known as "Mars Direct", through startling 3-D CGI animation of the launch, voyage and landing of spacecraft, as well as glimpses into the future of manís reign on Mars...."

Hubble in trouble - carbon-based units to the rescue... According to a National Academy of Science study - Space Shuttle Should Conduct Final Servicing Mission To Hubble Space Telescope - National Academies - Dec.8.04 - humans beat robots when it comes to repairing the Hubble spacecraft. More links at Panel recommends shuttle Hubble servicing mission - spacetoday.net - Dec.9.04.

News briefs ... Programmers can show off their skills in this contest: Mars Rescue Mission Challenge - Dr. Dobb's Journal and Frank BuŖ...

... Robert McCall is looking for a place to display his wonderful space art: Out-of-this-world art needs a down-to-earth home: Valley's [Robert] McCall seeks museum for his works - Arizona Republic - Dec.9.04...

... Canadians will soon be able to enjoy satellite radio: For Satellite Radio Fans, Northern Exposure - NY Times - Dec.9.04...

... I would not call them tourists if the government chooses who goes and pays for the trips, but at least some Koreans will have a chance to go to space: 2 Space Tourist Hopefuls to Be Selected by May - The Korea Times - Dec.9.04 ...

... This camera sound cool but I wish there was more about how it works: Tom Swift's New Camera, Ready for Space and Spies - NY Times - Dec.9.04.

December.8.2004 Space News

Hubble trouble ... I certainly would like to see the Hubble observatory fixed but not if it costs so much that the repair mission depletes funds essential for making progress on the VSE: Robotic fix for Hubble challenged: New report questions cost, timeliness of mission - MSNBC - Dec.6.04 * Study critical of robotic Hubble repair - spacetoday.net - Dec.7.04.

Perhaps the two goals are not incompatable. I believe a high priority for the VSE program should be close cooperation with innovative space entrepreneurs like Bigelow Aerospace. It's possible that technology developed by Bigelow could make a mission like the Hubble repair feasible: How a Ďsafe havení could help save Hubble: Study suggests launching module - by Jim Oberg - MSNBC - Dec.7.04.

If a repair mission isn't practical then I would argue that NASA should simply pay for Orbital Recovery to send a tug to push Hubble to an orbit high enough where the spacecraft can remain safe until it someday becomes practical to bring the telescope back to earth for display in the Smithsonian.

News briefs ... The World Space Culture Conference on 12-27 September, 2005 in London, England will be "a celebration of the diversity of attitudes and approaches to space exploration across cultures."...

... Florida orange growers discover spysats: Satellite may eye Brazil citrus crop: Officials: Photos give U.S. glimpse of competition - Florida Today - Dec.7.04...

... Student satellite builders finally find a ride to space: New Delta 4 ready for 1st flight: Rocket to give ride to students' science satellites - Florida Today - Dec.7.04.

SciTech brief... Using hydrogen produced by solar power as a battery seems like a good idea: Sunlight to Fuel Hydrogen Future - Wired News - Dec.7.04. The article talks about using home-produced hydrogen for cars but it could also be stored to produce heating and electrical power at home during nights or on cloudy days.

December.7.2004 Space News

The SpaceShow this week:

The Tuesday Dec. 7, 2004, 7-8:15PM Pacific Time- the Space Show features Dr. David Criswell who will "discuss space solar power and lots more."

Sunday December 12, 2004, 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time - "Ann Parson, author of "The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise for Medicine" joins for a program focusing on the importanc of stem cell research."

Recent additions to the archive include Robert Zimmerman, author and space historian, and Frank White, author of "The Overview Effect" and the new book, "Decision: Earth."

December.6.2004 Space News

Visions of low cost space exploration... Criticisms of the President's space exploration initiative, like those in this article and in this editorial, center around the assumption that significant increases in NASA funding will be required to pay for it.

Articles by Jim Oberg and Dwayne Day have explained, however, how the huge numbers commonly cited for the VSE (Vision for Space Exploration) are bogus and wildly exaggerated.

In fact, it's quite possible to carry out a robust deep space exploration program with no significant funding boosts. First of all, several billion dollars will be freed up by discontinuing the shuttle program and by completing the ISS construction. Further savings will occur if the agency works closely with innovative private space developers like Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceX that are highly motivated to bring down the costs of space development.

Sam Dinkin notes in the latest Space Review that significant reductions in the price for sending payloads to the Moon are already within reach: A lunar vision at $2,000/kg by Sam Dinkin - The Space Review - Dec.6.04.

However, NASA's poor reputation for cost control and the widely held view that anything associated with space is unavoidably gigantically expensive make it difficult to gain support and enthusiasm for the initiative beyond the aerospace industry and the space advocacy community.

To gain greater political support for the VSE, I would suggest the following actions by the administration:

  • Make it clear and explicit that the VSE will be carried out within a NASA budget that expands only to match inflation.

  • Explicitly tie VSE program development to progress in reducing launch costs. For example, human missions to the Moon would not begin until launch costs to LEO are reduced to, say, $2000 per kg. Human missions to Mars would not begin until transport costs to reach the Moon are reduced to $2000 per kg.

    Calculation of such costs should include hardware development and not just operational expenses.

  • Announce that no new heavy lift vehicle project will be started. By relying on in-orbit assembly, the currently available launchers can provide all the hardware capabilities needed to fulfill the VSE goals of lunar bases, manned Mars missions, etc. (E.g. see Dennis Wingo's book Moonrush in which he lays out such a scheme.)

    A $10-15 Billion dollar heavy lift project would play right into the hands of critics who will rightfully say that NASA just wants yet another huge hardware project to support its bloated infrastructure.

  • Announce that in addition to scientific exploration, an equally important goal of the program is the development of practical technologies to exploit the resources of space, such as space solar energy and platinum group metals on the Moon (see Wingo's book for an extensive discussion of mining lunar PGM.)

While there will never be unanimous support for government supported space exploration and development, if the public perceives that real and significant progress is being made at the current budget level (which is modest relative to the total budget and GDP), I think the support will be strong enough to sustain the program over many years and many administrations.

SEDS gets political... The Students for Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) plans to create a "subgroup within SEDS called the Nation Action Network (NAN), meant to be the 'political arm' of SEDS": Calling all students - Space Politics - Dec.5.04.

If you are interested in participating, check out the chat room access to the SEDS Executive Board Online Meeting on Tuesday, December 7, at 9:00pm EST.

News briefs ... The first authorized biography of the first man on the Moon will go on sale next fall: "Unveiling the man with that famous step" - collectSPACE - Dec.4.04...

... On your next visit to the Kennedy Space Center, you can arrange to attend a lunch with an astronaut:

... Ron Dantowitz, known here for his photographs of shuttles in orbit and the ISS taken from the ground with amateur telescopes, gets some recognition for his education efforts: 'Mad scientist' on a mission - Boston.com - Dec.5.04...

... High power rocketry is taking off in India: Bangalore boys to launch self-made rocket - HindustanTimes - Dec.1.04 * Bangalore boys to launch rocket - The Hindu News - Dec.1.04...

... More about the politics that delivered funding for NASA's exploration programs: DeLay's Push Helps Deliver NASA Funds - Washington Post - Dec.6.04

December.4.2004 Space News

Space background noise... The set of essays at The American Enterprise: The Sober Realities of Manned Space Flight provides various perspectives on space exploration and development. I agree with some points made and disagree with others.

(Although I often like Easterbrook's writings on social and economic topics, when it comes to space I find that he states his views as if they were absolute truths when in fact almost every point he makes is either plain wrong, highly disputable, or irrelevant.)

NASA has now obtained the funding needed to initiate the President's Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). Public debate over the program and over NASA's management of it will be contentious and endless. Though criticisms by "opinion makers" may help to sway public interest and support away from this program, I've become less and less interested what is said about space, especially about government space programs.

What I find far more compelling and encouraging is what is actually being accomplished by the growing wave of private space projects. As long as Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow, and other wealthy space developers continue to put money into their own visions of space development, real progress is going to be made.

While I certainly hope the VSE becomes a great success, it looks increasingly likely that humanity's expansion into space will start to happen in the next couple of decades regardless.

Climbing tourism ... In response to the recent discussions here about space tourism, HS reader B. Burners sent a pointer to this National Geographic article about Mt. Everest. Despite the serious dangers, a growing number of people are paying big sums of money to climb to the top of the highest mountain on earth. Fortunately, the Sherpa guides are outside the reach of US government regulators and liability lawyers.

News briefs ... The question of whether there was ever liquid water on the surface of Mars seems to have been settled in the positive. Now the big question is whether there was ever anything swimming around in that water: With Proof of Ancient Water on Mars, Researchers Consider Life's Chances - Space.com - Dec.2.04 (Of course, if there was then the bigger question is whether it still is alive in the Martian ground.)...

... A satellite plays dead for awhile and then gets back to work: Intelsat resurrects IA-7 - spacetoday.net - Dec.3.04

SciTech brief... Flying just like a bird is the goal of ornithopter builders. Check out the cool videos at www.ornithopter.net of a model ornithopter in flight and a ground test of a manned vehicle.

Professor James DeLaurier at the University of Toronto plans a manned test flight of an ornithopter on December 6th: Canadian Inventor Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Original Ornithopter Design Shoots for the 2006 Italian Olympics - PR Web - Dec.2.04.

More videos are available at the The Ornithopter Zone. More ornithopter links in the SciTech section...

... Here's a very informative article on the status of holography and why we probably will have to wait many more years to see Princess Leia projected in 3-D: O Hologram, Where Art Thou? - Why holograms look so cool in the movies and so lame in real life. By Paul Boutin - Slate - Dec.2.04

December.2.2004 Space News

Songs for Titan... I have mentioned the Music2Titan project a few times here. Here is a recent press release issued as the time approaches for the Huygens probe to fly into Titan's atmosphere:

Collaborative Music2Titan Project Brings Music
to the Furthest Depths of Space Ever

Project Marks the First Time A Sign of Human Life Travelled
and Landed to These Depths of the Universe

PARIS - November 15, 2004 - In a collaborative effort between renowned composer, musician and humanitarian, Julian Civange, and the European Space Agency (ESA), four songs, representing the first signs of humanity, will arrive on Titan, the major moon of Saturn, aboard the Huygens probe, sent to study the origins of life and possibly forms of extra-terrestrial life.

The European Huygens spacecraft will arrive on Titan, Saturn's main moon, on January 14, 2005 after a long voyage of seven years and nearly four billion kilometres. While the mission is focused on studying the origins of life, the Music2Titan project will for the first time offer a glimpse of mankind to the furthest reaches of space.

"Music2Titan reflects a wish to highlight mankind's existence in the universe through music and to familiarize people with the spatial exodus and possible existence of extraterrestrial life," said Julien Civange, producer, musician and initiator of Music2Titan. "It also serves as a way to offer people hope for the future and to make music travel beyond normal boundaries."

Music, The Sound Paintings of Space

At the request of the ESA, four pieces of music "made on earth" were composed by the French musicians Julien Civange and Louis Haťri, and were put on board the Huygens probe in 1997. The ESA hoped that these pieces of music would arouse the interest of the general public about this great adventure, and leave a trace of humankind in the unknown.

The four pieces of music lasting a total of 14 minutes are respectively called "Lalala", "Bald James Deans", "Hot Time", and "No Love" and will be available over the Internet, to the public on the 21st December through an original distribution plan through a major U.S.-based online music service.

The Cassini-Huygens Mission: A Journey to the Origins of Life

On 15th October 1997, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft launched as a coordinated effort between NASA, the ESA and the Italian Space Agency (ISA), beginning a mission to explore Saturn, its rings, its satellites, and above all Titan, the largest and most mysterious of its moons. Huygens will detach from Cassini at the end of December to dive into the atmosphere of Titan, which it will reach on January 14, 2005 after seven years and nearly four billion kilometres.

From there, a system of sophisticated instruments will provide scientists with vital data to help understand this mysterious region. As the only moon in the solar system with its own atmosphere, Titan is the best place to study "primordial soup", the matter from which life emerged on Earth.

While the public must wait to download and hear the pieces, Siliwood Music invites you to visit the site www.music2titan.com where you can directly follow the progress of the mission.

See also this posting at the ESA site: Rockíníroll heading for Titan - ESA - Dec. 1.04.

News briefs ... The ESA's SSETI - Student Space Exploration & Technology Initiative project is making progress towards the launch next May of a boxed set of three student nanosats: Student satellite almost ready for space - ESA - Dec.2.04...

... Via a Mars Society bulletin comes news that NASA has posted a "classic" paper on the feasibility of terraforming Mars: On the Habitability of Mars: An approach to planetary ecosynthesis - by Averner and MacElroy - 1976 (pdf)...

... In response to the recent item here about the controversy over the space tourist name, HS reader B. Freebairn suggests "argonauts" with the explanation: "The original argonauts were all volunteers who made an epic journey braving great dangers in pursuit of adventure, fame and fortune. As an added bonus they got to visit an island populated entirely by women!"...

... Enthusiasm grows for a lunar base: Lunar Robotic Village, Moon Base Gains International Support - Space.com - Dec.1.04...

... Via Space Politics comes news of two space advocacy groups I was not aware of: Americans For Space and NADC: The National Aerospace Development Center...

... I recently noted progress at Iridium. Looks like Globalstar is also quite alive and kicking: Globalstar Extends Satellite Data Service to all of Europe and Across the Atlantic - Globalstar - Dec.1.04.

December.1.2004 Space News

News briefs ... Lunar meteorite found: Scientist Finds Moon Rock on Antarctica - NY Times - Nov.30.04...

... Iridium now has over 100,000 subscribers for its satellite phones: Iridium Announces Subscriber And Revenue Growth Rates - Iridium - Nov.30.04...

... You are never too old to enjoy Zero-G: Space Adventures' Client Sets Guinness World Record: 80 year-old Seattle resident becomes world's oldest woman to experience zero-gravity - Space Adventures - Nov.29.2004...

... LiveScience.com looks to be an interesting new science news site. Check out the list of science/technology sites.

Continue to November 2004 articles in archive

HobbySpace News Articles Index 1999-2003


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