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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dateline April 28, 2006, Space News from the Internet

The Launch of the CloudSat and CALIPSO on a Delta 2

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dateline April 27, 2006, Space News from the Internet

I took the day off yesterday, so sorry about the lack of news. --djs

Progress 21 docking with the ISS

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Review: The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour, 3rd Edition 2005
By Ron Miller and William K. Hartmann
Workman Publishing, New York, NY
ISBN-13 978-0-7611-3547-0

A first glance, this seems like a coffee table book. With its wide format and beautiful art and photos, it makes a lovely addition to any living room. However, once you start reading, it becomes apparent that it is so much more.

After reading the first chapter, “The Really Big Picture,” I realized that the pictures are accessories to the substance of the book. You will feel like you have finished a textbook on the solar system, with all the facts Mr. Miller and Dr. Hartmann reveal. It never feels like you are reading a textbook, though.

This manuscript is well laid out, starting with the entire solar system, and working its way down from the largest planet to (relatively) tiny asteroids. The beautiful artwork helps to make the facts more real. Talking about the auroral display on Jupiter is fine, but really seeing how it would look sticks it in your mind.

It includes information on individual asteroids, like Ceres, and extra-solar planets which I found very interesting. It goes beyond what you would expect from a “coffee table” solar system book.
The information is reasonably up to date and well written. Anyone with an interest in astronomy and planetary science will understand most of this book.

As far as criticisms go, I was disappointed that it doesn’t include Xena, (the new candidate planet), but you can’t put out a new edition every year. Also, the wide format makes it hard to sit and read without a desk.

Overall, this is a very good book and I would highly recommend it. It is apparent why this book has been a favorite over the years and the 3rd edition does not disappoint.

4.5 stars (out of 5)

Dateline April 25, 2006, Space News from the Internet

The View from Sedna (Artist’s Conception)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dateline April 24, 2006, Space News from the Internet

The Cigar Galaxy on Hubble's Birthday

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dateline April 21, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Reda Anderson, 66, Rocketplane-Kislter's first passenger

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dateline April 20, 2006, Space News from the Internet

UP Aerospace Launch Rail at the New Mexico Spaceport

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dateline April 19, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • NASA has opened registration for five Centennial Challenge Competitions. They are:

    • Astronaut Glove Challenge, administered by Volanz Aerospace/Spaceflight America with a total prize value of $250,000.
    • Beam Power Challenge, administered by the Spaceward Foundation as part of the annual Space Elevator Games with a total prize value of $200,000.
    • Lunar Regolith Excavation Challenge, administered by the California Space Education & Workforce Institute with a total prize value of $250,000.
    • MoonROx (Moon Regolith Oxygen) Challenge, administered by the Florida Space Research Institute with a total prize value of $250,000.
    • Tether Challenge, administered by the Spaceward Foundation as part of the annual Space Elevator Games with a total prize value of $200,000.

    See the NASA Centennial Challenges web site for more information. Alan Boyle also has this story.
  • NASA has given ATK Thiokol $28.6 million to continue development of the first stage of the CLV. This contract goes through September 30, 2006, then end of FY06.
  • Eri Matsui, of Japan, has designed a wedding dress for zero-g. There is now a competition in JAXA to design a wedding dress for space.
  • SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc (SEI) is conducting space tourism surveys. Go take it, have fun.
  • Apparently, California doesn't want space tourism in their state. State funding for improvements at Mojave spaceport was killed in a senate committee session.

Eri Matsui's Wedding dress in Earth Gravity & Zero-G

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dateline April 18, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • The director of space initiatives at Center for Strategic and International Studies thinks we should embrace China as a partner in space exploration. Mark Whittingham thinks they need to examine some of their arguments.
  • NASA successfully fired a methane/oxygen engine for 103 seconds. I think that is a good step for NASA.
  • This is scary. Remember my essay on NASA building a house? Well here is an quote from the weekly Constellation program update:
    "A little perspective - and I apologize for repeating myself for those who have heard my little analogy before - on what we're attempting to do here. Imagine the Cx program is a 'house' we've set about building together, with the various rooms of the house representative of the separate elements of the architecture. Unfortunately, we don't have the funds to build the ENTIRE house all at once, instead we can only afford to build it a room or two at a time. Ok. But to be capable of building those first couple of rooms of the house, we must understand the entire 'blueprint', and how those rooms fit into the larger scheme. We must describe it sufficiently to pour the foundation, and to "frame" the house to the greatest extent possible. Doesn't mean we can't add a room in the future, but it will be more expensive." (emphasis mine -djs)

    Weird, isn't it? (hat tip to NASA Watch).

  • An article about NASA's antimatter research.
  • NASA's Centennial Challenges program is holding a workshop for the Astronaut Glove Competition on Monday, April 24th in Connecticut.
  • Space Shuttle Flights are getting more and more useless.

Test Firing of a methane/LOX engine as MSFC

Monday, April 17, 2006

Book Reviews coming

I have been asked by Workman Publishing Company to review two books.

A Traveler's Guide to Mars
By William K. Hartmann


The Grand Tour
by Ron Miller & William K. Hartmann

William K. Hartmann is the famed artist astronomer and researcher on the Mars Global Surveyor at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, AZ.

Ron Miller is a IAAA Lucien Rudaux Memorial Gallery (Space Art Hall of Fame) member and owner of Black Cat Studios.

There may be free books to the readers of Space Pragmatism coming soon. Keep reading everyday - djs

Dateline April 17, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Proposed Spaceport at the UAE

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dateline April 14, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Venus' South Pole

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Update on Bigelow's Luanch Date

According to RLV & Space Trasnport News:

Anyway, a HS reader sent me a link to the Roscosmos launch
and it shows June 13th as the launch date [for the Genesis prototype habitat]. The reader was informed that "the list contains only launches that have been already paid for."

God bless the internet.

Masten Space Systems is Taking Orders

According to Michael Mealling, the VP for Business Development at Masten Space Systems:

We have officially begun taking payload slot orders. Payloads are generally sold in 1 kilogram increments at $250 per kilo. For those that want a standardized form factor we are offering CanSat flights. A CanSat is the same size as a standard 12 oz soda can with a mass limit of 350 grams. You can buy kits from various vendors such as Pratt Hobbies. Normally CanSat flights are $199 but for a limited time they are going for an introductory $99.

Remember, this is suborbital only. We won’t be offering orbital payloads for several years and even then they won’t be anywhere near the $199 price.

350 gram CanSat - $99
1 kg Custom Payload - $250
2 kg Custom Payload - $500
5 kg Custom Payload - $1250

Over the next several months we will be releasing versions of the payload manual which includes interface definitions and physical characteristics such as vibration and G loads. Only customers who have signed up will receive these manuals so sign up early!

Dateline April 13, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • Some fans are writing more episodes for Firefly. They aren't bad either. (hat tip to Curmudgeons Corner).
  • The ESAS overweight problem may have been overstated. (I still think EELVs and in-orbit hookup is a better idea. -djs)
  • Darpa is getting into the prize arena. According to Alan Boyle, A spokesman for the X-Prize Foundation said that Darpa was involved in planning the Lunar Lander prize with an add-on $500,000 prize for multiple launches in 24 hours. Darpa has not responded for requests for comment.
  • Bigelow has updated their website. Not really any more stuff, but it looks good. They still have some jobs in Houston if anyone is looking.
  • In related news, New Scientist Space, says Bigelow has reserved two Russian Dnepr rockets but the launch date cannot be revealed because of US arms trade restrictions (the Dnepr is a converted ICBM).
  • Esther Dyson is on the board of directors of Constellation Services, a ISS resupply hopeful.
  • The Space Frontier Foundation is hoping to send 100 teachers into space.
  • The Sally Ride Festival will be at Fairfax college on May 7 to encourage girls to go into science. (As a man who married a beautiful engineer, I think more girls should definitely get into science and technology. -djs)

The First Shuttle Launch 25 years ago

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dateline April 12, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Picture of the Day

Yuri Gagarin, the First Man in Space

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

If I Remodeled my House like NASA: A Commentary on the Oversized ESAS

My wife and I just finished building our house in February. One thing we didn't get in this house (due to both time and monetary constraints) is a sun room for my wife. Now the area we have to build the sun room, due to where the HVAC drain pipes come out is about 15 x 15. My wife was hoping for about 20 x 20. She plans for this to be her room only. A room where she can sit with her friends and enjoy a toy-free environment. A room that stays clean.

Of course she is disappointed that we can't get all her stuff in it, but she is dealing with it by laying the rest of the house different (like splitting the living room into to sections, etc...) I got to thinking this morning, what would NASA do in this situation.

NASA has a plan to go to the Moon. They would like to send everything the need up in one HLV. If they can do it, more power to them. However, it looks like they can't. [insert link here]. They are still planning on the HLV with some kind of EML-2 hook-up.

Some commentators, including myself, has said we should use what we have, namely the EELVs. NASA, has chosen, at least so far, to ignore what they have and work with what they want. How would that work in my house.

Well, being NASA, I think they would say “we need a 20 x 20 sun room.” Okay, but the drainage pipes are in the way. “We just have to fix them,” they might say. So we bust up the walls and rerun the drain pipes. Well that cost a good bit. But wait, to get the 20 ft width, we will cover up the breakfast room windows. Well that doesn't meet our specifications, so they will have to be moved. We rip out the brick and the frame and move the breakfast windows down two feet. That cost a lot.

Now we have a window that comes two inches from the side wall going into the patio. My wife is not happy with that. So they propose to extend the entire house two feet so our window will look right.

All the while I am standing on the side watching this exercise in brilliance, and I wonder why they don't just accept what they have and work with it. After all the computing, an analysis comes over to me and says, it will be cheaper to build a new house with the sun room already attached. This cost more than the original house did. I tell them thanks but no thanks.

NASA wants a HLV and a single moon shot. They can't do it (well without methane anyway). They have EELVs they can hook-up in orbit. As my wife always says, “if you can't get exactly what you want, take the cheapest thing that fits your basic needs.” In this case a 16x16 room and some furniture shifting. In NASA's case, a reduction in launch capability and in-orbit rendezvous.

Just my $0.02, worth what you paid for it.

Dateline April 11, 2006, Space News from the Internet

  • The Story on the ESAS being too heavy has sparked a lot of discussion. Mark Whittingham, Rand Simberg, and Clark Lindsey have more than $0.02 to offer. I would be happy with an EELV/multi-launch decision. Come on, we save years of launcher development costs. Please?
  • The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will have an impactor developed by Ames. Wait, I thought we saw this already but it was from JPL? I must be getting old.
  • Venus Express has arrived.
  • Matthew Wagner, Tavelzoo's 10 millionth subscriber wins a ticket into space and a Zero-G flight. I was meaning to subscribe to Travelzoo. (not really never even heard of it before today.)

Picture of the Day

Venus Express

Monday, April 10, 2006

Dateline April 10, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dateline April 7, 2006, Space News from the Internet

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Ants and the Island, a Parable

The Terran ants lived in a small mound on a 5 acre island off the cost of Florida. It was enough space for the ants to live happily and peacefully. One day the Queen sent five scout ants out to the edge of the island to see what there was to see. A strong wind came and blew the ants into the water.

These, being the most courageous and resourceful ants in the hive, they pulled themselves up onto leaves floating in the water. The leaves rocked back and forth as they carried the ants along the ocean current until finally, they hit land.

The ants got off and walked around. They could not believe all the space and beauty they saw. They scouted around the beach, seeing sand and shells. They were all amazed.

Soon the wind changed and the ants sensing their chance to get home, jumped back on their leaves and road home. When they arrived, they were welcomed by the solider ants and taken to the Queen. They recounted their tail of adventure and the beauty of the land they found.

All over the island ants discussed visiting this new land. Plans were made and one day the Queen stood in front of the hive.

“We must build a large boat out of leaves and twigs. This will be the largest project we have ever undertaken, and will require the best from all of you.”

The ants cheered. “Do we all get to go?” the crowd shouted.

“Sadly, this large boat must carry food and supplies for the ants going, as they only saw sand and shells. There is nothing we can use in this new land. So we must bring everything we need. That only leaves room for five ants.”

The ants were saddened. Apparently only the best of the solider ants would get to go.

Seasons changed and work on the vast boat continued until one day, it was finished. The Queen stood before the proud soliders and gave a heartfelt speech of how they carried the dreams of a hive on their backs. Everyone cheered.

When the boat launched it was a sight to behold. It carried enough food for a month along with piles of dirt, twigs, and leaves.

Weeks went by with no word from the soldiers. Worker ants took turns standing on the shore watching the horizon for the adventures.

One bright morning, a young ant spotted the boat coming towards the island. He sounded the alarm and everyone came running to the edge of the island to see the returning heroes.

They reported of a vast land with many different berries and seeds that the ants had not tasted before. All of the ants got very excited. The Queen stood up.

“Ants, first let us thank our soldiers for taking on this hazardous journey. But I must caution you, travel to the new land is very expensive. It took a year to build a craft to carry five of our bravest ants to this new land. I am afraid it will be a long time before enough ships are built to carry all of us.”

“But they found food. Can’t we use smaller ships now?” One young ant called out.

The queen smiled and shook her head. “We must study those berries and seeds. They may not be our seeds and berries. We must study how to best use them before allowing everyone to eat them. No, it will be a long time before we know enough to send you all over there.

“Besides,” she added, “this is the transport we know. It is best to stay with what we know. It is too risky to try a new boat.”

Dateline April 6, 2006, News from the Internet

  • The SURE project, funded by the European Commission, is giving access to East European scientists. Sadly, all they mean by access is an experiment launched on either the shuttle or a Russian rocket. No one is getting real access to the ISS except through Space Adventures.
  • Morris Jones comments on China's recent statements about their plans in space. Interesting questions are posed. Can China build a Long March-5, as it has been called, in 3 1/2 years? I guess we will see.
  • In related news, China's space program has invited Mike Griffin to come to China to meet with space officials there. This is all in an effort to create more cooperation with China in the space arena. I wonder how much real access Griffin would get to their facilities? Dean Acosta, a spokesman for NASA, said a Fall trip is being considered.
  • I think the Professors at Berkley are in their own world:

    No shuttles have been launched since the Columbia disintegrated while
    returning to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

    Really? I must have imagined the Discovery mission last year. Oh and Dr. Barry Welsh is apparently going to be on Trading Spouses April 7 and 14. That raises my opinion of Berkley.
  • XCOR is coming along with the cryogenic composite tanks NASA contracted them to work on.
  • Elon Musk is in it for the long haul.
  • Paul Spudis reviews Harrison Schmitt's Return to the Moon on American Scientist.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dateline April 5, 2006, News from the Internet

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dateline April 4, 2006, News from the Internet

  • Luo Ge, vice administrator of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA?), gave at talk in downtown Washington, D.C. yesterday. He dismissed any manned moon missions, but he did talk about the Chinese space-lab planned for 2015. Jeff Foust has more. Reuters also has an article, although they seem more impressed with China's plans of a Delta IV class rocket for 2010.
  • Virgin Galactic just makes me feel good. Read Hotels in Space. It is full of useful information. For example:
    SIR Richard Branson is taking a giant leap for mankind by drawing up plans to build the worlds first space hotels

    [Virgin] has held talks with US hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow about the project

    Branson last week announced that the Spaceship Company, the 70:30 joint venture between Virgin Galactic and Rutan's Scaled Composites, was set to begin construction of its first space craft, SpaceShipTwo, within six weeks.

    Whitehorn said the Spaceship Company would not start work on SpaceShipThree until after 2010. It is intended to be the worlds first commercial orbital spacecraft with potential to dock with space hotels. He said: SpaceShipTwo will be the testbed for a future spaceship which will be capable of orbital flight.

    Yes, yes, yes. Just get to working on the moon and I will be in heaven.
  • In related news, Virgin and Space Adventures are both trying to woo Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE as a base for launching suborbital flights. Space Adventures is already building a spaceport there. Now Virgin Galactic is in discussions with the emirate about launching from there.
  • New Scientist has an article on the science we could do no the moon. Sorry, not free, so go by a copy at your local bookstore. Ken Murphy talks about it for you cheapskates and college students.
  • KFox TV in Las Cruces, NM has a piece on the New Mexico spaceport.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Dateline April 3, 2006, News from the Internet

  • The new Space Review is out. In it Taylor Dinerman argues that conservatives and libertarians should support the return to manned exploration. As a conservative and quasi-libertarian, I agree.
  • Tom Hill talks about the Falcon I launch and what it means in the long term. Basically, it is not uncommon for the first launch of new hardware to fail. The Atlas A, for example, failed three times before it launched successfully. The Atlas B, built on the Atlas A, succeeded.
  • Dwayne Day talks about what would have happened if the Saturn V ever exploded on the launch pad. Glad it didn't.
  • Apparently the Japanese really like Rocketplane.
  • Sam Dinkin talks about his company, SpaceShot, Inc, and its plan to launch a skill game with the prize being suborbital trips. MSNBC has the story.
  • Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft developer, is planning to be the 5th space tourist aboard the ISS.
  • The USAF has award contracts for its STP-SIV program. The SIV is "a small spacecraft with a non-proprietary standardized payload-to-experiment interface." Sounds like a good idea. Standard interfaces are usually good things in the Software world.
  • Virgin Galactic has $13 million in deposits from 157 passengers.
  • SpaceX isn't doing tourism in the near future, but it isn't saying it won't do it later.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

SpaceShipTwo Info

(No this one isn't a joke)

According to Michael Belfiore, Brian Binnie at the Women in Aviation conference in Nashville, TN said:

Over lunch afterwards, Binnie told me and Wendy that SpaceShipTwo is under construction and that the simulator is up and running. He's pleased with the way the new ship handles in the simulator. Design improvements over SpaceShipOne (differently shaped wings, for instance) and the ship's greater weight will make for a smoother piloting experience, he said.

I am trying to imagine and I am liking what I see.

Griffin Steps Down!

In a surprise move today, Mike Griffin, citing frustration over a slow moving bureaucracy, has stepped down as the Directory of NASA. In a race to fill the void, President George W. Bush has appointed Rick Tumlinson, the founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and advocate of private space development.

Mr. Tumlinson wasted no time at his press conference this morning

We need to deal with some significant legacy problems. First we need to spin off all non-space activities. Second, we need to privatize all functions at all of the NASA centers. Third, we need to dramatically increase the economic expertise of the space agency.

President Bush stated that he has always supported the free market and was behind Director Tumlinson 100%. There is expected to be some difficulty in getting Mr. Tumlinson approved by the Senate.

Senator Barbra Boxer said "He's a nut" in a surprisingly candid comment.