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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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bigelow News

Some stuff from Bigelow Aerospace who's Genesis II will launch early 2007.

Ace Up Our Sleeve
It's the workplace pastime for those taking a discreet break from work: Playing computer solitaire. In the best Bigelow Aerospace tradition of making spaceflight fun, a solitaire game with a Bigelow Aerospace twist has been launched today at
Bigelow Aerospace Solitaire functions similar to the Klondike game that is one of the most frequently used files on a Windows computer. The BA game has a space theme with images throughout from the Bigelow Aerospace files. Players also have at their disposal different card backsides.
A running leaderboard is also included of the fastest 20 times worldwide.
Play Bigelow Aerospace Solitaire now at this link:

Winning a World View
Another ongoing and popular game at is “Where in the World?”
In this two-part game, Web site visitors try to solve an online slide puzzle to see one of the latest pictures beamed down from Genesis I.
The challenge doesn’t end there. The user then needs to figure out just where on Earth Genesis I was flying over when the picture was taken based upon land features and other landmarks seen in the photo. The first visitor to submit the correct answer is recognized on the Web site.
The latest Where in the World? winner — Robert Gutowski — has been announced at

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Private Space Tibbits

Benson Space has signed an agreement with SpaceDev to develop Phase I of the Dream Chaser space ship. Benson said: "It's official -- we've begun our countdown to what I expect will be BSC's first suborbital flights by the end of 2008."

Sounds good to me.
The Astronaut Farmer was obviously written by the private space group I mentioned last week who thinks NASA is the great evil of the world.
Michael Belfiore's new book Rocketeers is coming this summer.
UGS will be building the software for the K-1 for RocketPlane Kistler.
Curran R. Kemp thinks only private colonies will work. He thinks that is why we haven't settled Antarctica.

Shanan Dale on COTS

Deputy Director of NASA, Shana Dale, has an editorial out about vision and innovation. On the anniversary of the Wright Brother's flight (December 17th), she says:

NASA is leveraging the power of innovation to enable a viable commercial enterprise in space. This approach is a radical departure from tradition for NASA, which previously has relied on major aerospace contractors and its own engineering talent and resources to acquire their own space capabilities. The demands today, however, are for more efficient, more affordable access to space, something the Wright brothers of today are keen to deliver.


With the Vision for Space Exploration, which includes human and robotic missions to the moon and Mars, NASA will need to free its resources to focus on long-range highly complex engineering challenges. Routine yet necessary missions to bring humans and supplies to the Moon, to service the International Space Station, and for other purposes will need to become more of a streamlined, turnkey operation. Building this essential infrastructure for space exploration, however, will require a dedicated and strong commercial sector.

Hard to argue with that.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dan Rather is Excited about the Lunar Base

Never thought I would agree with Dan Rather on something...

FAA Private Space Requirements and other Priavet Space News

The FAA has released the official requirements for private space passengers and crew.
An interview with T/Space and how they are continuing forward after loosing the COTS money.
Beyond Earth Enterprises had their 8th successful "consumer based" launch
Ideas on Lunar commercial markets
Richard Branson's space travel agents are out and ready to take your order.

NASA News and Such

NASA and Google have signed an agreement to work "on a variety of challenging technical problems" related to information management, distributed computing, and human-computer interaction. I guess the Google servers have reached sentience and are ready to leave Earth :)
An idea to keep ISS going.
Saddam Hussein was apparently saddened by the Challenger tragedy.
Space Ties with India and what that could mean.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NASA Budget News

Congress can't get their act together. They only had a year to get the 2007 budget approved. But they have acted to continue funding everything at the 2006 level until Feb 15, when they can pull it together.

This screws the Exploration side of NASA, but aeronautics is happy. If I set up my budget this way, I would be bankrupt and in prison.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Private Space Tibbits

Bigelow has posted two articles on their website about the coming launch of the Genesis II.

(hat tip to RLV and Space Transport News).


An interview with Elon Musk on his interests in space and electric cars.

Focus of the VSE

Space thinks we need to talk up Mars more:

To attract the future generation of explorers, NASA needs to establish
itself as the agency of the future, not the agency of the past. A return to the
Moon is merely the stepping stone necessary to set foot on Mars and beyond, but
advertisements would have the audience think the return to the Moon is the main
goal of the VSE.

I would argue that the goal of the VSE is to get humanity into space permanently. If we get fixated on one destination, we sell ourselves short.

Mike Griffin Responds on the Cost of Exploration

In the USA Today, Mike Griffin rebuts the idea that we can't afford to explore space:

Our great-great-grandparents accepted the challenge of their frontier. Will today's generation do less? And if so, why? To save 15 cents per day? To save six-tenths of 1% of the federal budget? Because that is the cost to the average citizen of our nation's space program. Whether we wish to explore space or not, to say that we cannot afford space exploration is ridiculous.

Today's investments in space exploration are, like the Louisiana Purchase, a down payment on our future. We are focusing NASA's investments on key technologies that will enable our nation to bring the solar system into our economic sphere and for scientific discovery. The geography of our solar system dictates that our first, halting steps will be to the moon — three days journey away from Earth. A lunar outpost might follow soon afterward, allowing us to exploit the resources and vantage point of the moon.
Of course the robot guys come out in the comments.

Given ample evidence for Moore's Law of exponential computing power, it's not
unreasonable to conclude that humans will be eclipsed by A.I. in a few more
years. Why not let intellectually superior robots explore the cosmos and
report back what they find, the way same way the people currently bring back a
bone from the butcher to give to their dogs?

Are you crazy? We are no closer to true intelligence in AI than we were when Charles Babbage designed the Difference Engine. Besides why would we let our creation do something we want to do. Dogs did not create humans. Bad analogy. Besides, if the dog had the power, I am sure he would prefer to go to the butcher shop. By the way, Moore's law is really more of a rule of thumb and is just few years from a brick wall. You can only make wires and transistors so small before quantum mechanics starts mucking with your hardware.

Eventually, yes, we'll need to colonize. Let's figure out how we'll be able to
do that, put the research funds into that, then send people up.

Yeah, good idea. We will figure out how to live on the Moon on the Earth. Then once we know exactly what to do, we will do it. Good call. I know that works in city planning...

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Not Just a New Mission, it is a New Charter

After reading a story about Mike Griffin and the Moon Base plan, I came across this interesting comment:

And [the VSE] gives the space agency a mission without an end date when the budget axes start coming out, he said.

Hmm. I think that is where we have a problem. President Bush didn't give NASA a new mission to perform along with all the other "missions" they have been doing since Apollo ended. He gave them a new charter. A new direction, if you will, that should change how everything else is viewed.

The Vision for Space Exploration does not say "Go to the Moon while you are at it," but rather "Go to the Moon, Mars, and put humanity in the solar system. Drop everything that doesn't help this goal." At least that is the speech I heard.

Treating this as a single mission that can be cut and moved and dropped if necessary is an injustice to our future. It isn't about which date we get there and what check boxes were fill out, it is about getting America off this rock. It isn't a 30 year plan, or a 60 year plan, but a new direction for our society.

And it isn't just about NASA. I think President Bush was calling our country to a new direction. Burt Rutan, and Elon Musk, and you and I need to look forward at what we can achieve. Where can we be in 20 years, 60 years, and 100 years from now. Think about it.

My $0.02 Worth what you paid for it.

New Ideas in Space

GPS like navigation? Cool.
Spaceport America's continuing development.
Aviation Week is focusing on New Space:

For a summary of the subscription only articles, check out RLV and Space Transport News.


Did I mention the Shuttle Launched Saturday?

And it is doing fine.

Astronomy Tidbits

Jupiter's Super Hurricane Red Spot (really more of a brown, though).
Detecting Asteroid impacts on extrasolar planets

Back to the Moon Discussions

Jeff Foust thinks NASA needs to better explain why we are going back to the Moon.
Jeff Brooks devises an international plan to allow people to buy land on Mars. Anything with the word international in it is doomed.
NASA is talking a lot about getting "generations" into space. Specifically the "coastal regions of low Earth orbit." Sounds awesome, I won't hold my breath, though. At least they are seriously talking now.
Mike Griffin talks again about what a mistake the shuttle was. He then goes on to the future moon base.

NASA Releases 3 new RFIs

NASA has released three new RFI (courtesy of Commercial Space Watch):

  1. ISS Cargo Transportation: Obtain information on ISS commercial resupply opportunities in the interim period prior to completion of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Phase I demonstrations and initiation of COTS Phase II.
  2. Constellation Program Design for Operations: system designs and integrated processes that enhance, simplify, and streamline the operations of the Program.
  3. Constellation Technical Support: the resources and capabilities to conduct engineering integration and engineering tasks in support of the Constellation Program.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gene Cernan's thoughts on the Moon Base

(From RLV and Space Transport News):

Flight Global has an interview with Gene Cernan Commander of Apollo 17 about the new Moon plan. He thinks that NASA needs to include the Apollo astronauts on some of the design decisions on the new mission. I would agree with him.

Zero-G Gets its Own Jet; Virginia Launch; X-Prize Cup; More on Orbital Outfitters

Zero-G is doing so well they are buying a 727F so they can run full time. Previously they used two B727-200 cargo jets on the weekends. Way to go Zero-G.
Chair Force Engineer discusses if Virginia can sustain a space launch facility.
The X-Prize cup may be expanding to more than one location.
Alan Boyle has more on Orbital Outfitters mentioned yesterday.

Russian Helping on the Moon; Shuttle, Moon Bases

Russia wants to contribute technology to the NASA's 2024 Moon Base plan. Probably because they don’t' have any money. Hmm, Russia seems to covering all their bases, since they have agreements with the ESA and China. Whoever gets to space, Russia wants to be there.


Shuttle Launch has been postponed until Saturday.


What the Washington Post thinks of NASA's Plan to build a Moon Base. They got this about the plan right for sure,

one that has ardent supporters and vocal detractors. But to a degree generally unappreciated by the public

Everyone continues to worry about where new scientists and engineers are coming from.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Space Advocate Coalilition Website

A New website from the Coalition for Space Exploration. Here is the press release. You can register and you get calls to action (when Congress is going to cut NASA's funding for example.) Time will tell where this goes. Of course it never hurts to sign up for one more space advocatcy group, you never know which one will get you there.

Orbital Outfitters Gets Space Suite Contract

Orbital Outfitters has signed a contract with XOR to make emergency space suits for next-gen space ships. Their CEO is Rick Tumlinson of Space Frontier Foundation fame. Good luck to them!

Why NASA? Why Private Space?

Darnell Clayton left a comment on my earlier post of the Wall Street Journals $50 billion Moon base prize idea. Basically he said: "I think it would be better via NASA, that way if something goes wrong, then we have somebody to blame " and " the private sector may have the passion but lack the financial resources for multiple attempts at the prize"

This got me thinking about the NASA cheerleaders vs. the Private Space guys (the IRC as Mark Whittington likes to call them). Is it possible we could view the foundations of their arguments and come to some useful middle ground.

As far as NASA supporters go, I think Darnell's views are a solid foundation to work from. The basic core beliefs are:

  1. NASA has more money
  2. NASA has put men into space
  3. NASA is accountable to citizens
  4. Private industry doesn't have the capital to support massive space activities

Lets examine each point objectively (pretending we don't really care).

Does NASA have more money and conversely does Private industry have enough money? I would agree that NASA has a concentration of money with about $15 billion a year budget. However, Boeing spent over $1 billion in the early 1960s to develop the 747 (over $6 billion in 2005 dollars). That was one company for a single jet. The GDP for R&D in this country is for 2005 was $320 billion. In 2005 $22 billion was invested in venture capital. There is a total GDP for 2005 was a little over $12 trillion dollars. I think it is safe to say that if industry was to jump into the pool of the space industry, they have the money. The private space industry currently gets a fraction of this money, but the American economy for all it's size, is very flexible when potential profits are good enough.

It is hard to argue with point two, since only NASA, Russia, and China have point men into orbit (Scaled Composites of course has put men into space, but not orbit). Of course it doesn’t immediately follow based on logic, that they are the only entity that could put men into orbit.
In a complex democracy it is difficult to really have any government agency accountable to the people. NASA is accountable to Congress and the President, but as space exploration is a low priority item nationally, representatives are mainly known for using NASA to fund pork projects for their own districts.

Now to continue with Private Space, here are the basic axioms as I see them:

  1. The government is inefficient & private industry can do things much faster and cheaper
  2. Everybody wants to go to space if they could just get the chance
  3. NASA is only out for their own interests and generally screws private companies whenever possible

Point one is generally true, I would say. However, there are specific cases were the government is a much better administrator. The military is a good example. For all it's inefficiencies, it would be hard to find someone who wants to privatize the military. There is to many possible conflicts of interests to allow our national security to be run for profit. Scientific research is another place where I would argue government funding for the good of all is safer than complete privatization. Does this mean that NASA is one of these types of industries? During the cold war I would say yes. Currently, I doubt it.

I would it is true that when it suits their goals, private industry is very efficient and inexpensive in developing new products. However, when it isn't they can block progress better than any bureaucracy (non-gas running cars, for instance). Industry needs a profit goal to jump on an idea. As you may have noticed, most of the private space companies developing new ideas are run and funded by idealists. They have a vision above profit motive, but for it to really move en mass, the profit has to be clearly defined.

Point 2 is difficult for me to remove myself from, as I have dreamed of space travel since I was little. However, I know people who wouldn't go up even if it was free. The truth is, while a majority of people express interest in going to space, very few are willing to do anything about it.

Point 3 is tough. I think is has been true in the past, that NASA has been a roadblock to private space development, lately, they seem to have come around (e.g. centennial prizes). The fact that NASA won't hand over the shop to private space doesn't mean they hate it. Large entities move slowly. I think it is in the best interest of private space supporters and industry to work with NASA and to support space development wherever it can occur.

To sum up, NASA is not the devil. Private Space is not the Savors. NASA is not the savor, Private space is not geeks who have read too many comic books. I think as we move forward to a privatized space industry, NASA must be a part. However, NASA cannot continue as it has in the past if it is to open new frontiers. It must give up smaller kingdoms to expand humanities place in the universe.

Just my $o.02. Comments welcome.

Private Moon Base Prize

The Wall Street Journal has a slightly different plan than NASA to settle the Moon:

[w]hy not take half of that and offer it as a bounty to the first private
company to build the station and man it. A prize in the neighborhood of $50
billion is bound to attract plenty of interest --
(thanks to RLV and Space Transport News)

Astronomy Tidbits

Mark Whittington has an article on Lunar Astronomy.

See a black hole eating a star. Here is the animation (4.1MB mpg file).


Interesting dicussion on the shape of the universe.

ULA CEO is looking to Manned Missions

While NASA doesn't seem to think the EELV's are good enough to take men to space, ULA CEO Michael Gass said while touring the Decatur, AL ULA plant:

Gass said Decatur-made rockets could one day have a role in manned space
missions. He noted that John Glenn entered orbit in a spacecraft perched atop an
Atlas rocket in 1962.

His statement, while oblique, was not idle. According to published reports,
Lockheed is in talks with Bigelow Aerospace to evaluate the business and
technical aspects of using the Atlas 5 for launching manned space vehicles. The
initial focus is on launching spacecraft to service orbital space complexes like
the International Space Station.

"Manned space flight is a possibility" for ULA products, Gass said.

New Stuff From NASA

Water on Mars:

Scientists say they have photographic evidence that suggests liquid water may
have been on the planet as little as five years ago.

That is a major find. Here is more (with thanks to

Also here is a preview of the next Mars Rover/Lander the Pheonix.

The Shuttle is only waiting on the weather to clear, now.

Reactions to the Moon Base plan released by NASA:

If you yourself are interested in living on the Moon, check out the Moon Society.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dateline December 6, Space News from the Internet

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dateline December 5, Space News from the Internet

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dateline December 1, Space News from the Internet