Tag Archives: spaceflight

NASA narrows asteroids to visit to three

NASA officials have reviewed the list of Near Earth Objects and found only three that meet all the constraints for a manned mission. Key quote:

Out of the 44 reachable asteroids, 27 were too small, and only 15 have orbits that allow for exploration between 2020 and 2050 — the timeframe NASA wants to pursue for NEO missions. The 180-day mission constraint further cuts the list to three.

It must also be noted that none of these asteroids are reachable without a heavy-lift rocket like the Ares V.

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Rebuilding the American space program — the right way

In reading my post, Both for and against the Obama plan, reader Trent Waddington emailed me to say that this “is so fatalistic that it seems you don’t think it is worthwhile even spending a few minutes explaining why the policy is good. It’s easy to dismiss something a politician says as the stopped clock that is right twice a day. It’s harder to set aside your skepticism and explain why something is good policy.”

Trent is absolutely correct. What I wrote was very depressing and fatalistic. However, I think it very important to be coldly honest about things, no matter how bad they look. Once you’ve done that, you then have the right information necessary for fixing the situation.

My problem with most of the debate about the future space policy of the United States, — as well as innumerable other modern issues faced by our government — is that people don’t seem to want to face up to the reality of the problem. In the case of space and Obama, I doubt any advice, gentle or otherwise, is going to move him into putting forth a plan for NASA that has any realistic chance of getting passed by Congress. As I noted in a different post, he doesn’t play the game. He acts like the worst sort of autocrat, convinced that if he simply says what he wants to do, everyone must agree.

The reason the good part of his plan (commercial space) is not passing Congress is not because people think it is a bad idea. It is being rejected because » Read more

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Interview with Elon Musk

Spacevidcast has posted on YouTube as well as on their own webpage the first 10 minutes of a 20 minute interview with Elon Musk of SpaceX. You can see the full 20 miutes if you sign up for their Epic service.

For me, the interesting part of the interview is when he discusses the recent story about SpaceX’s plans to build a heavy-lift rocket, dubbed Falcon X. He explained that the proposal was not actually part of the company’s official plans. but the brainstorming ideas of one of the company’s engineers at an engineering conference. He also made it clear that he did not reject the idea. He likes giving his engineers the freedom to talk about such things publicly, even if the company is not yet ready to pursue them.

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Repair strategy for Wednesday spacewalk

NASA engineers are working out a strategy for the next spacewalk, now tentatively scheduled of Wednesday, to continue repair efforts on the International Space Station. The new plans call for the astronauts to close several valves on the leaking coolant line while ground controllers lower pressure on the line, then drain the excess ammonia from it. This will hopefully allow the astronauts to disconnect the line from the pump without spewing ammonia all over the place, and then proceed with the removal of the failed pump.

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ISS tour, part 1

An evening pause: We talk a lot about the International Space Station. Why not take a tour? In this January 2009 video, part 1 of 4, astronaut Mike Finke starts us out at the docking port used by the shuttle and takes us through the Harmony and Kibo modules. Along the way he gives a great view out the port side of the station.

You can see the remaining parts of Mike’s tour by clicking through, or you can wait until I post them over the next week.

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First spacewalk to replace pump module

The first spacewalk to replace the failed pump module on ISS is finished, and it did not go as well as hoped. The astronauts had problems removing one of four cooling system ammonia lines to the old pump. They eventually succeeded, actually using a hammer to lightly tap the quick-disconnect latch free. They then had to seal an ammonia leak coming from the problematic line. These issues caused them to run out of time, preventing them from removing the old pump and installing the new one. It is expected they will pick up where they left off on the next spacewalk, presently scheduled for Wednesday.

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Boeing cutting metal on its new capsule

Boeing is cutting metal on own privately funded new space capsule, planned for completion in 2015. Key quote:

“We’re at a point in the development of human spaceflight where there’s a market emerging beyond the ISS, beyond NASA,” John Elbon, Boeing’s vice president for commercial space programs, said in a briefing Thursday. “And that piece of this is really exciting as well.”

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Burt Rutan on future of space

At an airshow on Thursday, July 29, in Oskosh, Wisconsin, Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, made some interesting remarks about the past and future of private space flight. Key quote:

Rutan said NASA should give 10 to 15 percent of its budget to new space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX without regulating how to spend the money. “That would allow them to not (have to) beg for commercial investment, while still working in an entrepreneurial mode.”

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Poor leadership by Obama on NASA

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit today said the following (in recognizing Jeff Foust’s op-ed for Technology Review):

CONGRESS BLOWS IT: Commercial Spaceflight, We Have A Problem. Congress will always choose short-term pork over long-term development unless there’s strong Presidential leadership. But while the Obama space policy is good, the White House hasn’t provided the kind of legislative push it takes to make it work. Without strong leadership, a good policy will always lose out to pork.

Didn’t someone say this already? In fact, didn’t that someone say this more than once?

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Single Rope Techinque — on the Moon

James Fincannon of NASA took the two images of the Marius Hills lunar pit taken at different times by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (which I posted here) and did an overlay so that the shadow produced by pit’s rim could be easily compared with the rim itself (see below). He then did some calculations based on the sun’s angle of light shining into the cave and came up with the following calculations:

I estimate it is 60 meters from rim to bottom. The floor is flat below the surface. The rocks on the flat surface below ground are in stark relief (hard shadows) compared to above ground due to the sun coming only at one angle while above ground the albedo/reflections makes for soft shadows at this high sun angle (65 deg elevation). I cannot tell if the black portion of the combo image is a slope or more flat floor. Need a different high sun angle or azimuth to fill that in. Still I like the general pattern of the rim matching the shadow on the floor, although the image I found originally has that edge of the cave rim in shadow for a large extent.

overlay of Marius Hill cave

A 60 meter drop is about 200 feet deep. This result is reasonably close to the depth estimated by Japanese scientists, 88 meters or 288 feet, based on images of the same lunar pit taken by their Kaguya probe.

Knowing the approximate depth of the entrance pit raises the much more important question: How will future lunar explorers to get to the bottom of this pit? It is ironic » Read more

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ISS and Chinese satellite debris

Russian mission control has indicated that the debris left over from destruction of a Chinese satellite in 2007 poses a “danger” to the International Space Station. Key quote from a Russian official:

“If the calculations show that the debris is approaching the station at an unacceptably close range, the six astronauts will receive the order to take shelter in the two Russian Soyuz spacecraft which are docked with the ISS.”

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Space war update

This Orlando Sentinel analysis of the various Congressional NASA budget proposals working their way through the House and Senate right now concludes, as I have been saying for months, that the future for NASA is not good. Key quote:

The plan orders NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new spacecraft — about $11 billion during three years, with $3 billion next year — than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. That — plus the short deadline — has set off alarms.

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