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The Space Log
Space for Everyone - October 2003

Oct.31,2003 Space News

The Rocket Company

The story of a rocket company and its struggles to develop a low cost reusable launch vehicle will begin here tomorrow. Be sure to drop by every week to read the latest installment of The Rocket Company by Patrick J. G. Stiennon and Dave M. Hoerr and with illustrations by Doug Birkholz.

Both Stiennon and Hoerr are engineers with real-life experience with rocket startup companies. Their fictional group of billionaire space financiers will try to build a vehicle that will cause the cost of space transportation to spiral rapidly downward as the market for launch services expands. In this context, the authors will explore the marketing, regulatory, and technical problems facing any serious attempt to reduce the cost of space transportation.

The Sun continues to rage while Congress tries to decide how important it is. As I argued before, space weather monitoring should be accepted as one of those essential government functions just as is gathering atmospheric weather data.


Oct.30,2003 Space News

Human spaceflight science... I've mentioned several times that while I don't believe science can justify the costs of the current human spaceflight program, that doesn't mean there has not been excellent science accomplished by people in space. The blanket condemnations of microgravity experiments and other science carried out on the shuttle, Mir anad ISS by opponents of human spaceflight are nothing but overstated personal biases dressed up as rational analysis.

Good science has been done and there is plenty left to do as illustrated by this statement from scientists with obvious credibility: Letter from Nobel Laureate Samuel O.C. Ting, Roald Sagdeev, and Jack Sandweiss to President Bush Regarding the International Space Station - SpaceRef - Oct.29.03


Oct.29,2003 Space News

Space music retrospective... I got a message from Simon James about a program called Space Music - Things Seen in The Skies that he and a partner developed for the on line music site totallyradio / totallyword.

The program included music and readings from an article written by Ken Hollings for the July issue of The Wire magazine about space music from the Space Age Pop period. "It takes in everything from Dick Hymans 'Moon Gas' to Project Comstock and the work of Joe Meek." The program is available in the totallyradio | archive (unfortunately a paid membership in the totallyradio listeners' club is required.)

Solar storms... Another big flare is impacting on the earth today: Spectacular Flare Erupts on Sunn - NOAA - Oct.28.03. The astronauts on the ISS will move to the best shielded module and will not get doses much above normal: Astronauts aboard station retreat to escape solar storms' radiation: Russian segment of outpost shields crew - Space.com - Oct.28.03

Astronaut Autograph Club announced... The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has created the Astronaut Autograph Club, which will offer authenticated astronaut signatures. The proceeds will go to the foundation's scholarship fund. More info available at Astronaut Autograph Club announced - collectSPACE - Oct.28.03

Micro GPS locator... SciScoop reports on a very small GPS receiver from Motorola: Positional Privacy Kaput - SciScoop - Oct.28.03


Oct.28,2003 Space News

Rendezvous in Space by Frank Capra
Opening screen shot of Frank Capra's last film - Rendezvous in Space -
a short movie made for the New York World's Fair in 1964.

Capra's space good-bye.... Frank Capra, who made many famous movies such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life, actually made his last film about space. He wrote, produced, and directed the short film (18.5min) for the Martin-Marietta Corporation and it was shown shown at the Hall of Science Pavillion during the World's Fair in New York City from 1964 through 1965.

Dave Hammar bought one of the only three remaining copies of the 35mm film, which was in Cinema Scope, and he sent me the above info, the screen capture of the opening title shot, and other details about the film:

"It's a rather odd little featurette anyway, with Danny Thomas conducting 'man in the street' interviews regarding space travel with actors posing as average pedestrians, interspersed with animated simulations of spacecraft and the situations they and the astronauts would encounter.

One of the more unusual parts of the film (also referenced in one of the newsgroup listings) are the ~2 minutes documenting a spacecraft docking with a space station, during which the screen goes completely black -- apparently during showings, the audience's attention was redirected to the docking of two scale models -- which I don't have :) "

The film also featured Sigorney Weaver's uncle (Doodles), Sid Melton and Charles Lane. The animated sequence has the voices of Jim Backus and Mel Blanc.

As I told Dave, the pop culture response to space at the time can now seem rather odd or naive. I was born in 1955 so don't remember the immediate aftermath of Sputnik but I do recall much of the early 1960s and the Mercury launches. From the description of the movie, it reminds me of the typical kind of thing about space that we would see on a TV show aimed at kids or in the movies we would watch at school.

It's funny, though, how effective some of these educational productions can be. I occasionally get a request from someone asking if I know how to locate a particular space animation or documentary that he or she saw as a kid and had made a big impact. I usually have no idea how to find such things. I hope, at least, that some collector like Dave has them safely stored in an archive somewhere.

Near Space Review... Paul Verhage of the Treasure Valley Near Space Program has written a nice review of low cost near space projects : The poor man's space program by L. Paul Verhage - The Space Review - Oct.27.03.

Paul, in fact, is the guy who first suggested I create the Near Space section here. I collected quite a bit of material but though a lot of activity is going on in this area, I've just not had the time to keep up as far as news articles are concerned. (Not counting suborbital RLV development.) I hope to improve on this in the coming year.

Space for developing countries... Jeff Foust discusses what types of space technology and services can best help developing countries develop: Space technology and the developing world - The Space Review - Oct.27.03

Note: in my Sci-Tech area I have a page on technology for developing countries that covers the range from very simple practical devices all the way up to hi-tech space systems like remote sensing.

Space business ups and downs... Satellite radio is looking good: XM Satellite Radio Tops One Million Subscribers - XM Radio - Oct.27.03. I particularly like their graph showing that the time taken to reach one million users has been the fastest of any consumer technology except DVD players.

One of these days I will collect a bunch of links to tech reviews, business articles, discussions at Slashdot, etc, that predicted certain failure for satellite radio. Methodically examining the strengths and weaknesses of a new technology and a business plan based on it is fine but most people greet a new venture not with rational analysis but with kneejerk derision. They do this because it is fun and they expect to feel very keen and insightful when it fails. But almost any new venture will fail for some reason regardless of whether its a high tech space service or a local restaurant. Life is tough and only a miniscule number of businesses survive past five years. Bragging about having predicted a business failure is like coming home from a day at the racetrack and boasting about all the horses one successfully chose to lose.

On the other hand, some space businesses just can't seem to get out of a deep rut. I recently included Globalstar in a list of firms that had survived bankruptcy. However, it looks like the takeover by ICO has fallen through: ICO purchase of Globalstar could fall through - spacetoday.net - Oct.27.03. I wonder if this might be due to problems with their constellation. I read somewhere that more satellites have failed than they have spares for and now there are periodic gaps in coverage in some areas.

Meanwhile, Iridium continues to find new customers: Soyuz Crew: 'Phone Home' - SpaceRef - Oct.28.03

News briefs ... The future of government space exploration and development is undergoing a review in the White House: Presidential review on space policy heading to closure by Frank Sietzen - SpaceRef - Oct.28.03 ...

... Prof. Chris Hall knows a good name for a music group when he hears it: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun - Spacecraft - Oct.27.03


Oct.25, 2003 Space News

Sol reminder... Apparently annoyed at getting dissed by Congress, our star next door shot us a signal of its wrath this week. A huge coronal mass ejection, or CME, was emitted by the Sun on Wednesday and has now begun to affect electrical and communications systems on earth.

Warnings from the the Space Environment Center may have ameliorated the effects, especially for satellites since operators can take preventive measures (such as powering down non-essential instruments) to minimize the effects. Perhaps this willl lead to a greater respect for the usefulness of space weather monitoring, especially when we have people in orbit.

Thankfully, this storm is not nearly as bad as this one. NOAA has a rating system for space weather events. The space links section has more space weather links.

See the Space Weather viewer in the Living Space section for links to real time images and data from space.

Entreprerneur launch... The International Association of Space Entrepreneurs debut event:

IASE Public Launch event will be held next Thursday, October 30th, 6pm-9pm, at Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (2214 Rock Hill Road, Herndon, VA).Please join us for networking, refreshments, and a brief program!

The program will consist of a presentation on IASE and its goals. We will also have two guest speakers share their own experiences as "space entrepreneurs":

Special thanks to the support of our event sponsors: SpaceVest & Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology. The cost for this event is FREE, but we ask that you register at www.spaceentrepreneurs.org/events.html.

Space business survivors ... Looks like the remote sensing company Orbimage will emerge soon from Chapter 11 - Orbital [Orbimage] comes full circle - Washington Business Journal - Oct.24.03. It joins several other space services companies that survived the post-bubble recession in one form or the other. These include Orbcomm (another Orbital Sciences spinoff taken private), Starband, Iridium (taken private), ICO, and Globalstar (taken over by ICO).

Help predict earthquakes from space... QuakeSat, launched last June on a Russian rocket, is a spinoff from a Stanford University smallsat group and is built according to the CubeSat design. The satellite will investigate wheither "extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field fluctuations may be a key indicator that an earthquake is imminent." Such signals were "detected 14 days prior to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake by Dr. Tony Fraser-Smith of Stanford University, and by other researchers for earthquakes in Russia, Japan, and China."

Quakefinder will carry out the initial research with the QuakeSat. If the approach works, they will try to commercialize quake prediction services. It is backed by the company Stellar Solutions.

The project will combine both space and ground based sensor information. They currently have about 30 sensors (map of sensor locations) distributed along fault lines in California as part of an educational program with high school students. The EarthquakeTracker site describes this outreach project and displays data from the sensors.

They are also looking for private individuals who will accept sensors (at no cost) on their property: QuakeFinder's Looking for a Few Good Sensor Locations - CSA - Oct.24.03.


Oct.24, 2003 Space News

Space treasures... The recent news that olivine, a transparent green-colored mineral, was spotted on Mars - Gemstone outcrops found on Mars - Ananova - Oct.23.03 & Green mineral indicates red planet is dry - EurekaAlert - Oct.23.03 - reminds me of one of my favorite HobbySpace hobbyhorses: creating jewelry, glassworks, and other decorative objects in space.

As I discuss in the Space Arts & Crafts and Space Rocks sections, such products could form the basis of the first genuine space industry that sells hard goods to earth. I'm particularly optimistic that talented artisans in glass and other materials could take advantage of microgravity to produce exotic and beautiful effects in items of unique appeal to Earthers.

More the better if the materials for such products come from off-Earth sources. With regard to jewelry, it could pay off for explorers on the Moon and Mars to search for materials of esthetic appeal. Even if a stone like olivine is common on Earth, if the Mars version has an attractive coloration that readily identifies it as coming from Mars, it quickly would become a very valuable material on Earth.

Of course, I don't claim such a business would pay for an entire space enterprise, certainly not for Mars, but it would offer one source of funds and one of the first real space based sources of employment.

(I should note that Peter Kokh at Lunar Reclamation Society has been pushing similar ideas for decades with respect to Moon bases.)

Student access to big telescopes... Every so often I like to mention the growing number of opportunities available for students and amateur astronomers to use large optical via the web. So-called robotic telescopes allow non-professionals the chance to select celestial targets and collect images with the instruments via the Internet.

Some of the scopes are solely for public use and others are primarily for professionals but are shared with students. For example, this article - Kubasaki students put eye on the sky from across the globe - Stars & Stripes - Oct.23.03 - describes how some students got access to the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope in Apple Valley, California via the NASA-GAVRT program.

Smashing space pen myth... In a Slashdot posting today came the news from Pedro Duque's diary from space - ESA Portal - Oct.23.03 that plain ol'ballpoint pens will work fine in space. Surface tension is strong enough to pull the ink out of the reservoir since there is no gravity to fight back.

The item also notes that the common story that NASA spent millions in the 1960's to develop the pressure driven Space Pen is in fact not true: Spacepen Millions NOTspent by NASA to develop pen - Urban Legends Reference Pages: Business (The Write Stuff). Paul Fisher developed it on his own and then sold pens to NASA.

Tech News: Sonic muffling ... A few years ago at a Space Access Society meeting, Rand Simberg gave an interesting O.T. presentation about development of techniques to reduce or eliminate sonic booms from supersonic aircraft. He has now posted an overview at The Concorde's Sonic Boomlet - TCS: Tech Central Station - Oct.24.03.

There have also been the recent demonstration flights by Northrop that showed significant reduction in sonic booms for a F-5E with a modified front end. Seems that this area of research is speeding up (so to speak!) I'm maintaining links in the SciTech section.


Oct.23, 2003 Space News

Know space art when you see it... This article - Images of Space Get Second Look - Wired - Oct.22.03 - reports on a panel discussion at the American Museum of Natural History on the topic of whether space images from robotic spacecraft can be considered art. See the images at Planetary Image Atlas and other galleries and decide for yourself.

The Echo AMSAT... At the recent AMSAT-NA annual meeting it was announced that the AMSAT OSCAR-E spacecraft, referred to as the "Echo Project", will get a ride to space on March 31, 2004 via a Russian Dnepr LV rocket: OSCAR Echo to Launch in March - ARRLWeb - Oct.22.03.

After several years focusing on the large AO-40 project (in collaboration with AMSAT-DL and many other AMSAT and university groups), the Echo will be a return for AMSAT-NA to the more traditional small satellite approach. This spacecraft will follow the Microsat design first developed in 1990 but now with many improvements (see this pdf paper).

The basic system will be built by the small company SpaceQuest, which is led by two AMSAT members. Other specialized components will be contributed by various AMSAT groups.

Support AMSAT... Help to keep amateur and student satellite development in business by taking a membership in AMSAT-NA or one of the other AMSAT organizations around the world. It will be one of the most cost-effective contributions you can possibly make to space progress.

ISS ham developments... The above report also mentions that the ISS ham system is getting an upgrade. The Phase 2 ISS ham system will have higher power (25W instead of 5W) and additional transmission modes and antennas. Note that the current residents on the station are all hams: Five Hams Now Aboard International Space Station -ARRLWeb - Oct.21.03


Oct.22, 2003 Space News

News briefs ... Jeff Foust looks at the possibilities for the Shenzhou to visit the ISS: China, Shenzhou, and the ISS - The Space Review - Oct.20.03. As a reader pointed out, the Chinese manned space program is very militarized: The Historic Chinese Shenzhou Manned Flight Also Has Military Objectives - Aviation Week - Oct.20.03 ...

... Select your favorite snapshot of our favorite star: SOHO's Greatest Hits: Vote for Your Favorite Sun Image - Space.com - Oct.21.03 ...

... I want my electric sports car - The World's Fastest Electric Car - Forbes.com - Oct.21.03 - to be made with titanium - Alchemy of a Supermetal -- Serendipity delivers a process that may cut the cost of a high-tech material - Scientific American - Oct.03.


Oct.20, 2003 Space News

The Heinlein Effect... I've recently heard some space enthusiasts comment on how Robert Heinlein's books inspired their interest in space. They certainly had a big impact on me. Now John Carmack says Heinlein helped to launch Armadillo Aerospace: A new carrot: the Heinlein Prize - Frontier Files Online - Comments by John Carmack - Oct.7.03

News briefs... Sven Grahn maps the flight of Shenzhou-5 and indicates events of interest during the mission...

...Sven is also a long time space radio hobbyist and he just posted a recording he made of an audio transmission from Michael Foale while in the Soyuz capsule that took off from Baikonur on Saturday morning for the ISS.


Oct.19, 2003 Space News

Space hams map effects of ion engine... The Russian rocketry research agency Central Research Institute for Machine Building (TsNIIMASH) is organizing the Space plasma experiment "Shadow" onboard International Space Station (ISS) and they invite the participation of radio amateurs and students.

As explained here and illustrated in this graphic, the goal is to study the effects of ions emitted from a electric thruster aboard the ISS. By organizing a large group of radio receivers on the ground, the project can map out the shadowing caused by the interference of the ions with the radio beacon from the station.

Electric ion thrusters are a very promising technology that offers very efficient propulsion. This study will "help designers of future electrically propelled spacecrafts to minimize the hazard of communication disruption by ET plasma plumes."

More info at the Kevin Forbes' ET Shadow Project page.

Novel sci-fi music... Check out sine fiction, a project in which participates create a musical composition or soundtrack around the theme of a famous science fiction novel. (via Boing Boing)

Space art map... The Copernica Art Database offers an unusual graphical navigation to NASA space art. See the NASA - Multimedia for several interactive galleries of space art and photography.

News briefs... More hams in space: New Two-Ham ISS Crew Set to Head into Space October 18 - ARRLWeb - Oct.17.03 ...

... Space.com explains that though Yang Liwei didn't happen to see the Great Wall, it is in fact visible by the unaided eye from low earth orbit: China's Astronaut Didn't Find Great Wall of China, Myth Grows - Space.com - Oct.17.03 ...

... Michael Mealling of Rocketforge interviews the founder of the International Association of Space Entrepreneurs (IASE) at Interview with Guillermo Sohnlein, founder of IASE - RocketForge - Oct.17.03 ...

... More about Buzz's Moon watch mentioned earlier: Moon Watch Resurfaces In Court: Astronaut, Smithsonian, Collector Claim Rights To Lost Timepiece - Washingtonpost.com - Oct.17.03...

... A good summary of the ISS situation and possible fixes: Saving the station: The International Space Station is a case where a half a loaf isn't better than none - IEEE Spectrum - Oct.17.03...

... More Shenzhou flights in the next few years: Manned Chinese Space Flight Seen As First In Series - Aviation Now - Oct.16.03...

... The Society of Amateur Scientists has begun as program called LabRats in which young people work with mentors on science projects.


Oct.16, 2003 Space News

Shenzhou inspires new hobbyspacers ... From the articles and TV programs about the Shenzhou flight that I have seen, the flight of the Shenzhou seems to be having a big affect on the Chinese and their interest in space. Though it may not be as frenzied as in the US during the Mercury days, the enthusiasm there for space exploration looks quite authentic and widespread. If nothing else, as with US space fans like me from the 60s generation, a lot of young Chinese will grow up thinking of spaceflight as the coolest, most exciting adventure possible.

The flight should result in an expansion of interest in space related hobbies around the world. For example, some lucky skywatchers got to see the first Chinese manned spacecraft pass overhead: Morning Star, Right on Time, From the Far Side of the World - NY Times - Oct.15.03. Space stamp collectors will certainly want these commemorative issues: China issues 10 million stamp sets to commemorate first manned space flight - Spacedaily - Oct.16.03.

We should hear soon if any space radio hams picked up communications from the mission. Models, and maybe software simulators, of the Shenzhou 5 and Long March CZ-2 F should be available before long.


Oct.15, 2003 Space News

China in space with big plans... Looks like China wants to advanced quickly into space development: China outlines space exploration goals as Shenzhou nears liftoff: Nation predicts space tourism, Mars landing - Florida Today - Oct.14.03 ...

The SpaceWeather.com site has info on the flight paths of the Shenzhou. See also Heavens Above, and other sites listed in the Watching Satellites section.

News briefs ... Scientific American has an interesting article about a method to move an asteroid away from an impact with earth. The article is not online but you can get a summary here: Mission Possible: Asteroid Tugboat Backed for Trial Run - Space.com - Oct.14.03 ...

... Always a surprise to see a pro-human spaceflight article or editorial in the NY Times: Fly Me to the Moon - NY Times - Oct.14.03


Oct.13, 2003 Space News

Space out of time piece ... Check out this odd story about Buzz Aldrin's watch that he wore during Apollo 11: First watch on moon, or a giant leap?: Timepiece found on beach spurs legal fight - SignOnSanDiego.com - Oct.12.03

Space art in glass & fabric... Via Chris Hall's Spacecraft blog I found a couple of space art related items.Washington National Cathedral had a “Space Window” , formally called the "Scientists and Technicians Window", to commemorate "America’s exploration of space and man’s first steps on the moon". It includes a "7.18-gram basalt lunar rock from the Sea of Tranquility" embedded in the beautiful stained glass display.

And this article - Quilt Tracks Space Shuttle History Through Mission Patches - theledger.com (Lakeland Fla.) - Oct.12.03 - reports on a quilt made from over 100 shuttle mission patches.


Oct.12, 2003 Space News

Watching Chinese spaceships... When the taikonaut flight takesoff, check the tracking sites, such as Heavens Above, listed in the Watching Satellites section to find if the ship will be visible from your location. Space amateurs preparing to track China's first manned space flight - Spacedaily - Oct.11.03

Sven Grahn, a long time space radio enthusiast and top manager at the Swedish Space Corporation, has posted some interesting stories and pictures about his trips to the Chinese spaceport to see the launch of some Swedish satellites:

Mars down under... The Mars Society of Australia is making progress on its MarsOZ analogue research station: Mini-Mars in the Outback - The Sunday Mail - Oct.12.03. It will join the two operating stations: Mars Desert Research Station in Utah and the Flashline station on Devon Island plus the Euro-MARS base under construction in Iceland.

Space moguls to be... I came across this organization - International Association of Space Entreprenuers - via RocketForge. The IASE just launched and looks like it could be a useful networking site for those interested in new space business.

Space is falling... Never know when a meterorite might drop in:


Oct.10, 2003 Space News

SETI@home software transition... The SETI@home project will soon convert to the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) software framework. BOINC is a general purpose distributed computing system that offers higher security, easier updates, and other advantages over the current programs. See the BOINC_Transition Plan - seti@home for an overview of the change and Q&A for current users.

Points to go... Participants in the Degree Confluence Project love to travel and see new places located at abstract and arbitrary mathematical points. Using their GPS navigators, they seek out those particular points on the earth where whole degree lines of lattitude and longitude intersect. They compete to see who can visit the most such points. A unique picture of the world, in 16,146 frames - BBC - Oct.6.03. See the GPS section for more global positioning recreation.


Oct.9, 2003 Space News

Mars station volunteers ... The Mars Society wants volunteers to crew the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah this winter and for the station on Devon Island next summer: Volunteers Needed for Mars Desert and Flashline Station Mars Society Crews - Martian Soil - Oct.6.03

China space... For the latest on the Chinese manned space mission expected to launch next week, check the various sites linked on the space news page. Jeff Foust's spacetoday.net will be an especially good place to find links to articles. Other related links of interest:


Oct.8, 2003 Space News

Reward vs. investment... The Heinlein Prize Trust (mentioned hear on Oct.1 and Sept.14) will award $500k to someone who makes a particularly significant contribution to space commercialization. Jeff Foust comments in his article An alternative to the Heinlein Prize - The Space Review - Oct.6.03 about whether this really will help to advance the goals of space commercialization since the reward comes after the accomplishment. Perhaps it would be better to use the money to help those trying to build a space business with a grant in the early stages when they really need it and might be the spark that makes it happen.

Educational jackpot... Via the Rocket Jones web log I came across some excellent tutorials developed by Greg Goebel in several areas of space and science including


Oct.7, 2003 Space News

Save Rocketry Right Now!... This November the Discovery Channel will broadcast a three hour program about hobby rocketry. It focuses particularly on the high power rocketry event LDRS, which the Tripoli Rocketry Association holds each year.

Frank Uroda of Public Missiles has begun a campaign to raise money for a 15 second commercial to run during the showing of this program. The spots will promote rocketry and urge people to take up the hobby:

"This is the one chance rocketry has to re-energize its ranks. It’s our best chance to gain the empathy of the public towards rocketry. Therefore we have taken it upon ourselves to organize a drive to put together a fifteen second advertisement to run concurrently with each showing. The ad will give enthused and hyped viewers a web site to help them discover rocketry. The site will be better designed to market rocketry, to enthuse and motivate new people to enjoy the thrill of rocketry. It will act as a mother site or hub to find links to vendors and discover the diverse world of rocketry.

"Rocketry has benefited our society for over 40 years and has been responsible for influencing untold numbers to go into highly technical fields, to become scientists and engineers. Schools and universities use rockets to teach and inspire. Few things are more ideal in inspiring the teaching of physics, math and chemistry.

"It may soon end. Our vendors, organizations and infrastructure are in bad shape. Membership is falling. Even schools and universities are going to thwarted by the difficulties imposed by unnecessary zealous regulations. Vendors are going belly up and people are losing heart (and courage) while misguided bureaucrats thump their chests thinking they’ve done society a favor...." continue

The proposal seems to have struck a chord among those in the rocketry community. If you would like to help, then

Make a Donation Now!

More info at


Oct.6, 2003 Space News

Capitol staff stupidity... While I expect high visibility issues in Congress to move out of rational debate and into partisan numbing dumbness, I like to believe that when they deal with low visibility, basic infrastructure items, the right thing usually gets done. The members of Congress have lots of staff to do the research and to know the nitty-gritty details of what is involved in technical programs that are little known to the general public.

Yet my faith in their competence is shaken when I read an article like Space Environment Center Funding in Jeopardy - ARRLWeb - Oct.3.03 (via spacetoday.net). Satellites (both civilian and military), the electric power grid, and other systems can be seriously affected by solar flares and other space weather conditions. Preventive measures can be taken to protect these systems if warnings arrive in time. Yet some doofus on somebody's staff no doubt sent out a memo claiming that the Space Environment Center would be an easy kill. Perhaps it is intended to go into one of those (government paid) junkmail newsletters that Congresspersons send out to constituents to report on the great things they've done recently. I can just see the headline in one bragging on how the representative led the fight to kill another of those crazy money-wasting government programs, this time dealing with weather in space nonsense. Might get a vote or two, if that much, but it leaves the country shortchanged.

Good science ... While I would never justify $500M shuttle flights on the basis of the science carried out on them (except perhaps for Hubble repair and maintenance missions), that does not mean that good, solid, peer-reviewed science does not come from human spaceflight. As Keith Cowing at NASA Watch points out with regard to a baseless accusation in an editorial by someone who should know better, in the following databases you can find lists of peer-reviewed publications dealing with research in space, such as that done by the ISS crews, or in support of human spaceflight:

See also the sections here on Microgravity Research and on Humans vs. Robots.


Oct.3, 2003 Space News

Then just don't go! I used to get bent out of shape when I read something like Bruce Sterling's putdown of human spaceflight (via Chris Hall's Spacecraft Weblog.) Now I'm surprised how little it bothers me. As I argue here and here, human spaceflight will happen without the need to convince every single person in the world that it's a great idea. As the cost of space transportation comes down, those who choose to go will go, and those who aren't interested won't.

As far as the deleterious health effects that Sterling cites, even with today's meagre efforts to combat them, as Chris points out, they are hardly showstoppers to long duration flights and have no impact at all on short space tourist flights. Eventually spacecraft will use rotation to produce artificial gravity, which should eliminate the microgravity effects entirely. (Also, there will be other ways than gravity to trick the body into doing the right thing like this vibration system.) Adding extra shielding will reduce radiation to earth background levels. And so forth.

Meteorite riches ... Find a rock from Mars and you can make some good money: Millions of pennies from heaven: Meteorite may bring out-of-world payday - Times Picayune - Oct.2.03

Launch an itty-bitty payload... The next high altitude Pongsat Mission by JP Aerospace will occur on October 25th. Students and amateurs can participate for free.

Enquiring minds want to know... If you do any sort of amateur science activities, you should participate in this Amateur Science Survey at the University of Tennessee. They want to "determine where and how amateur scientists are finding data relevant to their scientific interest. This data can then be used by librarians and others to improve services to amateur scientists."


Oct.2, 2003 Space News

Planetary Society Mars activities... The Planetary Society is organizing various public events and projects around the theme of the Mars missions that will reach the planet early next year:


Oct.1, 2003 Space News

Sci-fi tech database... This site - Technovelgy : where science meets fiction: science fiction novels, movies and writers - offers a systematic listing of technology concepts found in sci-fi publications. (See other sci-fi tech links in Solar Sci-fi section.)

Have Space Suit? Win Money... Hoping to encourage space development as Robert Heinlein envisioned in his many books, the Heinlein Prize Trust (mentioned here earlier) will award $500,000

"as frequently as annually to one or more individuals who have achieved practical accomplishments in the field of commercial space activities. The Trustees emphasize that the award is for effort by an individual - not corporate or government sponsored activities - and that the Heinlein Prize is intended to be world-wide in scope."

Heinlein Prize: Focuses on Space Commercialization - Heinlein Prize - Sept 29.03

Also, check out the Heinlein Society.

p.s. Chris Hall sent me a link to the HeinleinBlog, which is run by Bill Dennis.

GPS tidbits... GPS isn't perfect according to this article : GPS Users Still Lost in the Woods - Wired News - Sept.30.03 but good enough for Coca-Cola to track you down: GPS will pinpoint Coke prize winners - IndyStar - Sept.28.03.

The Joy of Launch... A rocket launch remains an impressive event as reported by this report: My first launch by Michele Thaller - Christian Science Monitor - Sept.30.03. Get info on watching KSC launches in the Spaceports section. And listen to this rocket launch hymn to get into the spirit of the thing.

Learning from MIT... MIT announced some time ago that they would start to put most of their teaching materials on line for free access. You can now find the materials at MIT OpenCourseWare for hundreds of MIT courses including some space related ones: Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets * Physics.

Tech: Massive neural net simulation... This project aims to simulate the cerebral cortex at the neuron level: CCortex - Artificial Development. Most neural networks simulations, which are used commonly in pattern recognition applications, employ non-biological neuron models with continuous activation outputs. This one, however, will simulate the spiking outputs as in real neurons: Artificial Development to Build World's Biggest Spiking Neural Network: CCortex will Rank Among the worlds fastest Computers - AD News - Sept.12.03 (Links to on line NNW sims.)


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