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The Space Log
Space for Everyone - December 2003

Dec.31, 2003 Space News

Mars jamboree... The Planetary Society is hosting a two day event in Pasadena on January 3-4 to celebrate (they hope!) the landing of the Spirit rover on Mars. Go "Wild About Mars" With The Planetary Society - Dec.29.03.

The Wild About Mars spectacular will include big array of Special Guests such as Ray Bradbury. For those who can't make it to Pasadena there will be some webcasts.

Note: NASA news conferences and other programs about the Mars and Stardust missions will be webcast. Check the Spacecast section here for links to NASA TV sites. See the NASA TV Landing Page for schedules of broadcasts

Other 2003 reviews... In the past year Robert Pearlman continued to develop collectSpace, the premier space memorabilia site. Here is his survey of 2003: "Space history shaped 2003 events" - collectSPACE - Dec.31.03 ...

... Rand Simberg reviews major space developments in 2003 and what may develop in the coming year: Out with the old, in with the new - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.31.03

2003 - a good year for private space development and public participation. Here are some of the highlights:

Vehicle Development:

  • On Dec.17th SpaceShipOne flew the first supersonic flight for a privately developed vehicle. Clearly in the lead to win the X PRIZE in 2004.

  • Several other suborbital RLV projects made solid progress and show increasing professionalism. Other items of interest:
    • Projects like Canadian Arrow, da Vinci, and Starchaser succeeded in attracting lots of sponsors.
    • TGV Rockets began hiring engineers and establishing itself in Norman, Oklahoma. While it is entered in the X PRIZE, the company primarily is aiming at the remote sensing and reconaissance market with its large payload launcher.

  • Elon Musk's SpaceX unveiled in Washington D.C. the Falcon I, which will become the first orbital launcher developed entirely with private funds.

Space Tourism:

  • The Columbia disaster led to a suspension of tourist flights to the ISS but high interest remained. In December Space Adventures announced that two persons have purchased rides on Soyuz capsules to the ISS.

Commercial/Private Space Projects:

Amateur and Student Satellites:

Space Radio:

Space Music:

  • To Touch the Stars, the space music album long in development; was released in December.
  • Patti Labelle gave a heart-wrenching performance of Way Up There, written by Tena Clark, during the memorial for the Columbia astronauts at the National Cathedral in Washington DC.

Dec.29, 2003 Space News

Mars the God of War leads 2 to 1 going into the second half of Earth's latest attack on its red neighbor. As Rocket Man notes - Mars - A 60% Failure Rate - Rocket Man Blog - Dec.27.03, the failure of the Japanese Nozomi probe and the likely failure of the Beagle 2 lander continue a tale of woe interrupted only by the occasional success such as the Mars Express.

We should remember, though, that space has offered many tough challenges that were eventually overcome. It took about a dozen launches before the Air Force finally suceeded in recovering its first spy satellite photos of the Soviet Union during the start of the space age. It took NASA nearly as many tries to land safely an unmanned vehicle on the Moon in the years leading up to the Apollo manned landings.

The Martian missions have been spread out over many decades due to the long distances and big budgets involved. So the practice-makes-close-to-perfect process has been stretched out as well. I hope the two Mars rover missions in January will show that we are nearing the upper half of the learning curve and will result in a final score of 3 to 2 over the Mars beast.

Note: Don't give up hope completely on the Beagle 2. It has happened before that a spacecraft has been nearly given up for dead and then suddenly it sprang to life. For example, the AMSAT AO-40 satellite launched in November 15, 2000 went silent after it fired its booster to go into a higher orbit. Most people assumed the booster had exploded and destroyed the spacecraft. But efforts to contact it continued for several weeks and the faithful were rewarded when on Christmas day the satellite finally responded to ground commands. Perhaps in this case, the Beagle's silent night will lead to a joyous New Year revival.

Aerospace art contest is sponsored annually by Aviation Week. The latest issue shows the winners and is available on line: Aviation Week's Aerospace Art Awards In Cooporation With The American Society of Aviation Artists - AWST - Dec.28.03

Satellite radio rising steadily in popularity and stock price: Critic's Notebook: High-Tech Quirkiness Restores Radio's Magic - NY Times - Dec.26.03 * Satellite Radio Is On the Rise : XM, Sirius Report Improved Sales - Washington Post - Dec.27.03

Space in Miniature... Space modeler and author Mike Mackowski has released another of his monographs on the art of building rocket and spacecraft scale models:

Apollo CSM Spacecraft Modeling Book Published
December 2003

The sixth book in the Space In Miniature (S.I.M.) series, "Apollo CSM," has just been published. This volume, the first of a pair on the Apollo spacecraft, describes the configuration history of the Command and Service Module (CSM) that carried astronauts to the moon and back. The magazine-style publication has 61 pages of descriptive text, drawings, and photos designed to provide the modeler with all the information needed to build an accurate scale reproduction of any of the manned Apollo missions.

The historical section of this volume was written by David Weeks, who also created the numerous drawings that show all of the spacecraft's colors and markings and how they varied from the early Block I vehicles, through the Block II lunar-capable spacecraft, to the variations for Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Chronological tables of all the Apollo missions, NASA drawings, and Weeks' text explain how the spacecraft evolved over those programs. There is also a thorough section on modeling the Apollo CSM, including a detailed review by Karl Dodenhoff of the Monogram 1/32nd scale kit, a list of all kits ever produced of the CSM, plus over twenty kit reviews.

The editor of the series, Mike Mackowski, points out that while the book is printed in black ink, links to color versions of all of the photos used are available at the SIM website, www.spaceinminiature.com. As with the other books in the series ("A Scale Spacecraft Primer," "Gemini," "Space Shuttle," "Soviet Spacecraft," and "Mercury"), the new book is not intended to be a history of the Apollo program. Instead, it is designed to provide the serious "real space" modeler with the scale data and modeling information that cannot be found anywhere else. Mackowski is an aerospace engineer and long-time modeler who is recognized by many members of the International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS) as one of the top experts on spacecraft modeling.

More information and on line ordering is available at www.spaceinminiature.com. Mike can be contacted via e-mail at mike@spaceinminiature.com or at 1022 W. Juanita Ave., Gilbert, Arizona, USA 85233-2558.


Dec.24, 2003 Space News

Happy Holidays to Everybody!! Postings will be infrequent over the next week or so. I'll be in Knoxville, Tennessee visiting relatives and friends.

The Rocket Company saga continues... I've posted two new chapters for your holiday reading.

Mars news... For quick listing of news sites for the latest on the Mars missions, see this list in the Living Space section. You may also want to use this framed viewer setup.

To Touch the Stars
To Touch the Stars
Space music CD (hear mp3s on line)

Christmas came early for me last week when I got a pre-release copy of the space music album To Touch the Stars from Prometheus Music. This project has been in development for several years and I've mentioned it many times. It was worth the wait! The music is super (mp3s of several of the songs are available on line). The seventeen songs include a wonderfully diverse selection of artists and musical styles.

Producers Kristoph Klover and Eli Goldberg have done a wonderful job with a long and very challenging project. The packaging is top quality and includes a 31 page (Yes, 31! Count'em) booklet with excellent graphics, all of the lyrics, and essays by Robert Zubrin and Brian Chase.

Zubrin gives the history of the project, which began with a space song contest in 1997 sponsored by the National Space Society. With its success, he later had the Mars Society hold its own Mars song contest. The entries on the CD include winning songs from these competitions, other original music and classic filk tunes such as Jordin Kare's Fire in the Sky. (Its lyrics left Buzz Aldrin in tears in the aftermath of Columbia.) These songs are sure to become the folk songs and anthems of our future space communities.

The CD will become available on Dec.30th but you can pre-order now.


Dec.23, 2003 Space News

Which imperative to choose? The Space Imperatives Conference on December 18th in Washington DC, sponsored by Aviation Week and organized by Buzz Aldrin, offered a full day of talks and discussions on the future of US space policy. Space Panelists Argue Cases For Moon, Mars Exploration - Aerospace Daily - Dec.19.03.

A segment of the meeting was broadcast on CSPAN. The video will be on line for a couple of weeks (enter "space" in the video search.)

Most of the discussion was about where to go - the Moon or Mars. Rand Simberg says they should have focused instead on why we go into space in the first place (hint: it's not for science.) A Vision, Not a Destination - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.22.03 .

Taylor Dinerman argues that until NASA gets more money, new missions are not feasible anyway: (Space) history accelerates by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Dec.22.03

It wasn't all just NASA and the major aerospace conglomerates dominiating discussions in Washington last week: Jeff Greason's speech at the AvWeek "Century of Flight" celebration at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Washington D.C. - XCOR Aerospace - Dec.22.03

Comet encounter... Mars will be getting everybody's attention in the next few weeks as the Beagle 2, Mars Express, and the US Mars rovers assault the Red Planet. However, we shouldn't ignore the Stardust spacecraft that will encounter the Wild 2 comet on January 2 and grab some of its material for return to the earth: On comet! Vehicle blitzin' toward meeting: Scientists hope flyby in space delivers gift - tiny bits of debris - Rocky Mountain News - Dec.23.03 (via spacetoday.net)


Dec.22, 2003 Space News

Is your name on Mars? The NASA program to invite the public to put their name on a DVD that would go with the Mars rovers was a big success: 'Message in a bottle' to Mars takes on form of mini-DVDs: Robotic explorers to carry names of 4 million Earthlings - HoustonChronicle.com - Dec.21.03 . I hope and expect such vicarious participation in space travel will become common.


Dec.21, 2003 Space News

Private space & science... From his writings and appearances in television documentaries and interviews, I've always found Timothy Ferris to be an articulate and engaging commentator on astronomy and space science. However, as far as space development is concerned, he usually took the conventional NASA/government centered view on how it will proceed. So I was quite surprised by his editorial - A New Pathway to the Stars by Timothy Ferris - NY Times - Dec.21.03 - in which he holds space entrepreneurs to be key players in future space development, particularly with regard to developing a lunar base.

The astronomer Sir Martin Rees has also recently promoted space entreprenourship as a strong component in space development (see this RLV News item and this article) and believes that it will assist science as well. Perhaps this is part of a trend. Though Ferris is not a researcher himself, he has strong ties to the astrophysics and space science community. So I hope that their views will influence not only the general public but also the many scientists who still take it for granted that space should always remain an Antarctic-like reserve just for robotic exploration and little else.

News briefs ... From a newsgroup posting I came across this paper model of the ISS and of other spacecraft at the Italian MARS Center(Microgravity Advanced Research and Support Center)....

... A honeymoon suite with a view: Russia touts "space honeymoon" for 40 million dollars - SpaceDaily - Dec.21.03


Dec.20, 2003 Space News

The Rocket Companye

Tech : New ways to fly ... One hundred years after the Wright Brothers first powered flight, we tend to take flying for granted and to think that the basic technology and science of flight has reached a plateau. In fact, new facets of aerodynamics and ways to exploit them continue to appear and probably will indefinitely.

For example, I've mentioned several times the Fanwing, invented by amateur aviation enthusiast Patrick Peebles. The fanwing uses a completely new technique for creating lift. A fan, similar to the blades in a push lawn mower, pulls air over the top of the wing and thus creates lift and is very efficient in doing so.

Several prototypes, each of increasing size, have now proven the concept. The latest prototype, which lifted 8kg, shows that the system could already provide for a lightweight portable UAV that could, for example, carry video equipment for reconaissance. (See videos.) The prototypes have show that fanwing vehicles cannot stall, offer low fuel consumption, can takeoff in a short distance (VTOL may eventually be possible), and possess several other advantages.

Today I came across an article about yet another flying technique: Flying Saucer May Yet Take Flight - Wired - Dec.20.03. I had heard of the Ekip years ago but lost track of the project. This site Aviation Concern "EKIP" provides a lot of information on the very odd shaped vehicle.

I don't understand the aerodynamics of how it works but somehow the round, beetle-like shape of the body provides lift. The Ekip proponents claim that

Flying vehicles "EKIP" are a new generation of aircraft of high load-carrying capacity, capable to perform takeoff and landing from airfields of any category, from the ground and water surfaces. Specific costs of cargo and passenger transportation aboard the flying vehicles "EKIP" are 1.3-1.5 times lower than on modern airplanes. The aircraft "EKIP" ensure more comfort for the passengers and higher level of safety of flight.

Note that it uses an air cushion, hover technique for takeoff and landing. A small model version has now flown. The Russian concern has been struggling for years to raise money to build a large prototype. Now, according to the Wired article, the US Navy will collaborate with the Russians to build a 230kg prototype.

As we also saw this week with the supersonic flight of the SpaceShopOne, there are many aerospace innovations and surprises awaiting us in the next hundred years.


Dec.19, 2003 Space News

Mars, England, and money... Mars has begun to make the headlines as the ESA and NASA missions close in on the Red Planet. The Planetary Society offers an interesting profile of the Beagle 2 project and its main proponent in Man with a Mars Mission: The Making of Beagle 2 - Planetary Society - Dec.18.03.

Among other things, this article emphasizes the difficulties there were in raising money for the British Beagle 2 project. Of all the countries involved in space, Britain has made its opposition to manned space the most explicit. No British funds go even indirectly to manned projects. I know there are many social and historical reasons for this but probably one of the primary reasons is the greater influence on governmental policy in Britain by academic scientists than in other countries.

It has long been de rigour in scientific circles to oppose human spaceflight programs. Scientists argue that the money should go to their projects, which they hold to be much more productive and beneficial than putting people into space. However, some scientists, such as the late Carl Sagan, pointed out that space science funding in the US actually rose and fell along with funding for human spaceflight. This makes sense because both types of ventures are expensive, they both have long term rather than short term payoffs, and enthusiasm for human spaceflight always means enthusiasm for robotic missions as well since they are needed as forerunners.

We see in the case of Britain that zeroing out human spaceflight funding did not produce a windfall for space science. In fact, it probably reduced funding for space science as well because without the excitement and visibility of a manned program there resulted lower interest in all types of space exploration.

Note that Britain is not a poor country. It has enjoyed solid growth since its economic nadir of the 1970s and now has per capita GDP as high as France and Germany. Britain could well afford a much more vigorous and exciting space program but until such a program includes human spaceflight, I doubt that, even with a successful Beagle 2 mission, their program will go much beyond its current modest efforts.

News briefs ... Sounds like the space tourist mission to the ISS will take place even if the shuttle is not back in service: Space tourist could be shipped to ISS in 2004 - ITAR-TASS - Dec.19.03 ...

... Celestis will carry out another space burial mission this April. Reuters reports on their business: Holiday givers turn to star calls, moon burials - Yahoo/Reuters - Dec.19.03 ...

... The Spitzer Space Telescope (originally called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) goes into operation: NASA Releases Dazzling Images From New Space Telescope - NASA - Dec.18.03...

... Robert Zubrin says Mars analog simulations prove the value of people for exploring the Red planet: Mars pioneer says simulation isn't just a game: Arctic mission shows that humans can outdo robots, a commander claims - MSNBC - Dec.18.03 ...

... The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth: Find Photos zoom in on a particular location, such as your home town, with the imagery taken by astronauts from orbit.

Tech brief ... Check out the amazing video of the Sony Qrio robot running, throwing and dancing: Smart Mobs - Qrio robot - Dec.18.03 * 'Running' Robot Gets Off Ground - Wired - Dec.18.03


Dec.18, 2003 Space News

Mars analog exploration ... The Association of Mars Explorers - The Mars Club is an "association for explorers of Mars or the Mars-analog environments on Earth." The group's 19 Founding members included Nobel Laureate Baruch Blumberg and Charles Cockell leads the organization. The group promotes the exploration of the amazingly diverse Martian surface. Until there are human missions there, they will focus on Mars-like areas on Earth:

Martian analog environments are environments that are similar to Mars, like regions in Antarctica or the Arctic. At the time of writing there have been no human expeditions to Mars. Those that have an interest in Martian exploration can find expression of their ambitions through these environments. Mars analog environments also underscore the connections between Earth and Mars explorers and their common vision of exploration.

Association of Mars Explorers calls for station on Mars - SpaceRef - Dec.17.03

Astronomy outreach... The Astronomical Society of the Pacific and NASA announced recently the the formation of the Night Sky Network - a nationwide coalition of astromy clubs to promote astronomy to the public. They will provide astronomy clubs with educational materials and training to assist with public outreach efforts.New Outreach ToolKits and Training vailable from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and NASA - Astronomical Society of the Pacific - Dec.16.03

Space jumping from suborbital vehicles could become a thrill sport. Cheryl Stearns is a pioneer in the pursuit of practical space diving: Into thin air: Early in 2005, champion skydiver Cheryl Stearns will make the highest free-fall jump in history from the edge of space. - New Scientist - Dec.19.03

News briefs... Planetary scientist Paul Spudis argues to make the Moon a major goal for human spaceflight: A golden frontier - The Washington Times - Dec.18.03 ...

... But maybe lunar settlement will more likely come from private commercial projects rather than government largess: Trust greed to boldly take man where he has never gone before - CITIZEN-TIMES.com( Asheville NC) - Dec.17.03 (via spacetoday.net)

... This Christmas give your favorite space cadet a highly detailed full scale replica of the ISS laboratory Destiny: For $1.65 million, this space module is all yours - HoustonChronicle.com - Dec.18.03

... Alfred Differ invites filkers to participate in a Christmas Filk Song Contest - Frontier Files Online - Dec.17.03


Dec.17, 2003 Space News

Space tourism - alive & flying... I wish I had saved links to all of those articles where people dismissed space tourist visits to the ISS as a two-off, so to speak. Lance Bass coming up short and the long gap since Shuttleworth's flight supposedly proved that there was no market there. It's clear, though, that the market is just getting started:

For those who actually listened, this announcement is no big surprise since Space Adventures and the Russian space companies have been saying all along that there really are plenty enough people with more than enough money to buy all the available Soyuz seats for several years.

Real space action... You must have seen some of those sci-fi B-movies where the brave Mars explorers must survive a pounding by meteoroids and then a deadly dust storm. Well, they were actually half realistic: Dust storm could provide challenge to Mars landers - spacetoday.net - Dec.15.03 .

Traditional space ... Keith Cowing noticed something odd the other day in a video from the ISS: Why is Money Stuck to the Wall of the International Space Station? - Spaceref - Dec.10.03. Expedition 8 Astronaut Michael Foale heard about his observation and reported that it's part of a tradition that started on Mir where "we used to use the dollar bill to ask a favor of the other person - for example, to watch a movie by saying 'may I buy entrance to the movie please?' And you would present the bill to the other person." Evolving Traditions Aboard the International Space Station - SpaceRef - Dec.15.03

If you multiplied the current space population by, say, one hundred and many were staying there indefinitely (I'm assuming a rotating station with artificial gravity, etc.), you can easily imagine many traditions developing and, before you know it, you got a unique space culture with its own eccentricities and heritage.

News briefs... Space Frontier propagates the "entrepreneurs, not NASA" meme: Return to the Moon: This Time to Stay! Government Must Partner with Commercial Firms to Succeed - Space Frontier Foundation - Dec.12.03 ...

... NY Times reports on the support for nuclear powered spacecraft among space scientists: Nuclear-Powered Spacecraft Is Proposed for Voyage to Jupiter -NY Times - Dec.15.03 ...

... Space communication with Internet protocols is now available on some new spacecraft and probably will be very common in a few years: NASA Takes the Internet into Space - E-Commerce News - Dec.13.03 (See Interplanetary Communications.)


Dec.15, 2003 Space News

News briefs ... Instead of analyzing rockets and spacecraft, today Rocket Man looks at why humans would want to go to space in the first place: The Goal of Human Spaceflight - Rocket Man Blog - Dec.15.03...

... Taylor Dinerman comments on the upcoming Mars landings and their significance for future missions: To Mars, to Mars - The Space Review - Dec.15.03...

... Aviation Week is commemorating of 100 years of powered flight with a series of articles on the history of aerospace including this one by Craig Covault: Rocketry Advanced Quickly Propelled by War, Politics and Human Exploration - Aviation Week - Dec.14.03 ...

... A group of space scientists believe that the search for life on other planets and their moons can be "a unifying theme'' for solar system exploration: Search for extraterrestrial life moves to forefront : In S.F., space scientists agree on central theme for exploration - SF Gate - Dec.15.03


Dec.14, 2003 Space News

Cash over Space... The Florida lottery has rejected a proposal from Space Adventures that it award a ride to the Space Station as a prize. The lottery officials cited focus group studies that indicated little interest in choosing such a flight over a cash award. Lottery regulars pick cash over space: Company pitched Soyuz ride as prize - Florida Today - Dec.12.03

I don't find this the least bit surprising since, even as an obvious space fan(atic), I certainly would rather take the cash. The $20M (probably more like $10M) equivalent is just too much of a life altering windfall to blow on a one week experience, no matter how wonderful. I would take the money and not only live well but also invest in various space companies and causes that will make it a lot cheaper in the long run to go to space.

Besides, as I argued in this article, I don't believe you will ever get a majority of people wanting to go to space no matter what the cost. Everybody has different interests and there is nothing wrong with not being interested in space travel. However, even if only ten or fifteen per cent of the population shows a strong enthusiasm for space, that is plenty big enough to build a huge tourist industry and eventually a vast space community.

The Futron-Zogby poll of wealthy households found that 19% were willing to buy a ride on a suborbital space tourist rocket. Florida lottery officials and others will focus on the 81% that have no desire to ride a rocket. To suborbital rocket developers, however, that 19% represents a market of at least a million customers willing to spend $50-100K on a space ride. That's more than enough on which to grow a profitable business.

News briefs... Robert Zubrin gives an excellent introduction to space radiation and its risks in this response to the NY Times article discussed here recently: NY Times Misrepresents Mars Radiation Danger- The Mars Society - Dec.10.03 ...

... This article gives an illuminating discussion of dark matter and energy: Has XMM-Newton cast doubt over dark energy? - Spaceflight Now - Dec.12.03 ...

... More about the Mars Sundials project: Mars Sundial to Help Teach Kids About Time, Sun - National Geographic - Dec.9.03 ...

... The joy of being a space engineer: Having a blast in space engineering - TheStar.com - Dec.14.03 (via spacetoday.net)


Dec.12, 2003 Space News

To Touch the Stars
To Touch the Stars
Space music CD (hear mp3s on line)

Space music recognition... The US Centennial of Flight Commission website has a nice review of Aviation and Space Music. I especially appreciate the link there to my MusicSpace section.

I was contacted back in 2002 by a person working on the Centennial website after she heard Elaine Walker's Space 'Zine song via a link on my page. She wanted information on obtaining permission to use the song on the site. I told her how to reach Elaine and recommended that she also include the space filk classic Witness's Waltz in the collection. I gave her the address of Eli Goldberg of Prometheus Music who was putting together the space music CD that includes Waltz.

When I checked the Centennial website several months ago I didn't see anything about space music and assumed they had dropped that part of the project. So it's great to see now that it is in fact included. Roger Guillemette has written a very nice essay and I really like the link section!

Restoring a Gemini... Follow the restoration of the Gemini 6 capsule at the Kansas Cosmosphere via the Restoration Journal Gemini 6 by Jim Remar - collectSPACE and the webcam in the workshop there. The Gemini 6 mission was "[c]ommanded by Wally Schirra and piloted by Tom Stafford[...]the spacecraft performed the first ever rendezvous in Earth orbit with another manned spacecraft, Gemini 7."

News briefs... Keith Cowing says the administration will take its time before deciding on a new space policy: Space Policy Effort for NASA's Future Focusing in on Final Decision By the President - SpaceRef - Dec.10.03...

... Gee, maybe humans are pretty good afterall at observation and pattern recognition: Strange Lights Imaged, Astronauts Not Crazy - Space.com - Dec.10.03. ...

... More about the Mars Sundials project: Night Lights: Interview with Woody Sullivan - Astrobiology Magazine - Dec.10.03


Dec.10, 2003 Space News

News briefs... Rand Simberg comments on the confusion of aims and means in discussions of space policy: Lessons Learned - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.10.03 ...

... Leonard David reviews airplanes and balloons for exploring Mars and other planets and moons that possess atmospheres: Aircraft for Other Worlds - Space.com - Dec.10.03 ...

... A new book on space colonies is coming out. Here's an excerpt: Orbital Space Colonies: Fundamentals by Al Globus ...

... Aviation Week and Buzz Aldrin are holding a conference in Washington DC on Thursday December 18th called the Next Century of Flight Space Imperatives Conference - Agenda (this item via Jeff Foust)


Dec.9, 2003 Space News

Alt.space gets attention in this space.com article: Alternate Universe: Human Spaceflight Without NASA? - Space.com - Dec.9.03. (See comments at Transterrestrial Musings.) I like the term alt.space, coined by Rick Tumlinson, and I think it will become an accepted description of the non-NASA/Big Aerospace community of space advocates and small startup companies that want to do space in a new, more robust and incremental way.

Versus big goverment... I've noted here the reports on a possible new US space policy that includes a return to the Moon. See previous items on Dec. 4, Dec. 5,and Dec.8. The public is happy to back such a government program if it doesn't cost much: Most back a new flight to moon as long as it's in economy class - USATODAY.com - Dec.8.03.

However, as Gregg Easterbrook notes, it's hard to believe that NASA as its currently organized and run, could possibly do it cheaply. (See also Goodnight, Moon - Transterrestrial Musings - Dec.8.03.) Without taking advantage of the new ideas from the alt.space world, such program will become another big expensive fiasco like the ISS and the X-33.

Space radiation shields... This report about space radiation - Mars Mission's Invisible Enemy: Radiation - NY Times - Dec.9.03 - offers an interesting overview of the research going on in this area.It notes what a lot of such articles for popular reading don't, which is that we live amid significant radiation on the surface of the earth; radiation doesn't just exist in space.

However, it implies that the challenge of space radiation, especially from protons and heavy ions, might be too difficult to overcome. This is NOT, in fact, an insoluable problem. As the article discusses, you can always increase shielding to get radiation of any type down to whatever levels you want. The challenge for space transportation designers is to provide shielding that minimizes the amount of mass and still provides sufficient protection to avoid deleterious health affects. It looks like NASA is finally getting serious about carrying out experiments in this area and, I hope, they do lots of work actually in space. This would be a great task for the ISS.

Note that shielding mass is not a problem for settlements on the Moon and Mars since they can use local materials. Even on the surface, the rates are not intolerable. This article - Humans 'could survive Mars visit' - BBC - Dec.9.03 - reports that radiation exposure on Mars would average about twice what the ISS occupants currently receive. This, however, assumes the same level of shielding. The Martians can simply double the effective shielding to get the same dosage as the ISS.

[Update Dec.14.03: Robert Zubrin gives an excellent introduction to space radiation and its risks in this response to the NY Times article: NY Times Misrepresents Mars Radiation Danger- The Mars Society - Dec.10.03]

News briefs... Interview with a leader in SETI projects: The Big Crunch: Interview with Dan Werthimer - Astrobiology Magazine - Dec.8.03 ...

... Globalstar finally gets bought and will come out of bankruptcy. Thermo Capital Partners Completes Agreement to Acquire Globalstar - Globalstar - Dec.8.03


Dec.8, 2003 Space News

Onward, outward, or not... Discussions continue not only in the press but also in the White House apparently as to whether or not the President will put forward a new space policy that explicitly gives the Moon and/or Mars exploration and settlement as the primary goals for NASA's human spaceflight program. Here are a sampling of articles:

News briefs... A new satellite based broadband service has opened (satellite downlaod, telephone line uplink) SkyWay USA - Highspeed Broadband Solutions ...

... India's space infrastructure continues to expand. They now are developing LH2/LOX engines: India Fires Supercool-Fuel Rocket - Wired - Dec.5.03 ...

... Kurt A. Foge sent me a note about his ebook: 3-D Star Maps of Nearby Stars, the Pleiades, Orion, and the Local Group. It explains how to "make stellariums, a scale model of the Solar System" and includes a "brief explanation about interstellar travel". He says it is a "great resource for astronomers, schools, and science fiction writers. ... [and] for science projects."


Dec.6, 2003 Space News

Way up there to the Grammys... The song Way Up There by Tena Clark, which I mentioned several times and made a song of the month in March, has been nominated for a Grammy award. NASA Song Soars To Grammy Nomination - NASA - Dec.5.03

NASA, which commissioned the song, has also posted audio and video files for Patti LaBelle’s amazing performance of the song at the February 6th Columbia memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral: Columbia Anthem Gets Grammy Nod - NASA - Dec.5.03

Medieval star guides... Check out these two sites: Replica Instruments - Richard A. Paselk and The Astrolabe - for pictures and descriptions of beautiful astronomical instruments of the middle ages.

Planet Earth Radio provides a subscription service with several streamed radio channels including two dedicated to Space and Astronomy news and reports.

Mars preparations ... Check out this interesting article on the extensive preparations for directing the exploration of Mars by the NASA rovers scheduled to land in January (the ESA Beagle 2 will land on Christmas day): NASA's Mars Rover Strategy Will Be Coordinated in a Military-like Manner - AWST STORY - Nov.30.03


Dec.5, 2003 Space News

Moon manifesto... Participants in a recent Lunar symposium issue declaration in support of return to the Moon: International Declaration Signed Advocating Return to the Moon By Leonard David - Space.com - Dec.5.03

Space startups seminar this weekend in Pasadena: Caltech to host seminar on market for private space ventures - Pasadena Star News - Dec.5.03 (via spacetoday.net)

Update on space policy... The President still hasn't decided on a space policy:

Michael Mealling of Rocketforge urges the President to follow a new path instead of yet another NASA detour: Its Time To Propagate The "Entrepreneurs, Not NASA" Meme - RocketForge - Dec.4.03

C. Blake Powers (Laughing Wolf weblog) sends a letter to the President along similar lines and advises the President

"to let us not send NASA back to the Moon, or on to Mars. Instead, let us send the best and brightest that are America to these places and beyond. The solar system is too vast for one single organization; but, it is just right for a country founded in individual liberty and the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let loose the almost unlimited potential that is private, free enterprise. Reward those that succeed, and mourn not those that fail..."

(LInk via TransterrestrialMusings)

Buzz makes makes similar suggestions in Fly Me to L 1 by Buzz Aldrin - NY TImes - Dec.5.03 - "the space agency has shut the door on the smaller, entrepreneurial companies that are responsible for some of the most innovative current thinking on space technology"


Dec.4, 2003 Space News

Back to the Moon... There are hints, but no confirmation, that President Bush will outline an ambitious new long term space policy that will include plans to return to the Moon.

[Update Dec.5.03: Still unknown what the policy will be: White House denies new space policy imminent - Spacetoday.net - Dec.4.03]

News briefs... NY Times editors appreciate the precariousness of life on earth but don't come to the logical conclusion that expanding into space will help to protect and safeguard our existence: A Meteoric View of Life - NY Times - Dec.4.03 ...

[Update Dec.5.03: Rand Simberg agrees with my criticism and also points out the misuse of the word meteor in the editorial, which I overlooked. Meteor is the flash of light produced by a meteoroid object, which becomes a meteorite if it survives reentry and comes to rest on the earth.]

... The SNOE project was at the high-end of University student satellite projects but still very low budget compared to most science satellites: University Of Colorado's 'Little Satellite That Did' Set For Re-entry In Coming Days - ScienceDaily - Dec.3.03 ...

... It may have failed as a phone company but Globalstar and its collaborators continue to develop interesting new applications for the constellation of satellites: AeroAstro introduces $99 Satellite Data Transmitter and One-Stop Shop for Globalstar Simplex Data Services - SENS - Dec.3.03 at AeroAstro SENS (Sensor Enabled Notification System).


Dec.3, 2003 Space News

Hams receive Mars Express signals ... I have mentioned several times the Mars mission planned by the German AMSAT-DL group (see this overview: To Mars with P5-A by Karl Meinzer, pdf 700KB). The biggest challenge of the mission is not, as you might expect, the propulsion system. The booster used for the AO-40 satellite (previously known as P3-D) will get the spacecraft there just fine. Maintaining communication with the satellite will actually be the hard part, especially when the link must rely on a low power isotropic antenna. As occasionally happens for any satellite, the spacecraft can go into a safe mode, lose attitude control, and no longer point its high gain attenna at earth.

Fortunately, the German group was given ownership of a defunct 20m antenna station at Bochum. They have rebuilt much of the system and it has paid off. On November 16th the group received signals from the ESA Mars Express probe that will reach the Red Planet this month: AMSAT-Phase 5-A, first reception of MARS EXPRESS - AMSAT-DL.

"It was probably the first time that such a signal was received by amateur radio operators."

Since then they have repeated the feat and also picked up signals from NASA's Mars Odyssey that has been orbiting Mars since 2001.

This article - Reception of Mars Spacecrafts by Radio Amateurs by James Miller G3RUH - AMSAT-DL - Nov.24.03 - discusses how hams can also pick up signals from the Mars probes with small dishes. As indicated above, the big dish will only be required when the P5-A is using its low gain antenna. So picking up the signals from these probes is quite feasible.

Note that organizing teams of hams around the world to maintain constant contact with the P5-A, which could launch as early as 2007 if funding is found, will be a big priority. However, knowing the ham community, I'm sure they will rise to the challenge. Also, I'm sure that many student groups will get involved.

Amateur Mars balloon... The German Mars Society chapter has proposed that the P5-D carry its ARCHIMEDES (link uses a German to English translator) experiment, also known as the Aerial Robot Carrying High-resolution Imaging, a Magnetometric Experiment and Direct Environmental Sensing. The spacecraft would release the ARCHIMEDES when P5-D reaches Mars and then, as described in this P5-A overview To Mars with P5-A by Karl Meinzer (pdf 700KB),

"...a small solid propellant rocket would be ignited which makes this satellite enter the Mars atmosphere. A heat shield would decelerate the satellite, and at about 10 km altitude a balloon would unfold and be inflated. This balloon will then fly around Mars a few times taken along by the high velocity winds of the upper Mars atmosphere and send pictures and other data of this flight to P5-A."

Via T.L. James (Louisiana Mars Society -- Archimedes) came word that the German team recently had "successfully tested the inflation of a balloon for use on its planned Archimedes Mars balloon mission". See the English translation of the announcement.

Filtering Mars air for fuel... The modern approach to Mars missions, such as Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct scheme, assumes that lots of resources will be obtained from Mars itself rather than carrying it there. This greatly reduces the costs for the missions. For example, the Martian atmosphere is very thin but nevertheless holds plenty of CO2 that can be combined with hydrogen to produce methane for fuel to use in a return vehicle. (This process also produces water.)

Accumulating the CO2, however, is not trivial because other contaminating gases must be filtered out. This article - Membranes on Mars: Thin membranes developed by NASA-funded researchers could help people go to Mars--and clean the air here on Earth. - Science@NASA - Dec.3.03 - reports on progress in developing a system that will provide very pure CO2.

Other info on living off of Mars resources can be found in the Space Life - In Situ Resource Utilization section. See, for example, this page Surface Systems - A Crewed Mission to Mars - NASA available from Mars Exploration:A Tour of Past, Present, and Future Exploration - NSSDC NASA


Dec.2, 2003 Space News

Solar Sci-Fi thriller...This e-book The View from Zero: A Science Fiction Thriller by Thomas Hunter (2002) is a hard sci-fi novel based on a colonized solar system scenario. See the Forward and Synopsis for an introduction to the book.

As I indicated in my Solar Sci-Fi essay, I hope such fiction becomes more popular. I noted to Mr. Hunter that I thought this might be possible as the Star Trek/Star Wars milieus, which I've long enjoyed, seem exhausted. He responded:

I agree with your comments on the Star Trek/Star Wars fads. Although they are fun and entertaining, we seem to have gotten stuck in a rut of the media's rendition of future life in the galaxy, where the vast majority of the aliens submit to the English language-for our sake, and by some miracle there is sound in space, as hot-shot pilots swoosh through the vacuum in "winged" fighters, doing hairpin turns in tight spaces, and taking for granted that every flat surface has gravity.

No doubt, some day those challenges will be met. But these days, gravitational physics is the most complex mathematics we know; hardly solvable by the flick of a switch. The storyline possibilities for near future space travel and colonization are endless. I'm very glad you've decided to focus on that. I know it will become popular if it is presented in a fascinating and entertaining way-without having to lose the integrity of real science.

After all, we are at the age where we could be doing all these things for real. If presented in what-if scenario's, the power of imagination has unlimited potential.

See also his graphical overview to the rotating space habitats that provide artificial gravity and wide open spaces for thousands of occupants. Additional information about the Gerard O'Neill style space colonies is available here in the Life in Space: Colonies, Habitats, and Space Industry section.

Most people probably know such habitat designs from the Babylon 5 series. However, I was disappointed that the show did not make more of the large open, sunny spaces available on such stations. See Space Colony Art, such as these works, for an idea of how living in space can be far from the submarine style existence usually depicted on TV and in the movies.

News briefs... Review of Robert Zubrin's ideas for reaching Mars: Some thoughts on Mars Direct - The Space Review - Dec.1.03 ...

... Satellite imagery and video-game combo: Video Game Maker Uses Satellite Imagery To Recreate Battles - Space News - Dec..03 ...

... Shuttle simulation ride planned for KSC: KSC hopes shuttle attraction will draw crowds: Visitor Complex duels with Disney for enthusiasts - Florida Today - Nov.29.03\

Tech brief ... This cool unicycle concept vehicle doesn't exist yet but indicates what can develop beyond the Segway: the Embrio at Bombardier Recreational Products * Comin' In on a Wheel and a Prayer - Wired - Nov.30.03 .


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