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The Space Log
Space for Everyone - February 2004

Feb.29.2004 Space News

News briefs... The Huntsville Times talks to Dennis Wingo about his proposal that Orbital Recovery rescue the Hubble: Huntsville man's plan features a rescue tug: Craft would take telescope to space station's orbit - Huntsville Times - Feb.29.04...

... Ben Bova, sci-fi author and former president of the NSS, now has a regular column in a paper in Naples Florida: Ben Bova: Entrepreneurs have opportunities in space - Naples Daily News - Feb,29.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Sounds like there will be an announcement upcoming about water on Mars: Mars: A Water World? Evidence Mounts, But Scientists Remain Tight-Lipped - Space.com - Feb.29.04

Tech briefs... Here's a cool wall mounted LCD from Philips call the MiraVision that can double as a mirror: TV set which doubles up as a mirror - New Scientist - Feb.29.04 and shown in this article: CES: The Waiting Game - PC Magazine - Jan.21.04 ...

... A 3-D display from Hitachi uses images projected onto a rotating screen: Hitachi develops omnidirectional 3D display - EE Times - Feb.27.04 ...

... Micro android: First robot moved by muscle power - New Scientist - Feb.28.04 ...

... Radar transmitter/receiver units just got a lot smaller and cheaper: Piercing the Fog With a Tiny Chip - NY Times - Feb.26.04

Feb.28.2004 Space News

Astronaut autographs... Steve Hankow of FarthestReaches.com sent me a heads up about an autographs convention he is helping to organize for this September: The U.A.C.C. - 2004 Los Angeles, CA. - Convention & Autograph Show - Sept.4-5, 2004 Several well known astronauts are confirmed for the show.

Elevator news... Via a Slashdot posting here are some space elevator links of interest:

News briefs... Sounds like Kerry will keep NASA in low earth orbit: Kerry: go to the Moon right here on Earth - Space Politics - Feb.27.04 ...

... Check out the marvelous Saturn image taken by the Cassini spacecraft: Approach to Saturn - Cassini-Huygens - Feb.27.04 ...

...A soldier participates in the Mars Desert Research Station project and reports on his experiences: Soldier a stranger in a strange land - Army Space - Feb.25.04 (via T.L. James) ...

... Visible comets coming soon: Two simultaneous 'naked-eye' comets expected - Spaceflight Now - Feb.27.04

Feb.27.2004 Space News

Sun Set on Mars
Sun Set on Mars - video at JPL Mars Rovers

Science hobbyists can find some interesting projects and info at Rick Boozer's Singular Science web site. Projects include a low cost automated system for detecting meteors, a rocketry altitude determination program, an on line astronomy book: The Skygazer: Amateur Astronomy (A Guide) by Rick Boozer and some advice on how to fight light pollution.

News briefs... Alan Boyle discusses The politics of space - MSNBC -Feb.26.04 ...

... The Space Show interview with Greg Klerkx, author of Lost in Space : The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age, (Amazon commission links: US UK) is now available on line.

Feb.26.2004 Space News

News briefs... John Updike finds rhyme and reason on Mars: Duet on Mars by John Updike - The New Yorker - Feb.23.04 (via Martian Soil)...

... The rover teams enjoy their morning wakeup songs: Mars Rocks! Eclectic Music Moves Rover Mission - Space.com - Feb.26.04 ...

... Another GPS system will bring more robustness and new features to satellite location finding: US, EU near agreement on Galileo - spacetoday.net - Feb.26.04 ...

... This article Greenhouses for Mars - SpaceRef - Feb.25.04 discusses the interesting challenges to growing plants on Mars. Also, check out SpaceRef's Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse, which is a NASA/Spacref project that is testing some of the operational issues involved in supporting Mars explorers with fresh veggies.

Feb.25.2004 Space News

Space tourism course... The eleven sets of lecture slides for the first semester of Robert Goehlich' space tourism course in Japan are now available at www.robert-goehlich.de.

Space music video... Check out the excellent video (Windows Media Video wmv file) made by "award-winning independent video producer Per Malm" for Julia Ecklar's performance of Leslie Fish's classic Hope Eyrie (mp3), available on the To Touch the Stars album.

Satellite constellations survive... Worldwide phone and messaging services by large constellations of satellites in low earth orbit seemed to go the way of the dinosaurs a few years ago when the companies went bankrupt . However, in fact they continue to survive as privately held companies pursuing niche businesses.

Orbcomm, for example, provides messaging and tracking worldwide to companies such as General Electric, Caterpillar Inc., and Volvo Trucks with a 30 satellite system.

This week Orbcomm announced that the large satellite services firm SES Global had taken a 9% equity stake in the company as part of a $26M fund raising effort: SES GLOBAL makes strategic investment in ORBCOMM - SES Global - Feb.23.04 . Orbcomm says that SES "will assist ORBCOMM in deploying its next generation satellites and will develop new applications" (press release pdf).

I think the growth of this kind of satellite messaging/tracking services is one of those under the media radar developments that will eventually get a lot of attention. It mostly involves business-to-business services so the general public doesn't hear much about it and the business is still relatively small. The SES investment is a strong vote of confidence in Orbcomm and the public commitment to a second generation of satellites is crucial for the future of the company.

The two big telephone/data constellations are also still breathing. Globalstar recently announced it would expand its services in the Caribbean: Globalstar To Offer Enhanced Caribbean Region Satellite Phone Coverage - Globalstar - Feb.11.04. And though Iridium makes most of its money from the US military, it is also pushing into niche businesses such as maritime and aviation communications.

Marianne Dyson, space advocate and author, offers some new resources on her web site. Her Science in Kids's Books section examines space & science fiction books for accuracy. Check out the Animated Moon Map to learn some lunar geography. A revised version of her Space Station Science book will soon be released.

You can hear Marianne discuss teaching young people about space in this recent interview on the Space Show.

Feb.24.2004 Space News

Space interviews... The recent Space Show about the To Touch the Stars album is now available on line at: Marianne Dyson, Eli Goldberg, Dr. Jordin Kare, Kristoph Klover The Space Show hosted by: Dr. David Livingston - Feb.22.04. (My thanks to Eli and David for the nice comments about HobbySpace.) ...

... Thomas Hunter author of The View from Zero: A Science Fiction Thriller, based on a colonized solar system scenario, tells me that he will be on a "one hour live web-radio interview on Wednesday February 25, at 8 p.m. [EST]. The subject will be my book, The View From Zero, and its relevance to what is happening on the world scene."

"The web address for the interview is www.warpradio.com/POPTUNER.ASP?ID=13650 Just click on that and you’ll be taken directly to the interview at broadcast time. After broadcast time, I’ll be posting the interview on my site, www.spraag.com"

News briefs... Jeff Foust comments on the article mentioned below about Iowa educators and space: Space vs. education - Space Politics - Feb.23.04 ...

... Space advocate Jim Muncy holds the cause of freedom as a prime motivation to settle space: Spacecraft, statecraft - The Washington Times - Feb.23.04 (via Transterrestrial).

Feb.23.2004 Space News

The review of space initiatives by Dwayne Day continues in Aiming for Mars, grounded on Earth: part two - The Space Review - Feb.23.04. (See part one.) He focuses on the cost estimates made for the 1989 Space Exploration Initiative. He addresses the alternate version as given by one HobbySpace reader.

Feb.22.2004 Space News

Science funding fiction... A scientist discovers that the new space policy will, in fact, greatly benefit astrophysics and space science: Our Non-Expeditions to the Moon and Mars - Technology Review - Feb.19.04. Well, duh, I'm glad he finally caught on. It's beyond me as to why it isn't obvious that a vigorous human spaceflight program necessarily requires an expanded robotic exploration program as well. The late Carl Sagan frequently used to point out that space science funding tracked that of the human spaceflight programs.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Muller can't possibly bring himself to show any appreciation for an increase in science funding and so must instead portray it as just another devious White House hoax. Since the shuttle program will end by 2010 and the ISS program will be cut back significantly before a new crew vehicle will be ready, and before the Moon and Mars exploration projects really get going, then the plot is actually to kill the human spaceflight program.

This is, of course, just wishful thinking on his part. The shifting of money from these programs is necessary to keep the total cost of the initiative projects within a realistic NASA budget that will only get modest increases. The ISS construction will be winding down anyway and the money for shuttle flights can be spent far more constructively on new vehicle(s) that will cost significantly less to build and operate (well, at least they will if NASA takes advantage of vehicles developed by private companies.) Lower cost access to space will benefit both human spaceflight projects as well as science programs.

Dr. Muller also displays the common conceit of many scientists who take it for granted that any dollar cut from human spaceflight will necessarily go to their favorite projects. He should read this article: No space for schools? - Daily Nonpareil - Feb.22.04 (via spacetoday.net) Here we find supposedly educated education officials ridiculing not only human space exploration but science projects like the Mars rovers and the Hubble telescope.

It should hardly be surprising that people who don't see a need for spending billions on humans in space also don't see a need to spend billions on robots in space. There is no trivially understandable, single direct benefit from space exploration, robotic or otherwise, that is so clear and obvious that it can penetrate the stubborn shortsightedness of people like these Iowa educators.

Of course, I personally believe that in the long run the increase in knowledge from space science programs will greatly benefit humanity. Comparative planetology, for example, will contribute to a better understanding of earth's climate, geology, etc. But that's just my belief. I can't prove it and neither can Dr. Muller.

When Dr. Muller and other scientists attack human spaceflight for not offering short term benefits they necessarily invite others to ask what are the short term benefits of robotic programs. The total science budget (including earth observation programs) at NASA is roughly the same as the human spaceflight program. The 6.5 billion dollars spent on science is a lot of money and for Dr. Muller and other scientists to believe they are entitled not only to that level of funding but to another $6 billion as well, shows a chutzpah that's nothing short of astronomical.

[No, if human spaceflight was eliminated, the money would not go to NSF or other non-space sciences either. It would disappear into agricultural supports, Veterans benefits, deficit reduction, etc.]

...Buying a lump of education... With regard to the particulars of the Iowa article, I find it particularly depressing that these officials look at education as if it were a substance that if you only pay for enough of it and then inject it into the students, all will be well. The fact that no amount of money will educate students unless they are motivated to learn seems beyond the understanding of these educators.

Space exploration doesn't excite all students everywhere all the time but it is certainly way up there on the short list of topics of substance that young people find as exciting as entertainment and sports in our many trillion dollar pop culture. How in the world can Iowa citizens expect that the same people who belittle our country's most exciting science and engineering projects can in turn convince their kids that they should learn science and math?

Finally, note that the total amount of mony spent in the US on elementary and high school education is around half a trillion dollars (extrapolating from the $454B in 2001 as shown in Total expenditures of educational institutions related to the gross domestic product, by level of institution: 1929-30 to 2001-02) For these officials to suggest that a billion dollars, or even $16 billion if NASA were eliminated completely, could solve the problems of American education illustrates just how bad our education system has become.

News briefs ... NASA may be taking seriously the possibility that private firms could offer alternatives to dumping the Hubble in the ocean: NASA Request for Information: Hubble Space Telescope End of Mission Alternatives - SpaceRef - Feb.21.04 * Hubble Space Telescope: End of Mission Alternatives Dataset....

... 2004 AMSAT-DC Meeting and Space Seminar on Sunday, March 21, 2004, starting at 12:00 noon at NASA GSFC Visitor Center auditorium, Greenbelt, Md. "Topics relate to the amateur space program, Amateur Radio, homebrew electronic projects, high-altitude balloon experiments, telemetry and related items."...

... Space Frontier applauds NASA space prizes: NASA Space "Prizes" Great First Step! Congress Should Support Effort to Reward Results and Ignite Private Sector on Moon Push - Space Frontier Foundation - Feb.20.04

Space radio audio... This article - Radio Storms on Jupiter: Giant Jupiter is a source of odd radio noises. Now anyone can listen to them using a NASA-sponsored audio stream on the Internet. - Science@NASA - Feb.20.04 - points to sources where you can listen to radio signals from natural celestial sources. These include the University of Florida Radio Observatory and SpaceWeather.com.

See the Natural Radio in the Space Radio section for more on line live and recorded space sounds. See also the Natural Space Music for info and links about those who have incorporated such sounds into musical compositions.

Great astronomy site... While following links to space radio sites I came upon Thierry Lombry's site who offers not only such audio files but host of other resources, These include an introduction to research activities for amateurs in astronomy and a list of Amateur research projects. He also has big list of astronomy/space exploration links and even samples of his artwork

News briefs... An account of the debugging of Spirits computer: The trouble with Rover is revealed - EE Times - Feb.20.04 ...

... SpaceWorks Engineering provides NASA with one approach to stopping an asteroid with earth's name on it Dodging a space bullet: Atlanta firm envisions defending Earth with army of nuclear-powered robots - ajc.com - Feb.20.04 (via spacetoday.net)...

... The Spaceworks also offers some Desktop Backgrounds. Find more space wallpaper in the Multimedia section....

Feb.20.2004 Space News

Debating space vision seems to be popular these days in DC. There was the Robert Zubrin vs. Robert Park Debate earlier in the month. See HS Log entries on Feb.7th and 9th about it.

Then there was the panel discussion this week at Georgetown. See some comments about the event at Ten myths about the Bush space plan - Space Politics - Feb.20.04 and Space Debate Report - Transterrestrial - Feb.18.04.

Now there will be another panel discussion at Women in Aerospace on Feb. 26th entitled The President’s New Vision: The U.S. Civil Space Exploration Program Is this the right next step? Can we afford it? Can NASA afford it? (Via Space Politics)

Space hits... The traffic to JPL and other NASA sites involving the Mars rovers has exploded but is it high enough to prove that money could be made from future space exploration projects run by commercial firms? Privatizing space exploration - Space Politics - Feb.19.04 * Mars' latest hits - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Feb.20.04

Deep Purple lost contact... Deep Purple's recent album Bananas includes the song Contact Lost, an instrumental tribute to the Columbia astronauts. Kalpana Chawla was a great fan of the band and had taken three of their CDs with her on the flight. During the mission she even exchanged emails with the band. The CDs were discovered in the wreckage and were made part of three commemorative plaques, two of which will go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

The third will go to guitarist Steve Morse who wrote the song just an hour after the accident. He is donating song writing royalties from Contact Lost to the astronauts' families.

The most famous of the band's space songs is Space Truckin - ' Lyrics

Articles about the bands connection to Kalpana:

The Senate hears about private space ventures... Spaceref has posted testimonies given this week to the Senate Science Committee about the "President's New Space Vision". They include Courtney Stadd who talks about a range of private space ventures and includes some info on Robert Bigelow's projects. Also, the witnesses include W.F. "Mitch" Mitchell who talked about a private venture to develop Near Earth Orbit Asteroid protection and Charles M. Chafer who talked about his Team Encounter company.

Robo homesteaders... This paper discusses the goal of gaining title to space property via robotic prospectors: Telepossession of Extraterrestrial Resources and Leveraged Financing of Outer Space Projects.

News briefs.. Amazingly dense memory storage: Holographic storage enters blue era - optics.org - Feb.19.04 ...

... Listing of inventions in sci-fi by date: Science Fiction Inventions by Publication Date

Feb.19.2004 Space News

From rocket to Iraq... I've recently had an interesting exchange with rocketry enthusiast John Thompson. While serving in the military, which included going to Iraq, he has built and launched this impressive rocket:

BFR at Plaster Blaster
BFR at Plaster Blaster - Jan.03

I was able to get it off the ground one week prior to my departure to Iraq in January 2003 for nine months. I wasn't able to get a good paint job done in time. I had my son and some of the other club member kids have a painting party with and go at it.

The rocket achieved an altitude of 12, 357 feet and it was a picture perfect recovery. When I returned in September 2003, I was able to repaint it and launch it again. The first launch was achieved with one N2000 (98 mm reload), two K700s (54 mm reloads) and four J570s (38 mm reloads). All of them Aerotech motors. The second flight in October 2003, it was launched with nine 38 mm Caseroni Pro 38 motors and two J350 Aerotech motors.

The second flight was good, of course it didn't get too hi, but being back from Iraq made it more worthwhile. We are scheduled to go back in September 2004, so maybe there will be an Iraqi rocket club sometime in the future while I am there :-)

I particularly liked this part of his message:

I was looking at the hobby space web site while I was in Iraq. It was always nice to read articles from the site.

In a follow-up message he said:

"... When I had shown a magazine to an Iraqi man about my hobby, he was very puzzled. He only thought that rockets were used for war and nothing else. When I explained that rocketry can be used for many helpful things, he thought that was good. He hopes that something like that could be implemented for their children with education and more in a peaceful way..."

Nuclear space navy... This sounds like a great idea: Navy May Help NASA Build Nuclear Reactor for Jupiter Mission - Space.com - Feb.19.04. Despite all of the fear and sensationalism about the dangers of nuclear power, the Navy continues to run numerous ships with reactors and launching new ones all without anybody making a big fuss about it. Though they don't have to deal with keeping the mass as low as possible, surely they can offer some important assistance to the development of safe and reliable space reactors.

Suiting up... Rand Simberg notes that on-orbit assembly can preclude the need for development of a huge and expensive new launcher for the new Moon/Mars exploration program - Working Hand In Glove - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.18.04. He points out that one technology area that needs work is "in developing space suits that don't tire out the astronauts". He proposes that NASA offer a portion of the money in its prize funds to induce private firms to develop such suits.

Mitchell Clapp believes that when companies start actually working in space, the technologies will develop out of that activity rather than from NASA technology development programs: Where There's A Will - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.18.04

More space music... Alan Boyle writes about the Pioneers of Mars song on the “To Touch the Stars album: The Martian anthem - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Feb.18.04 -

In the article he also points to this interesting interview Answers from Craig Woodson - Mars Millennium Project. Woodson responds to questions about how sounds would be altered by the thin Martian atmosphere. He also suggests that Martian explorers will surely enjoy music making in their habitats and even build their own instruments.

News briefs... Some see good prospects for space based businesses like advertising: Businessmen say NASA can cash in on Mars visits: Execs tout advertising, other money-making opportunities - HoustonChronicle.com - Feb.19.04...

... NASA responds to criticisms of its decision to dump the Hubble Telescope: NASA Responds to Hubble Criticism - SpaceRef - Feb.18.04 ...

... This essayist recommends turning Hubble over to a private foundation that can try to save it with a low cost approach: Saving Hubble: Putting privatization to the test.- National Review - Feb.18.04

Feb.18.2004 Space News

Space arts events... The latest newsletter from Arts Catalyst includes the following two items about upcoming events involving space and the arts:

7th Workshop on Space and the Arts -
"Space: Science, Technology and the Arts" ESTEC

ESTEC - ESA's European Space Research & Technology Centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands 18 - 21 May 2004

Organised by Leonardo/Olats and The OURS Foundation with the European Space Agency and the International Academy of Astronautics - Commission VI

Presentations are being solicited from space scientists, engineers, technologists, artists, writers, journalists, art critics, curators and philosophers.

The workshop on "Space: Science, Technology and the Arts" aims to:

  • provide a platform where new ideas/experiments relating to the interaction of space science, technology and the arts can be exposed and debated
  • provide an environment where people, especially artists and other culture professionals together with space scientists and engineers can exchange
    ideas and projects about space
  • provide a meeting place where new space art and technology projects can emerge and new teams and partnerships can be built
  • nurture a domain of space activities that is becoming more recognized in both the space community and in the mainstream art world
  • disseminate the ideas and projects by publicising the results of the event

About 30-40 participants will be selected on the basis of a submitted abstract of a proposed presentation.

Potential participants might like to consider submitting abstracts for presentations addressing such topics as:

  • the impact of space technologies on the arts and vice-a-versa
  • the transfer of space technologies to art and design
  • the role and involvement of space bodies in the arts
  • designing art for the space environment - requirements, limitations
  • synergies between the arts and space communities
  • the interaction between space, arts and the public
  • space and the new media arts
  • using the arts to explore space
  • the arts in orbit - use of the ISS for artistic and cultural expression.

Authors need not, of course, limit themselves to these topics.

The deadline for abstract submission is 29 February 2004.

There is no charge for participation in the workshop, however each participant will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation expenses. A reasonably priced hotel with half-pension has been reserved in the nearby town of Noordwijk and booking information will be sent to all participants that are accepted.

This is an official European Space Agency sponsored conference and the announcement is listed on the ESA conference website.

In the meantime complete workshop details are available at: www.arsastronautica.com/texts/workshop.php

Information about the past 6 workshops on 'Space and the Arts' can be found on the Leonardo/Olats web site: www.olats.org

Submission of papers to October symposium:

Call for Papers URGENT DEADLINE: Friday 20 February 2004

55th International Astronautical Congress
4 - 8 October 2004
Vancouver, Canada

Call for Papers
Deadline for Abstracts: 20 February 2004

Session: IAA.6.16.1. Sights and Sounds of Space

Space exploration has produced some of the most provocative and captivating images of our time. Likewise, popular culture has created its own images of space exploration which has made "space" a powerful metaphor for the advancement of human achievement and the human spirit. This session will bring together the different characteristics and properties of space and examine the various ways in which the theme and concept of space has found aesthetic expression.

Sessions and events at the congress cover the whole spectrum of space development and exploration.

For more information please visit the Vancouver Congress website & International Astronautical Federation (IAF) website:

How to submit an abstract (pdf) - Abstract form (pdf)

You can keep up with the latest in space arts at Ars Astronautica Space Art News

News briefs... Amateurs continue to make significant contributions to astronomy: Amateur Astronomer Discovers Nebula - Sky and Telescope - Feb.17.04

The settlement cause ... Taylor Dinerman makes the case that only a commitment to building a "new human civilization beyond the Earth’s atmosphere" can justify and sustain the new space initiative: The Bush space vision and America's future by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Feb.17.04.

However, the proposition of human settlements in space within the next few decades is still not taken very seriously either by most policy makers or the public. It's about where space tourism was before Tito came along. I hope in this case, though, we don't have to wait till there is an actual space settler before we can convince people that it is not a crazy concept.

The major space advocacy groups agreed last year to make space settlement their primary cause. By bringing up the issue as often as possible and building a case for it, they can gradually change public perceptions about it. They will be assisted by the private space projects that will start to prove over the next few years that the cost of access to space can in fact come down far enough for make settlement feasible.

News brief... Speaking of the Space Review, congratulations to Jeff Foust on its one year anniversary: The Space Review turns one by Jeff Foust The Space Review - Feb.16.04

Feb.17.2004 Space News

A great week for the SpaceShow... Looks to be a special week for David Livingston. Tonight he will talk to Walter Schirra, one of the famous Mercury Seven astronauts:

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004, 7:00-8:15pm PST, Space Show features CAPTAIN WALTER M. SCHIRRA, JR., USN (RET.). Captain Schirra was one of the original seven American astronauts, and logged over 12 days in space on three pioneering flights during the 1960's. He is the only astronaut to go into space on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft. Walter Schirra was chosen by NASA to become an astronaut in 1959, while attending the Naval Test Pilot School.

This Sunday's show will be one that I'm particularly interested in:

The Sunday, Feb. 22, 2004, 12:00-1:30pm PST, regular Space Show features “To Touch the Stars ,” A Musical Celebration of Space Exploration! Joining The Space Show for this pre-recorded program will be Eli Goldberg and Kristoph Klover, producers of this album, along with Dr. Jordin Kare and Marianne Dyson, contributors to the album. This particular Space Show Program is not live, however, should you have any questions or comments for the producers or contributors, please send them to me and I will make sure that the guests receive them.

A special bonus show on Thursday will feature Greg Kerkx:

Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004, 1-2:30PM Pacific Time features a special Space Show live recording session interview with Greg Klerkx, author of “Lost in Space. Greg Klerkx as also written “The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age.” From 1997 until 2002, Mr. Klerkx served as a senior manager with the SETI Institute, the Silicon Valley based organization that uses advanced computing and radio telescopes to seek evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. Mr. Klerkx began his professional life as a journalist, winning numerous writing awards as a reporter in Los Angels. He now lives in London but continues to spend time on the West Coast.

The shows can be heard via streaming from Live365.com

SEI history revision... A person who was at NASA at the time of the SEI says that the excerpt given below from Dwayne Day's article contains some important factual errors. In particular,

"The Office of Exploration was not in existence when NASA's '90-day study' produced the $400 Billion number; further, checking with any of the principals [...] would have revealed that the internal NASA JSC number was $100 Billion -- this number was doubled by the comptroller at JSC and then doubled again by the Comptroller at NASA Headquarters. These facts were then and are now widely known with the space policy community in DC."

(I don't have a comments section yet, but if Mr. Day sends me a rebuttal I'll be happy to post it.) My main point, though, that the $400B number was wildly inflated is even more substantiated by this version.

Mars can't win... There was big disappointment in the 1960s when the first low resolution images of Mars from the Mariner flyby showed a Moon-like, heavily cratered surface. Since then, orbiters have shown the surface to be quite spectacular and the landers have shown their flat landing sites to look like the southwest US.

To many people this has been a wonderful revelation. Mars is real place where one can easily envision people someday visiting, staying, and developing. However, as with this reporter - With Close-Ups of Mars, the Mystery Gets Lost in Space - NY Times - Feb.17.04 - some wish for a more bizarre, alien surface. I expect there are plenty of other moons and planets in the solar system that can provide plenty enough of weirdness.

LUT campaign... The campaign to save the Apollo Launch Tower gets more publicity: On Last Legs, Old NASA Tower Gains Supporters - NASA - Feb.17.04 See also Apollo tower proposed as monument - collectSpace - Feb.17.04

(Note: Fred Becker is keeping me up to date with links on the campaign.)

News briefs... Daphne Burleson dropped me a line to point me to her new book: Space Programs: Exploration and Research Efforts Outside the United States by Daphne Burleson, 2004, McFarland& Co. ...

... More about the astronaut perspective from space: Auroras Dancing in the Night: Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 6 Science Officer Don Pettit offers a unique perspective on auroras. - NASA - Feb.12.04 ...

... Spending money in space helps poor people on earth: Fishermen get space guides - BBC - Feb.16.04...

... The challenges of debugging from far, far away: Earthly Software Rebooted Spirit - Wired News - Feb.16.04...

... Using satellites for transporting big data dumps from remote locations: Canada Funds Small Satellite Platform Demonstration - Space News - Feb.16.04...

... The marvelous IMAX film Space Station is now available for home viewing: IMAX and Warner Home Video Announce DVD Release of Space Station - IMAX - Feb.17.04

Feb.16.2004 Space News

Lies, damn lies and space costs... James Oberg ( MSNBC - Jan.23.04 ) and Dwayne Day (Florida Today - Feb.8.04) both wrote clarifying articles about the common distortions in the media with regard to the potential costs of the President's new space initiative. Typically, the critics base their estimates on the $400 billion dollar pricetag that NASA put on the Space Exploration Initiative, which was proposed in 1989 by the previous President Bush. Since then this number has become the favorite sledge hammer to bash any proposals for space projects beyond the ISS.

Dwayne Day has now written an informative history of previous space initiatives: Aiming for Mars, grounded on Earth: part one - The Space Review - Feb.16.04. He provides a detailed background of what led up to the SEI proposal and how the huge price estimate was quickly invented by an agency that opposed the initiative:

    In early July, before any plan had been fully explored or endorsed by the president, NASA Headquarters had produced a preliminary estimate of the costs of both a lunar base and a human mission to Mars. This estimate was produced by the Office of Exploration and included such things as modifications to Space Station Freedom and development of the Shuttle-C heavy lift launch vehicle. The 30-year plan had a price tag of nearly $400 billion, which also included robotic probes for lunar and Mars missions. Approximately half the cost was for the Mars mission ($172.9 billion) and assorted scientific probes ($13.85 billion), and the remainder for a lunar base ($209.46 billion). These numbers also included a 50% reserve—meaning that after all of the items were added up, the agency added an additional 50% on top. The totals were removed from the document, although anybody with a calculator could add them up.

This preliminary estimate included many programs that were not necessary for the exploration plan and could be eliminated if they were not desired, although they were not presented that way. The estimate was in essence an agency wish list. Nevertheless, it existed as a piece of paper with some very large dollar figures, which made it a dangerous piece of paper, for the numbers could be copied and leaked to the press and Congress and used to attack the plan. That is what happened.

I had read several times that the $400B number was bogus. It's nice to have now a reference that confirms this. ...

... Furthermore, even this huge number is a sum over 30 years. Summing both capital and operating costs over an arbitrary length of time is a common trick for attaining a huge number to use against a government program. It is always used with space projects. For example, this is how the ISS cost comes to $100B. (The ISS may or may not be worth a fraction of that. I just don't think this number is meaningful.)

That is fine in principle as long as it is applied to all programs, not just those in space. Scientists should be particularly careful about using this technique against human spaceflight projects. It can very easily turn a proposed $1B accelerator, neutron source, or space science spacecraft into a several billion dollar project.

Furthermore, such numbers should be seen in context. The US currently has a $11 trillion GDP. Over 30 years this accumulates to $523 trillion assuming a 3% yearly growth rate and constant dollars. For the 30th year the GDP equals $26 trillion. The current federal budget of about $2.3T grows to $5.4T by 2033 and accumulates to $109T. (Try to keep these numbers in mind with regard to the deficit as well. A $500B deficit is 4.5% of the GDP - not far from the deficits in, for example, France/Germany, which have high tax rates plus ~10% unemployment.)

In last weeks hearing of the Moon-to-Mars commission one discussion involved the question of whether $150B was enough to fund the new initiative. Lack of Cash Could Doom Mars Plan - Wired - Feb.13.04 This makes little sense since this is just a sum of the current NASA budget of $15B for 10 years. Less than half of NASA's budget currently involves human spaceflight, although the plan is gradually to remove the distinction between the human and robotic programs.

There's certainly a requirement for the public and Congress to ask for the cost of space programs and to demand that it be as honest an estimate as possible. But it is also important that the numbers thrown about be serious ones that are put into perspective and proportion, and not just inflated for sound-bite shock value.

Space fan fiction video... I try to avoid items about Star Trek type sci-fi, even though I I enjoy it, because the point of HobbySpace is to promote the idea that our future in space can be just as exciting as that presented in these programs, even if faster-than-light travel, visits by aliens, etc. never happen and we only have a vast solar system to enjoy.

However, I sure wish that the excitement and energy inspired by such programs could be channeled into Solar Sci-Fi. For example, since it doesn't look likely that there will soon be a TV program or movie based on a realistic near-term, space exploration scenario, maybe some amateur group will create one the way that fans are now making Star Trek inspired videos. The Starship Exeter amateur production of a STOS (Star Trek Original Series) style episode has been very popular and it looks like they will do another.

Today I learned about the Star Trek: New Voyages fan fiction and high production value video series that treats Kirk, Spock and McCoy as written characters (similar to the way that James Bond is treated). They will be portrayed by different actors each giving their own interpretation of the character. They don't do impersonations of Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly. Online 'Star Trek' goes to aid of Columbia crew's children -Indystar.com - Feb.16.04 (via spacetoday.net)

Music to move a Mars rover ... In the latest Prometheus Music newsletter comes this news from Eli Goldberg:

I thought you'd all want to know that we just learned from Lisa Lees that NASA/JPL selected "Pioneers of Mars" from the To Touch the Stars CD to wake up the Opportunity Mars rover for sol 20!

According to the Mission Status [at the time. The status reports don't seem to be available in an archive.... Feb.17.04: see the archive at Space.com]

The sol's wake-up music was "I Like Dirt," by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and "Pioneers of Mars," by Karen Linsley and Lloyd Landa.

This is exciting for an abundance of reasons. Many of you may know that Karen's co-author and partner, Lloyd, died tragically days before the song was debuted to a standing ovation at the Mars Society conference in Toronto.

After that performance, Karen exclaimed in tears, "Get to Mars. And then the notes of this song are heard on Martian soil, he will live again."

(Rover wake-up music is not actually radiated to Mars, but is played over the voice net, where it is typically heard by most of the on-shift team for both rovers and at the Deep Space Network station. Songs are typically popular tunes that relate to the rover's planned activities of the day.)

We do not yet know who was responsible for honoring Lloyd's memory in playing this song --- I sent copies to two people at JPL, and Dr. Zubrin e-mailed a third --- but we are deeply appreciative of it.

Mars music contest... In its latest bulletin, the Mars Society also noted the playing by JPL of the "Pioneers of Mars". This song was the winner of the first Rouget de Lisle Award contest sponsored by the Society in 1999. (Robert Zubrin was also the force at NSS that led to the original Apollo Pro-space music contest in 1997 that in turn became the original impetus for a space music CD.)

Now the Society looks to repeat its success:

In view of the success of the Prometheus Music "To Touch the Stars" CD, the Mars Society is proud to announce that it will hold its Second Rouget de Lisle Award contest for songs celebrating the cause of the human exploration and settlement of space.

We are asking for a tape or CD of songs, to be submitted together with a hardcopy of the lyrics by no later than April 30, 2004 to Mars Society, Box 273, Indian Hills, CO 80454. Songs can be any style; classical, folk, country, pop, jazz, rock and roll, etc. A committee of judges will then down select to ten finalists, who will be invited to play at the 7th International Mars Society Convention, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, Aug 19-22 2004. The audience will then vote for the winning songs. All finalists, however, will submitted to Prometheus Records for consideration for its next CD, and will also be forwarded to NASA for possible use as wakeup songs for crews of the International Space Station, the Mars Rovers, and the Cassini spacecraft which is now approaching Saturn!

So tune up your harps, space bards, turn in your songs and prepare to turn out for Chicago. Let your voices ring out into the solar system. Mars needs music, and the Chicago conference is going to be the Woodstock of Mars!

Feb.15.2004 Space News

Rocketry rover contest... Check out the innovative Lander Challenge contest now getting underway.

"Lander Challenge requires a competing team to launch a sport rocket containing a simulated lander, to safely land the lander, and to deploy a rover. The rover must then be remotely navigated to a predetermined spot on the flying field."

The goal is to "encourage our junior, senior, collegiate and even our adult hobby enthusiasts to learn more about rocketry and space science."

Better get your mini-space explorer program off the ground soon. Contest deadline is June 30th.

(Thanks to J. P. Anderson for this item)

Feb.14.2004 Space News

Moon dog envy... Check out the very amusing Dog on the Moon song by Garry Novikoff now available on line (via Real Audio stream from Prometheus Music). The song is one of 17 on the new To Touch the Stars album.

News briefs ... SaveTheLUT.org making progress: Apollo Launch Tower Campaign Has Kicked Into High Gear - SpaceRef - Feb.13.04 ...

... This Space Station Sim at GRS Games is in development for release in December: GRS Games Develops Space Station:Sim with NASA Space Act Agreement - GRS Games - Dec.15.04 (links via NASA Watch) ...

...Another space debate: Mission to Mars or Mission Impossible? Panel discussion - Georgetown Univ. Law Center - Tuesday, Feb.17.04 (via Transterrestrial Musings) ...

... ESA's SMART-1 lunar spacecraft continues its slow but steady trek to the Moon via ion propulsion. SMART-1 Payload Commissioning - ESA - Feb.13.04. Click on "Orbit View" in the menu on the homepage for a nice applet display of the craft's current position. ...

... Check out the beautiful and clever picture of Mars in the sky last summer: Amateur Shoots Mars "Picture of the Year" - Sky and Telescope - Feb.13.04 (via spacetoday.net). ...

... More about the solar system internet development: Interplanetary International Internet Launched - Space.com - Feb.12.04 ...

... Yet more great Mars Express images: Olympus Mons - the caldera in close-up - ESA - Mars Express - Feb.13.04. To see an applet display of the Mars Express orbit, go to the Mars Express homepage and click on "Orbit View"

Feb.13.2004 Space News

Private Mars expeditions... I should qualify my proposition below that by 2025 a privately organized Mars mission could be feasible. I'm not talking about tourist trips but exploration types of missions like the North/South Pole expeditions of the early 20th century. In this case, the missions would probably be funded by NASA, perhaps with prizes as has been suggested, e.g. $10 Billion to the first organization to put a crew on the Martian surface and bring them back safely.

Space shelf stocker... Below (see Filling Shelves) I talked about NASA's nurturing of a space industry infrastructure. Here is an example - A company thrives in space: Its coatings are used by makers of Mars landers (as well as Mars candy) - NJ.com - Feb.13.04 - that I came across via spacetoday.net. During the Apollo days, thousands of small companies like this one formed to supply NASA directly or subcontracted to NASA's major contractors. With the post-Apollo downturn, a great many such small firms either died or shifted to other lines of work.

I'm hoping that a revived exploration push at NASA would in turn trigger a new round of small company creation. In particular, I would advocate that NASA contract out much more than it ever did. No reason, for example, not to turn over LEO access, both for cargo and passengers, to private contractors.

News briefs... A review of the possibilities for a human spaceflight program in Japan: A Capsule For Japan - Spacedaily - Feb.13.04...

... After some tough years, it's nice to see the Space Camp program making a comeback: Space Camp enrollment taking off - Huntsville Times - Feb.13.04 (via spacetoday.net)...

... The BBC discovers the space memorabilia market: The 'holy grail' of autographs - BBC - Feb.12.04 ...

... I bet in the coming weeks as the rovers rove, they will find many Mars mysteries like this one: Mystery Continues: Scientists Baffled by Spheres on Mars - Space.com - Feb.12.04

Hearing space ... Keith Cowing reviews Wednesday's meeting of the Moon-to-Mars commission in Congress Expresses Enthusiasm and Doubt About New Space Policy - SpaceRef - Feb.12.04. Too much conventional and corporate thinking for my tastes. Hope future meetings get spiced up more with speakers from the alt.space community and dynamic space startups.

Sports cars & rockets... Michael Mealling at RocketForge offers some interesting views of his own about the hearing: Comments On The First President's Commission Meeting - RocketForge - Feb.12.04. I particularly appreciate his comments on the need for exciting projects to attract young people into technical fields. Math and science careers require students to work like crazy for years and years and to deal perpetually with delayed gratification. All the while they see friends having a lot more fun. So why bother?

Michael suggests that a vibrant, growing commercial human spaceflight industry will attract kids who will want to pursue studies that will allow them to participate and to build lucrative careers. This sounds like a real possibility to me. On the short term I expect the X PRIZE competition to get the attention of a lot of young people and change their views about space. While Star Trek may now seem dorky, riding a real rocket to 100km will be the coolest experience around.

The inspiration effect alone of exciting projects shouldn't be discounted. I remember years ago reading an article about Chrysler's resurgence as an automaker. The company had regained profitability based on innovative and exciting designs. One particularly odd practice of the company was its production of high end sports cars. The reporter asked a Chrysler vice president why they bothered to make cars like the Dodge Viper since the number produced was barely enough to break even, much less add significantly to the bottom line.

The VP said that such projects were crucial because they got the engineers excited and enthusiastic once again about building cars. This inevitably had a positive effect when they returned to designing family sedans. (It should be noted that several other mainstream carmakers returned in the 1980s and 90s to supporting racing teams for similar reasons.)

Parents, teachers, and politicians constantly rant about the need to get kids to do better in math and science. Yet as the polls for the space initiative indicate, those adults express only lukewarm enthusiasm for those areas themselves. (Do as I say, not as I do.) Until society recognizes the connection between exciting long term scientific and engineering projects and the attraction of kids into technical fields, then students will continue to succumb to the lure of the more glamorous attractions of sports and music as Michael talks about.

Feb.12.2004 Space News

Apollo Launch Tower
Save the Apollo Launch Tower

Filling shelves... John Carter McKnight starts with the policy hoax theme in The Imperial Martian Wardrobe - Spacedaily/Spacefaring Web - Feb.11.04; a theme that Rand Simberg dispenses with nicely in the article mentioned below. However, I agree with the second half of McKnight's essay in which he proposes that it will either be private projects that reach Mars or we probably won't go at all. There just isn't the deep level of interest and support by a majority of the public for human spaceflight that is necessary to sustain such a big government program over a such a long period. (See my essay.)

If privately financed projects manage to develop a vigorous LEO industry within 10-15 years, which I argue is quite likely (see one possible timeline), then going on from there to the Moon and Mars is definitely feasible by 2025 or so. They will do it in a way that is much smaller, cheaper and flexible than a NASA program. (As others have pointed out, how can a NASA that is afraid to service the Hubble become an organization that is willing to take the risks and gambles needed to go to Mars?)

However, I disagree that the new initiative won't make major contributions to this evolution in capability. Mr. McKnight says that "We'll get there when exploration can take advantage of off-the-shelf technologies, just as exploration has usually done in the past." But, as I've argued before, somebody needs to fill those shelves to begin with. In fact, someone needs to build and maintain the shelves themselves, which represent the infrastructure of companies, engineers, technicians, etc. that can supply and support such technologies.

A NASA focused on deep space will necessarily develop both this infrastructure and a wide range of technologies that will benefit others, even if it never gets a chance to use them itself. Areas where NASA funding will be enormously helpful include development of improved radiation shielding (optimized for effectiveness and low mass) for the spacecraft, in situ resource utilization methods for Mars bases, a planetwide communications infrastructure with a network of orbiters (the Rovers already are taking advantage of the current orbiters to communicate with earth), and so forth.

As indicated below, I'm optimistic that even with a new administration, NASA will continue on a process of renewal and significant change brought about by the impetus of the initiative. I believe space development is going to benefit greatly because of it, though it may be in a more indirect manner than NASA expects.

News briefs... Satellite radio looking strong: XM, Sirius Giddy About Growth - TheStreet.com - Feb.12.04 - XM predicts 20M subscribers by 2010....

... The educational benefits of a vigorous space program are not nearly appreciated enough: Fly Me to the Moon...And on to Mars - FOXNews.com - Feb.12.04 * Students Prepare for Spirit's Crater Rim Run - Space.com - Feb.12.04

NASA: dressed up but no place to go? By next January 20th, NASA will have changed significantly and irrevocably by President Bush's new space initiative. Even if it is Kerry who gets sworn in, he will not be able simply to tell the agency to go back to the way it was.

The initiative, unfortunately, came during the primary campaign season and also at a time when the deficit appeared as important issue. So a Kerry administration will quickly disavow it because of its close affiliation to Bush and loudly proclaim that they have no intention of sponsoring human missions to Mars or the Moon.

However, they will then be stuck with the question of what exactly to do with the human spaceflight program. NASA will have already canceled several programs, started several new ones, put the shuttle on a short road to retirement, and in general reorganized and reoriented itself for long term deep space exploration and development.

For the new JFK to cancel the whole human spaceflight program seems out of the question. On the other hand, it will be wrenching, to say the least, for the agency simply to be told to focus again on the ISS and nothing else. Morale would obviously be devastated. Besides, there would still be the question of LEO transportation. Deciding to keep the shuttle going past 2010 will be untenable. Yet approving a new vehicle system requires a compelling long term case for human spaceflight that goes beyond access to the ISS.

There are many variations on the space policies a Kerry administration would follow and it will be very interesting to see what happens if he does win. Remember that Congress will almost certainly be under Republican control, and probably even more tightly than now, so that will limit his options (on everything) to some extent. My guess is that after a long period of indecision and uncertainty (and after finding a new administrator), the basic outline of the initiative will remain but under a new name and with some variations here and there to make it look different. Moon and Mars missions will still be held as as goals but on a much longer term.

I listened to some of yesterday's hearing by the Moon-to-Mars commission. The panel and the witnesses also emphasized the problems of maintaining a vigorous program over a long period through different administrations - Bush's Space Vision Team Holds First Public Meeting - Space.com - Feb.11.04 - especially since public support is underwhelming at best.

One aspect of the initiative that will definitely be in trouble under a Democratic administration is the nuclear propulsion and power program (e.g. Reactor research to power journey to Jupiter's moons - Spaceflight Now - Feb.11.04) Tom Stafford in his presentation emphasized that nuclear propulsion should be a top priority since it allows for much faster trips to Mars, which in turn lowers costs significantly for a manned mission (e.g. fewer supplies required.) A nuclear power generator on the planet's surface would also be a tremendous resource for a Mars base. However, antinuclear sentiments are extremely strong in the Democratic base and the program would almost certainly be eliminated.

News briefs... Rand rebuts the space initiative hoax accusations: The New NASA Moon Hoax - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.11.04 ...

... The images coming from the Mars Express are truly gorgeous: Valles Marineris Region - ESA - Feb.11.04 ...

... This article tells how they made the highly detailed simulation of the re-entry and landing of the Mars rovers: Digitally Directed, The Mars Missions - Astrobiology Magazine - Feb.11.04 ...

... A space poem: I dreamt I had to go to Mars by Jippo

Feb.11.2004 Space News

Alt advice... Keith Cowing at NASAWatch.com urges NASA to get a clue about the alt.space community. He says they are "here to stay". (See item for Feb.10 about the article Rocket Man in the Christian Science Monitor). This is encouraging since I know that Keith himself over the years has expressed skepticism towards the private space projects and especially to some of the statements from Rick Tumlinson who came up with the alt.space term. Credibility is growing as projects move from vaporware to hardware.

The SpaceShow this Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004 will feature Steven Wolfe a noted author and former legislative aide for space policy who drafted the Space Settlement Act of 1998 (contained in P.L. 100-685) Mr. Wolfe's writings appear in The New York Times and elsewhere. Mr. Wolfe will be discussing space exploration and the proposed new space policy put forward by President Bush for returning to the Moon and going to Mars with manned missions.

The Save the Apollo Launch Tower petition is now up to 4355 names.

Mars project leader goes sci-fi... The Sci-Fi Experience museum in Seattle, funded by Paul Allen, has hired Donna Shirley as its director: Real rocket scientist to head sci-fi museum -seattlePI - Feb.11.04 (via spacetoday.net)

News briefs ... The President's Moon-to-Mars commission, mentioned below, is holding a hearing today that's streamed on line. See their web page for the link....

... The limited range of Mars explorers, discussed yesterday, could be expanded with Exploring Mars With Balloons - SpaceDaily - Feb.11.04....

... See the discussion at Transterrestrial Musings of my retrospective on Dwayne Day's critique of MirCorp and potential space based businesses back in June of 2000. Dwayne was not impressed...

... A web site has become available for the commission that will monitor NASA's progress in developing its deep space exploration program: President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond (via Jon Goff)...

... Details of the earth-Mars communications system: The 100-Million-Mile Network - eweek.com - Feb.10.04...

... Info on the making of the 3-D Mars images: How 3-D Works: Mars Revealed by Human-Like Eyes - Space.com - Feb.10.04

Feb.10.2004 Space News

The plain parts... This article - So close and still so far: Why the best parts of Mars are still out of reach - Boston Globe - Feb.10.04 - deals with something I've also wondered about. For safety and practicality, the Mars landers have all gone to very flat areas of Mars. The public no doubt will come to think that all of Mars is like that. However, we know from orbiter images that Mars has some of the most spectacular and dramatic landscapes in the solar system. Unfortunately, none of the near term missions look to have rovers or balloon/airplane vehicles that can travel really long distances from a safe landing spot to the wild parts.

News briefs... Why the colors look a bit funny: How the Red Planet Came Down With the Pink Blues - NY Times - Feb.10.04 ...

... NASA stubbornly holds firm: NASA defends decision to cancel HST servicing mission - spacetoday.net - Feb.10.04

Feb.9.2004 Space News

Choir practice... Jeff Foust provides his impressions of the Park-Zubrin debate : Seeking a rationale for human space exploration - The Space Review - Feb.9.04. He gives more points to Zubrin but basically says that each preached to his respective choir and probably didn't change anyone's mind.

Jeff's broader point is that space advocates need a more powerful argument, or set of arguments, to convince those outside of the relatively small group of space enthusiasts that government human spaceflight programs are worth the cost. I agree that it would be great to have an overwhelming obvious benefit that we could point to and not have to appeal to historical analogies (e.g. Jefferson's dream by Jeffrey E. Brooks - The Space Review - Feb.9.04) or a sense of adventure and faith in the future.

However, as I've proposed, we won't win over the public with more clever debating tactics but from real rockets and spacecraft built by private organizations that fly and prove that spaceflight is practical, promising, and not impossibly expensive. These projects, especially suborbital RLVs, will convince the public that space is not just for astronauts and that a much, much larger number of people will participate directly in spaceflight. The dawning of that revelation will be far more electrifying than even the most entertaining performance by Robert Zubrin.

... A HS reader had this to say about the debate:

"I enjoyed the debate between Zubrin and Park. I agree that Zubrin had the upper edge though I too might be a bit biased. Being a professional in the field of conflict resolution (police officer for over a decade), I would like to offer a simple clarification that rectifies both positions. Mr. Park is correct that there should be no manned space program. At least there should not be one for him. Just as there is a segment of society that should not be given drivers licenses, Mr. Park and those who share his mind set should not be allowed off of the earth. They would be a danger to themselves and those around them."

Spacefaring alternatives or NASA bash... The new book Lost in Space : The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age by Greg Klerkx (Amazon commission links: US UK) gets divergent reviews:

Sure sounds like a book I would more agree with than not (I ordered it today.) There's one thing that annoys me, though. If a nickel went to the space effort for every book, article, and op-ed with "Lost in Space" in the title, we could pay for a trip to Mars in no time.

Saving the tower... NASA has postponed the scrapping of the Apollo launch tower while campaigners for its preservation try to come up with a feasible plan to raise the $40M to restore it: NASA delays tower destruction: Preservationists will try to save historic pad - Florida Today - Feb.7.04 * Slashdot posting. (It's a shame that NASA had not put a cover over it years ago to protect it at least to some degree from the elements.)

News briefs ... Rocket Jones is posting a series on building a model rocket: Build It Archives - Rocket Jones - Nov.03-Feb.04 (via RocketMan blog.)....

... Try out the Desktop Rover at Plantraco...

... More on Hubble rescue options: Anonymous Documents Describe Shuttle Hubble Mission Risks - SpaceRef - Feb.8.04 ...

... Taylor Dinerman says spysats are not to blame: Intelligence failure: spies and satellites - The Space Review - Feb.9.04

Feb.8.2004 Space News

Honest accounting... Dwayne Day, space analyst and former regular on the sci.space newsgroups, provides an excellent rebuttal to Alex Roland and others who have blatantly distorted the goals and costs of the new US space policy: Debate on Bush space plan has been loaded with falsehoods by Dwayne Day - Florida Today - Feb.8.04

More accounting ... Mr. Day made some monetary predictions of his own a few years ago in Chasing profits in the void: MirCorp's economic success highly unlikely by Dwayne A. Day - Florida Today - June.16.00. The article examined the potential of various space business proposals that MirCorp, as well as many advocates of space commercialization, had proffered as potential revenue sources from a private space station.

As Day predicted, MirCorp did not prove viable. However, this was due to the deorbiting of Mir by the Russians, under heavy pressure from NASA, and not because its space businesses failed to produce revenues. The company never really got a chance to implement its business plan.

The one space business that MirCorp did manage to kickstart was space tourism. It is interesting that the article is dated the same day that the Wall Street Journal announced that MirCorp would arrange for Dennis Tito to go to Mir. (I believe Day's article actually came out earler in a rougher draft.) The deorbiting of Mir led Tito to change his flight to the ISS and also to work with Space Adventures instead of MirCorp. Nevertheless, MirCorp can get credit for getting the mission off the ground.

Tito obviously proved that there was, and is, a market for space tourists, even for tickets in the $10-20M price range. Space Adventures has indicated that the number of potential ISS visitors is currently around a dozen. So, "Likely revenue: Zero.", actual revenue: $40M and growing.

Walt Anderson, a founder of MirCorp, subsequently teamed up with Dennis Wingo to form Orbital Recovery, which, along with some European partners, is developing a space tug to dock with and maintain comsats that are running out of station-keeping fuel. (The company also would like to save the Hubble Telescope.)

This relates to the issue of satellite repair and assembly in orbit that Day mentions in his article. ("Likely revenue: Zero.") Dennis Wingo worked for a couple of years with NASA to develop his SkyCorp plan to assemble and launch a constellation of small, low cost satellites from the ISS that would provide internet services worldwide. They would use the super high efficiency of electric ion propulsion to reach a wide array of orbits without, as Day worries, having to "change the laws of physics."

While Day claimed there was "no reason to assemble a satellite in space", this is just wrong. A big portion of the cost and time that goes into making a satellite is for tests (e.g. on a paint-shaker device that vibrates the crap and everything else out of it) and redundancies so that it will survive the tremendous stresses of launch. With assembly and testing in space and then gentle acceleration by ion propulsion, much of this cost can be eliminated.

With the Iridium/ICO/GlobalStar/Teledesic failures along with the recession throughout the telecommunication industry, SkyCorp could not raise the money for building the constellation. However, the project helped to advance the concept of orbital assembly and it looks valid and quite promising. (Orbital Recovery apparently developed out of this project.)

Most of the other potential space businesses discussed in the article, such as space advertising, show promise as well, especially as supplemental income for space enterprises. (Except for work paid for by NASA, I tend to agree that "Private scientific and pharmaceutical research" won't be much of a money maker.) I hope to come back occasionally in the coming years to Mr. Day's article and review their progress vs. his predictions.

Progress near space ... Alfred Differ of JP Aerospace is providing regular updates on the development of the companies prototype high altitude airship for the Air Force: Alfred Differ - JP Aerospace Diaries - Frontier Files Online * NearSpaceManeuveringVehicle - FFO - Images * Build A Little - Test A Little: Away 24 by Alfred Differ - SciScoop - Jan.31.04 (Links via K.Kaido)

Mars rocks, there and here... While rovers examine rocks directly on the Red Planet - First grinding of a rock on Mars - JPL - Feb.6.04 - there are still scientists on earth still looking at Mars rocks here and finding interesting results: UQ researchers edge closer to question of life on Mars - UQ News - Feb.5.04 * It's Confirmed: Life Existed on Mars! - Roland Piquepaille - Feb.5.04 (Links via reader J. Rusi.)

News briefs... Another potential revenue source for satellite TV companies: Samsung to put satellite TV into cell phone: Company plans handset that can receive multimedia programming broadcasts via satellite - InfoWorld - Feb.06.04 ...

... At the end of his book review - System Failure: Two veteran journalists investigate a national disaster. Reviewed by James Trefil - Washingtonpost.com - Feb.8.04 - James Trefil nicely puts space accomplishments into their proper perspective....

... It seems to be coming a tradition for spacecraft to receive their names from young people: Daring comet lander named Philae: The small robotic probe that Europe is despatching to land on a comet has been named "Philae" by a 15-year-old girl. - BBC - Feb.6.04

Feb.7.2004 Space News

Mars Debate: Humans vs. Robots ... The transcript for the Robert Zubrin vs. Robert Park Debate last Thursday has now been posted. I'm obviously totally biased but it sure seemed to me from reading the transcript that Zubrin was the clear winner.

For example, I particularly liked this exchange after a geologist questioned Park on whether a robot could replicate the capabilities of a human field geologist:

Park: ...But in fact, I have been on missions with geologists. They use the hands. They don’t have those hands when they’re locked in a space suit. They’re looking through a visor. They’re hands are - if you watch them use tools, they’re almost as limited as my hands.

It’s not the same thing at all. You can’t pick a rock up and heft it, you don’t get any feel of its composition, any sense of hardness or texture. These things are all missing in a spacesuit.

If you can get the guy outside the spacesuit -- Terraform it first, I guess.

DR. ZUBRIN: Well, before we terraform Mars, a simpler -- a simpler approach is just to bring the rock inside the hab. And then you can hold it in your hand, and look at it, and do absolutely everything that a field geologist on Earth can do with it.

Zubrin's answer is obvious and any scientist who was actually thinking objectively about the issue would immediately see it. But Park is so intent on ridiculing the need for humans in space, and coming up with little cheap shots to slam it, that the obvious zooms right past him.

Alan Boyle doesn't choose a winner - The great space debate - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Feb.6.04 - and notes that the audience seemed a bit tilted towards NASA types. I hope we will hear reports this week from others who were present to provide a broad array of perspectives on the debate.

Ham tunes in Mars Express... I knew that some German hams had used a 20m surplus space radio dish to pick up transmissions from the Mars Express spacecraft while it was in route: AMSAT P5-A ground station successfully receives ESA's MARS-EXPRESS Probe - AMSAT-DL - Nov.2003.

However, I've just now discovered that a radio amateur - Charles Suckling, G3WDG - used a small dish (3m) to pick up sigals in December just as the spacecraft reached Mars: Reception of Mars-Express by G3WDG - AMSAT-DL. Since then he has heard it in orbit and also picked up the Mars Odyssey spacecraft: Mars Express / Mars Odyssey Reception by G3WDG and G4KGC. More details available at Mars-Express reception by G3RUH - AMSAT-DL - Nov.24.03.

This is good news for the AMSAT Phase 5-A Mars mission. The biggest challenge of that mission is not in reaching Mars but in developing a worldwide system of hams who can maintain contact with the spacecraft.

Feb.6, 2004 Space News

The Spaceshow this Sunday looks interesting:

The Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004 Space Show features Chip Proser, well-known writer, director, cinematographer and film producer film, television, and interactive media. Mr. Proser has either created, wrote, produced, or directed numerous films and documentaries, including many having to do with space. He has filmed space conferences including conferences for the Space Frontier Foundation, he wrote for MARS Run for HBO, and has won significant awards, including Emmy Awards, the Hatch Award, a Peabody Award, and much more. Mr. Proser will be talking with us about the reality of making space themed movies and entertainment, as well as his latest work involving a documentary film on global warming, climate change, the energy crisis and the solutions, all involving the exploitation of space and colonizing of the moon.

Please visit his website for full screen credits and more at stickymedia.com/scripts.htm.

Listeners can ask questions, communicate, or chat with Mr. Proser by calling toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, or by using dmlivings@yahoo.com or drspace@thespaceshow.com. You can also use AOL IM/ICQ by using the ScreenName "spaceshowchat."

Available via web streaming at www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston

Check out the Serenity Base collaborative sci-fi project.

Mars briefs... Keith Cowing posted this hilarious animation that someone at NASA sent him ...

... After a serious illness, it's nice to see Ray Bradbury up and giving a spirited defense of space exploration: An Interview With Sci-Fi Legend Ray Bradbury - FOXNews.com - Feb.5.04 ...

... More serious Mars animations and videos are available at Discovery Channel :: Video Animation of Mars Rover and at JPL Mars animations ...

... It's fun to spin fantasies about some of the more bizarre Mars images delivered over the years by the various orbiters and landers, but you shouldn't take them seriously: Mars Mirage - TCS: Tech Central Station - Feb.6.04 ...

... This report at the Planetary Society gives a good overview of what's been happening with the landers: Spirit Suffers Minor Set-Back; Opportunity Finds Features "Unlike Anything Seen on Mars," and Begins Trek to Outcrop -Planetary Society - Feb.5.04 ...

... Future Mars exploreres may communicate on the surface of Mars via Wi-FiI: Wi-Fi Enters the Space Race - Wired - Feb.6.04 (see more about the Space Internet).

News briefs ... The transcript of the big debate last night - Zubrin vs. Park Debate - EPPC - Feb.5.04 [will be posted next week] ...

... While nowadays most people know about direct-to-home satellite TV, I like to point out that modern (post 1960s) cable TV was created by satellite delivery of programming to local cable TV providers. Even today with high speed fiber, satellites still provide a very competitive sevice: Cable-TV satellite launches into orbit: Expect more high-definition - Florida Today - Feb.6.04 ...

... Maybe even Britain will wake up one of these days and begin a manned space program: Space - the UK's financial frontier - Scotsman.com - Feb.6.04 ...

... Edgar Mitchell responds to postings on his bulletin board.

Feb.5, 2004 Space News

News briefs ... Here's a plug for one of my main advertisers - SpaceToys.com - Check out the beautifully detailed replicas of the Apollo capsule, Mercury, Gemini, etc. ...

... The latest crew at the Mars Society's Desert Research Station reports on their work with construction techniques and other projects: Mars Desert Research Station, Mission Summary, Crew 22 - The Mars Society ...

... Research on lightweight radiation shielding is good work for NASA: Fire Away, Sun and Stars! Shields to Protect Future Space Crews - NASA - Jan.14.04

Feb.4, 2004 Space News

Space permanence... The International Space Station has disappointed even most space activists and contributes only a small part to the projects planned in the new space initiative: From Glory to Sideshow: The Space Station's Story By William J. Broad - NY Times - Feb.3.04.

I suggest that one everlasting contribution that it could make to history is to become the place where permanent human residence in space began. The President, in coordination with the other ISS partners, should make a formal commitment to insuring that from this time forward, there will always be humans living away from earth.

I believe that the Russians hoped that Mir would be that starting point back to where human space populations would trace their development. Stupidly, NASA got them to dump that spacebreaking settlement into the ocean. Here's a chance finally to make a beachhead from which we will not withdraw, ever again.

Senior citizen countries in space... As the European and Japanese populations grow older and older, the assumption follows that they will take fewer and fewer risks and avoid exciting, long range projects like exploring and developing space. However, maybe there is hope yet for the old fogey nations:

Some people, though, will encourage them just to stay at home and work in the garden: Letter From Asia: This 21st-Century Japan, More Contented Than Driven - NY Times - Feb.4.04

Budget items... The 2005 NASA budget just released shows that the President's new space policy is more than rhetoric. NASA is already reorganizing itself to implement it, so even if Congress balks on some parts of it (or if a new president has other priorities), it looks already like it will cause many permanent effects.

Here are some budget related items of interest:

The cost of saving Hubble may be less than what it seems. (See yesterday's Hubble Tradeoffs item.) Rand Simberg points out - Misleading Costs - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.3.04 - that the incremental cost of an extra shuttle flight can be significantly less than the crude estimate calculated from just dividing the shuttle budget by the nominal number of flights per year.

News briefs ... Efforts continue to revive the AMSAT AO-40 spacecraft: AO-40 Command Team Plays the Waiting Game - ARRLWeb - Feb.4.04 ...

... It's really nice to see that the company founded by Pete Conrad is still doing well despite his tragic death: California's Universal Space Network, Inc. (USN) Announces Expansion of Capabilities and Infrastructure in Hawaii and Alaska - CSA - Feb.2.04

Feb.3, 2004 Space News

Save Apollo history... More about the effort to save the Saturn V launch tower from M. Travis :

This week NASA plans to begin dismantling the Apollo Saturn V launch tower, which for 21 years has been rusting in a heap behind the KSC office complex. The bright red tower, 490 feet tall, stood beside the moon rocket as it lifted off for the moon. The disposal operation will take six months.

Sign this petition to help save it (or parts of it at least) from the scrap pile.

Pass this [link and notice] around if you want it to be preserved.

www.petitiononline.com/LUT/petition-sign.html * www.collectspace.com

Hubble tradeoffs... Jeff Foust looks at the pluses and minuses of saving the Hubble telescope: Life after Hubble - The Space Review - Feb.2.04. I tend to agree that unless a low cost alternative such as the Orbital Recovery tug can work, the money for saving it might be better applied to other missions.

Lunar server... TransOrbital's lunar orbiter Trailblazer will allow for contacts over the internet: Moon mission will 'talk' to web surfers - New Scientist - Feb.3.04 [Note: TransOrbital is an appreciated advertiser at HS]

News briefs... Students need rides to orbit and a place to stay: USU hopes smaller container will keep experiments in space - The Salt Lake Tribune - Feb.3.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Still arguing but seems like Occam's Razor points directly at liquid water on the surface sometime in the history of Mars: The Growing Case for Water on Mars - Space.com - Feb.3.04 ...

... Nice overview of Mars images and what can be learned from them: Wish you were here: Imaging Mars - BBC - Feb.3.04

Losing Apollo history... Fred Becker forwarded this message from Jim McDade about the threatened destruction of a major artifact of the Moon Race:

An important artifact of US space heritage is in imminent danger of destruction. Apollo Lunch Umbilical Tower #1 is about to be scrapped.

See: www.apollosaturn.com/lut.htm & www.savethelut.org/doug_LUT/

Please read the excerpt below and use the links below to contact members of the US Congress. Please let your elected official know that you do not want to see this piece of history discarded. Read on:

From KSC to employees:


The Environmental Program Branch will begin a project the first week of February to decontaminate and dispose of Launch Umbilical Tower #1 (LUT-1). The site is located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Fifth Street SE and D Avenue SE in the KSC Industrial Area. Contaminated paints on the tower will be removed using a high-pressure water blasting system. The project will continue for approximately 6 months. Heavy quipment will be entering and exiting the site regularly. Please use caution when driving by the site.

www.house.gov/ and www.senate.gov/

No hobgoblins annoy this historian... From reader R. Rowland comes this observation: "I found your link to Alex Roland's rant in Florida Today interesting in light of his testimony to congress last year. He proposes phasing out the shuttle and ISS and using the money to develop a new shuttle. Of course if Bush had proposed the same thing, there is no way a shuttle replacement could be flying before 2008, and so Alex's plan would be subject to exactly the same criticism that Alex levels at the new exploration plan."

Update: T.L. James weighs in on the Roland rant: Like Duh, So Was Apollo, Right? - Louisiana Mars Society - Feb.2.04

Note: I'm wasting a lot of space on Roland's essay. It's not that Roland's opinion matters all that much, though he is often rolled out on news programs about space issues. And it's not that NASA couldn't screw up Moon/Mars missions as badly as it did Shuttle/ISS/X33/etc. It's just that it's not proveable that NASA is unreformable and that it must inevitably screw up everything from now on. And its wrong to misuse one's credentials to give credibility to bogus numbers and technical analysis just to push a political point of view and to claim to know the innermost motivations of those you disagree with.

Remembering the brave Columbia Seven on Earth - Columbia Memorial Dedicated at Arlington - NASA - Feb.2.04 - and on Mars - Martian hills dedicated to fallen Columbia crew - Spaceflight Now- Feb.2.04

News briefs ... Just heard about this excellent space art gallery at Mars Visions from one of the artists - Paul S. Hoffman ...

... For a pithy rebuttal to the health care over space funding see this posting by Paul Blay at sci.space.policy: "I've discovered the cure for cancer!" (via Kaido Kert) ...

... Can't see Janet's breast but this zoom in on the Super Bowl stadium is still pretty cool: One Looooong Pass - NASA Drops in on the Big Game - NASA - Feb.1.04 ...

... Keep up with the local Mars time with this Palm PDA program: MarsClock (a clock for Mars by Ken Mankoff) (via NASAWatch)....

... Focusing in on distant planets: Oxygen at Extrasolar Planet, a First - Space.com - Feb.2.04

Feb.2, 2004 Space News

The future on display... Flat TVs are here, so the future must be here as well!

In the spring of 1976 when I was a senior at the University of Tennessee, Gene Roddenberry came to give a lecture before several hundred enthusiastic fans. After the cancellation of the Star Trek series and the failure of some other projects, he had been encouraged by Arthur C. Clarke to try out the university lecture circuit. This turned out to be quite a lucrative success for him, especially as the series became more and more popular via reruns.

Following the showing of a bloopers reel and the original Menagerie pilot episode, he came on to give a very uplifting and optimistic talk about the future (as one might expect based on the tone of his famous TV show.) I remember in particular that he mentioned a recent visit to a research lab where he had seen a prototype of a flat panel television (oohs and aahs from the audience). He confidently predicted that such amazing technology would someday in the not so distant future be available to everyone.

The 1970's were not just a time when (real) space exploration was off the agenda of the public, but there was little interest in technology and science of any kind. The counterculture's anti-tech attitudes had become widespread, if not dominate in the US. NASA's budget got cut but so did basic science research and most other R&D areas. Only with the arrival of the PC and microelectronic revolutions of the 1980s, coupled with rising economic competition from Japan and the East Asian Tigers, did "high tech" become a phrase that people recognized and known to represent an important and positive trend.

So Roddenberry's nonconformist optimism stuck in my mind over the years and the thin flat TV became emblematic of a cool, exciting future. I have followed the development of flat panel displays and I'm very pleased now to see the success of the plasma and LCD screens, along with the promise of new technologies:

Does this mean the cool future is here? Well, for a baby boomer brought up on visions of flying cars, low cost space transport, and Moon bases, there is still a ways to go. The development of the flat panel TV illustrates, however, that even the most difficult technology can eventually arrive but that it can take awhile.

At around the time of Roddenberry's lecture my father gave me an LCD watch, probably one of the first in the country. It seemed like it shouldn't be so hard to scale up an LCD but it actually took about 25 years to go from that little clock display to the big screen LCDs now available at your local electronics store. The LCD companies, mostly in East Asia, made that long trip by following a step-by-step development cycle in which small incremental improvements led to bigger markets that in turn provided bigger profits to reinvest in the next improvements and so on and so on.

They also relied on parallel developments in the whole field of microelectronics and the creation of a huge computer market that welcomed displays with smaller footprints (and also looked really cool.)

The moral of the story is that private companies can eventually develop low cost space transport and even lunar bases but they will need to follow a similar step-by-step development cycle. And they should take advantage of technology advancements happening in parallel, such as in the areas of lightweight, high-strength materials. The X PRIZE type suborbitals offer the first step that I hope we will see taken this year. In the coming years we can watch them develop into a real commercial passenger launch industry and eventually reach orbit.

And I hope to monitor these exciting developments via my new 21.3" LCD computer monitor!

News briefs ... Another spacecraft survives a crisis: Mars Rover Spirit Restored To Health - JPL - Feb.1.04 ...

... There are reasons other than science for spaceflight: A Two-Planet Species? The right way to think about our space program by William Langewiesche- The Atlantic- Jan./Feb.04 ...

... Supersonic flight may be quieter than expected: NASA - Fixing What Yeager Broke: Reducing Sonic Booms - NASA - Jan.28.04

Feb.1, 2004 Space News

Space poetry... While discussing the anniversary of the Columbia accident today, Rand Simberg mentioned the Haiku poems contributed last year in commemoration of the tragedy: Columbia Haiku Contest - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.2.03. This reminded me of the small section of resources I've collected on space inspired poetry. This includes SciFaiku, which are sci-fi inspired Haiku poems.

One of these days I'm going to make a real effort to read the epic poem Genesis by Ben Turner who tells a grand story of the settlement and terraforming of Mars. I've started it a couple of times but didn't get very far.

News briefs... Opportunity spots hematite: Opportunity finds what it went to Mars looking for - SPACEFLIGHT NOW - Feb.1.04 ...

... Terraforming Mars starts to look feasible on the centuries scale (rather than many-millennia scale): Greening the Red Planet - Astrobiology Magazine - Jan.30.04 ...

... Via a Slashdot posting I came across this article: James Cameron's Mars Reference Design - Astrobiology Magazine - Jan.30.04. Cameron has commissioned high quality detailed renderings of the Human Exploration of Mars: The Reference Mission of the NASA Mars Exploration Study Team - JSC - 1997 * Reference mission slide version...

... Gee, all the work by the White House group that spent several months gathering ideas and data on possible space exploration missions could have been avoided if they had only talked to ace aerospace engineer Alex Roland and gotten THE TRUTH: Bush's space plan a political hoax: Proposal won't fly, and president knows it by Alex Roland - Florida Today - Jan.30.04. These days no one can just say they disagree with a proposal or policy. They instead must spout accusations of major crimes.

Continue to January 2004 articles in archive

HobbySpace News Articles Index 1999-2003


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