Jan.31, 2004 Space News
Hubble Banner for your site.
Link it to www.savethehubble.org
Reference material links for
Initiative and the Save
the Hubble campaign are available on the Space
Politics page in the Space
Cosmic attention ... I often
check in on Alan
Boyle's Cosmic Log at MSNBC. He covers a wide range of space
and tech related topics and he seems informed and open minded about
things. I was especially pleased yesterday to see that he had linked
to my recent
comments on virtual vs. real travel to Mars: Virtual
space travel - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Jan.29.04.
News briefs... Space activists
make their voice heard: To
better understand Earth, we must explore outer space - BostonHerald.com
- Jan.31.04 ...
... Get the latest news on
attempts to contact AO-40,
which recently went silent, at AMSAT-OSCAR
40 Information by AMSAT-DL. AO-40 is the largest and most expensive
($4.5M) amateur satellite ever built....
... Check in daily for a view
of the moon at Lunar
Photo of the Day - LPOD
Jan.30, 2004 Space News
Space myths of all kinds... Keith
Cowing corrects Rick Tumlinson on his claim during the Senate
Committee hearing this week that NASA vastly overpaid
for a device to attach tethers during spacewalks: The
Danger of Perpetuating False Urban Myths in Space - SpaceRef - Jan.30.04.
Keith makes a number of good points about being careful on such
claims since analysis and experience may indeed show that there
were excellent reasons for using an expensive, custom designed device
instead of a cheap-off-the-shelf (COTS) item. Space is a
whole new environment that can pull very unexpected and dangerous
tricks on those designing equipment for space.
However, I think there is also a danger of encouraging the opposing
myth held by many within NASA that whenever there are claims that
a launch or space system could be done cheaper than they are doing
it, this never holds true under detailed analysis. In fact there
are several cases that can now be cited where the usual NASA and
standard aerospace industry design and procurement system is shown
to be far more expensive than necessary.
For example, just yesterday I was meeting with Pat Bahn who was
back from Norman, Oklahoma where his TGV
Rockets company now has a group of engineers doing detailed
design studies of their Michelle B vehicle. While looking at cost
estimates for their vehicle he decided to plug the numbers for the
into the NASA Mission Operations Cost Model. (Pat should
have the details of the DC-X since he has several former DC-X team
members working as consultants.)
The NASA model predicts a development cost of "$4.461 Billion
dollars, and a unit production cost of $68Million dollars."
A RAND airframe cost model was not as pessimistic, coming in at
a mere $510M.
The entire DC-X design and production was actually completed for
less then $70 million in 1989 dollars according to Pat. The DC-X
program was famous for being run by Pete Conrad in a tightfisted
X vehicle project style with a very small team and using COTS parts
and software wherever possible. I've heard similar such estimates
before at presentations made by DC-X managers who said the project
cost was a factor of ten or so below what would have been the "normal"
price for such a project.
[Pat said he would write up a more detailed account of this study
if he can find the time.]
There are other cases like this. The Clementine
Moon orbiter and the
Lunar Prospector (which actually began as a very lost private
project by several space activist organizations) came
in at $80M
respectively. They achieved such relatively low costs by follow
nonstandard design and development approaches. Elon
Musk said that the Falcon I launches would cost 3 to
4 times as much if he had contracted out the project to one of the
major aerospace firms. (I hold with Henry Spencer's characterization
of the majors as primarily "design bureaus" for their
groups have been building and launching spacecraft for several decades
on the barest budgets imaginable and making tremendous contributions
to small satellite development. Spinoffs companies, such as Surrey
Satellite, from amateur/student satellite programs have also
shown that spacecraft can be built far cheaper than by the usual
big aerospace industry titans.
NASA has certainly accumulated huge amounts of data and experience
in building launchers and spacecraft and in working in space. But
it does not follow that the agency doesn't have to listen to anyone
else or that only it can do space right. Instead, the agency
should return to the model of its predecessor - the National
Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It should enthusiastically
assist the many innovative startups rather than ignoring, dissing,
or competing with them. It should do all it can to provide easy
access to its data and experience so as to assist these companies,
which intend to make a business of space (as opposed to a business
of supplying NASA or the Pentagon) and so have very strong motivations
to keep costs as low as possible. The hardware and services provided
by these companies will in turn provide great benefits to NASA as
it seeks to explore beyond LEO while remaining within a realistic
Update: Keith misunderstood Rick's remarks. In a
comment to an item
at Transterrestrial Musings (go to bottom of the page), Bill
Haynes, who was quoted by Rick, says:
"...my source WAS producing NASA carabiners in accordance
with NASA specs and for use in space by astronauts, and he said
that the difference between the perhaps, $100 he could have delivered
them for and $1,095 he had to charge was in the excessive and
unnecessarily demanding need to track the metal used from the
I never suggested, nor did Rick Tumlinson, that NASA should buy
available REI carabiners for use in space."
Hubble action ... Efforts to
save the Hubble
Space Telescope from de-orbit continue to grow: 'Save
the Hubble' campaign soars - BBC - Jan.29.04. And the efforts
seem to be having some affect. Today Sean O'Keefe announced that
Harold Gehman, chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board
(CAIB), would review the decision to cancel the final shuttle servicing
chair to review Hubble decision - Spacetoday.net - Jan.29.04
Add your youself to the campaign via the online petition at Save
News briefs ... More about
the Senate Science committee hearing Wednesday on the new space
Express Cautious Support For Bush Space Vision -Aviation Week -
Jan.29.04 & Tumlinson
Tells Senate Committee to Involve Private Sector "From Day
One" in New Space Policy Initiative - Space Frontier Foundation
- - Jan.29.04 ...
... It's not only Spirit that
gets long distance service for its computer system:
Moon probe to get new software - New Scientist - Jan.29.04
... Japan is apparently reviewing
its manned spaceflight options in light of the Chinese program:
to change space policy, aims manned mission: report -Spacedaily
- Jan.29.04 (via Curmudgions
Jan.29, 2004 Space News
Trailblazer status... The privately
financed lunar orbiter mission by TransOrbital
(a long time advertiser at HobbySpace)
looks probable for an autumn launch: Fly
My Stuff to the Moon: Private Mission Slated for Fall Launch - Space.com
- Jan.29.04. Be sure to sign up to place pictures and text on
the data disk or even to put business cards in the spacecraft.
The Senate focuses on the space initiative...
The Senate Committee on Science held a hearing today on the President's
new space initiative. Senators
Skeptical About Bush NASA Vision - Newsday.com - Jan.28.04.
Lots of skepticism all around. Written statements can be found at
These guys argue for the US to exploit private initiatives:
Space album attention... The
Touch the Stars album of space songs is receiving increasing
attention. According to the latest Prometheus Music newsletter,
the CD is getting airplay on various folk music programs, has gotten
the attention of people working in museum and education programs
about space, and is getting noticed in the press.
The newsletter also reports that:
"Woody's Children, which has been running for over 35 years
and launched the careers of folk musicians including Christine
Lavin and Julie Gold, is airing four more (!!) tracks from To
Touch the Stars on the Sunday 2/1/2004 show. We are unworthy.
But you can still hear it live at 7:30 PM ET in New York City
on WFUV (90.7 FM), or by going to www.wfuv.org
and listening to the audio stream. Highly recommended."
Be sure to hear producers Eli Goldberg and Kristoph Klover (who
also performs on the album) on The
Space Show about the project on Sunday, February 22, 2004.
News briefs... Contact with
AMSAT AO-40 still not revived: AO-40
Still Ailing - ARRL - Jan.28.04....
... Rand ponders space travel,
NASA, and taking risks: NASA's
Winter Curse by Rand Simberg - FOXNews.com/Transterrestrial
Musings - Jan.28.04
Jan.28, 2004 Space News
Winter mourning... This time
of the year now marks three tragedies in the history of the US space
Largest amateur satellite in trouble...
AMSAT spacecraft went silent yesterday apparently due
to battery problems - AO-40
Satellite Goes Silent - ARRLWeb - Jan.27.04 (via spacetoday.net).
Operators are trying to tell it to switch to auxiliary batteries.
The satellite, the most ambitious and expensive spacecraft ever
built and launched by the AMSAT organization, was once before thought
lost when its on board booster motor
misfired shortly after launch in the fall of 2000. However,
on Christmas Day of that year it began to respond and continued
to work well for most systems until this recent problem.
Mars water mystery - whether
large volumes of liquid water once lay upon the Martian surface
- may be solved by the rocks around the site where Oppportunity
Closing in on Scientific Jackpot - Space.com - Jan.27.04
Mars 3D... NASA
Earth Observing System (EOS) Education Project (Univ. of Montana)
Software Systems are offering "TerraExplorer 3D Tour of
over Mars" that allows you to "take a flyby trip around
Mars and the Spirit landing site without leaving home." Universal
exploration - Missoulian.com - Jan.28.04 (Requires installation
of the free TerraExplorer
Jan.27, 2004 Space News
Observing waste ... We should
remember that the destruction of the Hubble Telescope would not
be the first time NASA has squandered a great scientific resource
in the sky. The Compton
Gamma Ray Observatory, launched in 1991, got dumped
in the ocean in June of 2000 despite the fact it could easily have
continued to operate safely and very productively for several more
The failure of one of its three gyroscopes led NASA to decide to
de-orbit it because of fears that if it lost the other two gyroscopes,
it might reenter in an uncontrolled manner. NASA administrators
said this resulted in an unacceptable 1 in 1000 chance of a fatality
on the ground. However, the spacecraft operators showed that even
with no gyroscopes they would not lose control for reentry and the
actual fatality estimates were 1 in several million. Besides, there
was certainly no reason not to wait till there was only one working
This FAQ posted at NASAWatch.com - FAQ:
Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory - NASA Watch - 16 May 2000 - gives
the details. It concludes with:
How do scientists feel about the current plan to reentry
CGRO on June 3rd?
They believe that the risks of continuing to fly CGRO are extremely
low, that the planned reentry is unnecessary and that the intentional
destruction of the Compton observatory would be a tragedy.
Once a big bureaucratic organization like NASA makes a decision,
the wheels begin to grind forward relentlessly and without regard
to new options and even common sense. (NASA continued to use the
1 in 1000 figure even after it was shown to be invalid.) Unless
NASA is forced soon to consider other alternatives, it will so arrange
things that other options for the Hubble will become less and less
(Thanks to Pat Bahn for reminding me a few months ago about the
Mars fascinates... The Mars
landers have had a really big impact on a lot of people according
to this article: Eager
NASA Is Bringing Mars Down to Earth - NY Times - Jan.27.04.
The article speculates that this sort of remote sensing
of Mars via the internet will satisfy the public's interest in the
planet. I think it will have quite the opposite effect. The landers'
imagery transforms Mars from an abstraction into a real place and
will entice and inspire many either to want to go there themselves
or at least to want to see living, breathing, thinking representatives
of the human race go there and report back their impressions and
experiences in person.
In the 1930's most people in the US had never been more than 20
miles or so from where they were born. When Life Magazine appeared
it had a huge impact with its big color pictures of exotic places
around the world. Images that were almost as strange to farm folk
as Mars is to people today. However, it didn't satisfy their interest
in those places. Instead it inspired the post war tourist boom.
We won't see large scale tourist travel to Mars anytime soon but
I'd bet that some of the kids watching those Mars pictures coming
in will someday visit those sites in person.
News briefs... Dennis
Wingo gives his description of the serious problems with
NASA and mainstream aerospace and gives his prescription for reform:
Boldly Go ... - SpaceRef - Jan.26.04 ...
... The Mars Society specifies
what the new space initiative should build: Mars
Society Statement on Bush Space Initiative - The Mars Society -
Jan.24.04 (link via Kaido Kert)....
... Recent spacecasts of interest:
Tourism Race Heats Up - NPR - Jan.26.04 * Robert
Zubrin Looks for 'Mars on Earth - NPR - Jan.23.04 ...
... A discussion of how a Moon
base might develop: Working
on the Moon - BBC - Jan.26.04
Jan.26, 2004 Space News
Spaceshow this Tuesday at 7-8:15PM Pacific Time will
include an interview with yours truly. David didn't learn his lesson
from last time and will once again subject Seattle and cyberspace
to my nervous rantings about space. Available via streaming from
The Space Review this week
includes as usual a set of very interesting articles:
Moon base strategies... The
Space Frontier puts forth various strategies for developing low
cost bases on the Moon: Moonbases
on the Cheap by Peter Thorpe - Space Frontier Foundation - Jan.24.04
(link via Kaido Kert)
The public prefers bargain space...
This article gives a good overview of public attitudes towards space
and the President's initiative: Space
casts strong lure: The Capital Region sees endeavors to Mars and
moon as costly but inspiring - timesunion.com (Albany, N.Y.) - Jan.25.04.
Basically a majority of the US public is excited about space exploration
and development until you put a huge pricetag in front of them.
Then the support drops to about one third. So if you can show that
space can be done for a much lower cost than expected, the support
will be there.
Making it cheaper...This article
continues the call for NASA to take advantage of the new commercial
space opportunities: Commentary:
Space Travel: Bringing Costs Down To Earth: NASA should give startups
room to maneuver - Business Week - Feb.2.04 (via spacetoday.net)
Fine space arts program at
NASA is profiled today in the Washington Post: The
Fine Art of the Space Age: Little-Known NASA Program Documents History
Through Various Media - Washington Post - Jan.26.04. While the
commissions include music
and other performance art, the emphasis has been on the visual arts.
Official Art Gallery has commissioned over 200 artists over
the past 30 years to document the course of space exploration. The
collection now includes over 800 works of art in the NASA archive
plus 2000 pieces donated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
You can peruse the collection via the Copernica
News briefs... Keith Cowing
surveys the issue of the future of the Hubble Telescope and efforts
to save it: Hubble's
End - or a New Beginning? - SpaceRef - Jan.26.04 ...
... India maintains a vigorous
space program with many practical benefits: India's
Lofty Ambitions in Space Meet Earthly Realities - NY Times - Jan.24.04
... And now they have a neighbor
they will want to keep up with: China
may be worlds ahead in building lunar legacy / U.S. hampered by
economy, short-term plans, analysts warn - SF Gate - Jan.26.04
Jan.25, 2004 Space News
Opportunity Lands Safely
Congratulations to JPL/NASA
News briefs ... Amateur astronomer
finds asteroid passing near earth: Online
Spacewatch Volunteer Discovers Close-Approaching Asteroid - SpaceWatch
PR - Jan.21.04 ...
... Historical highlights of
speculation about and searches for Mars life: Life
on Mars? A timeline of the debate - SpaceDaily - Jan.23.04 ...
... Rocketry leader John
Wickman's rocketry students get some publicity: Young
rocketeers ready for launch - Casper StarTribune (Wyoming) - Jan.24.04
... More about supporting the Hubble rescue: How
to Help Hubble - Sky and Telescope - Jan.24.04
Jan.23, 2004 Space News
Prices, paradigms & private space
development... Nothing is more annoying in the discussions
of the the new space initiative than the propensity of reporters
and commentators simply to invent cost estimates. It's nice to see
James Oberg contributing some reason and actual facts to the discussion:
space costs back down to Earth: A trillion dollars? NASA initiative
won't cost near that much - MSNBC - Jan.23.04
Since the beginning of the space age in the late 1950s, space has
become synonymous with staggering costs. In the 1980's and 90's,
the billions of dollars spent for a few shuttle flights per year
and then the massive overruns of the ISS, which was supposed to
cost a mere $8B when first proposed by President Reagan, have only
confirmed to the public that space is and always will be gigantically
expensive. It seems obvious to most people that an even more ambitious
program must surely cost even more.
In the past decade there have been many credible detailed
proposals for expanded human spaceflight efforts, including
Mars missions, that showed that costs can be much lower than the
$250B proffered by NASA's infamous 1989 90-day
study for the first President Bush's Space Exploration Initiative.
Most commentators, though, simply start from that number and rocket
Furthermore, many then claim that since it's obvious that the missions
will cost huge amounts, the President's proposal is misleading since
he allocates only minor increases to NASA's budget. But they are
missing the point. What the initiative focuses on is doing the R&D
to learn how to do the missions within a reasonable budget. Clearly,
if the costs aren't brought down, then Moon and Mars missions just
Studies and reasoned articles, however, won't change deeply ingrained
perceptions. Only facts on the ground, or in the sky in this case,
will prove to people that technology really has advanced from the
1960s and that space can be explored and developed far more cheaply
than they imagined. Ironically, private space ventures could provide
the credibility for lower costs estimates for NASA's programs, despite
the fact that the agency remains oblivious to innovative commercial
This spring SpaceX
will launch its privately financed Falcon I. During the year there
will be many test flights by various X PRIZE competitors and most
likely a winner before the January 1 deadline. TransOrbital
is planning to launch its TrailBlazer to the Moon in the fall and
the Planetary Society will attempt a launch of a solar
sail. These and other projects and events done on tight budgets
will get lots of publicity and chip away at the notion that ambitious
space projects cannot be done at a reasonable cost. Critics who
thus far could dismiss such private projects as space vaporware
will find themselves dealing with hard cold facts in space and won't
get away with preposterous extrapolations from the costs of past
NASA programs to those of all space projects in the future.
Note that many of the op-eds on the new space initiative favor
it in spirit but say that such marvelous space goals are just too
expensive, at least for now. If the minds of these potentially strong
supporters of space development can be changed, then it will make
a huge impact politically. They will, for example, help to bring
more and more pressure on NASA to take advantage of the resources
and services of these private ventures and finally change the way
it does business.
NASA distributes vision to
its employees: "New
Space Exploration Vision" Distributed to NASA Employees - SpaceRef
Some commentators propose commercial options:
Hubble's vision should remain
clear and keen. In fact, it would be a good way for NASA to show
that it will reform by welcoming innovative proposals from outside
the agency to save the HST.
Meanwhile, you can offer your support at Save
the Hubble. It will help build the political pressure to save
this great observatory: U.S.
Senator Rushes To Hubble's Defense - Space.com - Jan.22.04
Show Sunday, 12:00-1:30pm PST - January 25, 2004
"features returning guest Dr. Angie Bukley, now the Stocker
Visiting Professor in the School of Electrical Engineering & Computer
Science at Ohio University...has become an advocate for developing
the technology required to make space a reachable destination for
the general public...
... and Dr. Jim Burke, retired JPL lunar settlement and exploration
expert...Burke's main professional interest continues to be in the
exploration and settlement of the Moon."
Hear the show on the web via live365.com.
Jan.22, 2004 Space News
Hubble hope ... I think pressure
will grow and grow to save the HST: Help
for Hubble: Officials Mull Donations, Russian Service Mission -
Space.com - Jan.21.04. As I suggested
recently, NASA should just give Orbital Recovery a contract
to either boost HST to a higher orbit or move it to the ISS if possible.
NASA budget ... It looks like
NASA will get a budget increase above the rate of inflation this
Wants Bigger NASA Budget, Official Says - NY Times - Jan.22.04
Vision Was Key to Saving NASA from Budget Cuts - Space.com - Jan.14.04
Despite all the yelling about busting the budget, the increase
is small enough to survive. Event before the President's announcment,
because of the Columbia accident there was already a sizable group
of members of Congress who wanted to assist the agency. In addition,
articles like this - Heading
for the Stars, and Wondering if China Might Reach Them First - NY
Times - Jan.22.04 - are bound to help.
Space ops ... Jay
Manifold has done a survey of about 100 opinion pieces on the
new space initiative - Print
Media Reaction to Moon/Mars Proposal - Jay Manifold - Jan.15.04
(via T.L. James)
Jan.21, 2004 Space News
New space sims ... Check out
the free SpaceDev
Lunar Lander Simulator, a 3D graphics simulation in which you
must search for the lunar base and then safely land your SpaceDev
The program was developed by the Beltminer group which is also
developing the cool Claim
Stake simulation. From the Claim
"...3D dexterity game about asteroid mining in deep space.
You are a Beltminer. You have been issued a Prospector mining
craft in order to land on asteroids and stake a cliam on valuable
minerals. These minerals will be used for the good of the space
station Terra. Your ultimate goal is to find water...and construct
an Ice-water extractor on an asteroid.
At the end of each mission, you will will have to spend a percentage
of you credits on repairing the Prospector, buying Mineral Beacons,
and re-fueling your craft. Once you collect enough resources...you
will be able to build an Ice Water Extractor."
They are offering a free trial version.
News briefs... Rand Simberg
comments on various political aspects of the new space initiative:
Wrong Kind of Partisan - Transterrestrial Musings - Jan.21.04
... One good solid application
for a Moon base is to build and operate astronomical radio observatories
on the far side where there is little background noise from manmade
radio signals. Here is a site that deals with such a project: IAA
SETI Taskgroup: Lunar Farside Radio Laboratory ...
... This ESA sponsored meeting
will look at the intersection of art and space science: Space:
Science, Technology and the Arts: (7th Workshop on Space and the
Arts) - ESA - May.18-21.04
Mars briefs... I The second
data set is available for your Maestro
rover program: Maestro
Data package #2 released - SpaceRef - Jan.21.04
... More about the science
coming from Spirit: NASA
Mars Rover's First Soil Analysis Yields Surprises - JPL News - Jan.20.04
Mars rock hints at past water - BBC - Jan.21.04....
... For info on the scientific
tools on the Spirit that reveal the properties of the soil and rocks,
to Mars - Instruments at Cornell.
Jan.20, 2004 Space News
Space initiative updates...
The New York Times give serious attention to the initiative:
Right stuff vs. space stuff...
Last week a reader sent me this link - John
Glenn doesn't think Bush's space plan will fly - Beacon Journal
- Jan.15.04 - and expressed disappointment at John Glenn's put-down
of the new space initiative. Glenn's criticisms are not totally
unreasonable but it is not surprising to me that, as always, he
finds it inconceivable that space development could ever be done
far cheaper and with more ambition that it has been up to now. I
know it sounds silly, but Glenn is not really a space guy
(or space nut depending on your point of view). Let me explain.
If you read the Right Stuff, as well as Glenn's autobiography,
you will see that he and most of the astronauts of that time were
not people who grew up reading about space, daydreaming about space,
and reading space sci-fi. They instead grew up wanting to fly planes
and jets and to be the best pilots around. When the space program
came around, rockets were just the next step up to the pinnacle
of test pilot ace-dom.
There are exceptions to this generalization. Buzz
Aldrin and Harrison
Schmitt continue to live and breath space long after leaving
NASA. Hear, for example, Schmitt on the radio last week - NPR
: Former Astronaut Advocates Return to Moon - telling a skeptical
interviewer that there really will be people living in settlements
on the Moon.
Furthermore, Glenn is a solid FDR New Deal style Democrat who genuinely
believes in the essential competence and beneficence of the government.
He see NASA as rightfully dominating all space development and exploration
and doesn't take private space ventures seriously. He was solidly
opposed to the flights of Dennis Tito and other tourists to the
It must have been in the mid-1960s when I got up to go to school
one morning and my Mom told me that Glenn had just been on the Today
Show. He had said too much money was going to the space program
and more should go to social programs. Looking back now, I know
that I sensed then that a big change was happening. The space age
that had blossomed in the post-Sputnik period was dying. There were,
of course, huge social and political forces killing it so no one
could have prevented that enthusiasm from fading. However, I've
sometimes wondered if Glenn had been a real space guy whether, with
all of his fame and charisma, he could have ameliorated the decline
and helped to prevent some of the bad decisions that were made at
the end of the Moon Race such as with the Space Shuttle program.
Unfortunately, he wasn't and didn't. So while I greatly admire
Glenn for his many accomplishments, personal bravery and decency,
I don't have any interest in his opinions on space policy.
Spinning mice in space... NASA
science news reports on the student led Mars
Gravity Biosatellite project: Mars
Mice: In 2006 a group of mice-astronauts will orbit Earth inside
a spinning spacecraft. Their mission: to learn what its like to
live on Mars. - Science@NASA - Jan.20.04. Maybe this will help
them get money to carry out the project.
Space modellers and collectors
take note - Caltech
makes green off red planet rovers - CNN.com - Jan.19.04 - the
Mars rover designs have been licensed to various model builders.
Space initiative updates...
Jeff Foust's Space Review issue this week includes four reports
related to the new space policy:
I think Taylor is right that this initiative has a lot more going
for it than that of the 1989 SEI proposal. Though the polls and
and the editorials are running slightly against it, the attention
and support it has received are far beyond what the SEI received,
which was hardly even noticed by the press and the public. The people
who like it are strongly in favor of it and will work hard to get
it implemented, while those against it are lukewarm in their oppostion
(as long as the NASA funding increases are modest) and will forget
about it when other issues come up. In that situation, the politics
almost always favor the proponents, regardless of the polls.
Other articles of interest:
Mars briefs... I thought the
images from the Mars Global
Surveyor and Mars
Odyssey 2001 have been amazing but looks like the Mars
Express orbiter will soon blow those away: Europe's
eye on Mars: first spectacular results from Mars Express - ESA -
... Real science by the Spirit
rover has already started to come in: Hollow
mystery for Mars rover - New Scientist - Jan.19.04 ...
... Mars is a real place
with weather and everything: Martian
weather challenges rover team - Florida Today - Jan.19.04
News brief... JP
Aerospace, which began as a amateur rocketry and high altitude
balloon organization (it still involves some volunteers last I heard)
has gotten some serious military work according to this article:
Space Engineers Explore Broad Spectrum of Technologies - Aviation
Week - Jan.18.04
Jan.18, 2004 Space News
Space initiative updates...
Frank and Keith Keith complete their 3 part series on the development
of the new space policy:
Space activism gets results ... Its
common on space forums to hear dismissive putdowns of public space
advocacy and of the various space activist groups as ineffective
and powerless. I certainly wouldn't claim that the new space policy
was in any way dictated by space activists. The influences on the
new space policy came from many sources and directions. It would
be unconvincing, though, to argue that setting missions to the Moon
and to Mars as long term goals would have happened if there had
not been persistent and loud calls for the past couple of decades
by the many advocates of such missions.
For example, the books and technical papers of Robert Zubrin convinced
a lot people to think seriously about the possibility that Mars
missions could happen at a cost much, much lower than what NASA
proposed back in 1989 when the first President Bush tried to aim
NASA at Mars. The Mars
Society, led by Zubrin, gets some credit for the new NASA focus
on Mars in this article: New
cachet for Martian wannabes: The Mars Society has long urged exploration.
Now NASA does, too. - Philadelphia Inquirer - Jan.18.04
Saving the Hubble
with a commercial space tug would be a great campaign
for space activists to push (NASA
cancels last Hubble servicing mission - spacetoday.net - Jan.17.04.)
Orbital Recovery Corporation
is developing a space
tug system aimed primarily at saving comsats in geostationary
orbit when they run out of station keeping fuel. The company, however,
has also proposed
that the tug, which could be ready in the 2006-2007 timeframe, could
be used for a Hubble rescue:
"..with the appropriately size solar arrays and fuel load,
[...] our solar electric propulsion system could either boost
HST to a very long lived high earth orbit where it could be stored
or even do a plane change to move it to the International Space
Station (ISS) where it could be serviced repeatedly and reboosted
by the SLES to a high orbit above ISS."
For the Hubble to be deliberately deorbited into the ocean without
a serious consideration of this alternative would be a staggering
waste of money and a huge loss of scientific discoveries.
Your name in a comet... Still
time to get your name on a disk that the Deep
Impact spacecraft will carry when it dives into a comet on July
4, 2005: Deep
Impact: Send Your Name to a Comet! (Deadline Jan.31.04)
elevator guru Brad Edwards now works at the Institute
for Scientific Research, Inc. - Research & Development in
West Virginia. The web site there includes a section on the Space
Elevator along with an animation
and a FAQ.
Note that the Space
Show has had two interviews with Edwards (most recent June.24.04)
and one interview
with former co-worker Michael Laine, now President of LiftPort,
The AMSAT Echo project needs
to raise money for the launch of the microsat, also known as AMSAT
OSCAR-E. It will be the first microsat launched by AMSAT-NA
(NA - North America) since the early 1990s because of the focus
over the past decade on contributing to the construction and successful
launch in 2000 of the large, sophisticated, and expensive AO-40
satellite, a project led by AMSAT-DL.
Echo fund currently stands at nearly $49,000. AMSAT-NA says
it will need $110,000 for the launch--currently scheduled for
March 31, although the launch window remains open until May. A
Russian Dnepr LV rocket--a converted SS-18 intercontinental ballistic
missile--will carry the approximately 10-inch-square satellite
into a low-Earth orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan."
They are holding an auction of an original AO-40
Sculpture to help raise the money: Auction
of AO-40 Sculpture to Help Fund AMSAT ECHO Satellite Launch -AMSAT
News - Jan.18.04. More links about the Echo in the Satellite
Building section. For example, see the microsat in assembly
Mars briefs... People show
their interest and support for Mars exploration via their mouse
Flock to NASA's Mars Web Site - ABCNEWS.com - Jan.16.04 ...
... More about Earth-Mars time
frame synchronization: To
Be in Sync With Mars, Team Resets Body Clocks - Washingtonpost.com
- Jan.17.04 ...
... Adobe construction proposed
for Mars shelters: Down-to-Earth
Housing From the Mojave to Mars - Washingtonpost.com - Jan.17.04
- about architect Nader Khalili ...
... Lots of student activities
developed by the Planetary Society around the Mars lander activities.
Get a Chance to Work with Mars Exploration Rover Team - VOANews.com
- Jan.17.04. See also the Society's Red
Rover Goes to Mars progam and its various projects like the
MarsDial (sun dials on the Mars landers.)
Jan.17, 2004 Space News
Space for everyone is the theme
of this opinion piece - The
Citizen Astronaut - NY Times - Jan.17.04 - by Greg Klerkx, author
of the new book: Lost in Space : The Fall of NASA and the Dream
of a New Space Age (Amazon).
He argues that only when NASA helps to make space acessible to the
general public will that public become really enthusiastic about
Jan.16, 2004 Space News
NASA's memory problem ... I
wish I could get Sean O'Keefe to read the excellent essay by Constance
Adams in the latest issue of Popular Science: It
Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist by Constance Adams - Popular Science
- Feb.04 issue. From her experience working with the Transhab
project, she has a lot of insight into NASA's problem of "institutional
memory", or lack thereof. The problem ranges from failing to
maintain archives of the results of previous projects to the terrible
practice of disbanding successful groups.
"The result is that young engineers constantly redesign
programs without being aware that previous designs for the same
item already exist. They may thereby introduce a new problem or
layer of risk, and this gets to the heart of the matter: As has
been pointed out with regard to the Columbia disaster, there is
within NASA a creeping lack of interest in real expertise. When
any bureaucracy supports its mandarin culture over real intellectual
capital -- precisely what the board that investigated the Columbia
disaster accused NASA of doing -- it becomes stagnant rather than
"...Any team that takes on a project is going to amass some
truly valuable information. What happens then? At NASA, more often
than not, project teams get disbanded and people with unique knowledge
get poached away. Whereas other industries actively encourage
the capture of knowledge in team environments -- where the sum
of knowledge is measurably greater than any individual effort
-- NASA seems unaware of the value of a stable, successful team
and its ability to store, transmit, and use accumulated knowledge."
(I previously mentioned
similar problems with the Mars lander mission in 1999 that failed
to build on the knowledged gained by the Pathfinder team.)
The TransHab project got a tremendous boost from a detailed technical
review carried out by several very knowledgeable retired "old
guard" types like Chris Kraft. It led to significant changes
for the better in the design. Unfortunately, those walking archives
won't be around indefinitely.
She goes on to criticize the OSP program:
"...One result of the retrofitting rush that gave us the
OSP initiative is that the smaller, more risk-taking and often
more dynamic companies were knocked out of the bidding before
it even got going. Now that the OSP only need accommodate four
people and ride atop an expendable, commercial launcher, it's
beginning to look to me an awful lot like the various vehicles
being developed by the contenders for the X Prize. Yet by the
nature of the bidding, none of those 25 teams has any chance of
bringing its space-plane concepts to OSP. What would be the result
if NASA were to enable this sharing of ideas by inviting competition
and reopening the field of design solutions? Most likely cost
savings and superior design."
Sean, read the whole
Note: the article includes sketches of the TransHab module as it
progressed through the design process: It
Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist - Transhab development sketches.
More space speech aftermath...
Jeff Foust at spacetoday.net
continues to collect tons of links to articles related to President
Bush's new space initiative. It would be interesting to count the
number of pro vs. con editorials but I don't have the time. My impression
is that the cons are in the majority but I'm still impressed by
the large number of pro views.
Many of those attacking the plan do so on the presumed very high
cost (hundreds of billions is usually their estimate), not because
they are against space exploration in general. If it could be proven
that space development can be done far cheaper than it has been,
then support would grow substantially.
Unfortunately, many commentators who should know better, continue
to promote the idea that it is impossible for launchers and spacecraft
ever to be developed for less than tens of billions of dollars.
For example, Greg Easterbrook - Exploring
the Crew Exploration Vehicle - Greg Easterbrook - Jan.15.04
- says that since the Saturn V cost $40B, then any new heavy lift
vehicle would also have to cost that much. In this worldview of
space, the technology never improves, productivity never rises,
and new approaches always fail. (See also Nonsense
from Easterbrook - Rand Simberg - Jan.16.04)
Fortunately, a few are starting to see that their are in fact alternatives
to the way it has been done before. For example, this article -
space programme: Pie in the sky - Economist.com - Jan.15.04
- argues that the way to go is to "Privatise It!". The
article cites the progress made by the X PRIZE competitors, space
tourism, and other private space development efforts:
"This is not exactly a grandiose vision compared with a
manned base on the moon. But it is a more realistic one and, if
successful, it can be built upon. NASA has done great things,
of the sort that private enterprise would not and should not cough
up for, with its unmanned scientific space missions. It should
concentrate on those and leave the business of putting people
into space to business itself."
Other articles of note:
Space IQ acceleration... Today
I came across this site The
2001: A Space Odyssey Collectibles Exhibit via Curmudgeons
Corner. It reminded me of the disappointment that many space
fans feel about the fact that we did not achieve the accomplishments
depicted in that movie.
One aspect of these shortcomings I'd like to focus on has to do
with HAL. Many very serious and distinguished scientists argue against
human spaceflight and laud the capabilities of robotic systems.
In a different context, however, in a discussion of artificial intelligence
and robotics, many of these same people would point out how far
short AI has fallen from the predictions of the 1960s. Robots today
still cannot carry out the simplest autonomous activities with any
degree of robustness and reliability. They remain stuck in very
narrow, specialized domains. It will probably be many decades before
we have robots that come even close to solving problems, making
decisions, and taking independent actions of the kind that even
dogs or cats can do, much less what a child can accomplish.
Yet from the criticisms of human spaceflight one would think that
robotic space machines are just as brilliant as any engineer or
geologist. So apparently we have one truly great benefit of space.
Just launch a robot there and its IQ increases by many orders of
Mars sims ... Yesterday I came
across The Mars Game
(via Martian Soil),
which is a new on line participatory simulation of a Mars base:
About The Mars
Game. I've now created a collection of several other Mars related
programs in the Simulations
Mars briefs... Mars funnies
Rover! - cartoons at Slate (via Martian
... Hey, Mars is starting to
look like a balmy vacation spot: Temperature
for Mars rover at lunchtime: 12 degrees; temperature in U.S. Northeast:
minus 13 to 9 degrees - Cornell News - Jan.14.04 (via spacetoday.net)
Scorecard details all the Mars missions and their success or
... Details of the Mars rover
Spirit makes great photos: Rover's panoramic camera takes IMAX quality
images - MSNBC - Jan.14.04 ...
... This overview of Mars in
the arts - The
Chronicle's Martians - SF Gate - Jan.14.04 - mentions To
Touch the Stars
Jan.15, 2004 Space News
Space speech aftermath... The
attention to the President's speech has really been impressive.
Every news program has given it top story treatment and on line
newspapers have put it on their front pages.
Here is a sampling of articles and comments I found particularly
In case you missed it, you can watch the speech on line: President
Bush's Speech on New NASA Initiative - NASA - Jan.14.04 - (Real
Meanwhile, at Mars on Earth...
The latest crew manning the Mars
Desert Research Station seems to be exploring near the Spirit
- Log Book for January 13, 2004
Jan.14, 2004 Space News
Update: the new space initiative was
finally announced by thePresident: President
Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program - Transcript
- Jan.14.04 *
Fact Sheet. Jay Manifold parses it nicely in Project
Management "Triple Constraint" Summary of Bush Space Proposal -
Arcturus - Jan.14.04 (link via Transterrestrial
In general, it sounded like a sensible plan. It doesn't give NASA
a blank check but sets out a clear sequence of goals. If the agency
can achieve one goal it can then get the money to go to the next
one. A new outside advisory board will monitor its progress.
As I've indicated before, I wish the plan stated explicitly that
it required that the projects cost as little as possible and that
it must work with the new private space companies to achieve this.
Since the budget is only increasing very modestly, it looks like
the agency may not have any other option.
Nevertheless, this may become a huge landmark event for the agency
and for space development in the US. (It's much more serious than
the initiative offered by the first President Bush.) I can remember
in the 1970s when it became totally verboten for anyone at NASA
to even mention one of the M words (Moon, Mars) and humans
in the same sentence. The huge funding and personnel cutbacks after
the end of the Apollo program left the agency shell-shocked, hunkered
down, and unwilling to look farther than LEO for human spaceflight
for nearly two decades. Gradually, in the past few years this has
worn off (relentless advocacy from space activists has certainly
contributed to changing this attitude) and we see today that it
really looks like it is willing to begin heading outward.
News briefs... Leonard
David surveys opinions of the new space initiative: America's
New Space Plan: A Vision in Search of Focus, Observers Say - Space.com
... Looks like it involves
less money than both supporters and critics expected: Price
tag detailed for space initiative: Official says budget - MSNBC
- Jan.14.04 ...
... Meanwhile, the
Biosatellite Program based at MIT continues development of a
spacecraft that will test Mars level gravity on a group of mouse-tronauts:
mission will explore effect of Mars' gravity on mammals - MIT News
- Jan.9.04 (via spacetoday.net)
The new space initiative will
presented today by the President at 3pm EST. Hear his speech on
NASA TV and CSPAN
if you have cable/satellite TV. Or via NASA
TV streaming (see the SpaceCasts
section for more links).
Space ramblings... Here
are some miscellaneous comments on the new space program:
- I think we (not the metaphorical "we" that is used
all the time but those of us who actually want to go in person)
will get to space regardless of NASA and its programs and funding
levels. The continuing expansion of technological capabilities
tied with rising wealth, such as demonstrated by investments of
angels, will make ambitious private space ventures
feasible and access to space affordable by large numbers of people
in the next
decade or two.
- However, that doesn't mean the six billion dollars or so at
NASA that is currently spent on human spaceflight can't do great
things. And if President Bush kicks in a few billion more, then
good for him. The private companies can often achieve lower costs
by using "off the shelf technology" as much as possible,
but somebody has to put the stuff on the shelf in the first place.
NASA's funding helps to fill those shelves (and build the shelves)
by maintaining a sizable space infrastructure of suppliers and
service companies of all sizes. NASA and these companies provides
jobs and training to a high percentage of aerospace engineers
and technicians (some of whom then leave to form private companies.)
- NASA also supports a great amount research at the infrastructure
level - an improved composite tank, a better thermal protection
material, etc - to an extent that private ventures cannot afford.
- A lot of NASA projects like the X-33, however, have been wasteful
disasters. If the new policy doesn't include substantial reforms
in the way NASA develops hardware, especially launchers, then
there is good chance most of the money will accomplish very little
in the long run. Getting NASA to work with the new generation
of space companies should be a high priority.
- Many articles have noted that the polls don't show an enthusiastic
majority in support of a new expanded space program: Poll
reveals mixed reaction to proposed space initiative - spacetoday.net
- Jan.13.04. However, I'm very encouraged that an impressive
30-40% of the population does in fact show a strong interest in
space. These numbers indicate an astoundingly large potential
market available to support space related businesses. The prospects
look solid to attract, for example, hundreds of thousands of people
to come see manned rockets fly during an X
PRIZE Cup air show or to get a few hundred people lined up
each year to pay to ride suborbital rockets.
(I talked about useful degrees of popular support for space that
in this article)
See also some interesting comments from Rand Simberg: Mission
Worth It? - Transterrestrial Musings - Jan.13.04 * A
Cowboy Space Program? - Transterrestrial Musings - Jan.13.04
Jan.13, 2004 Space News
Space initiative... More
articles about the new space policy:
Mars briefs ... See
the cool 360 degree Mars panorama
at JPL and in this QuickTime
Color VR Panorama of NASA Spirit's Landing Site on Mars - SpaceRef
- Jan.12.04 ...
... See also the cool
Mars views in simulation (but based on Mars orbiter data) at Red
Planet :: Martian Terrains
Heinlein still manages to
raise a ruckus as seen in this discussion Electrolite:
"He was the train we did not catch." about this review
US, the Living" By Robert A. Heinlein - Review by John Clute
- SciFi.com - Jan.04 (via BongBong.net)
Space Cargo company Constellation
Services, which was founded by some long time space
activists, released this announcement last night:
Former Acting NASA Administrator
Joins CSI’s Board of Advisors
Alexandria, VA, January 13, 2003 – Dr. Daniel R. Mulville, who
served as NASA’s Associate Deputy Administrator until last year
– and a brief stint as Acting Administrator – today announced
that he is joining the Board of Advisors of Constellation Services
International (CSI), Inc.
“CSI’s LEO ExpressSM Space Cargo Service is the fastest and
best way for NASA to get more U.S. resupply for the International
Space Station (ISS),” Dr. Mulville said. “NASA has investigated
the LEO ExpressSM system for two years, and now it’s time to move
forward and buy this service.”
“The international partners could have 3 astronauts at ISS right
now, even with the Space Shuttle grounded, if we had a backup
resupply system,” Dr. Mulville continued. “In my opinion, CSI's
off-the-shelf approach is the lowest-risk and highest-payoff option
for the U.S. to get contingency and/or additional baseline cargo
quickly and affordably.” In May of 2003, the crew complement of
the ISS was reduced from three to two persons primarily because
of insufficient water and other supplies, due to limited cargo
deliveries after the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded after the
"We appreciate Dr. Mulville’s public endorsement of the LEO
ExpressSM Service, and welcome him to our Board of Advisors,”
stated Charles Miller, CSI's President and CEO. “Dr. Mulville
and many others understand that the LEO ExpressSM paradigm provides
several unique benefits for NASA’s Human Space Flight program:
it is faster, cheaper and lower risk than all other resupply approaches
we know about.”
“The CSI team looks forward to working with NASA to quickly
and affordably build a more robust ISS resupply capability by
supplementing and backstopping the Space Shuttle and international
partner systems with our service in the next couple years,” stated
Mr. Thomas Moser, former NASA Space Station Program Director and
currently CSI’s Vice President for Programs.
CSI was founded in 1998 as a commercial space services company
and is currently focused on space station resupply. CSI leads
an industrial team that is currently under contract to NASA’s
Alternate Access to Station program to define evolutionary capabilities
of the LEO ExpressTM system, having successfully completed a full
System Design Review in July of 2003.
CSI has offices in Los Angeles, California, Houston, Texas and
Alexandria, Virginia. For more information on CSI or the LEO ExpressSM
Space Cargo Service, call +1-818-710- 3877, visit our World Wide
Web site at http://www.constellationservices.com,
or send an email
request to email@example.com.
Jan.12, 2004 Space News
Speaking of space politics,
here are three interesting articles posted today at Jeff's Space
See also this article - Stanley
Kurtz on Space Exploration on National Review Online - Jan.12.04
- which reviews the spectrum of responses to the new space initiative.
Political space blog... Jeff
Foust of spacetoday.net,
has spun off a new weblog site called Space
Politics from his regular Spacetoday.net
weblog."Because sometimes the most important orbit is the
Even before the recent news of a space program revival by the president
there seemed to be an unusually large (by the standards of the post
Moon Race period) amount of discussion about space by the Democratic
candidates. Looks like this will be an interesting site to monitor
for the latest developments in the policies and politics of space.
More space policy links...
Jeff has tons of links on spacetoday.net
to articles about the new space policy that will be announced this
week but here are some I found of particularly interest:
They deal with the the costs of the program and the need to involve
commercial efforts to keep the costs affordable.
Mars briefs... Aviation Week
gives a detailed account of the Spirit landing: Spirit
Rover Lands Well; Rolloff Delayed by Bulky Airbags - Aviation Week
- Jan.11.04 ...
... And what if bacterial life
was found on Mars: A
Cosmic Ego Trip: Be Careful What You Look for on Mars - NY Times
- Jan.11.04 ...
... Speaking of Mars life,
there has been something of a controversy over the radiation exposures
that human explorers would undergo in a mission to the Red Planet.
Via a web forum I found this excellent radiation
primer, along with a page on solar
flares at the Clavius
Moon Base website.
Sponsoring spaceflight... The
project in England seeks to build an organization that will support
commercial space travel the way auto race teams are sponsored. See
also their Spacefleet
Portal forum site.
Jan.10, 2004 Space News
New space policy prospects...
Things sure are a'changing when Rick Tumlinson gets quoted twice
in the New York times: For
Space Glory, Reach for the Stars, Experts Say - NY Times - Jan.10.04.
So far the expected new
space policy is getting plenty of criticism but it is
also getting far more support than I expected. It is certainly receiving
lots more attention than given to the previous President Bush's
Space Exploration Initiative in 1989, which even the White House
forgot after NASA put out a prepostrous $250B price tag for the
Moon and Mars program.
Unfortunately, that price tag (some commentators even round it
off to an even trillion dollars) is being used as a sledge hammer
to whack this plan. Space to most people is synonymous with staggering
costs so it's easy to do.
I can suggest a few ways the administration can sell this plan
more effectively than the old one:
- Make it clear that this is not a program to go the Moon and
Mars at any price but one that will only proceed if the costs
are brought way, way down.
- Make it clear that it will only require a modest increase in
NASA's current annual budget.
- Combine it with some serious reform of NASA and the way it does
- As this site constantly preaches, go outside the NASA/Big Aerospace
complex and take advantage of the incredible talents, skills,
drive, and imagination of the new commercial space companies.
- Buy off the science community by making it clear that this plan
will mean significant new funds for space science if it goes into
effect and no new funds if it doesn't. From this article - Space
plan to push robots By Frank Sietzen Jr. and Keith L. Cowing -
UPI - Jan.9.04 - it sounds like it is going in this direction.
- In fact, I would combine it with an across the board increase
in funding for all science and R&D programs. For example,
double the NSF budget, continue significant increases for health
research, offer new programs to improve technical and science
education, etc. Then the new NASA program becomes just one essential
part of an overall new push for improved US scientific and technical
Mars briefs... Living according
to Mars time can be confusing: Mars
time warp enfolds researchers - ajc.com - Jan.9.04 (See also
clocks links) ...
... Mars impacts the arts:
and the Red Planet - BBC - Jan.9.04 ...
... and also students High
School Students Land on Mars - JPL News - Jan.8.04 .
Jan.9, 2004 Space News
The new space policy (maybe)
is discussed in the RLV
Space settlers ... William
New Ocean and other space books and articles) in
in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) says
settlement is the only legitimate motivation for a human spaceflight
program. Settlements will extend life out into a larger domain and
also offer a backup in case something destroys life on Earth. He
wants to start with lunar bases. ...
... Mars settlement, on the
other hand, gets serious discussion in this unlikely publication:
Is Mars Ours?
- The logistics and ethics of colonizing the red planet by David
Grinspoon - Slate - Jan.8.04. He makes a big deal about the
political correctness of Mars settlement, such as the need to avoid
the lable colonization. (See the Curmudgeon''s
comments.) However, he does make settlement seem almost inevitable.
Mars brief... I can't say the
vehicles really jump out but it's still amazing they can even be
seen as vague splotches: Orbiter
Photographs Viking 1 and Pathfinder Landers on Mars' Surface - Space.com
Jan.8, 2004 Space News
Space contests in Europe...
I came across links to several space related contests sponsored
- Education, Eurisy
- "Education & information activities for the advancement
of space technology and its applications in Europe" and
Mars briefs... The traffic
rates to the JPL Mars rovers sites indicates about 10 million people
are really into Mars exploration: Mars
rules the Net - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Jan.7.04 ...
... Alas, the Beagle 2 remains
bark heard from Beagle 2 probe - BBC - Jan.7.04 but just as
the US came back from Mars failures, the British can do the same:
Beagle: Where now for British space? - BBC - Jan.8.04
Lunar exploration ... Inspired
by my recent note
about the SpaceDev lunar study, reader Kaido Kert sent me info about
these lunar projects:
- At one time, LunaCorp was planning IceBreaker mission, lunar
lander and rover, two-in-one, that was designed to go looking
for the speculated ice at poles. From what I understand, Carnegie
Mellons robotics researches did most of the detailed design, an
early quite detailed version of the concept is available as a
PDF: ( A very interesting read )
- From what the later news reports indicate, I gather it was in
the active planning stages until sometime in 2000-2001. http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aspace.com+lunacorp+million
- There are several somewhat contradicting reports on the cost
of the mission, according to this [space.com
article from May 23, 2000] "LunaCorp's Gump has said the mission
would be budgeted at $80 million - with NASA providing $22 million
under its Discovery exploration program. The rest would come from
private investors, including entertainment companies. "
- Unfortunately, the latest news regarding the proposed mission,
is from 2001, and now it seems to be disappeared from the launch
radar entirely. According to this story...LunaCorp
hasn't given up the idea though, but now they are thinking of
putting the comm relay sat (dubbed SuperSat ) up first, which
in turn is dependant on how things work out with ISS. Apparently
for IceBreaker they had trouble working out a reliable method
f communication from within the crater, as direct radio link would
have been obstructed.
- "Via Hobbyspace i also found the name of Red Whittaker,
the leader of the project at CMU, which further lead me to CMU's
project page, It has some more updated PDFs, one of them actually
referring to Rotary Roton as a potential launch vehicle, and presenting
the rover design where lander is separate from the rover.
A quote from the reports summary section: 'The Moon is of interest
to many different parties including lunar and planetary scientists,
developers of systems for human space exploration and colonization,
commercial pioneers of space, and the general public. However,
with NASA's eyes fixed principally on Mars, the development of
missions to explore the Moon may be relegated to teams of partners
who each satisfy a need of the composite lunar interest community.'
BTW, Red Whittakers 'current research' page has this little interesting
sentence: 'Lunar Rover Initiative: a pair of mobile robots for
the first privately funded lunar mission with telepresence for
public participation and education' So, perhaps theres more to
it than has been published lately."
Jan.7, 2004 Space News
Curiosity driven funding...
Most of the articles
and editorials (spacetoday.net) about the Spirit
mission have been quite positive. Some say it's good
preparation for a human mission while others say it proves that
robot explorers willl suffice.
A typical case of robot love is given here: Essay:
In Search for Life on Mars, Machines Can Boldly Go Where Humans
Can't - NY Times - Jan.6.04. Scientists who oppose human spaceflight,
however, should note that their arguments against it can also be
turned on them. As this rant
against space exploration (see responses from Mark
Whittington and Rand
Simberg) illustrates, there are plenty of people who can use
the same rhetoric against expensive space science projects as are
used against human spaceflight: no near term benefits, very few
absolutely certain long term benefits, "I'm not interested
in this area and I'm a smart person with these [fill in the blanks]
credentials, so obviously no one else should be interested in this
It is an anomaly of history that so much money is spent on space
science in the US. Without the Moon Race, the space science budget
would probably resemble the money spent on high energy physics or
nuclear fusion (~$200-300M each). As the late Carl Sagan argued,
US space science spending rose so high because it was pulled up
by the manned program. The Beagle 2, for example, shows that the
absence of a manned program in Britain did not result in a windfall
for space science.
Sputnik led to huge increases in funding in ALL areas of basic
science and R&D. Like a stone dropped in the water, the benefits
rippled in every direction. Conversely, funding sank for almost
all areas of science and R&D in the early 1970's along with
the collapse in space funding. This is perfectly consistent. Whether
it is human spaceflight, Mars rovers, quark hunting, or long shot
cancer cures, you ultimately have to appeal to a sense of curiosity
and a faith (yes, a vague, non-scientific, unprovable faith) that
such pursuits will ultimately prove of great value, even if only
indirectly. When a successful attack is made against one such pursuit,
it can't help but be successful against them all.
Space books for young people...
Ruth Lubka sent me the following info about her new space book:
PUPNIKS: The Story of Two Space Dogs
"[Pupniks] tells the story of Belka and Strelka, whose flight
and earth orbit in 1960 paved the way for Gagarin's flight one
year later. For very young children (4-7), PUPNIKS includes photos
of the dogs and facts about other animal astronauts, as well as
info about Krushchev's gift of Strelka's pup Pushinka to JFK in
1961. For more info, see www.marshallcavendish.com.
The Russian ambassador in Washington has forwarded a copy of my
book to Oleg Gazenko!"
Amazon (affiliate commission link) Pupniks:
The Story of Two Space Dogs
I also recently came across the adventure series Space
Junk The Book - Amy Tucker Carroll and Peter Framson intended
for young teenagers. Amazon
(affiliate commission link) Space Junk: The Future is Yesterday
Mars briefs... Glad to hear
about this memorial on Mars:
NASA Memorializes Space Shuttle Columbia Crew on Mars - SpaceRef
- Jan.6.04 ...
... So where can you find those
stereo glasses to see Mars in 3D? Alan Boyle found out: Souped-up
views from Mars - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Jan.5.04
Space business briefs... More
signs of stabilization Arianespace
earns profit in 2003 - spacetoday.net - Jan.6.04...
... and strength XM
Exceeds 1,360,000 Subscribers at Year-end 2003 - XM Radio - Jan.7.04
in space related businesses.
Jan.6, 2004 Space News
Big budget comeback? I hope
that the lesson of Beagle 2 and Spirit is not that "You can't
do space on the cheap". The low cost 1997 Mars Pathfinder was
once hailed as a triumph for the faster, cheaper, better
(FCB) approach that NASA supposedly tried to follow in the
aftermath of the loss of the Mars Observer spacecraft (a $1B project.)
However, the failure of the Mars orbiter and lander missions in
1999 led to the cliche that you can only accomplish two of those
adverbs at a time. The success of at least half of the $800M Mars
Exploration Rover program and the apparent failure of the much lower
cost Beagle 2 will likely be attributed to their relative budgets
but I think that is a false conclusion.
First of all, statistics, i.e. luck, play a big part in the success
of these landers since there are so many variables involved - the
multiple failure modes during the reentry and landing, the type
of terrain landed on, etc. However, the program management and its
available resources obviously play major roles as well.
It's been pointed out that a successful FCB program must
use incremental, step-by-step development and allow for the accumulation
of knowledge by the people involved with each step[*]. The 1999
lander mission failed in both of these guidelines. It involved almost
none of the managers from the Pathfinder mission and the vehicle
used a completely different landing system. (It was said that airbags
would not work with a larger and heavier payload, which Spirit proves
is not true.)
If I were in charge of ESA, I would allow the Beagle 2 team to
stay together and to learn from this failure so that it can apply
its experience to the design of the next mission. Instead of starting
from scratch with an entirely new vehicle and landing system, the
team would focus on the weak points in the current design and make
the system more robust. If there is more money, it would go for
more landers, at least two per mission as with Spirit & Opportunity,
to fight the statistical demons, rather than for more managers and
See also Chris Hall's take on the comparison of the programs: A
Tale of Two Spacecraft - Spacecraft/Chris Hall - Jan.5.04 (via
Rocket Man Blog).
[*Update Jan.7.04 - I don't have my notes to find his name but
a space analyst gave a talk at the 2000 Space Access Meeting about
the essential elements of a successful FCB program. He listed the
above two elements as well as several others, almost all of which
NASA failed to follow.]
Mars briefs... A crew has begun
a new season of missions at the The
Mars Society: Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. You can
follow their progress via the MDRS:
Daily Field Reports....
... Mars rover simulation software
is available at Drive
on Mars ...
... A history of manned mission
to Mars concepts is available at Humans
to the Moon: A Survey of Mission Scenarios - David S. F. Portree
briefs... Spacedev says it can do a lunar lander for
a lot less than $100M: SpaceDev
Completes Lunar Lander Study - Spacedev PR/SpaceRef - Jan.5.04
Aerospace may announce this year a development in its
space hotel project: Big
things to come at Bigelow - spacetoday.net weblog - Jan.1.04
... The space business continues
its recovery as one of the remote sensing startups gets back on
Officially Emerges From Chapter 11 - SpaceRef - Jan.5.04 ...
... It seemed a good idea at
the time, but lately I've regretted selling my Sirius (and XM) last
year at what seemed like great gains before they were sure to fall
for Sirius [Commentary] - Fool.com - Jan.5.04
Jan.5, 2004 Space News
More Mars images... Galleries
of Mars rover images, including stereographs, can be found at these
See also the panorama at "Spirit
lands and sends 360 degree postcard" - collectSPACE - Jan.4.04
News briefs ... Politics and
space in the 2004 election season: Howard
Dean: Making the solar system safe for Republicans (and most Democrats)
by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Jan.5.04
... A behind the scences view
of the ESA Mars mission: Christmas
on Mars - The Space Review - Jan.5.04
... This centrifuge flight
simulator is aimed currently for training jet fighter pilots but
could be adapted for space transports: Dynamic
Flight Simulator Lets Swedish Pilots Pull Gs - Aviation Week - Jan.4.04
... GPS systems used in more
and more applications: Horse
trainers receive a little help from above - New Zealand News -Jan.4.04
Jan.4, 2004 Space News
Mars photos for today in the
Image archive for Jan.4.04 at JPL. Another site to follow the
latest developments is at Spaceflight
Now | Destination Mars | Mission Status Center.
Rover data viewer... At the
you can download a special viewer (39MB) for viewing Mars rover
data and images that is similar to what JPL uses. (I'm currently
away from home and on a slow link so I've not tried this program
YES!! Spirit lands on
safely on Mars! Monitor developments via the Mars
News Viewer. Congratulations to NASA and the mission
Links to latest news articles can be found at spacetoday.net: Spirit
lands on Mars - spacetoday.net - Jan.4.03
Jan.1, 2004 Space News
HobbySpace continued to progress
in 2003. The site received more than a million page views during
the year, which gives a total of over two million since the site
opened in January 1999. Average page views per day exceeded 3000
during the past couple of months and visits (pages delivered to
a unique IP address within a half hour window) exceeded 2000 per
day as well during that time. (I don't monitor unique visitor
More interviews, special articles, and features like the Space
Company novel have contributed to the increasing
traffic. Also, the RLV
News page has become very popular.
The traffic has attracted several regular, and much appreciated,
advertisers. If traffic continues to grow, the site will graduate
from a part time hobby to a genuine part time business. I have lots
of plans and ideas for the site that I hope to implement this year.
Thanks for visiting HobbySpace
and please drop by regularly.
News briefs ... The President's
new space policy could be one of the big space news stories of the
at the new space policy - Curmudgeons Corner - Dec.31.03....
... NASA looks back and doesn't
see any places where it assisted development of commercial/private
space enterprises: NASA's
Year of Sorrow, Recovery, Progress, and Success - SpaceRef - Jan.1.04
to December 2003 articles in archive