Moon Society/Lunar Development World Map

Courtesy of James Rogers of Lunarpedia

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05 December 2008

ISS Contruction Video

Courtesy of the AP

Just a quick link.

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03 December 2008


Just so that all interested parties know, I have not let the blog die. I took thanksgiving week off and I have finals this week and the next. I will try to post small updates here and there, so try to stop by every now and then.

Thank you for reading, and Potentia will be back to normal very soon.

Stumble It!


25 November 2008

On Orbit XIV

In this episode of On Orbit we have Space Based Solar Power (SPSP), Great Britain's lunar probe, a status update on the Dawn probe, SpaceX at it again,

In the Space Review, we have the 1st argument for SBSP that I have seen coming from the military side of things. Pakistan can and has closed access to the nearest port, Karachi, to American forces and can do so at any time. Coalition troops fighting in Afghanistan are dependent on over-land convoys from Karachi for supplies. With SBSP, isolated areas like Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and innumerable land locked countries can have independent access to electrical power. There are some detractors though and they bring up good points.

MoonLITE, is the next lunar probe in the the pipeline. The 100 million pound (pound sterling, not pound weight) probe is set to investigate the cause of the mysterious moonquakes.

JPL's Dawn spacecraft shut down its ion propulsion system as scheduled. The spacecraft is now gliding toward a Mars flyby in February of next year. "Dawn has completed the thrusting it needs to use Mars for a gravity assist to help get us to Vesta," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Dawn will now coast in its orbit around the sun for the next half a year before we again fire up the ion propulsion system to continue our journey to the asteroid belt."

SpaceX is showing off yet again, by completing a full mission-length firing of the Falcon 9's 1st stage. It was a static test and it lasted 178 seconds.

As an added bonus, we have a couple NASA related articles by Alan Stern - NASA's Black Hole Budgets and Imagine Reconnecting NASA.

Stumble It!


24 November 2008

The Space Show

Bulletin: Please visit for complete information for this week's Space Show programs, contact information, listener participation instructions, future Space Show programs, special events, announcements, and more. The e- mail version of the newsletter has been abbreviated to save subscribers time and avoid some spam filter problems.

The Monday Space Show is live 2-3:30:30 PM Pacific. The Tuesday program is 7-8:30 PM Pacific, the Friday program is always 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time and the Sunday Space Show is live 12-1:30 PM Pacific Time. If you believe you are getting this newsletter in error, send a note to to be immediately removed from the mailing list. The Space Show does not support spam mailings of any type and will quickly address your complaint.

Programming For The Week Of November 24, 2008:
1. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008, 2-3:30 PM PT: We welcome back Dr. Barrett Caldwell, Director of Space Grant Indiana.

2. Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008, 7-8:30 PM PT: We welcome Jerry Carr, Skylab astronaut, to the show.

3. Wednesday, November 26, 2008: This show plays as an archived program. The first segment features Jim Lewis of Communication Concepts in Florida talking about his new documentary now being shown on the documentary channel, "One Giant Leap - 50 Years of the American Space Program." The second segment is a waling tour of the Falcon 9 pad under construction at the Cape, hosted by Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for Space X. .

4. Friday, Nov. 28 2008; 9:30-11:30 AM PT: We welcome back Jane Reifert, President of Incredible Adventures.

5 . Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008, 12-1:30 PM PT: We welcome back Dr. Robert Richards of the Odyssey Moon team. This team is one of the contestants in the Google Lunar X-Prize.

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Carnival of Space #80

The newest carnival is live.

Of interest:

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20 November 2008

Kayuga (Selene)

From the Planetary Society Blog

JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) has completed the primary mission of the lunar probe Kayuga. Since the craft is still operational, JAXA plans to continue operating it, much like with any other probe.

For its primary mission, Kaguya circled the Moon in a polar orbit at 100 km above the lunar surface, the same as Chandrayaan-1. The extended mission entails reducing the altitude by half to 50 km. Then in May of next year, it will shift into an highly elliptical orbit. Apogee, or apolune when talking about the Moon will be back at 100 km. Perilune, the closest point of approach, will be an eye-popping 20 km. This will take place over the south polar feature Aitken Basin, a target for outpost locations. Normally, an orbital height of 20 km wouldn't matter for an airless body like the Moon, but because the Moon has an irregular gravity field, due mostly to Mascons, a 20 km orbit is unstable and Kayuga is expected to crash into the Moon.


19 November 2008

NASA Tests Lunar Rovers And Oxygen Production Technology

Lunar Analog Field Demonstrations of In-Situ Resource Utilization & Human Robotic Systems hosted by PISCES, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, a joint U.S. - Japan venture based in Hilo, Hawai'i, concluded this week. The tests focused on lunar production of oxygen for life support.

Life support for a four (4) to six (6) person outpost would require about two (2) metric tons of oxygen per year according to NASA. The tests featured several experiments:

There were three (3) rovers:

And four (4) independent experiments
Scarab was the testbed for both the RESOLVE drilling science package and the Michelin Lunar Wheel, developed by Clemson University for Michelin. RESOLVE featured a core sample drill developed by NORCAT (Northern Centre for Advanced Technology), a Canadian Space Agency contractor. The Bucketdrum rover was used to feed simulated regolith into the PILOT plant and Cratos delivered material into the ROxygen plant.

However, these were just the big name projects at the test. The were numerous smaller projects going on - testing of other gear from Canada and Germany took place during the near two-week project.

The main objective for the two week program was to get the experiements working in the field. This allows operation in non-ideal conditions similar to those that we would face on the Moon and allows us to account for them before we land. Hilo was chosen because volcanic soil closely mimics the regolith found on the lunar surface.

ASTRODAY.NET has the largest collection of pictures from the event and even a movie. Make sure you check them out.


18 November 2008

Responses to Schmitt's Email to The Planetary Society

Schmitt's comments have sparked dialogue and he's not the only one that feels the way he does about the Planetary Society's position. This will be updated as I see more responses.

  • I wrote a reply on this page

    Here is the text below:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Harrison's views in this matter. Attempting
    to bypass Luna on the way to Mars is a mistake. There are several
    reasons why:

    1. Luna is interesting and valuable by itself. No matter how much more
    interesting and valuable Mars maybe, the fact remains that Luna is the
    best place in the Solar System to study the System's formation; it's an
    abundant source of high-value metals such as titanium and aluminium; is
    also an abundant source of helium-3, the best known fuel for nuclear
    fusion; will be a preferable tourist destination for most Earthlings,
    tourism already having been identified as the industry most likely to
    initiate and drive a space colonisation effort; and will be the perfect
    place to set up large deep space telescope arrays.

    2. Practice for Mars. You don't sail to the Americas using brand-new
    untested technology when you haven't even been to Ireland. Luna is the
    perfect place to test a wide range of colonisation technologies before
    taking them to Mars, with the distinctly significant advantage that if
    anything goes wrong, the astronauts will be only a couple of days from
    Earth and not 6-9 months. On Luna we will need technology for
    non-fossil-fuel energy production; water mining, recycling and
    purificiation; air production and recycling; production of steel, glass,
    cement and other materials; dust mitigation; environment control; food
    production; transportation; communications; etc., etc. While there will
    be variations between the equipment developed for the two worlds, many
    of the same problems exist, and developing the tools for Luna first will
    be a much safer approach and will save time and decrease risk when we do
    go to Mars. Apollo is the most successful space mission ever, yet the
    first 10 missions did not descend to the lunar surface; their function
    was to test every aspect of the technology and the mission before
    putting it all together. We need to take the same safe, step-by-step
    approach when colonising Mars.

    To bypass Luna is short-sighted, impatient and dangerous.

  • I too will no longer support the Planetary Society. Like Schmitt, I am also Geologist who
    shares many of the same views and vision for future space exploration. It is unfortunate
    the society has lost focus, but I am glad Dr. Schmitt brought these issues to light.

    Xxx X. Xxxx
    UHH Geology graduate

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Tire/Wheel Analogue Developed for Lunar Rover

Michelin, tire manufacturer and developer of the TWEEL has modified the tweel for use on NASA's lunar rover.

Michelin also provides NASA with the tires for the Space Shuttle. The MICHELIN Lunar Wheel is reportedly 3.3 times more efficient in load capacity than the wheels on the previous lunar rovers. The tweel was specifically designed for low temperature, low rolling resistance applications. It was field tested by Carnegie Mellon University's Scarab Rover. The Scarab was a participant in the Lunar Analog Field Demonstrations of In-Situ Resource Utilization & Human Robotic Systems hosted by PISCES, the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems
, a joint U.S. - Japan venture based in Hilo, Hawai'i.

The Michelin Lunar wheel is partially funded by NASA's Innovative Partnership Program.

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17 November 2008

On Orbit XIII

The tri-color Indian flag joins the the red, white and blue of the US and the red and gold of the old Soviet Union on the lunar surface via the Moon Impact Probe (MIP). The flag was painted on the sides of MIP.

NASA's New Ares Rocket Engine Passes Review

NASA's newest high-performance rocket engine, the J-2X, successfully completed its critical design review Thursday at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Chandrayaan-1 to Search for Lunar Ice

The U.S. Navy's Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument will use an computer designed by British firm SSTL to look to for water ice on the surface of the Moon. The Japanese probe Selene failed to find any evidence of it but there is still hope that it is there in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar poles.

First Cemetery on the the Moon?

Celestis, a business that launches cremated remains into orbit, is expanding its business to landing capsules on the Moon.

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Harrison H. Schmitt leaves NAC and The Planetary Society

Beyond the Moon: A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration. The Planetary Society's new approach to space exploration in the future. And the reason for Harrison H. Schmitt's leaving his post as Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council and the withdrawal of his support for The Planetary Society.

With Beyond the Moon, The Planetary Society has stated these goals:

  • Focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight
  • Deferring humans landing on the Moon until the costs of the interplanetary transportation system and shuttle replacement are largely paid
  • Accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations
  • Achieving a step-by-step approach of new achievements in interplanetary flight, including a human mission to a near-Earth object
Most notable is a de-emphasis on returning to the Moon and the emphasis on Mars as the eventual target of the space program. You can download the entire report from the Planetary Society's website as a 2.9 MB pdf.

This is Schmitt's email to the Planetary Society:

From: Harrison H. Schmitt
Cc: [multiple members of the media]
Sent: Fri Nov 14 14:18:13 2008
Subject: Resignation from Society

Dear Lou, Jim and Scott

I am sorry, but I can no longer support the society in its goals as they seem to have gone back to being more political than rational. I want humankind on Mars more than most, but I, at least, feel obligated to look at this goal rationally. Specifically, relative to your bullet points:

TPS Statement * focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight

---Having been deeply involved in this issue for many years, and having led several objective studies related to it, it is clear to me, and many other knowledgeable people, that returning to the Moon is the fastest and most cost effective path to Mars for the following reasons:

1. We need generations of engineers to relearn how to operate in deep space at and for long durations on a location that is more accessible than a trajectory to Mars or on Mars itself.

2. We have no clear technology approach for landing large payloads (40MT+) on Mars. Developing entry, descent and landing (EDL) concepts and testing those concepts in the Earth's upper atmosphere will be a major program in and of itself with uncertain cost and duration.

3. Knowing whether 1/6th g triggers human re-adaptation from the adverse consequences of 0g is critical to the design and mass of both Mars transportation systems and Mars surface operations.

4. Many concepts that will be required for operations on Mars need testing in a real-world deep space environment before committing to using those concepts in Mars exploration, including autonomous crew operations during entry, decent, landing and real-time exploration without communications support from Earth.

5. We need a heavy lift launch infrastructure that can support the assembly of large interplanetary spacecraft in Earth orbit, and the requirements to return to the Moon support the development of that infrastructure.

6. We need to develop an interplanetary propulsion system that allows continuous acceleration and deceleration so the travel time to Mars can be cut significantly. That also constitutes a program of uncertain duration and cost.

7. Depending on future understanding of several unknowns already mentioned above, access to lunar-derived consumables after leaving Earth-orbit may be necessary to reduce the launch mass of an interplanetary spacecraft to a feasible amount.

8. We need to certify sample collection and protection protocols on the Moon with exposure to lunar dust and polar volatiles as surrogates for micro-organisms or the planetary protection lobby will make sample return from Mars impossible.

9. We need to use robotic drilling and definitive testing on Mars to penetrate what is probably the only potential biogenesis and evolutionary environment on Mars that has been stable for >3.8 billion years, namely, the cryosphere-hydrosphere interface below the surface.

10. Extremely strong scientific reasons for further lunar exploration exist as have been documented by a large fraction of the lunar and planetary research community at the NASA Advisory Council's 2007 Tempe Workshop and by the National Research Council's recent study.

11. Returning to the Moon has a far better chance of sustained political support than does a far, far more costly, start from scratch Mars program.

Absent sustained and increased budgetary support for the Vision for Space Exploration by the incoming Administration and Congress, any deep space initiative will be in doubt.

12. Finally, becoming a deep space-faring nation again constitutes a mult-generational endeavor, particularly if Mars is in the mix. Unfortunately, the government-run, politicized K-12 school system will not currently support such an endeavor. It has totally failed several generations of young people, not just in STEM subjects but in history, language and economics. This problem has to be solve first. The people requirements for a return to the Moon should help jump start that process, although it will take a much more grassroots effort to be successful.

TPS Statement * deferring humans landing on the Moon until the costs of the interplanetary transportation system and shuttle replacement are largely paid

---This strategy would leave deep space activities, exploration and resources to others, i.e., China, India, maybe Russia, for the indefinite future. I believe that would be major step in initiating the decline of America's global influence for freedom and the improvement the human condition. Although I wrote the book "Return to the Moon" as an illustration of how it makes financial and national sense for private investors to provide the Earth with the benefits of lunar helium-3 fusion power, having NASA develop the initial Earth-Moon infrastructure may hasten the time when that alternative to fossil fuels and non-economic other alternatives becomes available.

TPS Statement * accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations

---As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a "consensus" that humans are causing global warming in when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise. "Consensus", as many have said, merely represents the absence of definitive science. You know as well as I, the "global warming scare" is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society's activities.

TPS Statement * achieving a step-by-step approach of new achievements in interplanetary flight, including a human mission to a near-Earth object

---Returning to the Moon achieves "step-by-step approach of new achievements in interplanetary flight" far better than not doing so, as I have indicated in my list above. Not going by way of the Moon will make the Mars objective far more difficult and more costly to achieve.

---Also, returning to the Moon enables a mission to a near-Earth object if such a mission can be justified scientifically, operationally, or resource-wise. I remain a skeptic on all three but am willing to debate the point.

---Returning to the Moon further enables, in a much more timely fashion and would a Mars initiative, the capability to do something about diverting an asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. We had this capability once, but lost it when the Saturn V assembly line was shut down in the early 1970s.

TPS Statement "In short, the Roadmap calls for "A new and flexible program, based on a series of important first-time achievements and an international commitment to exploration and discovery." International cooperation is strongly recommended both to reduce costs for any one nation and to increase public interest and support."

---I see that the Society has gone back to its roots on "international cooperation." If that phrase means "international management" of the critical path items in a Mars Program, then you clearly do not want to go to Mars. Nothing will prevent success with more certainty than to try this. The rest of the world will want a "one-nation, one vote" management regime for which history shows only a record of abject failure.

Many of the Society's members are good friends, but I just cannot support you in this effort.

Best regards, Jack

Draw your conclusions.

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Carnival of Space #79

The newest carnival is live.

Of interest:

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The Space Show

Bulletin: Please visit for complete information for this week's Space Show programs, contact information, listener participation instructions, future Space Show programs, special events, announcements, and more. The e- mail version of the newsletter has been abbreviated to save subscribers time and avoid some spam filter problems.

The Monday Space Show is live 2-3:30:30 PM Pacific. The Tuesday program is 7-8:30 PM Pacific, the Friday program is always 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time and the Sunday Space Show is live 12-1:30 PM Pacific Time. Check each week for added programming to this regular schedule. If you believe you are getting this newsletter in error, send a note to to be immediately removed from the mailing list. The Space Show does not support spam mailings of any type and will quickly address your complaint.

Programming For The Week Of November 17, 2008 :
1. Monday, November 17, 2008, 2-3:30 PM Pacific: As I am still at the Cape, this will be a special taped show describing what its like to see a Space Shuttle launch. I will also include how one can get VIP tickets to see the launch plus other viewing options. When its posted on the archives, you can hear the show as any archived program.

2. SPECIAL TIME: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, 5- 6:30 PM This is a very special hard hitting two hour taped interview with Ross Tierney who heads up the Direct 2 team which has an alternative program to Ares and Constellation. Don't miss it. As soon as its listed on the website, you can hear it as any archived program.

3. Friday, Nov. 21 2008, We are back live with Leonard David, senior writer for

4. Sunday, November 23, 2008, 12-1:130 PM Pacific. Greg Zsidisin returns for a space policy election analysis program.

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14 November 2008

On Orbit XII

Phase 1 of China's Lunar Probe Project is complete according to Chinese scientists. The mapping of the lunar surface by the probe Chang'e-1 was performed over the course of a year. As of yet, the Chinese government hasn't release the maps to the general public. There is another probe in the pipeline, Chang'e-2 and a rover scheduled for a 2012 launch as phase two for the China lunar program. Around 2017, sample return rover is scheduled as the third stage.

India's lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 has reached its final lunar orbit. Orbiting at about a height of 100 km above the surface, Chandrayaan-1 takes about two (2) hours complete an orbit of the Moon. Chandrayaan-1 is projected to have a life cycle of two (2) years. The next thing to look forward to is the release of the Moon Impact Probe (MIP)

The MIP has a mass of 35 kg and will be release at some point in the future while Chandrayaan-1 is in its current orbit. Flight time is expected to be about 25 minutes from launch to impact. The primary objective is to demonstrate the technologies required for landing the probe at a desired location on the Moon and to qualify some of the technologies related to future soft landing missions. Chandrayaan-2 has been scheduled for no later 2012. The ISRO has long term plans to send probes to both Mars and Venus.

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13 November 2008

Hubble Announcement

A historic first for the recently down on its luck Hubble Space Telescope. The HST has taken the very first visible light pictures of a planet orbiting a distant star.

Taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the image is of the planet this is known as Fomalhaut b. Formalhaut b orbits 10.7 billion miles from its primary Formalhaut, about two-thirds again farther from its sun than Pluto. It's calculated to have an orbital period of 872 years. Formalhaut b has upper limit of three (3) Jupiter masses set for it, because were it any larger, it would destroy the dust ring surrounding the star.

The white dot is the star Formalhaut. NASA and ESA scientists blocked the bright glare of Formalhaut so they could capture the planet Fomalhaut b, which is 1 billion times fainter than its star. The red dot at lower left is a background star.

The Fomalhaut system is 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis. It is white 1st magnitude star, with a mass of about 2.3 times that of our Sun and believed to be a young star. The Dusty disc is thought to be a proto-planetary disc and is offset from the center of the system by about 15 AU.

The existence of the planet was postulated because something was gravitationally modifying the bright inner edge of the dust ring that we can see here.

The planet does raise some interesting questions. It was much brighter than expected, leading some to speculate the existence of Saturn-like rings. The Formalhaut system is thought to be young, only about 200 million years old, versus 4.5 billion years for our Sun and it is expected to last only 1 billion years. Since the planet is so young, it should very hot due to gravitational contraction and very bright in the infra-red spectrum. As of today however, it cannot be picked up by any infra-red instrument pointed at it.

Those of you that live in the southern hemisphere or have access to Google Sky can see Formalhaut for yourselves, weather permitting.

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12 November 2008

They're Made Out of Meat

I found this here while stumbling along the 'net. It's a pretty good story by Terry Bisson


by Terry Bisson

"They're made out of meat."


"Meat. They're made out of meat."


"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat."

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"


"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."

the end

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11 November 2008

On Orbit XI

The newest Carnival of Space is out.

India's space agency - ISRO, recently successfully launched their first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1. Chandrayaan-1 reached lunar orbit this past Saturday, 8 November. According to ISRO Director S. Satish, Chandrayaan-1 fired its motors for orbital insertion at 1145 GMT for 805 seconds to enter lunar orbit. India is looking not to miss the boat on this newest space race that China and Japan have begun. National prestige is not the only thing at stake. India is also looking to join the commercial launch industry. India and China are not the only new players in the new space race. The Ukraine and Indonesia have signed a cooperation agreement and Brazil is developing its own launcher the VLS-1.

As of 9 November 2008, the ISRO began circularizing Chandrayaan-1's orbit around the Moon.

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Major Hubble Telescope Announcement Coming

From and

On Thursday 13 November at 2:30 PM EST, NASA will be holding a Science Update press conference to announce a major discovery concerning extra-solar planets. The discovery is big enough to merit being published in the Nov. 14th issue of Science.

The discovery was made with Hubble's Advance Camera for Surveys. Keep posted for more news.

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10 November 2008

The Space Show

Bulletin: Please visit for complete information for this week's Space Show programs, contact information, listener participation instructions, future Space Show programs, special events, announcements, and more. The e- mail version of the newsletter has been abbreviated to save subscribers time and avoid some spam filter problems.

The Monday Space Show is live 2-3:30:30 PM Pacific. The Tuesday program is 7-8:30 PM Pacific, the Friday program is always 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time and the Sunday Space Show is live 12-1:30 PM Pacific Time. Check each week for added programming to this regular schedule. If you believe you are getting this newsletter in error, send a note to to be immediately removed from the mailing list. The Space Show does not support spam mailings of any type and will quickly address your complaint.

Programming For The Week Of November 10, 2008 :
1. Monday, November 10, 2008, 2-3:30 PM Pacific: We welcome Dr. Jim Cartreine and Dr. Jay Buckey to discuss the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) interactive, multi-media program that will assist astronauts in recognizing and effectively managing depression and other psychosocial problems, which can pose a substantial threat to crew safety and mission operations during long-duration spaceflights.

2. SPECIAL TIME: Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, 5- 6:30 PM Pacific: Marianne Dyson is with us about space education, the shuttle OFT program: call it "Fire in Mission Control and Other Untold Stories of the Shuttle Flight Test Program," and more.

3. Friday, Nov. 14 2008, As I am at the Cape to see STS 126, this program is a replay from early 2005 featuring two back to back interviews with Al Zaehringer. As soon as you see it available as an archived program on the website, its available as it will play as does any archived program. There is no actual start time for a replay.

4. SPECIAL TIME: Sunday, November 16, 2008, 9- 10:30 AM Pacific. As I am still at the Cape, this show is airing earlier than our regular Sunday program. It features David Hook from Planehook Aviation Services. We will discuss proposed new safety and security rules for general aviation flying services and more.

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06 November 2008

On Orbit X

SpaceX DragonLab, a free-flying, fully-recoverable, reusable spacecraft capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads

Chandrayaan-1 Enters Lunar Transfer Trajectory

German CESAR rover takes top prize in ESA's lunar rover challenge

KSC takes delivery of the first components of the Ares 1-X

Emergence of the Chinese space industry


04 November 2008

Raise shields!

Coming to you today from Universe Today, who publishes the excellent Carnival of Space, an interesting story with an almost sci-fi twist.

Ion Shield for Interplanetary Spaceships Now a Reality

British scientists have overcome what is probably the biggest danger facing astronauts on the job: solar and cosmic radiation. There have been many different shielding solutions developed. One is building it into the spacecraft, at a huge mass penalty. Another is to build less into the structure of the craft and to have a "storm cellar" in the spacecraft where water is stored. Water is one the best passive radiation shielding materials in existence. With the work of researchers from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the universities of York and Strathclyde, a magnetic shield has been developed that offers almost total protection against charged particles. As Professor Bob Bingham of the University of Strathclyde described it, "solar storms or winds are one of the greatest dangers of deep space travel. If you got hit by one not only would it take out the electronics of a ship but the astronauts would soon take on the appearance of an overcooked pizza."

"It would be a bit like being near the Hiroshima blast. Your skin would blister, hair and teeth fall out and before long your internal organs would fail. It is not a very nice way to go."

Professor's Bingham's team is patenting their device and could have a full size prototype operational in five (5) years. Their mini-magnetosphere generator is about the size of a playground roundabout
and uses about as much power as an electric kettle. If viable, it will see its biggest use in protecting astronauts from solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME's). Earth's magnetosphere protects us from both here on the ground.

A CME is so powerful that when one hits the Earth, it will disrupt the Earth's magnetosphere, compressing it on the day side and extending the night-side tail.

When the magnetosphere reconnects on the nightside, it creates trillions of watts of power which is directed back toward the Earth's upper atmosphere. This process can cause particularly strong aurora also known as the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis (in the Northern Hemisphere), and the Southern Lights, or aurora australis (in the Southern Hemisphere). CME events, along with solar flares, can disrupt radio transmissions, cause power outages (blackouts), and cause damage to satellites and electrical transmission lines.

The designed system uses two (2) outrider satellites that can be switched on and off as needed. The only thing left is to figure out how to stop the radiation that doesn't have an inherent electric charge.


03 November 2008

NASA Serves as Contractor for Odyssey Moon

Odyssey Moon, a NewSpace venture located on the Isle of Man, has contracted NASA to build a lunar lander for use in the Google Lunar X-prize.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a $30 million international competition to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth. Teams must be at least 90% privately funded and must be registered to compete by December 31, 2010. The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million; the full first prize is available until December 31, 2012. After that date, the first prize will drop to $15 million. The second team to do so will be awarded $5 million. Another $5 million will awarded in bonus prizes. The final deadline for winning the prize is December 31, 2014.

Go fill out an application.


31 October 2008

Carnival of Space #77

Courtesy of Tomorrow is Here, we have the newest Carnival of Space!


29 October 2008

Solar Power on the Moon

A new type of solar cell that doesn't use silicon in their construction has been developed. According to New Scientist, the new design is dye based and sprayed onto a substrate of titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is found on the lunar surface. It is concentrated in the maria. Aside from free samples of TiO2 in the maria, it is locked up in ilmenite - TiO3. This is significant because ilmenite is a major source of lunar oxygen. Hydrogen reduction of ilmenite is one of the simplest processes for in-situ production of oxygen for fuel and life support.

FeTiO3+H2 ---->Fe+TiO2+H2O

The reduction produces free iron, titanium dioxide and water. The water can be cracked into its constituents through electrolysis.

The dye is used to coat TiO2 grains, which sit in an electrolyte in the solar cells. The whole mixture is sandwiched between two electrodes; a transparent glass sheet doped with tin oxide to make it conducting and an opaque rear panel. This allows a current to flow when the cell is placed in sunlight

But the efficiency of dye-sensitised solar cells designed for outdoor conditions is currently about 6%. That's light years from the 42.8% efficiency reached by some silicon solar cells and well below the 15% standard for many silicon designs.

Michael Grätzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland – who co-invented dye sensitised solar cells in 1991 – had thought it may be possible to double the efficiency of his low-cost cells simply by designing one that collects light from both sides simultaneously.

Now Grätzel's team, working with Seigo Ito of the University of Hyogo, Japan, has done just that. Their new dye-sensitised solar cell is almost as efficient at converting light into energy when it strikes the rear side as when it strikes the front.

To achieve the trick, Grätzel's team first replaced the opaque back panel with a second sheet of glass, making the entire device transparent.

The new panel is also coated with tin oxide and acts as the second electrode, donating electrons back to the electrolyte to complete the circuit. But because it is transparent, it lets light into the system from the rear.

Robert Hertzberg, chairman and co-founder of G24 Innovations, a company based in Cardiff in the UK that manufactures dye-sensitised solar products. "This technology allows you to capture power in low light, even rainy conditions," he says. "Silicon cells only allow you to capture power during a short window [when light is intense]." That means the cells give a better performance over the whole day even if they are less efficient under ideal conditions.


On Orbit IX

More design flaws found in Ares I rocket

ESA's Lunar Robotics Challenge: A tough task for the student teams

From The Space Review: Why the majority of the work in colonizing the space frontier will come from amateur effort


28 October 2008

Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

Armadillo Aerospace has won the Level One portion of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge! The flew at Las Cruces International Airport on October 25, 2008, and earned the $350,000 in prize money. While they made an attempt to win Level Two on the 26, they weren't able to pull off a double victory, leaving $1.65 million worth of prize money on the table. Check out some highlights from the first day of competition.

Seven seconds prevented Armadillo Aerospace from winning the second year of competition in the two million dollar Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Over two days, Armadillo Aerospace attempted four times to achieve the two flights necessary to win the $350,000 Level I competition. Officials expected them to compete in both the Level I and Level II competitions this weekend, worth $1,350,000 in total first place prize purses. 

“They nearly made it in their second attempt,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, CEO and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation. “There were more than 85,000 spectators willing them to succeed, as well as the officials and people working on the other teams. The persistence Armadillo has shown is impressive and deserving of recognition. I want to thank the team for their enthusiastic participation and I hope they will continue their important work!”

Armadillo used the MOD-1 vehicle for all four launch windows in the Level I competition, with each window requiring two successful flights. None of the four prize winning attempts were successful, and having reached the maximum number of attempts for Level I, Armadillo ruled out any attempts for Level II. 

Saturday morning’s attempt did not leave the ground due to an igniter problem caused by contamination in the feed lines. Saturday afternoon’s first flight, however, was perfect. The igniter problem reappeared in the return flight and blew a hole in the side of the chamber, preventing it from hovering the required 90 seconds. The landing was aborted with seven seconds left as a safety precaution, disqualifying the flight.

Sunday morning’s first flight was again perfect. The second flight left the ground briefly but was also aborted by the team for safety reasons related to earlier problems. 

The team continued to experience problems during the last attempt of Sunday afternoon. The engine exploded on ignition, resulting in a small fire and the flight was aborted. The team followed emergency procedures and fire engines were called in, however no one was hurt. 

“This weekend, we’ve had more problems than we’ve had in the last six months. We know what went wrong, but not why,” said Neil Milburn, Vice President, Armadillo Aerospace. “The Cup has given us an opportunity to show what we can do in front of multiple audiences, which we would not have been able to do otherwise. We know we’ll be back again, and we’ll nail it next time.”

Armadillo Aerospace is led by John Carmack, who is widely recognized in the video game industry for the creation of games like Doom and Quake. He started Armadillo in 2000 to compete for the Ansari X PRIZE, which was later won by Scaled Composites and SpaceShipOne. Armadillo made a smooth transition from suborbital flight to lunar landers when the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge was announced as one of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. In 2006, Armadillo’s “Pixel” was the only craft to fly at the X PRIZE Cup, and narrowly missed the winning the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge due to broken landing gear. 

“This was a weekend of outstanding competition,” said Dr. William Gaubatz, Chief Judge of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. “We believe Armadillo set some records in terms of reusability. We hope they carry on and inspire other teams to shoot for the prize and new records.”

The third annual X PRIZE Cup was held at Holloman Air Force Base on October 27 and 28, 2007. It was the first space expo ever in which aircraft and rockets flew at the same event, and is the result of a unique partnership between Holloman Air Force Base, the State of New Mexico and the X PRIZE Foundation. In addition to the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, the 85,000 people in attendance were able to see a state of the art air show with F-117s, F-22s, the Wings of Blue Jump team, acres of static aircraft and space displays, and much, much more.


27 October 2008

Update to DIY Lunar Concrete

I'd like to issue a correction.

When news of Dr Houssam Toutanji's development of sulfur based concrete was released, I, in my infinite knowledge panned the innovation as too expensive due to low levels of sulfur.  I stated that sulfur was found in the regolith at levels of 400-1300 ppm.  However Peter Kokh, current president of the Moon Society, corrected me on the Moon Society's Yahoo discussion group.  I just want to say thank you to Peter for the correction.  He pointed me to this article here, and a little digging of my own led to this and this and if it doesn't take you to the right page, it's page 450.  From the paper USES OF LUNAR SULFUR by D. Vaniman, D. Pettit, and G. Heiken: Although sulfur is not so abundant that it is available without effort, it does rank eleventh in weight abundance among the elements in average lunar mare rocks. Gibson and M¢_re ( 1974 ) found that the high-Ti mare basalts, in particular, have high sulfur contents, in the range of 0.16% to 0.27% by weight. These authors also make the important point that lunar basalts actually have more sulfur than terrestrial basalts.

Sulfur is best found in mare basalts, specifically basalts that are high in titanium.  Given that NASA is looking at processing ilmenite for oxygen, the same regolith that we'd be processing for oxygen can be use to extract sulfur for construction.

Altair VI, a fellow space blog pointed me in the direction of a treasure trove for lunar enthusiasts.

I present the single paper "Uses of Lunar Sulfur" from the National Space Society's website and the "The Second Conference on Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century, volumes 1 and 2" from the Harvard web-servers.


Arizona site of Lunar Rover Tests

NASA is testing its Small Pressurized Rover in the Arizona desert (large image).  At the 11th annual Desert RATS (Research and Technology Studies), two rover configurations were tested.

One configuration leaves the crew members free to get on and off the rover whenever they like, but they must wear spacesuits at all times to protect them from the lunar environment. The second configuration -- called the Small Pressurized Rover, or SPR -- adds a module on top of the rover’s chassis that the crew can sit inside as they drive the vehicle, donning spacesuits whenever they want to get out.


The Space Show

Thought I would help spread the word.

Programming For The Week Of October 27, 2008 :
1. Monday, October 27, 2008, 2-3:30 PM PDT: Louise Riofrio joins us regarding her positive pressure spacesuit and cosmology theories ( < /b> 

2. Tuesday, October 28 2008, 7-8:30 PM PDT: Dr. Gregory Berns returns as our guest to discuss his new book, "iconoclast" and more. 

3. Friday, October 31, 2008, 9:30-11:30 AM PDT: Brian Hanley returns to discuss the topic of bioterrorism as we go beyond the subject of space development for this special program. 

4. Sunday, November 2, 2008, 12-1:30 PM PDT: We welcome back noted economist, space advocate and SpaceShot founder, Dr. Sam Dinkin. 


24 October 2008

Selene Holds onto Her Secrets

Japanese lunar probe Kayuga (Selene) has tempered hope for large ice fields in the permanently shadowed crater floor of the Moon's polar regions as reported by New Scientist.

Shackelton Crater, one of NASA's targets for a future lunar outpost, was imaged by Kayuga using a camera specifically designed for low light uses.  The floor of Shackelton Crater is in permanent shadow, making it impossible to photograph using normal techniques.  Kayuga's Terrain Camera, a special stereographic imager, used scattered light to capture the floor of Shackleton Crater.  During a short time frame in the lunar summer, sunlight scatters off of the rim of the crater and allowed Kayuga to directly image the floor of Shackleton.  The results were telling in what was not found, rather than what was found.

The absence of clean water ice in the images is sure to discourage advocates of a return to the Moon.  However, all the findings indicate is that there is no frozen lake of ice at the bottom of Shakleton.  Ice may be buried under the regolith or even mixed into the hard, glassy lunar soil.  Another possibility is that the hydrogen that Lunar Prospector detected is from another source.  Frozen methane would be a boon to the outpost, giving astronauts access to both hydrogen a carbon which are both exceedingly rare on the Moon.


23 October 2008

On Orbit VIII

Russia looking at consolidating aerospace industry assets into state agency.  Decision to be made in 2009.

NASA Goddard CIO joins the blogosphere:Goddard CIO Blog

NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog

Official NASA blogs

SpaceDev to be acquired by the Sierra Nevada Corp:


22 October 2008

Chandrayaan-1 Lift-off!!!

In what is being touted as the 'Asian Space Race' ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 lifted off without a hitch for a two (2) year jaunt around the Moon.  Launching at 0052 GMT into an overcast sky, Chandrayaan-1 reached its orbit in nineteen (19) minutes.  It will be taking the leisurely route to lunar orbit and is expected to arrive in fifteen (15) days.  Chandrayaan-1 is primarily a mapping mission, with instruments from several nations aboard, including two from NASA.  The Moon Mineralogy Mapper will assess mineral resources, and the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar, or Mini-SAR, will map the polar regions and look for ice deposits.  This launch comes on the heels of rival China's first spacewalk.  Also in the Asian space race are Japan and South Korea.  China, Japan, India, Russia and the US are the only countries with active plans for a manned lunar landing.

Mini-SAR is particularly important for NASA's future plans.  NASA has announced that it plans to place America's first lunar outpost near the poles to take advantage of two rare resources in the Moon - ice and constant sunlight.  The Moon has a minimal atmosphere and any volatiles, water included, boil off into space.  At the poles, deep crater floor never receive any sunlight and because of that, the temperatures have remained at cryogenic temperatures, allowing ice to remain in the shadows.  As a direct consequence of having crater floors, in permanent shadow, there are peaks of eternal light at the poles.  These mountains have a constant view of the sun, allowing them to bypass the bi-weekly day-night cycle of the moon and use constant solar power.  Constant solar power is not a viable option for outposts anywhere else on the Moon because during the two (2) week long night, outposts would have to switch to battery power stored during the day or some other form of power like nuclear.  Or even lunar thorium powered reactors.  

Also getting into the satellite launching business is Brazil, with their own domestic launcher, the VLS-1, developed by the Brazilian Space Agency and Air Force with Russian help.


21 October 2008

Chandrayaan-1 Live Webcast

Catch the launch of Chandrayaan-1 live on the Indian Space Agency's (ISRO) website.


20 October 2008

2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

October 24th and 25th, Las Cruces International Airport in New Mexico will host the 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.  Teams will compete for a $2 million prize.  The contest is managed by the x-prize foundation and the prize is provided by NASA.  The field has been narrowed from nine teams to two - Armadillo Aerospace and TrueZer0.  Another team I thought was going to make but had to pull out recently was Unreasonable Rocket.

The Competition is divided into two levels. Level 1 requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area, rocket up to 150 feet (50 meters) altitude, then hover for 90 seconds while landing precisely on a landing pad 50 meters away. The flight must then be repeated in reverse—and both flights, along with all of the necessary preparation for each, must take place within a two and a half hour period. 

The more difficult course, Level 2, requires the rocket to hover for twice as long before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface, packed with craters and boulders to mimic actual lunar terrain. The hover times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform a real lunar mission.

In the 2007 competition, held as part of the X PRIZE Cup, there were nine competitors total. However, despite the best efforts of all of the teams, only one of them, Armadillo Aerospace, was ready to fly. They missed winning Level 1 by 7 seconds.

The Challenge is closed to public for obvious reasons but will be webcast live here:


Chandrayaan-1 Almost Ready to Go

Chandrayaan-1, the Indian space program's first lunar probe is set to begin its 52 hour pre-launch countdown this morning at 0400 hours (eastern standard, GMT, Indian time?)  Launch is set for 22 October, at 0620 hours.


18 October 2008

Carnival of Space is live


DIY Lunar Concrete

An update to this article has been posted here.

Normal concrete is cement + aggregates + water = concrete.  On the moon, this present a problem.  For all intents and purposes, water is non-existent.  Portland cement is carbon intensive like water, carbon is almost non-existent (5-280 ppm in the regolith).

Dr Houssam Toutanji, a civil engineer at the University of Alabama-Huntsville has developed a new process for making concrete on the Moon.  Dr. Toutanji proposes plain regolith be used as the aggregate and sulfur baked out of the regolith be used as the binding agent.    The sulfur needs to be in a liquid or semi-liquid state, so it needs to heated to between 130 and 140 °C.  To strip the sulphur out of the regolith will require a solar oven capable of heating the regolith to very high temperatures to extract the sulfur, which is only present in regolith around levels of 400-1300 ppm.

This new lunar concrete cures in hours, versus 7 to 28 days for normal concrete.  NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center tested the new process  using a lunar simulant.  Mixing 35 grams of pure sulfur to every 100 grams of simulant into 5 cm, the blocks were cured and then subjected to thermal stresses before their compressive strength was meaured.  Plain lunar concrete withstood 17 MPa.  Silica, which is also present on the Moon, can be added for strength and that boosted the number 20 MPa.

As Milton Friedman said, there is no free lunch.  In order to get enough sulfur for the process, tons and tons of regolith will have to be processed.  Now if a full blown bootstrapping operation is going on, this is no problem, just one more step.  But if not, that is alot of expense to go through for just concrete.  It's another reason to make sure when we get up to the Moon we bootstrap to keep costs down.

Another NASA researcher, Peter Chen, came up with using epoxy as a binding agent.  However, epoxy cannot be made on the Moon and must be shipped up from Earth.  With current launch prices hovering around $10,000 per pound, it seems a long shot.


NASA Authorization Bill Enacted

HR 6063, aka the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, was signed into law by President Bush on Friday, 17 October 2008.  HR 6063 is not a full appropriations bill.  Rather it is a statement of declared intentions for NASA and sets upper limits for FY 2009, to the tune of $20.2 billion.  However, Congress is not likely to award this full amount.  The bill includes an additional $1 billion to speed Ares development.  

Notable parts of the bill include a "Reaffirmation of Exploration Policy," which sets out for the next Administration Congress's support for the VSE.  Also, the section entitled "Stepping Stone Approach to Exploration" mandates that future Administrators are to consider future use in exploring other celestial bodies when designing lunar architecture.

Congress also mandates that "The Administrator shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the International Space Station remains a viable and productive facility capable of potential United States utilization through at least 2020 and shall take no steps that would preclude its continued operation and utilization by the United States after 2015."

Addressing the life of the Space Shuttle, NASA is required to fly its established schedule plus one flight to life the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS.  NASA is also prohibited from taking any actions that would make it impossible to fly the Shuttle after 2010 if the new President decides he wants to extend the Program, but Congress also states that by having that sections, they are not endorsing an extension of the program.  NASA has 120 from enactment of the bill to provide Congress with a report that "outlin[es] options, impacts, and associated costs of ensuring the safe and effective operation of the Space Shuttle at the minimum rate necessary to support International Space Station operations and resupply."


17 October 2008

On Orbit VII

Rosetta spacecraft has close encounter with E-class asteroid

Rescue Shuttle Atlantis getting ready to roll back

NASA's Pluto probe hits 1000 days in space

Carnegie Mellon to test robotic lunar prospector in Hawaii

British X-ray camera set to launch on India's Chandrayaan-1

Argentina joinsVenezuela in reaching out to Russia for Space Program assistance

ESA looking to develop independentcrew return vehicle

Hubble status report:


16 October 2008

Darpa Cancels Blackswift

From Flightglobal:

The fiscal 2009 defence budget approved last month slashes requested spending for the Mach 6-capable Blackswift Test Bed project from $120 million to $10 million. 

The combined-cycle Blackswift demonstrator was scheduled to complete first flight in 2012. It should have reached a top speed of Mach 6 using a combination of a turbojet and a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet). As a reusable aircraft, it should have been able to land and be ready to fly again after refuelling. 
The original request included a $70 million contribution from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and $50 million from the US Air Force. 

Blackswift was championed by former USAF chief of staff Gen Michael Moseley, who was fired by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates in June.

In a statement, DARPA said it would "not be possible" to continue the solicitation process with the available funding. Boeing and ATK and teamed up with Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works team to submit a bid. Northrop Grumman had not confirmed whether it intended to submit a competing offer.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that we will not have the appropriated funds to move forward with the Blackswift flight test program," said Steven Walker, DARPA programme manager. 

"A significant effort was put forward over the last several years to develop the propulsion technology required and to build a national government and industry team capable of developing and flying a reusable hypersonic testbed," Walker added. 

The focus of hypersonics research will shift to focusing on supporting existing programmes. 

The DARPA/USAF Falcon programme awarded to Lockheed will proceed with fabricating hypersonic technology vehicles that will begin flight tests in 2009. 

See the DARPA/Lockheed hypersonic Falcon video:

Meanwhile, a Boeing/Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne team is aiming to fly the airbreathing X-51 Waverider hypersonic cruise missile in late 2009 and early 2010. 

That programme is sponsored by DARPA, the air force research laboratory and NASA.The Boeing hypersonic HyFly programme has also been extended. 

See DARPA's video:

DARPA and the Office of Naval Research agreed last month to provide funds to conduct a third test flight after the first two attempts failed for causes unrelated to hypersonic technology. 

The Blackswift Test Bed, meanwhile, will remain on DARPA’s shelf of discarded technologies, but Walker is still hopeful that it could re-emerge. 

Walker also hinted that competition from a rival power could eventually re-awaken interest in Blackswift."It was a good idea and good ideas have a way of coming back and getting done eventually," he said. 

"Hopefully, the US will do it first, but there are no guarantees."


14 October 2008

On Orbit VI

Japan Maps Lunar Far Side Gravity Field

ISS crew might not be expanded

Space Adventures Client, Private Astronaut Richard Garriott, Successfully Launches to the 
International Space Station


Ben Bova's Letter to the President

An Energy Fix Written in the Stars

You're heading into some rough times as you move into the White House, Mr. Future President, what with the economy in recession, financial markets in turmoil, global warming, terrorism, war and soaring energy prices. But I can offer you a tip for dealing with that last issue, at least: Look to the stars. 

That's right. You can use the powerful technology we've forged over a half-century of space exploration to solve one major down-to-Earth problem -- and become the most popular president since John F. Kennedy in the process. 

Right now, the United States is shelling out about $700 billion a year for foreign oil. With world demand for energy increasing, gas prices will head toward $10 per gallon during your administration -- unless you make some meaningful changes. That's where space technology can help -- and create new jobs, even whole new industries, at the same time. 

You'll have to make some hard choices on energy. Nuclear power doesn't emit greenhouse gases, but it has radioactive wastes. Hydrogen fuels burn cleanly, but hydrogen is expensive to produce and hard to distribute by pipeline. Wind power works in special locations, but most people don't want huge, noisy wind turbines in their backyards. 

Solar energy is a favorite of environmentalists, but it works only when the sun is shining. But that's the trick. There is a place where the sun never sets, and a way to use solar energy for power generation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: Put the solar cells in space, in high orbits where they'd be in sunshine all the time. 


You do it with the solar power satellite (SPS), a concept invented by Peter Glaser in 1968. The idea is simple: You build large assemblages of solar cells in space, where they convert sunlight into electricity and beam it to receiving stations on the ground. 

The solar power satellite is the ultimate clean energy source. It doesn't burn an ounce of fuel. And a single SPS could deliver five to 10 gigawatts of energy to the ground continually. Consider that the total electrical-generation capacity of the entire state of California is 4.4 gigawatts. 

Conservative estimates have shown that an SPS could deliver electricity at a cost to the consumer of eight to 10 cents per kilowatt hour. That's about the same as costs associated with conventional power generation stations. And operating costs would drop as more orbital platforms are constructed and the price of components, such as solar voltaic cells, is reduced. Solar power satellites could lower the average taxpayer's electric bills while providing vastly more electricity. 

They would be big -- a mile or more across. Building them in space would be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one: We already know how to construct the International Space Station, which is about the size of a football field. And the SPS doesn't require any new inventions. We have the technology at hand. 

Basically, an SPS needs solar voltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity and microwave transmitters to beam the energy to the ground. We've been using solar cells to power spacecraft since the 1950s. Solar cells are in our pocket calculators, wristwatches and other everyday gadgetry. You can buy them over the Internet. Microwave transmitters are also a well-developed technology. There's one in almost every kitchen in the nation, in the heart of our microwave ovens. 

Some people worry about beaming gigawatts of microwave energy to the ground. But the microwave beams would be spread over a wide area, so they wouldn't be intense enough to harm anyone. Birds could fly through the thinly spread beams without harm. Nevertheless, it would be best for the receiving stations to be set up in unpopulated areas. The deserts of the American Southwest would be an ideal location. You could gain votes in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California! 

It's ironic, but when solar power satellites become commonplace, the desert wastes of the Sahara and the Middle East could become important energy centers even after the last drop of oil has been pumped out of them. SPS receiving stations could also be built on platforms at sea; Japan has already looked into that possibility. 

I admit, solar power satellites won't be cheap. Constructing one would cost about as much as building a nuclear power plant: on the order of $1 billion. That money, though, needn't come from the taxpayers; it could be raised by the private capital market. Oil companies invest that kind of money every year in exploring for new oil fields. But the risk involved in building an SPS, as with any space operation, is considerable, and it could be many years or even decades before an investment begins to pay off. So how can we get private investors to put their money into solar power satellites? 

This nation tackled a similar situation about a century ago, when faced with building big hydroelectric dams. Those dams were on the cutting edge of technology at the time, and they were risky endeavors that required hefty funding. The Hoover Dam, the Grand Coulee Dam and others were built with private investment -- backed by long-term, low-interest loans guaranteed by the U.S. government. They changed the face of the American West, providing irrigation water and electrical power that stimulated enormous economic growth. Phoenix and Las Vegas wouldn't be on the map except for those dams. 

Solar power satellites could be funded through the same sort of government-backed loans. Washington has made such loan guarantees in the past to help troubled corporations such as Chrysler and Lockheed. Why not use the same technique to encourage private investment in solar power satellites? If we can bail out Wall Street, why not spend a fraction of that money to light up Main Street? 

What's more, a vigorous SPS program would provide a viable market for private companies, such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, that are developing rocket launchers. Like most new industries, these companies are caught in a conundrum: They need a market that offers a payoff, but no market will materialize until they can prove that their product works. The fledgling aircraft industry faced this dilemma in the 1920s. The federal government helped provide a market by giving it contracts to deliver mail by air, which eventually led to today's commercial airline industry. 

A vigorous SPS program could provide the market that the newborn private space-launch industry needs. And remember, a rocket launcher that can put people and payloads into orbit profitably can also fly people and cargo across the Earth at hypersonic speed. Anywhere on Earth can be less than an hour's flight away. That's a market worth trillions of dollars a year. 

It will take foresight and leadership to start a solar power satellite program. That's why, Mr. Future President, I believe that you should make it NASA's primary goal to build and operate a demonstration model SPS, sized to deliver a reasonably impressive amount of electrical power -- say, 10 to 100 megawatts -- before the end of your second term. Such a demonstration would prove that full-scale solar power satellites are achievable. With federal loan guarantees, private financing could then take over and build satellites that would deliver the gigawatts we need to lower our imports of foreign oil and begin to move away from fossil fuels. 

I know that scientists and academics will howl in protest. They want to explore the universe and don't care about oil prices or building new industries. But remember, they howled against the Apollo program, too. They wanted the money for their projects, not to send a handful of fighter jocks to the moon. What they failed to see was that Apollo produced the technology and the trained teams of people that have allowed us to reach every planet in the solar system. 

A vigorous SPS program will also produce the infrastructure that will send human explorers back to the moon and on to Mars and beyond. It could also spur young students' interest in space, science and cutting-edge technology. 

Americans are a frontier people at heart. We have a frontier that begins a scant hundred miles overhead and contains more riches of energy and raw materials than the entire Earth can provide. Mr. Future President, if we use these resources wisely, we can assure prosperity and peace for the world -- and you have the opportunity to write your name in capital letters across the skies. 

Ben Bova is president emeritus of the National Space Society and the author of nearly 120 nonfiction books and futuristic novels, including "Powersat," a novel about building the first solar power satellite.

From the Washington Post