Space...the final fronteer. These are the continuing voyages of clue seeking fsck-wits...
|20040105(Space):Earth: 4; Mars: lots more than 4|
So Spirit made it down in the number of pieces it was supposed to -- unlike
the British effort, which supposedly can't communicate because it landed in
a crater (left unspoken is the observation that said crater was probably made
by the probe when it lan^Winteracted with the surface). And Spirit is sending
back pictures, having become only the fourth probe to successfully land
on Mars and transmit data back (the other three -- for those of you keeping
score at home -- are Viking I and II, and Pathfinder).
And what do we see? Rocks. Or rather, an exciting absence of rocks
(which means our rover can actually rove). Yawn.
is much cooler and closer to home.
|20031119(Space):Governmental Manned Space Program|
The question: Should NASA be
sending government employees into space?
I think the government should be involved because in one way or another they will end up paying for the mistakes -- specifically in the area of liability.
Consider the issue of insurance. Columbia had disintegrated on a different flight path or at a different point of entry, we could have had large pieces of debris raining down on Houston or Dallas -- and there isn't an insurance company in the world which will accept that kind of risk. The US government, on the other hand, is self-insuring, due to the large financial resources at their disposal.
Now if Johnny X-Prize jumps into his rocket and then "lands" in suburbia, wiping out a daycare center, who gets stuck with the bill? What happens if Johnny X-Prize leaves from Florida and "lands" in Toronto? Or Berlin? Or Damascus? Each of those foreign governments will hold the US responsible, and the US will be stuck with that responsibility -- because if the Chinese accidentally "land" in Los Angeles, you bet that they will hold Bejing responsible.
The scope of the problem is different. When a hobbist messes around with his experimental aircraft, he's only carting around enough energy to wipe out a house or two. When a hobbist messes around with an experimental spacecraft, we are now talking about enough energy to wipe out more than just a block or two, and the potential range of that "accident" is much larger.
|20030915(Space):Fresh From The Home Office|
Space.com is running a commentary which features the
reasons for a space program.
What is interesting is that absolutely none of them address the
more significant question: Why have a manned space program?
"Because it is there" or "Because we can" are not answers in this context.
|20030914(Space):Another Nail In The Mars Coffin|
While discussing my previous
article with my wife, I realized that there are two conditions
which must be in place for a massive project such as the moon landing.
Read More:hammer it in
|20030913(Space):No Trail To Mars|
Slashdot had a link to Spider Robinson's
comments following Torcon, a Science Fiction convention held in Toronto. In it,
he laments the current state of scifi and the allegedly real world in which it
Edited 14 September: Changed the category from Commentary to Space
Read More:lamentations for the present
of radar data from Columbia's last mission has lead to the theory
that a 'carrier panel', a metal maintenance access patch which
permits maintenance workers access to the front part of the wing
assembly, separated from the shuttle after lift off. The object was
tracked on day two of the mission, and later tracked as falling back
into the atmosphere. If such a part was missing, it could lead
to the heat spikes recorded, and then eventually a general failure
of the wing, similar to what happened on re-entry.
It is unknown if the foam-strike recorded on video during liftoff
is related to this object.
|20030226(Space):Pioneer 10 Fades Into Interstellar Noise|
NASA has decided to give
up listening for Pioneer 10. Originally designed for a 22 month
mission, the probe has lasted 30 years and was the first man-made
object to cross the orbit of pluto. Pioneer 10 last returned
telemetry in April 2002, and was last heard by the Deep Space Network
in January 2003. NASA says that the radioactive isotope power source
has decayed to the point where it can no longer power the probe's
transmitter with sufficient power to be detected by the DSN.
It's kind of interesting in a way because I've named my laptop
pioneer10 -- the rest of my computers have names from the Jupiter
system of moons (Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto) and since
the laptop leaves the local system, I thought it neat to name it
after a probe which passed by Jupiter. I doubt that my laptop
will last as long as its namesake.
|20030226(Space):Columbia: Last Data Analysis|
MSNBC has an article describing Columbia's last moments.
The working theory is that the orbiter underwent a slow flat spin which would have taken about 20 seconds to complete.
At that point, the damage to the orbiter was severe enough that the tumble would have become more severe, leading to the
breakup witnessed by TV cameras. During the spin, the rear of the orbiter would have had engine nozzles and drogue
parachute units ripped off.
This is from analysis of the last data stream, rejected in real time by Mission Control's computers due to the
corruption, but pieced together. After the spin, Columbia sent back telemetry indicating that the main structure
of the orbiter was intact, but in distress -- readings were returned from the front and back of the orbiter,
fuel sensors (showing that the autopilot was trying to fight the spin), and flight control hydraulics (showing
no pressure in the lines to the left wing components).
It is becoming clear that the shuttle experienced some kind of excessive drag on its left side, but it is still
not clear why this happened. Aviation Now reports that wing roughness affects on laminar flow has been
a concern for some time, but it is not clear
that this is related to what has happened.
|20030223(Space):Perspective on Columbia|
While the media will carry on about the loss being the seven astronauts,
it is necessary to analyze the loss in terms of the overall impact on the various
programs going on. The cold, hard, fact is that those seven people are
replaceable to the programs. Every single one of them had a backup crew
member training just as hard as they were for STS-107. People will come
and go; but the programs will survive them.
|20010208(Space):Population Relief Valve|
One thing which comes up again and again and again is the idea
that space colonization is going to turn into a population relief
valve for the people left behind -- that we can somehow ease our
population growth problems by shipping people somewhere offworld.
The fact that this will never happen seems to escape most
of the commentators who keep pushing it as one of the best reasons
to begin colonization.
Read More:let's make up some numbers