Sunday, April 30, 2006

Diamandis Earns 2006 Lindbergh Award



Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X-Prize Foundation, will receive an honorary 2006 Lindbergh Award for his pioneering work developing a commercial spaceflight industry.

Diamandis, among other things, was the first to recognize the potential in allowing private firms to tackle the difficult task of lobbing human beings into space. Scaled Composites, SpaceShip One, would capture the first X-Prize prize just eight years after it was announced.

According to the Web site of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation:

"The concept of a technology/nature balance, in which Charles and Anne Lindbergh so firmly believed, is now coming to the forefront as the answer to some of our global problems," said Clare Hallward, Chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation Grants Selection Committee. "The projects of our grant recipients have, since 1978, made significant contributions to such a balance. Because of the standards employed by the Foundation's grants program, it has earned international credibility which enables many Lindbergh Grant recipients to secure additional funding to continue their important work."

"The Foundation seeks to support present and future generations in working toward such a balance, that we may "...discern nature's essential wisdom and combine it with our scientific knowledge..." (Charles A. Lindbergh) and "balance power over life with reverence for life" (Anne Morrow Lindbergh). "

Congratulations Dr. Diamandis. The honor is well deserved...

Friday, April 28, 2006

From Space to Church


Here's an interesting use for a meteor: A man living in Plainfield, Indiana, designed a stained glass window for his church, complete with an actual meteorite fragment.
According to the story, the piece is "of an actual meteor found in Morocco, which was found to contain water."

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting use for an actual piece of our Solar System...

Soyuz Finally Goes Digital



SpaceDaily.com is reporting that Russia's Soyuz TMA spacecraft is about to get a long-overdue digital upgrade, from its current analogue state.

NASA didn't upgrade its Mission Control computers until the 1990's, using the same 'pong-like' screens through Apollo, Sky Lab and the early days of the shuttle.

By switching to Russian-made digital components engineers are decreasing the spacecraft weight and making the compartment more spacious. And seeing as how the Soyuz is currently the ONLY reliable spacecraft we have on the planet, those are good things.

In a few years their long awaited Kliper spacecraft will make its debut. Let's hope they have as much success with it as they have had with the Soyuz....

Thursday, April 27, 2006

NASA Still Expects July Launch of Shuttle


Discovery, the oldest of the three remaining shuttles, is still slated for a July launch. NASA had run into some problems with a fuel sensor, but that has not forced any further delays.
SpaceDaily.com is reporting NASA still has a few "lingering questions" but is confident the shuttle will fly as scheduled.
Among its mission targets, to increase the International Space Station crew to three, and test further shuttle safety precautions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Star Trek Returns!


Daily Variety is reporting that J.J. Abrams, the man who brought us 'Lost' and Mission Impossible III is taking on the 'Trek' movie franchise. Abrams will produce, direct and possibly have a hand in writing the film as well.

According to CNN, Variety reports the new film, slated for a 2008 release, will focus on the Academy days of Kirk and Spock, including their first mission.

When 'Enterprise' was cancelled last year, many predicted the franchise would be back. But nobody expected it this soon.
If Abrams writes a good story and makes a good film, no problem. If he doesn't, this will be another nail in the coffin and that much longer until anyone tries again...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

UP Aerospace About Ready To Launch


UP Aerospace, the company that promises it can get payloads up to 110 lbs into orbit faster, better, cheaper--is about ready to launch from the New Mexico Spaceport.

Work on their launch facility has been going for months, and now the complete "temporary structure" is in place. It will function as a launch pad for at least a few years. Enough time to earn some capital, and some street cred.

The SpaceLoft XL, assuming it works as promised, will provide access to space for an entire sector of people, mostly high school and college students, but with the increasingly successful micro-sat programs churning out ever smaller satellites, maybe a new industry.

The sky's the limit...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Neil Armstrong Rocks!


For being the first man to set foot on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong on Tuesday received his very own memento: an actual moon rock.

Armstrong is well known for his famous 'first step' and for being cagey around the press. He doesn't like to blow his own horn because so many were involved in getting him there, his paltry few steps on the surface pale in comparison. And he makes a valid point.

I admire Armstrong for being brave enough to risk his life on the endeavor, but more so for doing what so many others fail to do: give credit where credit is due.

To the NASA engineers who made the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs so successful, I say, Cheers to you!
And so does Armstrong...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Russia Building More Spaceships


SpaceDaily.com is reporting that Russia has ordered a doubling of production on their Soyuz and Progress model spacecraft. This comes as a direct result of the inability of NASA to return the shuttle to service.
Russia says it is leading a group of vested nations in calls for a full crew of six aboard the International Space Station by 2009, and it's willing and able to make that happen.

Meanwhile NASA continues to grapple with credibility issues regarding, among other sordid things, a space transport system that just can't seem to get off the ground...

New Face Discovered on Mars!


Believe it or not, a new 'face' has been spotted on the surface of Mars, this time by the European Space Agency craft, Mars Express. ESA Scientists have confirmed the 'face' is comprised of surface material configured in such a way as to represent a crude humanoid head with features They also confirm the 'face' is not man made.

Do not be deceived by other so-called faces, folks. This one is the real deal. I know, because it's smiling...

See for yourself, right here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Recycling Software at NASA


According to this story at Space.com, a NASA group is studying whether it is cost effective to simply re-use old spacecraft software on new, related, missions.
In other words, if they take the programs that control the Mars Global Surveyor, adapt them--polish them up so to speak--and use them again on a different Martian mission, will it save time and money?

That's the question NASA needs to answer. It might cost just as much to change the old software to meet current standards as it would to write new software.
And besides, some MIT graduate is probably gonna need that job to pay his student loans...

Engineers Complain But Nobody Listens


Engineers are usually the first people to know, the first people to warn everyone else about what's about to go wrong and the last people anybody ever listens to until after a disaster has happened.

So it may be with micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS.

According to this story at SpaceDaily.com some mechanical engineers are suggesting industry leaders are slow to implement improved technology--so-called MEMS-- because of the inherent risk involved in this kind of move. Well, get busy living or get busy dying.
Some of the benefits of micro-electromechanical systems: better gas mileage in your automobile and satellites that cost one-tenth what it takes to get one built, in orbit and functioning today.

MEMS could revolutionize every electro-mechanical device in use today. Making them better, faster and more affordable.
That sounds like a good investment to me. Now let's see if anybody listens...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

More NASA Controversy


Supposedly leaked documents provided the basis for a recent editorial by former space scientist Jeffrey F. Bell at SpaceDaily.com, but lo and behold, the original article that Bell based his report on has been retracted by NASASpaceFlight.com as per orders from NASA.
In a follow-up story Bell questions exactly what happened to cause the retraction and more importantly what sort of shenanigans are going on at the nation's space center.

It's hard to imagine what might come next for the beleaguered space agency who recently saw more delays in the shuttle Return To Flight program, a high level administrator busted for pedophilia and now falsified documents promoting a personal agenda within the program.

Given the agency spends billions of taxpayer dollars each year, some sort of accountability program should be in place. But it remains to be seen if it is, or that it works...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Eye-Spy Uranus


Admit it: That headline made you smile, didn't it?

Well, if you've ever wondered how the blue giant of our solar system got its unique name, and how to find it in the night sky with the naked eye, check out this interesting story from Dr. Tony Phillips, a NASA scientist.

And let me just advise Dr. Phillips--not only schoolchildren get a kick out of saying Ur-anus...(snicker, snicker)...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

See Venus Again for the Very First Time!


The European Space Agency probe Venus Express successfully entered polar orbit around our cloudy, super-heated sister world. Little is known about the surface, nothing we had in the past had the technology to pierce the dense cloud cover.
Venus Express aims to fix that.
Scientists are already receiving a wealth of data, photos and readings of the planet and much, much more is expected. If all goes well the spacecraft should operate for about 500 days, or two Venusian years.
Stay tuned for more updates as we find them...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Space Shuttle: 25 Years, Too Long?


Today marks the 25th anniversary of the successful launch of STS-1, the first shuttle, Columbia.
CNN has a nice commemorative media package here.

Aboard that first launch were just two crew members: Commander John Young and rookie pilot Robert Crippen. Neither had any idea what to expect when they fired up the engines and rocketed the wide-body space-bus straight up like a Roman Candle, but it all turned out OK.
At the time I thought the shuttle was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
This was no mere rocket. It was smooth like one, but shaped like a plane. A true spaceship for the very first time. It was one step closer to the Millennium Falcon for me, but a nightmare of possible failures to every engineer who worked on it and everyone who flew aboard it.

In hindsight, perhaps they should have stuck with the rockets...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Venus Express Almost There


The European Space Agency's Venus Express probe is scheduled to make final maneuvers into an elliptical orbit around our cloud-covered neighbor that at its closest will bring the tiny ship within 156 miles of the surface.

Launched aboard a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket, the spacecraft is a virtual copy of the successful Mars Express craft currently beaming back data on the Red Planet.

The mission is schedule to last about three years and produce the most detailed images ever of the thick Venusian cloud systems and whatever surface features are hiding beneath them.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Moonbuggies Race Again!


Future moonbuggies are being tested and redesigned annually by students across the United States. It's part of NASA's annual Great Moonbuggy Race.
This year Pittsburg State University won the college division and Huntsville Center for Technology team won for the high school division.

For 13 years NASA has held the annual event to challenge future engineers and space-tech hardware designers to build a better, human-powered, moonbuggy.

Racers compete on a timed-trial course with various obstacles, in machines they design, build and in most cases even manufacture parts for. The best time wins.

NASA started the event on the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing and intend it to jump-start the careers of creative thinkers who might one day take us back to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Perhaps one day they'll even hold the race on the Moon where it belongs...