Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Proton Rocket Returns to Flight

SpaceFlightNow.com is reporting the successful launch and orbit-insertion Eutelsat's Hot Bird 8 communications spacecraft atop a Russian Proton rocket.

This is the first successful launch of a Proton following a spectacular failure last February. The Breeze M upper stage of the rocket was the problem during that attempted launch of the Arab Satellite Communications Organizations ARABSAT 4A, a communications satellite meant to serve most of the Middle East, North Africa and Western Europe.

A replacement ARABSAT 4 spacecraft is slated for launch aboard a Proton later this year...

George Lucas Finds New Way to Make Money from Star Wars

According to Space.com, George Lucas has agreed to allow his entire Star Wars epic, all 13-plus hours of it, be reduced to a 20-minute comedic abridged version.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company will film their version at London's Criterion Theatre on August 17. Likely it will be available in DVD form by Christmas, although that has not been confirmed.

At 62, Lucas has made more dollars from his six-film franchise, tie-ins and merchandising, than there are stars in the galaxy. And he is not simply trying to squeeze every last dime from devoted fanatics of his old work, he is also currently planning four new projects, two of which have nothing to do with Star Wars...

Monday, August 07, 2006

John Glenn Mortal After All

American icon John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth; U.S. senator from 1974 to 1998, and world's eldest astronaut in 1998 at age 77, has finally been proven mortal after all.

Glenn, 86, and his wife of 63 years, Annie, were both injured August 4, 2006, in an automobile accident on I-270 near Columbus, Ohio. Glenn was cited by police for failure to yield.

CNN quoted Glenn as saying Annie suffered "bumps and bruises"; Glenn himself suffered a fractured sternum.

We know we speak for millions when we echo the words of Scott Carpenter from 1962: "Godspeed, John Glenn" and Annie too; Get well soon.

Now more than ever, America needs its heroes...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Transition Personal Air Vehicle: Possibly Your Next SUV

Update on a Post from May, 18, 2006:

MIT Superstar and recent Lemelson award winner, Carl Dietrich, and a couple of his best buddies want to sell you your next SUV. Oh, and did I mention it flies at around 140mph at 8,000 feet, gets about 30 mpg (highway and skyway) and fits in your garage.

Their company is called Terrafugia and their vehicle is called Transitions. They hope to have a prototype built by 2008. If interest is as high as they hope, they'll have production models available by 2009.

With a price tag around $150,000, this little personal aircraft might just make it as a commercial endeavor where so many others have failed...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Powerful Algorithms Make ASAP Happen

SpaceRef.com has an interesting story about the Adaptive Sampling and Prediction program about to be kicked off in Monterey Bay, California this month. The three year project, funded by the Office of Naval Research, will utilize a new algorithm to control two autonomous submarine gliders to monitor ocean conditions and predict future activity.

The robot gliders will work in tandem, scouring the ocean and collecting data which will be transmitted to scientists on land. This marks the first time two robots have worked autonomously and in tandem, without human help of any kind.

If successful, the project could lead to further program models for use in exploration of everything from the rain forests to the solar system and beyond...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Russian Kliper D.O.A.

SpaceDaily.com is reporting the Russian Space Agency has shelved plans for the new Kliper spacecraft in favor of a less expensive retro-fit of the hugely successful Soyuz spacecraft.
This after months of publicity touting the new spacecraft.

On the surface this news is disappointing. New spaceship designs are an inevitability. The sooner they get beyond the disposable capsule as our best means of space travel, the better.

Then again, the Soyuz has proven reliable, adaptable and scalable. Why not stick with what they know? Or, as we say in America, if it ain't broke why fix it?

Of course this does not diminish the thrill of finally seeing a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) spaceship carry astronauts to space and back. Guess we'll just have to pin our hopes to Masten Space Systems...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

JAXA Pushes Back Date for Lunar Base

SpaceDaily.com is reporting the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has pushed back a planned lunar base completion date from 2025 to 2030.
This announcement was followed by an admission they did not know where the funds were going to come from, but at least they are sticking with the original plan.

It is important to note, JAXA has only been around for a few years. It was formed in October 2003 by the merger of three former space/science institutions: the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, the National Aerospace Laboratory and the National Space Development Agency of Japan.

So far their string of successful launches, cutting edge spacecraft designs and data collection efforts have yielded enough positive results to make their plans, regardless of whether they have budgeted for any of it or not, much more likely to flourish than some other lunar plans being floating around...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shuttle Atlantis to Launch Pad, Finally

The weather finally cooperated and NASA was able to roll the Shuttle Atlantis to launch pad 39B. The 4.2 mile journey started just after 1 a.m. and took about seven hours.
This is the second of 15 remaining flights needed to complete the construction of the International Space Station.

In a related story, Space.com is reporting that NASA administrator Mike Griffin has put a Hubble Space Telescope service mission back on the table. The only sticking point is, of course, the safety of the crew. Most likely Atlantis would fly that mission.
No confirmation yet, but surely a year's worth of successful flights would make the prospect much more likely...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stardust Volunteers Finally Get Busy

As we reported in January 2006, NASA researchers in charge of finding and cataloguing the tiny particles of comet dust collected by the Stardust probe solicited volunteers from the general public to help. The project is called Stardust@home and more than 100,000 people have already passed muster and stand ready to participate.

Scientists planned to have samples ready for review by March, but the process became much more difficult than they had hoped, pushing the sample release date back to today. This is just the first batch, however. More are expected through 2007 as scientists continue to process and prepare the Aerogel sample collectors.

Universe Today has a concise story about the entire volunteer project from inception right up to today, when they finally had something to look at. Check it out here.

But remember, you read about it on SpaceBlog Alpha, first...