Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked with the International Space Station today, bringing a crew of three astronauts with it.
Russian cosmonaut Russian Oleg Kotov, NASA's Timothy Creamer and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, will join Maxim Surayev and Jeffrey Williams already working at the space station.
That brings the ISS crew to five. Since May, the ISS has been ready for a crew of six, but so far, given repeated problems with the plumbing, astronauts have been taking it slow.
The station has so far housed as many as 13 astronauts and several space tourists. In January 2009, Russian space officials said they would cease tourist visits to ISS, but in October they proposed sending them up two-at-a-time beginning in 2012.
Whatever the case, hopefully future tourists will bring their own TP.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
hey, I organized a feature week on space memorabilia in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. I invited some collectors to display their interesting collections of space artifacts. Check it out here:
So, I did check it out. Lots of really cool stuff I wish I owned!
I was slightly disappointed no one thought to collect and preserve any frozen astronaut turds, however. It's really all that is missing.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is betting that splitting spacecraft duties among a fleet of smaller, wirelessly connected ships is the way to go.
SpaceNews had a story on it Friday.
It's called fractionated spacecraft.
The basics behind it are simple enough: Rather than launch one really heavy satellite loaded with a bunch of different instruments, launch several smaller, lighter (therefore cheaper) spacecraft, and have them work together as a team using wireless communication.
Like networking your PC, laptop, TV and stereo at home.
This type of system also means if one unit fails, the entire system doesn't go down, just that single unit. And patching into the system, or adding on, is as easy as getting wireless access.
This a paradigm shift when it comes to how we do things now, but it's not new. Scientists have been proposing this sort of system for years. Check out this hefty MIT paper on the subject from 2006.
As has happened many times in the past, DARPA is leading the field in pursuit of this new technology. It remains to be seen how, or even if, it will work. But the first flight demonstration is slated for 2013.
Monday, June 22, 2009
CNN is reporting work has officially begun on the New Mexico Spaceport.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson talked about the world's first facility for space tourists.
"New Mexicans have stepped up to the plate by making this investment," Richardson said. "This groundbreaking ceremony is an important step toward our goal of being at the forefront of a vibrant, new commercial space industry."
The almost $200 million project is funded by the state. Once completed, British business magnate Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will begin taking tourists to space from the facility.
If you visit the official Spaceport America web site you can catch some awesome new video of Scaled Composites WhiteKnightTwo (which has had 11 successful test flights) gearing up for its maiden spaceflight sometime in 2010.
NASA, meanwhile, continues to tinker (and re-tinker) with its next generation spacecraft Ares and Orion, part of the Constellation Program which will eventually replace the aging shuttle fleet.
Friday, June 12, 2009
A 14-year-old German boy, Gerrit Blank, was walking along, minding his own business, when a pea-sized meteorite struck him on the hand with such force it sent him tumbling head over heals and slamming a foot-wide crater in the ground nearby.
The odds of being hit by a meteorite are approximately 1 in a million. The chances it will leave a cool 3 inch long scar you can show all your friends is even less likely. But it happened.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"The Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya has completed its main mission. But there's one final scientific endeavor: It will slam into lunar surface at about 2:30 p.m. ET (18:30 UT) today."
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has set its sights on further lunar exploration, including an eventual colony.
The exact crash details are available here. You might be able to see the debris cloud, if you have a big enough telescope.
You can read more about the JAXA lunar plans here.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Daimler bought a 10 percent stake in Tesla Motors yesterday.
Daimler said it will share its cutting edge lithium-ion battery technology and provide a much needed cash infusion rumored to be in the tens of millions.
Tesla Motors has so far managed to reduce the price of its Roadster to just over $100,000 and promises an S series sedan with a 300 mile range and a 45-minute charge time at just $49,900 is coming soon.
Spacecraft too will benefit from technology being developed for the next generation automobile. Alternative power sources, stronger glass and body panels and even the computers used to design them each has a role to play on the car you drive and the spaceship you might fly.
Monday, May 18, 2009
They put together a nice slide show of Hubble images, here. Although my favorite image remains the Hubble Deep Field which shows 3,000 galaxies in an area equivalent to "two parts in a million of the whole sky."
Some say this is the last time human hands will touch the Hubble Space Telescope. These repairs make the telescope better than it has ever been, and will last another 10 years or so. After that, who knows.
Maybe they'll send the next repair crew via SpaceShip Three...
Remember those rovers NASA sent to Mars five years ago? Well, they have far surpassed the 90-day mission life they were expected to have.
The Mars Exploration Rover Mission has been successful beyond anyone's wildest imaginings, short of stumbling across a nest of aliens.
Opportunity and Spirit are both alive and well and chugging along. Space.com has a nice site following their mission.
They've each had their problems: a couple busted wheel servos, and decreased power due to dust covering the solar arrays. But they still work just fine. A little slower, perhaps, but no less reliable.
So don't forget the little rovers on the Red Planet. Chances are they'll be all alone up there for quite some time yet...
Sunday, May 17, 2009
XCOR's Lynx is within 12 months of its first test flight and talk is it could challenge Virgin Galactic in the race to sub-orbital space tourism.
Check out this cool promotional video from XCOR
But Lynx is only the first of XCOR's planned spaceships. Eventually, XCOR CEO Jeff Greason, plans to offer seats and payload for orbital flights, and beyond.
Greason once worked for Intel and was a lead developer at Rotary Rockets, which developed the Roton. Sure he wants to go to orbit.
So do lots of others.
But Greason is committed. He has endured where others have turned away.
It remains to be seen if Lynx will ever fly. But you can bet that when (or if) it does, you'll read about it right here.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Now don't get me wrong. Clearly I am a fan of all things space related. But just because I'm a space nut doesn't mean I can't appreciate a nice soundtrack, voice-over, costume change and action sequence; Big Hollywood productions do not turn me off.
There is nothing like that on NASA TV. In fact, it's just facts. Nothing but the facts. And if you've ever seen a rocket scientistl trying to be funny, well, it can get ugly real fast.
There are a multitude of channels available including live views of the International Space Station, shuttle mission updates, launches and cool interactions with Russian Federal Space Agency officials who say stuff that literally needs to be translated...
Despite my objection to the fact its really quite boring, I still watch every chance I get. Because there is nothing cooler than watching science happen...in space.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
It's not quite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but the new Terrafugia Flying Car, Transition, is no less cool.
SpaceBlog Alpha first wrote about the Transition in August 2006.
At that time there were about a half dozen other companies searching for the perfect flying car design. Today, there's another crop of a half dozen designers doing the same thing. Some much more successfully than others.
In fact, the bio-fuel powered Parajet Skycar recently traveled from London to Tombouctou in Mali to demonstrate its effectiveness as the ultimate sport utility vehicle.
It remains to be seen if any of these designs, plausible though they may be, will capture the public's imagination (and their disposable income) any better than the Glenn Curtiss Autoplane
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
So far, so good, as far as Space Shuttle Atlantis and the mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, but CNN is reporting the orbiter did suffer some minor tile damage during lift-off.
Some "dings" in the heat shield tiles have been detected but mission engineers remain cautiously optimistic.
Check it out: As Space Shuttle Atlantis toward its rendezvous with Hubble Space Telescope, Space X scientists are preparing to launch the first private orbital spacecraft. Dragon.
Space X is responsible for the recent launch of Falcon 1, which dramatically reduced launch costs. NASA has hired them to provide a ride back and forth to the International Space Station during the time between the retirement of the shuttles and the launch of the next generation spacecraft.
Space X was a real contender in the X Prize competition to be the first private spacecraft to space, but ultimately lost that race to SpaceShip One.
Driven by the vision of Elon Musk, it seems likely Space X will win the race to orbital flight, though there is no $10 million prize for that.
Monday, May 11, 2009
So far, so good, for the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 2:01 p.m. est.
It's been seven years since the last servicing mission to Hubble. This time astronauts will complete five spacewalks to replace and improve the telescope's vision.
Shuttle Commander Scott Altman led the last team of astronauts to visit Hubble. He is one of three astronauts on this mission who have made previous visits to Hubble. He was also a stunt pilot for the film 'Top Gun' a fact you have no doubt heard quite a bit recently.
What is not mentioned quite so much is the impact that film had on an entire generation of young people, many of whom are currently serving as NASA astronauts...
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Shuttle Atlantis is ready for lift-off tomorrow, just after 2 p.m., on the fifth Hubble Space Telescope Repair Mission.
Shuttle Endeavor is ready to go on a nearby launch pad, in case Atlantis is damaged during lift-off. Endeavor would launch immediately if there were a problem, but would still take two weeks to meet-up with the stranded crew.
You can keep up with the entire mission at the NASA shuttle mission web site or you can follow NASA astronaut Michael Massimino on Twitter at @Astro_Mike.
Or visit the official Hubble.org site for more information. And don't forget to visit the archive of images at The Hubble Heritage Project.
For the past 19 years Hubble has proven itself the greatest scientific instrument ever created. NASA intends to keep it that way.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Humans beings have, for the first time in history, a home other than planet Earth. It's called the International Space Station and its been orbiting the Earth for 10 years.
Until now it has had room for only three crew members. But all that is about to change.
Later this month three additional crew will join the team at ISS bringing the total crew complement to six. They will reach the station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Russia, the United States, Japan and members of the European Union have worked together to complete the station, recently adding more crew quarters and science labs, toilets and sleeping rooms and even a 'Back porch.'
Six is far fewer than the current population of the planet so we still need Earth, but it is somewhat comforting to think if we really needed a new home, it would at least be plausible. Don't you agree?
Thursday, May 07, 2009
While President Barack Obama debates funding for NASA, and NASA itself debates the future of the shuttle fleet and even the future of its next generation spacecraft, others, many others in fact, struggle against the odds to build their own spacecraft.
Here's an update on one of them:
In 2000, just before the tech bubble burst, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos invested a sizable portion of his fortune into his own spacecraft system, called Blue Origin. His group started work in seclusion on 150,000 acres in West Texas.In 2007 they actually release a small snip of video of their new vertical lift-off and landing craft, dubbed Goddard.
Nothing new has come out of the Blue Origin group since the video, but a quick visit to their web site tells you something very interesting: They're hiring.
Their motto says it all: Gradatim Ferociter (Look it up if you don't know.)
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Final preparations are underway for the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
Launch is scheduled for May 12, though CNN is reporting NASA may launch a day earlier.
This is the mission which has been cancelled, rescheduled, cancelled again and rescheduled again. And for good reason.
The Hubble was placed at the highest possible orbit; the limit of the shuttle flight capability. Should there be a problem (say punctured outer-skin from a piece of foam at lift-off)a second shuttle will be launched as a rescue ship. No safe harbor at the International Space Station for this crew.
This marks perhaps the final time two shuttles will be prepped for launch at the same time. Endeavor will act as the back-up for this mission.
The last time two shuttles were on the pad at the same time was 2001.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The Spitzer Space Telescope has far surpassed expectations, so saying goodbye is even more bittersweet; with another 5 years who knows what images it might yield.
Unfortunately its supply of helium, used to cool the delicate imaging sensors, will be gone in a month.
It's NASA mission has been a string successes. From white dwarfs to galaxies Spitzer has shed light on the darkest regions of space.
The California Institute of Technology scientists who built it should be very proud.