|:: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 ::|
Here ya go.
The First Rule Of Planet Club...
...Has been, so far, don't talk about Planet Club. While certain celestial bodies have been dubbed "planets," there have been no official rules on what exactly is or isn't a planet. That's about to change. In the wak of the discovery of Sedna, the IAU is convening a group of astronomy experts to decide exactly what makes a planet a planet.
But Does It Have OnStar?
Behold: The Batmobile.
Courtesy the official Batman Begins Web site.
|:: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 ::|
Ten years ago, it was night.
Look, Up In The Sky!
Courtesy of American Express, it's The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman.
Note the caption for the Batman cover on this site, and then scroll down and follow the Suburban Trunkmonkey link below that. I've got to get me one of those!
Mars Got Gas!
I've been negligent in not blogging about the Martian methane discovery, largely because it's the sort of thing that right now it's impossible to get in any sort of perspective. It's either phenomenally huge news, or it's not, and there's no way we're going to know for many, many years. If you're interested, though, here's Cosmic Log's take on the matter.
During my recent interview with Mike Foale aboard ISS, when I asked what he was most proud of from his mission, he replied, in a bit of understatement, "I would say just not really breaking anything so far."
James Oberg has an article discussing some of the more important legacies of Expedition 8, and how they are relevant for human missions to Mars.
|:: Monday, March 29, 2004 ::|
Returned, These Clone Wars Have
The first episode of the second half of the Clone Wars cartoon is now online.
A New Fantasy
I strongly encourage you to sign up for the April season of Fantasy Film League (Tomorrow's the deadline, I believe). Take just a couple of minutes to pick your actors, and then watch your film in competition with other members of YMFTB over the season. The January season is still underway, with Lain's Bandolier of Schmutz leading over my Automan: The Movie by the better part of $2 million.
So--do you have what it takes to compete with the box office might of "Heat Vision and Gump"?
Link To The Future
NASA Watch has posted a press release from the Teal Group regarding testimony during last week's meeting of the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond suggesting that the various elements of the program be treated as separate projects. While NW editor Keith Cowling posted lengthy response (including Lain's interstate highway system analogy [there's no permalink, you'd have to scroll down to find it], my initial concern hearing Caceres deliver the testimony last week is that I fear his proposal would have the exact opposite effect he hopes. Rather than increasing sustainability, de-linking Moon and Mars elements of the program would create programs more like the Apollo program, with set final goals, rather than an ongoing program of further steps. De-linking the programs, in my mind, creates a real danger of accomplishing a goal and deciding to stop for whatever reason rather than continuing on with the next step.
Additional coverage of sessions at the meeting can be found at Space.com. The link above goes to an article about capturing public interest, and it has links to coverage of other testimony.
Exp. 10 Update
James Oberg has a good article about the Russian proposal to turn Expedition 10 into a yearlong mission.
Business And Pleasure
Naysayers of the International Space Station argue that it is not a viable platform for scientific research, but they apparently haven't gotten the word to Gregory Olsen. Olsen, who will be the next "space tourist" to visit ISS in April 2005 is planning his flight as a business trip, and will carry along infrared sensors to conduct research while on orbit.
Strange New Worlds
Coming soon: Star Trek manga.
Upcoming DVD Jibba Jabba
After the recent Dukes Of Hazzard DVD announcement, more good news--first season of The A-Team hits DVD on June 8, replete with Special Features. Now, where's my Knight Rider DVD set?
In Saturday's test flight, the X-43A Hyper-X succesfully reached a speed of over Mach 7, proving that scramjet technology works and more than doubling the 40-year-old jet speed record set by the Blackbird.
This Week At NE
This week at NASAexplores, I've got an article about a recent NASA project in which a model plane was kept aloft with the energy from a laser beam. We also have articles about NASA's military astronauts, and about meals in space.
|:: Saturday, March 27, 2004 ::|
Their 1-Year Mission
Now, here's a pretty cool bit of news: NASA is apparently seriously considering a Rosaviakosmos proposal to extend the Expedition 10 increment on ISS to a full year. Expedition 9 will be launching to the Station on or around April 18, and will stay until October, when E10 will launch. Reports are that the proposal, on the part of RSA, is motivated at least to some degree by money--not having a crew exchange mission in April 2005 would mean that the Soyuz rotation mission that will be flown then could carry tourists instead of ISS crew members. The interesting thing about that, however, is that NASA had previously mentioned the possibility that STS-115 or STS-121 might be a crew rotation Shuttle flight, and would fly around the original end date for Exp. 10. Proposing leaving them up there for a year because a Soyuz would not be available presupposes that either the Shuttle will not be available by then, or will no longer be flying crew rotation missions, both of which have been rumored, but neither of which has been, to the best of my knowledge, stated officially. All that aside, I love the idea. With all of the controversy about the assignments of Exp. 9, 10, and 11, both agencies would have to make extremely sure the right crews are chosen, though, to be fair, by the time the NASA astronaut enters the extended portion of the mission, he would already have as much spaceflight time just from that one mission as almost any other NASA astronaut (I really wish they could simply extend the mission of the current crew, though that accomplishes nothing in terms of what RSA is wanting to do). Under the new Vision for Space Exploration, the primary purpose of NASA's involvement in ISS is to learn more about human adaptation in long-duration spaceflight in preparation for exploration of other worlds. Learning about what happens when you spend 6 months in space is just not going to cut it when your aim is to eventually send people on to Mars. Further, the Russians have already proved that you can stay for a year in space at a time. NASA is, sooner or later, going to have to follow suit. And, the sooner it happens, the sooner both agencies will be able to move even further ahead.
Mercury just became more distant for the MESSENGER spacecraft scheduled for an upcoming launch. A delay in the launch, originally scheduled for May 11, means that the probe will have to take a longer route, which will add 2 years to the flight.
On this date in 1968, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, died at age 34 when his MiG-15 trainer crashed.
There's A Demon That Lives In The Sky...
Hypersonic Scramjet Test, Take 2. The X-43A scramjet will be tested today at 2 p.m. CST. Today's test will likely make a huge difference in future development of hypersonic flight. A succesful flight proves that such is possible, and lays the groundwork for further research. However, the follow-on X-43C program has already been cancelled, and a second failure of the X-43A is unlikely to inspire much more NASA/DOD spending on the program.
|:: Thursday, March 25, 2004 ::|
This "banned strip" would have celebrated its 10 anniversary this week.
I apolgize for the lack of blogging yesterday. For those that don't know, I'm attending the Atlanta public meeting of the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond. So far, it's been worth the trip, and I'm enjoying myself. Don't have time for a full report now, but it's generally been interesting.
|:: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 ::|
You know, I know the girl on the right was like honors girl or something, but, for the life of me, I can't remember the name of the guy on the left. I mean, he's obvious some sort of geek guy, but surely we had something we called him. Did he even appear in any other strips? I don't know. Anyway, this strip turns 10 today.
Men In Tights
Are superheroes relevant?
One Trillion Dollars
The Space Review has an excellent article about how unfounded exagerated figures for the exploration initiative began becoming accepted as fact in the media.
It may be possible to address the problem with the reversed gears in the Orbiter speed brakes without the potential 9 month delay in RTF which I posted about a while back, but NASA has to decide if it wants to cannabilize parts to do so.
Another "major scientific finding" from the Mars Rover Opportunity will be announced during a NASA press conference to be held today at NASA HQ at 1 p.m. CST. This morning was the first I've heard about it, and I'm not sure what that means, compared to all the advanced speculation about the last major announcement. Frankly, after the last major discovery, this would have to be something pretty big not to be anticlimactic. Unlike the previous announcement, O'Keefe himself will make opening remarks for this announcement. More as it develops.
Addendum: Speculation is that the announcement may address the question of how much water was at the Opportunity landing site, or how long it was there. We'll see.
Addendum: Cosmic Log discusses the announcement.
|:: Monday, March 22, 2004 ::|
Make Sure It's Connected
Someone who runs a site I visit occassionally has just started this site, which shows how things are connected. The idea is that eventually, you'll be able to type in any two things, and it will connect them for you. At the time being, however, it still has a pretty small database, but that means you can establish connections. For example, I had to put in Steve Jobs, and create pathways so that he connects to Bill Gates and the Beatles.
It's A Grue, Grue Summer
New on the list of things too cool to have a right to exist:
Go to your Instant Messenger. Add as a Buddy either InfocomBot or InfocomBot2.
Proceed to play any of several old Infocom games through AIM, including Hitchhiker's Guide, Zork 1-3, and many more.
Spring Break ended 10 years ago today, so here's another 10th anniversary strip.
Might our galactic neighborhood be seeded with life from Earth? If so, aliens could eat our brains!
Armstrong's History Of Spaceflight
NASA Watch has posted the Neil Armstrong's remarks at the National Space Trophy presentation, in which he talks about the past and future of spaceflight.
Leading up to China's first manned spaceflight last year, there was a lot of speculation that the nation wanted to land a man on the Moon, possibly even on a Kennedy-esque "within a decade" timeline, but since Shenzhou 5, there's been little talk of it. Space.com has a story today about China's unmanned lunar exploration plans, which includes the first date of seen for when China is hoping to send a man on the Moon--2020, at the end of the window for the U.S. Vision For Space Exploration.
The 10th Planet?
SpaceDaily has an article by a planetary scientists who argues that Sedna should be considered a planet, although he focuses more on arguing against reasons it shouldn't than, in my opinion, presenting a strong case why it should.
Believe It Or Not
In case anyone out there is wondering whether I would want to see an Alien movie based on a story by Ridley Scott, particularly if he were also to be involved in making it, the answer is yes.
By This Time....
Lucasfilm has unveiled the box design for the upcoming Star Wars DVD release (additional artwork available at the link), which turns out not to be the designs circulated on the internet a while back. Additional artwork is expected to be released this week.
In far more important DVD news, in a development it's hard to believe was this long in coming, the first season of The Dukes Of Hazzard will hit DVD on June 1. The five-disc set will be "chock full of extras."
Come On, Eileen
Eileen Collins won the old poll in what was, to be honest, a somewhat suspicious turn of events, gaining an unusually high 29 votes in a very short period of time. She ended up with 71 percent of the vote, with Bill Clinton coming in a distant second with 17 percent. Neil Armstrong, William Shatner, Steve Jobs, and Kevin Smith each received one vote, and one person voted that they would not want to dine with any of them.
|:: Friday, March 19, 2004 ::|
Apple is reportedly working on the next-generation of iPods (well, I mean, they're almost certainly working on them, the rumor has more to do with what future iPods may be like).
Can robots save Hubble? Sean O'Keefe hopes so. It's an interesting idea, but the article deosn't indicate whether such a rescue would involve something relatively simple, like attaching a robotic guidance system and booster to the HST, or something fairly complicated, to wit, using robot manipulators to perform EVA feats. "Robot astronauts" are under development, including robonaut, but performing such a mission in time to save Hubble would require rushing the technology to maturity.
As I mentioned a while back, beginning tonight, five planets will be visible in the night sky for the rest of the month.
Get Your Free Comic!
Give Me Troopers! I Need Troopers!
The long-awaited sequel is finally out! After years of waiting, Trooper Clerks 2 has finally hit the Web. Note: May contain offensive material.
|:: Thursday, March 18, 2004 ::|
Here ya go.
Humor On The Hill
America's funniest senators unveiled.
A 100-foot diameter asteroid will pass within 26,500 miles of Earth this evening, the closest pass on record. However, astronomers, who didn't even know about the thing until Monday, assure the public there is no danger.
The iPod Killer
Microsoft has announced it will release a portable mp3 player in Europe before the end of the year.
Today In History
On this date in 1965, the first space walk was performed by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, from the Voshkod 2 spacecraft.
The Ninth Planet*
More on the controversy of Pluto's planethood and what the future may hold. It also includes some interesting background I didn't know, such as the fact that when Pluto was declared a planet, it was thought to be larger than Earth.
And, by the way, in case you didn't know, one of the guys that found Sedna is from Huntsville.
Shenzhou VI, VII, And Beyond Update
Launch for the Shenzhou VI second Chinese manned spaceflight is reportedly slated for June or July 2005. If that flight is succesful, Shenzhou VII could reportedly carry a three-person crew, and could see the first Chinese EVA and possibly a docking, according to a British-based expert on the Chinese space program, who also speculates that a next-generation launch vehicle currently under development in China would be capable of lunar missions.
NASA has set Saturday, March 27, as the tentative date for the re-flight of its experimental Hyper-X craft, the flight vehicle designated as the X-43A. The unpiloted vehicle, part aircraft and part spacecraft, will be dropped high over the Pacific Ocean from the wing of a B-52 aircraft.
The X-43A tops a modified Pegasus booster that will propel the craft to test altitude. Once released from the Pegasus, the experimental craft is to briefly fly under its own power at seven times the speed of sound – roughly 5,000 miles per hour, or about one and one-half miles per second.
Air-breathing/scramjet engine technology embodied in the X-43A promises to increase payload capacity for future vehicles, including hypersonic aircraft (faster than Mach 5) and reusable space launchers.
A first try to fly the X-43A ended in failure on June 2, 2001. The vehicle spun out of control and had to be destroyed by range safety control. A mishap board later found that the failure was the result of inaccuracies in computer and wind-tunnel tests, based on insufficient design information about the vehicle itself.
Many years ago, Lain and I used to amuse ourselves with the concept of the one-actor-one-role universe, in which you assume that all roles any given actor plays are actually the same character, just at different points in his life. For example, after awakening from his long vampiric slumber, Lestat had a lucrative career as a sports agent; or, after resigning the presidency, Richard Nixon became an infamous cannibal. Well, it looks like, thanks to the OAOR concept, it's possible that rocket boy Homer Hickam may have left the minetown of Coalwood, WV, to become the Green Hornet.
In other Kevin Smith news, with the release of Jersey Girl just a little over a week away, I'm sure you'll all be glad to know that the DVD will be out in October; will feature commentary with Smith, Affleck, and possibly others; will include deleted and alternate scenes; and will have a longer director's cut of the film.
|:: Wednesday, March 17, 2004 ::|
Forty years after the Starship Enterprise was first conceived, many of Star Trek's high-tech futuristic devices are already in use.
Build Your Own Fleet
Man, if I had the slightest modicum of talent for this sort of thing, this site would be real cool.
By The Way
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Joe Blog Update!
There's still nothing new at Idle Ramblings! But, you can still his posts from the day before Valentine's.
For some reason, I've found myself the past couple of days wondering what Scaled Composites has been up to. After the Wright centennial supersonic flight, I've heard nothing from the X Prize contender. It turns out SpaceShipOne performed another glide test last week, and will perform at least one more engine test, meaning that the first suborbital flight may still be a ways off. To win the X Prize, a craft has to make two suborbital spaceflights back-to-back within just a little over 9 months.
In other news, Space Adventures is expected to reveal who the next space tourist will be later this month.
There's been speculation in the past couple of days that the discovery of Sedna means that there is a possibility that astronomers could someday in the not-too-distant future find another planetoid larger than Pluto in the far reaches of the Solar System. This Space.com article raises an even more intriguing prospect: Sedna's unusual orbit has led some astronomers making plans for a search for another Earth-sized world beyond Neptune.
(As a complete layman, Sedna's orbit sounds like the sort of thing that could result from it having been captured by our Sun, but I don't know whether that sort of thing happens in real life.)
Addendum: This article offers some other theories.
Addendum: On a lighter note, New Planets Suck.
|:: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 ::|
Don't know that I've used this one before.
How Far We've Come
The original Macintosh computer was pretty impressive, but just imagine if it had come with iLife 20 years ago.
NASA may be about to move one step closer to having unmanned cargo delivery capability for the International Space Station within the next 3 years. Reports are that NASA is close to signing an agreement with rocket developer Kistler Aerospace Corp. which would lead to a test flight of a reusable unmanned launch vehicle. If the contract is adopted, the first flight could occur within 18 months. The CEO of Kistler is former NASA spaceflight head Dr. George Mueller, the originator of Skylab and the "Father of the Space Shuttle."
I've made no secret of the fact that SpaceDaily has never been my favorite spacenews site, but lately they're really working to win me over. I've mentioned that they've published some of my stories on their front page, and today, they've got some of Maggie's stories there. But, the cool part is, because they have to have datelines on their stories, they've added to her story about crew scheduling the dateline "Near Earth," which just strikes me as pretty darned cool. Now I want a Near Earth dateline on something.
I referred to recently discovered planetoid Sedna yesterday as a Kuiper Belt Object, but this article today states that Sedna may actually lie beyond the Kuiper Belt, within the Oort Cloud, believed to be where most comets spent the majority of their orbital period.
Addendum: To give an idea of just how far away this thing is, one of the Voyager probes was recently reported to have reached "the edge of the Solar System" at 90 AU out. Sedna, on the other hand, is somewhere around 900 AU at the farthest point in it orbit (although it's currently at only about a tenth of that), which is about 1.4 percent of a lightyear (by my liberal arts calculations).
Addendum: Great. Just Great: "Sedna also may have a tiny moon, but if such a satellite exists, only the Hubble Space Telescope would be able to detect it. Hubble is also the best tool to determine Sedna's actual composition and mass, Brown said."
Following the announcement, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe was hanged in effigy, NASA centers set on fire, and launch vehicles overturned in the streets. Can we just move on, people?
Shenzhou V Update
Five months after its crew return module landed safely on Earth, the orbital module of the Chinese Shenzhou V module has completed its mission. The module, which was part of the spacecraft which carried first taikonaut Yang Liwei into space, remained in orbit after he returned to Earth, and conducted automated scientific experiments. The module will be deorbited during coming weeks.
Whoops! Since I posted the story yesterday about the fact that the iTunes Music Store has sold over 50 million songs since it started, I feel obligated to go back today and update it with the fact that the service, which is blowing the competition out of the water, is a serious failure, according to this update courtesy of BBC News.
|:: Monday, March 15, 2004 ::|
New Readability Level
New at NASAexplores: Skylab: South Car'lina's Fust Space Stashun.
(Courtesy of The Dialectizer.)
This strip didn't work Friday, so I'm trying it again.
In a press conference at noon CST today, NASA will be presenting the discovery of a new KBO that may be almost as large as Pluto, and is the largest object found orbiting the Sun in 74 years. However, this blog is already annoyed by talk that the world, provisionally named Sedna, is the "10th planet," which we also went through over a year ago with Quaoar. Neither Sedna nor Quaoar are planets, and the any push to add them to the list will be more likely to change the number of planets in our solar system to eight than 10. The real controversy will come, however, if a KBO is ever discovered larger than Pluto, which Sedna's discovery makes seem entirely possible.
Red Star Changes Orbit
The Russian Space Agency Rosaviakosmos has a new director. Col. Gen. Anatoly Perminov comes to RSA from the Russian military (including the army's space division), and has been instructed to implement broad changes in the agency. NASA is currently waiting to learn how the change will affect international cooperation, particularly during this time that U.S. spaceflight is so dependent on the Russians, and is considering remaining so.
Space.com has a good story about Phil Plait's recent debunking of Richard Hoagland's "Enterprise Mission" Mars wackiness on the Bad Astronomy site.
Music For A Song
Over 50 million songs have been bought through the iTunes Music Store, not counting songs downloaded in the Pepsi iTunes promotion. iTMS users are now downloading 2.5 million songs per week. The 50 millionth song was Sarah McLachlan's "The Path Of Thorns," which is pretty good.
Today In History
Beware the Ides Of March.
|:: Saturday, March 13, 2004 ::|
Another Small Step
The Moon is another step closer, following a 1 a.m. Friday Senate vote restoring $600 million that had been cut from NASA's FY2005 budget to support the new planetary exploration initiative, thanks in large part to Alabama's senators. The budget still has to be approved by the House and again in conference, so it's not a sure thing, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.
|:: Friday, March 12, 2004 ::|
But What About His Hurt Feelings And Broken Heart?
In an impressive feat of geekitude, this site has catalogued all of Darth Vader's injuries.
Status Quo Vadis
It seems to me that people fail to realize, regarding NASA’s exploration initiative, that the status quo is not an option.
Sen. Kit Bond demonstrated this during Senate hearings yesterday on NASA’s FY2005 budget request, which includes funds to being the planetary exploration program.
"One could question if now is the time to begin the full implementation, or if it would be more prudent to wait a year and let NASA decide what is needed to accomplish the goals set out by the president," Bond said during the hearings. He later went on to say, "You will have to go a long way to convince me a four-year gap in U.S. manned space flight is sound policy."
So he believes that the U.S. needs to hold off on development of its next manned spacecraft, but can’t afford to have a time when it doesn’t have a manned spacecraft. We need a delay, but can’t afford a delay.
What Bond and others fail to realize is that continuing with Shuttle and Station indefinitely is simply not an option. NASA must begin preparing for the future (Ironically, a point that Congress hammered on endlessly just last year).
While there is discussion that use of Shuttle might be continued slightly beyond the proposed 2010 date, that continuation could not last for long, and carries with it additional risk. And, of course, even if NASA is essentially forced by Congress to continue flying the Shuttle, there’s little doubt who would get stuck with the blame if something goes wrong.
Of course, when you’re talking about a “gap in U.S. manned spaceflight,” you really need to define your terms. Under the exploration initiative outline, there would be no substantial period of time that NASA would not have a human presence in space, thanks to ISS. You could say that using other people’s launch vehicles to fly to an orbiting spacecraft you own part of doesn’t count as having “manned spaceflight,” but Europe and Japan, among others, would likely disagree.
However, Station does have a limited lifespan. If development of CEV is delayed too much, there is a risk that the U.S. would end up in a period where there is no Shuttle to launch U.S. astronauts, nor a Station for them to travel to. If that happens, there would be a gap in U.S. manned spaceflight.
At this point, doing nothing is simply not an option. We must prepare for the future.
No strip turned 10 today, so here’s one I just picked at random
A Little Too Ironic
This was yesterday’s Foxtrot strip.
This was in the in the news this week.
Voice Of Experience
Well-known for his silence on matters of spaceflight, Neil Armstrong has broken his silence to endorse NASA’s planetary exploration initiative.
HOUSTON - Former astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, says Americans should support an ambitious plan for renewed moon missions and journeys to worlds beyond that was proposed by President Bush to help the nation's space program rebound from the shuttle disaster over Texas.
Armstrong, who commanded NASA's 1969 Apollo 11 mission, said Thursday the plan is economically sustainable and the country must accept the risks that accompany space exploration in order to reap technological rewards.
If it exists, then Mr. T can take it on, and win! (As this pretty impressive sampling demonstrates)
At a meeting at Marshall Wednesday, it was announced that faulty brake flaps on the Shuttle could cause Return To Flight to be delayed by 9 months after the currently targeted March 2005 date. While not a sure thing at this point, such a delay would mean that the post-Columbia grounding would outlast the post-Challenger grounding, which few would have believed a year ago would happen. It also further complicates plans for completion of Station and retirement of Shuttle. Stay tuned.
Because Then The Terraformers Have Already Won
Universe Today has an article about the possibility of terraforming Mars one bit at a time, essentially using greenhouses to create habitable areas--a possibility which could be achievable long before planetwide terraforming would.
It raises interesting questions about the search for life on Mars, though. With the speculation that there may be subsurface water on Mars, there's been accompanying speculation as to whether there might be subsurface life as well, or whether life might exist in the polar regions. The possibility has also been raised that even if there is no currently active life on Mars, there may well be dormant bacteria spores, which it has been theorized could "wake up" again after millions of years if conditions change.
Many scientists have hoped to find evidence of past or current life on Mars because it would give us a new perspective on the universe, proving definitely that extraterrestrial life can and does exist.
However, one has to wonder what such a discovery would mean for terraforming and/or colonizing Mars. Even if it were proved that any such microbial life that currently exists or may re-awaken under conditions hospitable to humans could coexist peacefully with Terran biology (which would be an interesting thing to go about proving), will there be discussions about how much right we have to alter their ecosystems?
Them Thar Hills
Early in its mission, Spirit began a trek toward the East Hills, but they were set as direction rather than destination, since it was believed that the rover would not have enough lifespan to actually reach them. Now, the JPL team is saying that due to the current extended lifespan estimates for the rovers, that goal may be obtainable after all.
|:: Thursday, March 11, 2004 ::|
This Week At NE
This week at NASAexplores, I've got an article about how microgravity research has brought about the creation of new kinds of glass which would be impossible to produce in normal conditions (uh, at least in the Earth-centric view that what we call 1g is "normal"), and Maggie's got a piece about work to develop software that can find its own errors.
All right, let's try this again. THIS should be a 10th anniversary strip, as true today as it was 10 years ago.
Per NASA Watch:
Word has it that Code T AA Craig Steidle is working on a plan whereby there would be a fly-off of two competing CEV designs sometime in CY 2008. No word yet as to when the RFP for such a program would be released but one would assume that having hardware in 2008 would require some swift procurement activity starting ... yesterday.
Sunward Toward Home
The Spirit rover on Mars took the first picture of Earth ever made from the surface of another planet. You know, that's just kind of cool. What's even more awe-inspiring to me, though, is that idea of, in our lifetimes, humans standing on the surface of that planet, and looking up and seeing their homeworld, our entire civilization, as just a tiny dot in the sky.
Hubble: The Battle Continues
Sen. Mikulski has requested an additional independent evaluation of the cancellation of the final Hubble servicing mission, noting that Adm. Gehman's comments on the mission were far from the absolute prohibition some have taken them to be.
So, here's me talking to the Space Station this morning. The cell phone in my left hand is connected with JSC in Houston, and is giving me updates on how much time I have left. The landline in my right hand is connected to Alpha (well, not the line itself, obviously). You can't see it, but I'm also watching the interview on television, so I can see what they're doing. And I thought I'd be taking notes. Ha. I'm looking forward to watching the interview, 'cause I probably missed half of what they were saying.
Happy Birthday, Elaine!
Today is the birthday of my friend Elaine Elizabeth (nee) Baath, whom I have not heard from in some 12 or 13 years. I mention it solely on the hopes that if she's ever googling herself and runs a search for Elaine Baath or Elizabeth Baath or even Elisabeth Baath (since I'm not sure how she spelled it), she'll come across my blog and send me e-mail.
|:: Wednesday, March 10, 2004 ::|
Dave In Space!
In what will likely be as close to spaceflight as I ever get, my voice, though not the rest of me, will be on the International Space Station tomorrow morning. Beginning at 8:40 a.m. CST, I'll be interviewing Expedition 8 crew members Mike Foale and Sasha Kaleri for a NASAexplores article on long duration spaceflight. The interview will be broadcast on NASA TV, and will be shown again sometime between 10-11 a.m., and possibly other times during the day if it's more interesting than the day's other NASA news. For those that don't have NASA TV in their local cable line-up, NASA TV is also available online. There's a link on the NASA portal about halfway down on the right.
For Lain, yet another 10th anniversary Hatbag strip.
Now, here's the museum exhibit I want to go see.
Today In History
Here's a big ...all these worlds... shout-out to the Jovian moons, the first four of which were discovered on this date in 1610 by Galileo.
Might As Well Face It
Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy, has posted an excellent new article debunking, point-by-point, the various wacky Mars claims of the folks at Enterprise Mission and others.
Left Side Of Space
Like I said, I try to stay off political matters, but I finally found a Democrat I could vote for: Dennis Kucinich. I still think the Bush plan is better thought through in terms of implementation, but I do kinda like the way this man thinks:
I believe that one of the best investments we could make for the future of America would be to triple the budget for NASA. ... Like hundreds of millions people worldwide, I stood in awe of the remarkable pictures beaming back to earth from NASA's Mars Rover, 'Spirit.' A Kucinich administration will promote a bold and sustained human space flight initiative of scientific exploration that will build on the amazing accomplishments we have already seen.
Now, That's Deep
As promised yesterday, it's the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.
And now, with commentary, here's Dave Bowman.
Somewhere, Paul McCartney's Laughing
Apple has filed a court case in China alleging that its trademark logo has been infringed upon and seeking the right to sell clothing in China.
|:: Tuesday, March 09, 2004 ::|
How Pure Is Your Political Thinking
Because it was clearly something the internet needed, here's The Libertarian Purity Test!
Happy Birthday, Yuri
Yuri Gagarin would have turned 70 today.
When Creation Was Young
The earliest picture of the young universe will be unveiled today. Several hundred orbits of Hubble were dedicated to taking the "Hubble Ultra Deep Field" image, which should "take astronomers to 'within a stone's throw' of the big bang itself."
Maybe you should ignore the Beagle 2 update from yesterday. The Beagle team said yesterday that they are examining an image taken moments after the lander separated from the Mars Express Orbiter that shows an unidentified object near Beagle. The "object" could be something as minor as an imaging problem, or it could reveal the cause of the loss of the lander.
What If The Rest Of The Sun Never Comes Back?
So, what do you do if you're stuck on an alien world? Enjoy the view, of course. Opportunity recently had the, uh, ... opportunity ... to witness two partial solar eclipses from the surface of Mars. While the Sun appears much smaller on Mars than it does on Earth, both Martian moons are so much smaller than Earth's that they cover only a small fraction of the Sun as they pass in front of it (Phobos, the larger moon, is only 17 miles across its longest dimension).
The Future, B.C.
So, here's my theory. While people are frequently mislead by the name of the strip, assuming it refers to the time frame that it happened, and not just the name of one of the characters, as we know it does, the comic strip "B.C." obviously does not take place in a prehistoric environment. Given the abundance of apparent "anachronisms," it's clear that the strip must actually take place in some sort of post-apocalyptic future, in which, although knowledge of our present time remains, human "civilization" has reverted back to stone-age conditions. I'm not sure whether the situation that caused brontosaurs to once again walk the Earth was the result of "Jurassic Park"-style genetic experimentation, or possibly some sort of freak radiation-based mutation, which could also serve to explain Grok, and why clams got legs.
|:: Monday, March 08, 2004 ::|
Members of the Beagle 2 team believe they may have determined the cause of the lander's failure--a faster-than-anticipated descent, possibly due to reduced atmospheric density. The team said they may also have found the final resting place of Beagle 2, but aren't sure yet.
If I'd had any sense at all, I would have posted this on Thursday before changing the blog.
As best as I can tell, this strip turns 10 today.
Thanks For The Help
Somehow I find this utterly unsurprising:
"Forget about ancient traces of water on Mars. There's a little white bunny up there.
And stone tools.
And dinosaur fossils.
Plants, art, even letters of the alphabet.
While NASA scientists pore over the latest Red Planet images for shreds of evidence that it might have supported algae or pond scum, thousands of earnest civilians are scanning the same pictures and pointing out all sorts of things the professionals missed or have not acknowledged."
Of course, the masters of this remain the wacky folks at Enterprise Mission.
Every once and a while, a story comes along that restores your faith in the human condition:
"The Stelladaptor 2600 to USB Interface lets you plug in old Atari 2600 joysticks and paddles into your PC for use in your favorite emulator."
March Of The Planets
There's good planet viewing this month, with all five of the "bright planets" visible at various points during March. Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter (which is moving farther away again after Thursday's perigee) are all visible now, and Mercury will appear later in the month. For those like me, with almost zero skills in astronomy and, generally speaking, atmospheric conditions to match, there's always beginner's planet-spotting: Earth is generally visible if you look down.
Why Martian Water Matters
This commentary piece does a good job of presenting a layman's view on why last week's Mars water announcement matters.
"Nevertheless, it now seems likely that there is water, perhaps huge quantities of it, beneath the Martian surface. And if that is the case — and here's that jumpy historian in me talking — it has now become inevitable that we will put men and women on Mars within a generation."
Props To Spirit
I said last week that it seemed unfair to Spirit that the big Mars water announcement was billed as an "Opportunity Press Conference" instead of just a generic "Mars Rover Press Conference." Now, to add insult to injury, after the agency's big production about Opportunity's find, Spirit has found water also, and it's being treated like no big deal.
Planning a move that took the Soviet Union 2 years and the United States 22, China has announced that women will be added to the taikonaut corps, possibly in the next class which rumors say will be selected prior to the Shenzhou VII mission.
Return Of The King For The Fifth Time
Apparently getting named Best Picture makes a movie a higher priority. Return Of The King will get the usual LOTR DVD treatment of an initial two-disc edition, followed by the four-disc motherload later in the year. However, unlike the last two, which saw initial releases in August, the two-disc LOTR:ROTK will hit DVD May 25. No word whether the four-disc version, which usually hit shelves in November, will see a similarly early release.
|:: Friday, March 05, 2004 ::|
So... yeah... changes. Personal reasons. Hope you don't mind.
YMFTB is no more. So begins "...all these worlds..."
Content won't change much, I don't think.
It'll take a while to get the design bugs worked out. Let me know what you do and don't like.
The story continues.
X Prize Update
American commercial spaceflight may have moved a step closer to reality yesterday with the passage of HR 3752 which establishes procedures for regulating private suborbital manned spacecraft, and in a way that hopefully will allow meeting those regulations to move relatively quickly.
Politics Of Space
Initial Senate Budget discussions have proposed an FY05 NASA budget of $15.6 billion, not only $600 million short of the Exploration Initiative-padded request, but also well short of the pre-initiative FY05 budget figures that had been proposed.
The crew patch for the STS-114 Shuttle mission has been re-released, modified both with the names of the new crewmembers and also to honor the lost crew of Columbia's STS-107 mission.
The Smithsonian has launched a fundraising effort to restore and refurbish the Saturn V at Johnson Space Center, which, granted, is in pretty bad shape. Since both are owned by the Smithsonian, and the Smithsonian has ordered that both be restored and protected, it's curious why the Smithsonian has lent it's support to the Johnson effort and not to the already ongoing effort to restore the F500 test article Saturn V in Huntsville, the only intact Saturn V in existance.
Art Of Noise
How do you talk to an alien?. Mathematics has generally been considered the best truly universal language, but is it really the best way to communicate to the cosmos that there is intelligent life on Earth?
|:: Thursday, March 04, 2004 ::|
Recent search strings that have led people to hatbag.net:site related to nuidity and sex
How dixie are you
how to fight a bear
jesse holland journalism
spare time magazine
Butt Naked or Buck Naked
Hyper-X plane delayed 2004
SHOW PICTHERS MARS
Squyres astronaut apply
What criticisms and justifications for Mars exploration
bear getting kicked in the balls tv commercial
bill Cosby's life Jello
coloring pics of lucky bear (care bear)
how to make a lego catupult
Continuing the Haiti adventure.
If George Lucas has his way, this important part of our nation's cinematic history could be lost forever.
This Week At NE
This week at NASAexplores, I've got a story about how NASA researchers are learning to reduce the volume and impact of sonic booms, which could someday make supersonic commercial aviation more pracical. We also have stories about mission scheduling for spaceflight, and about the possibility of growing plants in space. Check it out.
|:: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 ::|
The Moon--In 3D
I was noting the other day the huge 3D resurgence lately. Well, the next subject to get added depth will be...the Moon. IMAX is working with Tom Hanks, NASA, and Lockheed Martin to produce the 3D film 'Magnificent Desolation.'
Hatbag: Ripped from today's headlines, 10 years ago!
Robot Homes On The Moon?
Details are still scarce, but ideas abound for how to establish bases on the Moon.
All Bets Are Off
"LONDON (AP) -- The information coming in from the Mars rovers is exciting for NASA, but it's ending some of the action for bookies in Britain.
The bookmaking firm Ladbrokes announced it's stopped taking bets on the question of whether there was ever life on Mars.
NASA scientists said yesterday that the rover Opportunity found strong evidence to suggest at least part of the Red Planet once had a wet enough environment to sustain life.
A Ladbrokes spokesman says the latest odds in favor of past life on Mars were 16-1. Back in the '70s, when the first bets were placed, the odds were 1,000-1.
He says he expects that scientists will find evidence of past life on Mars within the coming years."
I just got about the best news of my life, but that's all I can say about it here.
The Big News
So, um, yeah--there used to be water on Mars.
|:: Tuesday, March 02, 2004 ::|
Jupiter is in opposition to Earth, and will be at its closest of this pass on Thursday, March 4. It's currently the brightest thing in the sky other than Venus, the Moon, and the Sun. Jupiter currently is rising in the east around Sunset, and on Thursday and Friday, will be near the Moon.
When Memes Collide
All your base are belong to Mr. T.
Per Lain's request, Haiti.
New Mars Rising
As I mentioned yesterday, "significant findings" from the Mars rover Opportunity will be announced in a NASA HQ press conference today at 1p.m. CST. The conference will be broadcast and webcast via NASA TV. The announcement will relate to the rovers' primary mission to find signs of water that might support life. Per Space.com (though this is couched as possible hyperbole), the announcement will have the potential to change the way people think about Mars.
I'm curious what the announcement would have to be for that to really be the case, or, more specifically, what the odds are that this announcement will have a significant impact on support for human planetary exploration.
That said, I also hope that NASA and the White House have already started preparing for the inevitable political fallout that I'm sure will come from this.
When the Shuttle returns to flight, possibly as early as next March, Discovery will make the first flight for STS-114, replacing Atlantis, which had previously been assigned to the mission.
After several days of delays, the ESA's Rosetta comet probe launched sucesfully this morning. OK, now I'll basically shut up about it for 10 years, until it reaches orbit around comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 and deploys its lander (There may be a few exceptions--Rosetta will perform tasks in the interim such as studying the asteroid belt as it passes through).
Unto The Third Dimension
Who says there's no depth in pop culture today? Those long-forsaken red-blue glasses are making a comeback with a vengeance in 2004. Spy Kids 3D just hit video, JPL is letting the public see the Red (and blue) Planet in three glorious dimensions, and the IMAX Space Station 3D movie is scheduled for DVD release later this year (though I don't know that it will use red-blue 3D, since the theatrical version did not). Now, DreamWorks has announced that the direct-to-video Shrek 3D will hit DVD on May 11, packaged with the collector's edition of the first film.
|:: Monday, March 01, 2004 ::|
In honor of the Academy Award honors, we honor ourselves.
I Love The Smell Of Mushrooms In The Morning!
Were it just able to get a theatrical release, there is no question that the best drama of 2004 would be Mario Brothers. This Flash trilogy based on the old 8-bit version of Mario is probably the most powerful war movie that will come out this year.
One Ring To Rule Them All
I didn't watch the Oscars, didn't make picks before hand, didn't really care what happened, and still haven't bothered to see who one most of the awards, and yet, it makes me happy that Return Of The King did so well.
(Ditto The Passion in weekend box office.)
I've been avoiding doing much political posting on here, and particularly as it relates to spaceflight, but this one kind of amused me.
John Kerry on space exploration (Thursday version):
"Our civilian space program represents a great opportunity for scientific research. Sending a person to Mars is a great mission worthy of a great nation like America. Given the Bush budget deficit, it is imperative that we balance funding for a manned mission to Mars against critical domestic needs as well, such as education and health care."
John Kerry on space exploration (Friday version):
"What we need to do as we enter this dawn of the 21st century, is not talk about going to the Moon or even to Mars. We need to go to the Moon right here on Earth by creating the jobs, building the high value-added jobs of the future, making clear that no young American in uniform ever ought to be held hostage to America’s dependence on oil in the Middle East."
Of course, it's possible that what he's saying is that going to Mars is a worthy mission we should undertake, but just not talk about it. Sort of like Fight Club.
"We're going to Mars--speak of this to no one."
That'd actually be pretty cool. But, I don't think that's what he means. I'm not sure if he does.
NASA Watch, which is usually pretty hip to what's going on, says there's an excellent chance that there will be an announcement either today or tomorrow from NASA Headquarters regarding whether liquid water ever existed on Mars.
However, any such word would come too late for America to win free Giant Shrimp.
Addendum: Tuesday, 1 p.m. CST.
Shenzhou VI Update
Lately, I've been screening out a lot of Shenzhou non-news--constant updates saying only things we already know about the flight that's probably still about a year and a half away. This story just barely made the cut-off. The fact that China's next spaceflight will stay in orbit for 5 to 7 days is mildly interesting, as is the fact that astronauts will leave the command-module-analog this time and perform experiments in the roomier orbital module instead of staying in their seat the whole time as Yang Liwei did.
More interesting, though, is the news that China is now saying it is only three flights away from launching a space station.