groovychk: (sci-fi)
President Obama announced the budget today. The rumors surrounding his plans for NASA turned out to be true.

Obama wants to eliminate Constellation. This eliminates Ares I, Ares V, Orion and Altair. Shuttle ends this year. That leaves us with nada for a manned launcher.

Granted - Ares I has problems, but there has been a test flight and it was successful.

Obama says we should have NASA do technology development and space science and regulate. He also says we should depend on commercial ventures to supply the space station. I'm all for that. But it's not developed yet. It's reinventing the wheel in most every case (chemical rockets are chemical rockets after all). The payloads they propose to carry are small in comparison to NASA capability. None are man-rated. And NASA will still regulate them. How is this better?

Just to put things in perspective payload-wise:

Some comparisons of max stated payloads:
LEO=Low Earth Orbit
GEO=Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit
TLI=Trans-Lunar Injection (to the Moon)
LCLV=Lunar Crew Launch Vehicle

Falcon 9 LEO - 11 tons, GEO - 5 tons (What we are banking on with NASA cut)
Falcon 9 Heavy LEO - 32.64 tons, GEO - 16.55 tons (Heavy version - not yet built)
Saturn V LEO - 131 tons, TLI - 50 tons (1960s technology that got us to the Moon)
Ares V LEO - 205 tons, TLI - 78.5 tons (Was going to be new heavy lifter - canceled)
Ares I LEO - 27.5 tons (Just had its first successful test flight - canceled)
Space Shuttle LEO - 26.8 tons, GEO - 4.2 tons (Being retired this year. Six more flights)
Jupiter 241H-LCLV LEO - 123 tons (Apparently nice solution based on existing shuttle technology - denied)

Weight of first space station module, Zarya - 21 tons

So with the commercial solution sitting in the wings we couldn't have even gotten the first station module up.

And this is good?

As to commercial.... what do you think Lockheed Martin and Boeing are? Commercial interest regulated by government. What is changing?

Nothing. We just won't have a manned spaceflight program anymore. What happens next? Without direction or popular mandate NASA dies. Then we're stuck with no NASA, no science, no space other than what the commercial ventures (which won't be funded or have incentive beyond their next government paycheck).

What do we need? Keep Constellation. Shake up NASA culture and make improvements there. Finish what we started and at the same time deregulate the commercial space start-ups as much as possible. Make it possible for commercial space to flourish in all the roles it can handle but make sure that we don't lose what we already have.

Originally published at Twixel.

groovychk: (sci-fi)
China is aggressively accelerating the pace of its manned space program by developing a 17,000 lb. man-tended military space laboratory planned for launch by late 2010. The mission will coincide with a halt in U.S. manned flight with phase-out of the shuttle.

The project is being led by the General Armaments Department of the People's Liberation Army, and gives the Chinese two separate station development programs.

Shenzhou 8, the first mission to the outpost in early 2011 will be flown unmanned to test robotic docking systems. Subsequent missions will be manned to utilize the new pressurized module capabilities of the Tiangong outpost.

Importantly, China is openly acknowledging that the new Tiangong outpost will involve military space operations and technology development.

Also the fact it has been given a No. 1 numerical designation indicates that China may build more than one such military space laboratory in the coming years.

"The People's Liberation Army's General Armament Department aims to finish systems for the Tiangong-1 mission this year," says an official Chinese government statement on the new project. Work on a ground prototype is nearly finished.

The design, revealed to the Chinese during a nationally televised Chinese New Year broadcast, includes a large module with docking system making up the forward half of the vehicle and a service module section with solar arrays and propellant tanks making up the aft.

---
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/sfn-090309-china-space-lab.html
---

This is just lovely.


Originally published at Twixel.


Terraformed Worlds 2
by ~groovychk on deviantART

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Obama’s education rollout - First Read - msnbc.com

I liked this guy. I thought he had some good ideas on the front of turning around the country and restoring the national character.
I applauded that he was taking on education.
So how is he going to pay for it?
By cutting NASA and leaving us with no manned launch capability of course.
Short-sighted idiot.

Frak. I’m left with nothing.
Ron Paul is all I’ve got and there’s no way in hell he’s going to win.
Sad day.

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Will China Beat the United States Back to the Moon? - Associated Content

“I personally believe that China will be back on the Moon before we are. I think when that happens, Americans will not like it, but they will just have to not like it. I think we will see, as we have seen with China’s introductory manned space flights so far, we will see again that nations look up to other nations that appear to be at the top of the technical pyramid, and they want to do deals with those nations. It’s one of the things that made us the world’s greatest economic power. So I think we’ll be reinstructed in that lesson in the coming years and I hope that Americans will take that instruction positively and react to it by investing in those things that are the leading edge of what’s possible.”

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Moon 2.0 Is The Next Mission For X Prize Group, And Google

Google is going to the moon, and it will spend $30 million to get there.

Google GOOG will sponsor the newest contest by the X Prize Foundation, which three years ago handed $10 million to a team that sent SpaceShipOne into suborbit and back twice over a two-week period. The nonprofit foundation seeks to promote scientific breakthroughs that benefit humanity.

In the new contest, which officials referred to as Moon 2.0, teams will compete to land a privately funded robotic rover on the moon. It will have to roam at least 500 meters of the lunar surface and complete several missions, such as transmitting photos and videos back to Earth.

A grand prize of $20 million will be awarded to the first team to do this no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

A second place award of $5 million will go to a second team that can complete this by Dec. 31, 2014.

Bonuses of $5 million will be awarded for additional tasks.

Seems like it should be more :-) Maybe add a zero. ;-)

groovychk: (science)

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

http://dialog.newsedge.com/newsedge.asp?site=2006121916143901110346&block=folderstory&briefs=off&action=XMLStoryResult&smd=true&storyid=p0906509.2rw&rtcrdata=off

TUSTIN, Calif., Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ — The aerospace industry has taken notice of a California researcher who, using off-the-shelf components, built and successfully demonstrated the world’s first successful amplified photon thruster. Dr. Young Bae of the Bae Institute first demonstrated his Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) with an amplification factor of 3,000 in December, 2006.

Major aerospace agencies and primary contractors have since invited Bae to present his work, including NASA JPL, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory). Senior Aerospace Engineer at AFRL, Dr. Franklin Mead, “Dr. Bae’s PLT demonstration and measurement of photon thrust (is) pretty incredible. I don’t think anyone has done this before. It has generated a lot of interest.”

Recently, the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, a peer-reviewed AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) (http://www.aiaa.org) Journal, accepted Dr. Bae’s PLT demonstration paper, “Photonic Laser Propulsion: Proof-of-Concept Demonstration” for publication this year. In his paper Bae documents in explicit detail how he overcame the inherent inefficiencies of traditional photon thrusters in generating thrust by amplification with the use of an innovative optical cavity concept. For decades rocket scientists have tried to overcome the inefficiency of photon thrusters by amplification based on optical cavities separated from laser sources, but failed. In contrast, Bae’s patent-pending PLT breakthrough places the laser medium within a resonant optical cavity between two platforms to produce a very stable and reliable thrust that is unaffected by mirror movement and vibration — ideal for spacecraft control or propulsion.

Looking promising!

groovychk: (sci-fi)

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Thruster May Shorten Mars Trip

TUSTIN, Calif., Sept. 7, 2007 — An amplified photon thruster that could potentially shorten the trip to Mars from six months to a week has reportedly attracted the attention of aerospace agencies and contractors.

Young Bae, founder of the Bae Institute in Tustin, Calif., first demonstrated his photonic laser thruster (PLT), which he built with off-the-shelf components, in December.

The demonstration produced a photon thrust of 35 µN and is scalable to achieve much greater thrust for future space missions, the institute said. Applications include highly precise satellite formation flying configurations for building large synthetic apertures in space for earth or space observation, precision contaminant-free spacecraft docking operations, and propelling spacecraft to unprecedented speeds — faster than 100 km/sec.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Bae said in a statement from the institute. “PLT has immense potential for the aerospace industry. For example, PLT-powered spacecraft could transit the 100 million km to Mars in less than a week.”

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Bad Astronomy Blog » Neil Tyson on exploring space
Astronomer Neil Tyson wrote a pretty good article for Parade magazine this week about why we explore space. He hits a lot of the right points, and he says something that I wind up hammering when I give public talks as well:

How many times have we heard the mantra: “Why are we spending billions of dollars up there in space when we have pressing problems down here on Earth?” Let’s re-ask the question in an illuminating way: “What is the total cost in taxes of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the space station and shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit and missions yet to fly?” Answer: less than 1% on the tax dollar—7/10ths of a penny, to be exact.

[…]

So, with 99 out of 100 cents going to fund the rest of our nation’s priorities, the space program is not now (nor has it ever really been) in anybody’s way.

The short version: space exploration costs us very little. Need I remind you that we are basically setting fire to $11,000,000 per hour in Iraq? When I talk on this topic, I make an analogy: when your disk drive is full, do you go through and take hours to delete thousands of small text files, or do you delete that one big 3 Gb video file you never watch? NASA is a text file on the hard drive of the government.

Spot on. And people never stop to think that the money is ALL spent right here on earth and almost all of it is spent in the United States. Jobs, factories, services…..

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

In 12 million years, we’re dead: Sciam Observations
In 12 million years, we’re dead

I know there are disasters just over the horizon–terrorism, climate change, the rapture–but some ends to the human race are so profoundly unavoidable that they deserve further scrutiny, even if it’s just to satisfy my need for some kind of secular eschatology.

Back in May, a pair of researchers at the University of Kansas proposed a unique solution to the puzzling periodicity of mass extinctions on Earth–which happen about once every 62 million years.

According to Adrian Melott, professor of physics and astronomy at KU, the motion of the solar system exposes Earth to an onslaught of cosmic rays on a schedule that is synchronized to the mass extinctions.

I wonder what will be around on the planet at that time.

groovychk: (science)

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

SPACE.com — Bigelow’s Second Orbital Module Launches Into Space
A privately-built space station prototype successfully launched into orbit Thursday from a Russian missile base, kicking off the second test flight for the U.S. firm Bigelow Aerospace.

Genesis 2, an inflatable module laden with cameras, personal items and a Space Bingo game, rocketed spaceward atop a Dnepr booster from a silo at Yasny Launch Base, an active Russian strategic missile base in the country’s Orenburg region. Liftoff occurred at 11:02 a.m. EDT (1502 GMT) though it was near evening at the Russian launch site.

“It was beautiful,” Bigelow Aerospace corporate counsel Mike Gold, who attended the launch, told SPACE.com immediately after the Dnepr blastoff. “Genesis 1 is about to have company.”

Genesis 2 is a near-twin of Bigelow Aerospace’s Genesis 1 module, which launched in July 2006 and remains operational today, but carries a series of enhancements and additional cargo, the Las Vegas, Nevada-based spaceflight firm has said. Both spacecraft are prototypes for future commercial orbital complexes that Bigelow Aerospace, and its founder and president Robert Bigelow, hope to offer for use by private firms and national space agencies.

groovychk: (science)

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Nuclear rockets could cut cost of Moon base - space - 28 June 2007 - New Scientist Space
Howe envisions using a nuclear engine similar to one designed and tested in the 1960s called Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA). In the NASA-funded NERVA design, hydrogen gas is heated by nuclear reactions in a uranium reactor and expelled to produce thrust.

I am ALL for this. We are long past due on using nuclear rocket engines.

The higher efficiency of such an engine means almost 29 tonnes of cargo could be delivered to the Moon in a single Ares V launch, compared to 21 tonnes with the non-nuclear version. This would allow a 250-tonne lunar base to be constructed with only nine rather than 12 Ares V launches, Howe says.

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

SPACE.com — Flight Log: The First Private Expedition to the Moon
ASPEN, Colorado - You don’t have to pack your bags quite yet, but
passenger travel to the Moon is on the flight manifest of a space tourist
company.

The price per seat will slap your wallet or
purse for a swift $100 million - but you’ll have to get in line as the first
voyage is already booked.

Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna,
Virginia, is in negotiations with the customers who will fly the first private
expedition to circumnavigate
the Moon.

“I hope to have those contracts signed by the
end of the year,” said Eric Anderson, Space Adventures’ president and CEO.

They are planning on using a Soyuz and doing a fly-by and return without entering orbit. Soyuz was designed for lunar travel so should be almost good to go!
Sounds very groovy.

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

New Horizons Web Site
This five-frame sequence of New Horizons images captures the giant plume from Io’s Tvashtar volcano. Snapped by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Jupiter earlier this year, this first-ever “movie” of an Io plume clearly shows motion in the cloud of volcanic debris, which extends 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the moon’s surface. Only the upper part of the plume is visible from this vantage point – the plume’s source is 130 kilometers (80 miles) below the edge of Io’s disk, on the far side of the moon.

groovychk: (science)

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Mars rover finds “puddles” on the planet’s surface - space - 08 June 2007 - New Scientist Space
A new analysis of pictures taken by the exploration rover Opportunity reveals what appear to be small ponds of liquid water on the surface of Mars.
The report identifies specific spots that appear to have contained liquid water two years ago, when Opportunity was exploring a crater called Endurance. It is a highly controversial claim, as many scientists believe that liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars today because of the planet’s thin atmosphere.
If confirmed, the existence of such ponds would significantly boost the odds that living organisms could survive on or near the surface of Mars, says physicist Ron Levin, the report’s lead author, who works in advanced image processing at the aerospace company Lockheed Martin in Arizona.
Along with fellow Lockheed engineer Daniel Lyddy, Levin used images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s website. The resulting stereoscopic reconstructions, made from paired images from the Opportunity rover’s twin cameras, show bluish features that look perfectly flat. The surfaces are so smooth that the computer could not find any surface details within those areas to match up between the two images.
The imaging shows that the areas occupy the lowest parts of the terrain. They also appear transparent: some features, which Levin says may be submerged rocks or pebbles, can be seen below the plane of the smooth surface.

This would be pretty damn cool.

Update: Much higher res pics here

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Mercury Messenger flew by Venus yesterday. Hopefully it worked flawlessly and we’ll have a lot of pics and data soon.

SPACE.com — MESSENGER Flyby of Venus a Dress Rehearsal for Mercury
MESSENGER is expected to collect more than 6 gigabytes of data about the Venus system and take more than 600 images during the 73- hour-flyby. The information will provide new observations about Venus’s atmosphere, cloud structure, space environment, and perhaps even its surface.

During its brief sojourn, MESSENGER will join a European spacecraft, Venus Express, that is currently in orbit around Venus. The two probes will work together to investigate how particles from the Sun’s solar wind affects and controls the upper layers of Venus’s atmosphere.

“By coordinating and comparing these observations, we will be able to maximize the science from both missions and potentially learn things that would not be revealed by one set of observations alone,” said study team member Ralph McNutt, also of APL.

Launched in August 2004, the MEcury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission is the first to visit our solar system’s innermost planet in more than 30 years, ever since NASA’s Mariner 10 mapped about 45 percent of its surface. MESSENGER’s mission is to map the entire planet, as well as gather information about Mercury’s composition and structure, its geologic history, and the makeup of its core and poles.

I can’t wait to see the pictures from this. I’ve never been real happy with the lack of visible-light hi-res pics of Venus.

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Bloomberg.com: U.S.
May 3 (Bloomberg) — Walter M. “Wally” Schirra, one of the original Project Mercury astronauts, died today in California, almost a half-century after joining the program that sent the first Americans into space. He was 84.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center confirmed Schirra’s death. He was the only astronaut to fly in the first three U.S. space programs: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

The U.S. chose Schirra and Alan Shepard Jr., John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper and D.K. Slayton as the first seven astronauts for its Project Mercury program. Grissom died in 1967, Slayton in 1993, Shepard in 1998 and Cooper in 2004.


Sad. All these pioneers are dying off and we are rolling ever further backwards. It’s well over forty years since these guys did their thing and where are we now?

groovychk: (science)

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

First habitable Earth like planet outside Solar System discovered
Munich, Apr 23 : An international team of astronomers from Switzerland, France and Portugal have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date.

The planet has a radius only 50 percent larger than Earth and is very likely to contain liquid water on its surface.

The research team used the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) 3.6-m telescope to discover the super-Earth, which has a mass about five times that of the Earth and orbits a red dwarf already known to harbour a Neptune-mass planet.

Astronomers believe there is a strong possibility in the presence of a third planet with a mass about eight times that of the Earth in the system.

However, unlike our Earth, this planet takes only 13 days to complete one orbit round its star. It is also 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is from the Sun.

However, since its host star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, is smaller and colder than the Sun - and thus less luminous - the planet lies in the habitable zone, the region around a star where water could be liquid!

Very neat.
Circling a red sun - a heavy gravity, habitable world where the sun is giant in the sky…. Sounds like Krypton. :-)

Good thing we’ve discovered kryptonite ;-)

Better article at - http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1501AP_Habitable_Planet.html

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Really Old Stars Perhaps Ideal for Advanced Civilizations - Yahoo! News
Why are SETI scientists interested in M-Stars? As Dr. Peter Backus, Observing Programs Manager for SETI, concluded in a preliminary report on the M-Stars workshop, ‘One…aspect of M dwarfs makes them intriguing for SETI: they may be ideal hosts for advanced technological civilizations because they live an extraordinarily long time. Stars like the Sun live (i.e., they fuse hydrogen into helium) for only about 10 billion years. No M dwarf that ever formed has yet to die; no M dwarf will die for more than another 100 billion years. With such long lifetimes, there are big possibilities for these small stars.’

Originally published at Twixel.net. You can comment here or there.

Pretty darn cool. A shame Venus doesn’t get more attention. Venus Express has been in Venus orbit for awhile now.

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