unixronin: A somewhat Borg-ish high-tech avatar (Techno/geekdom)
Friday, July 8th, 2011 02:50 pm

C|Net mentions, in their coverage of the final Shuttle mission:

The so-called "flexible path" approach calls for the near-term development of private-sector spaceships to ferry astronauts to and from the space station on a for-profit basis while NASA focuses on designing new, more affordable rockets and spacecraft for eventual voyages to nearby asteroids, the moons of Mars, or even the red planet itself.

You know what the first thing is that NASA should do if they really want to foster development of private-sector orbital launch capability?

NASA should open-source the SSME.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 01:27 pm
unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Saturday, October 10th, 2009 07:53 pm

Ad Astra test-fired their VASIMR engine at full power on October 2.  Ad Astra announcement page here, video here.  At full power, VASIMR consumes 200kW of power, generates magnetic fields of 2 Tesla in its core, produces about a pound of thrust ... and looks stunning.  A pound of thrust doesn't sound like much, but it'll take a two-ton payload from Earth orbit to Jupiter in 19 months.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Monday, July 20th, 2009 04:28 pm

“Houston, ah . . .         Tranquillity base here.  The Eagle has landed.”

unixronin: A stone griffon (Weltschmerz)
Friday, February 1st, 2008 07:05 am

"Buildings shook in Texas.  Columbia was coming home."

And no, sorry, no cut here.  Thanks to Master Sergeant [livejournal.com profile] wcg for the reminder and the Bill Whittle pointer.  Because we should never forget.

What Bill Whittle says is true:  Those astronauts knew the risks, and they flew anyway.

Also true is that NASA worked wonders making the Shuttle fly, somehow, on a budget not nearly enough to do it right.

But they shouldn't have had to.  We should have done it right.  We owed it to the men and women who were going to risk their lives riding it.

And now we're talking about going to Mars.  Will we do it right this time?

We owe that to the memory of the men and women who flew the Shuttle, in full knowledge of the risks, and didn't make it home.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Thursday, November 1st, 2007 09:21 am

I was just presented with a bunch of gorgeous close-up shinies from Endeavor, by way of [livejournal.com profile] cymrullewes.  They're too good not to share... so here they are.  Full-rez images are behind the thumbnails.

Extra credit:  Identify what landmass is visible in the second photo.  I'll freely admit I don't recognize it even after looking at Google Earth.

Double credit:  Identify the cyclonic storm in the 12th photo.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 10:21 am

These days, the announcement of a new extrasolar planet is not that exciting.  We've got your jovians, your superjovians, your "hot Jupiters", your iceballs ... but some of these planets are a heck of a long way off, and none of them have been even remotely habitable (gas giants twelve times the size of Jupiter with temperatures of 900K?  Not much of a vacation destination).

Until now.

As [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll reported last night, a more-or-less Earthlike planet of about five Earth masses has been detected in the habitable zone surrounding the red dwarf Gliese 581, 20.4 light years away in the direction of the constellation Libra.  The planet's exact composition is unknown; if it formed in situ, it is likely to be a very Earthlike iron/silicate rocky world, but it is also possible that if it formed beyond the snowline and migrated in, it may be a water-world with a hugely deep world-spanning ocean (possibly possessing more than an Earth mass of water).  In short, it is "not beyond the bounds of possibility" that it could be a habitable world.

Earth-evolved vegetation wouldn't do well under a red dwarf sun.  However, the size and mass of Gliese 581 c suggest a surface gravity of around 1.6G (heavy, but manageable), and 20 light years puts it within reach of an automated probe if we can figure out a way to get one up to an appreciable fraction of lightspeed.  If we can somehow get a ship up to relativistic speeds, it's within reach of a manned expedition.

(Those are big if's, of course.)

The linked article lists six possible orbital fits for the Gliese 581 system with both currently-known planets (the five-Earth-mass 581 c in its 12.9-day orbit, and a previously-detected Neptune-size planet, designated Gliese 581 b, in a 5.366-day orbit.)  I can't help wonder what it's like when the two planets pass by each other.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Friday, March 24th, 2006 07:20 pm

Two tidbits here.

First, [livejournal.com profile] zaitcev passes on a report from Spaceflight Now in the failure iof SpaceX's Falcon 1 launch from Kwajalein at 2230Z today.  The Falcon 1 was lost about 70 seconds into the stage 1 burn; it appears the cause may have been a malfunction or failure of the main engine turbopump.  The last video from the onboard camera shows the booster apparently beginning an uncontrolled roll, after which the video signal was lost abruptly.

In more abstract, but at the same time more potentially earthshaking, news, [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll came up with this article about the discovery by ESA-sponsored researchers of a gravitomagnetic field induced by a spinning superconductive flywheel.  (To non-physicists, at a first approximation that's "artificial gravity".)  No gravitomagnetic field has ever previously been detected; the field generated in this experiment, while only 100 μG in strength, is 1020 times larger than predicted by general relativity.  (Look what we're saying here, though:  100 μG generated by what appears in this larger photo to be pretty much a bench-top experiment.)

The result can be explained by assuming that gravitons gain mass, in a manner analogous to the mass gain of photons by which quantum theory explains the electromagnetic properties of superconductors.  If the observed result can be independently reproduced and verified, it could help develop a quantum theory of gravity, and might someday lead to a gravitomagnetic spacedrive or to artificial gravity for spacecraft.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Thursday, January 26th, 2006 12:08 pm

Yup, NASA's Stardust probe is home.  And now NASA wants volunteers to visually scan for interstellar dust impacts in the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector's aerogel collection medium.  They estimate that the SIDC aerogel, about a tenth of a square meter in size, should have captured around 45 interstellar dust grains; but they also estimate it would take twenty years of continuous scanning to locate them all themselves.  Find a particle, and you get your name as co-author on any paper from Stardust@Home announcing the discovery of that particle.

The first image data is expected to be available for scanning March 1.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Sunday, January 15th, 2006 12:23 pm

Here's an oddity:  A newly-discovered millisecond pulsar in a cluster near the galactic center is puzzling astronomers because it is spinning faster than some theorists say should be possible.  Estimated to be about two solar masses, the neutron star is spinning at 716 revolutions per second, which (according to current models of neutron star structure) imposes an upper limit of 16 kilometers on its diameter before it would be torn apart by its own rotation.  Current theories say there should be an upper limit at about 700 revolutions per second, and that at this speed it should be radiating vast amounts of energy in the form of intense gravitational waves.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Sunday, January 15th, 2006 11:54 am

After seven years and three billion miles, the Stardust probe successfully returned to Earth and soft-landed a sample of dust from Comet Wild 2 to the Utah desert at 1012Z today.  As well as the first cometary dust samples ever returned to earth and the first samples of anything ever returned to Earth from beyond the Moon, this marks the furthest any probe has ever travelled from Earth and successfully returned to date, and the fastest re-entry of any man-made probe (at around 29,000mph).

Good job, NASA!

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Saturday, October 1st, 2005 07:09 pm

...on any major US news outlet, but there's a Soyuz in orbit right now that launched late last night from Baikonur, carrying a replacement crew for the ISS.  The Soyuz is carrying Commander Bill McArthur of NASA, Commander Valery Tokarev of Russia, and New Jersey space tourist Greg Olsen.  It's unclear from this coverage whether Olsen will be staying on the ISS, or returning to Earth with departing ISS crew members.

unixronin: Astronaut on EVA (Space)
Wednesday, September 28th, 2005 01:34 pm

NASA just got real.

The space shuttle and International Space Station — nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades — were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin said Tuesday.

In a meeting with USA TODAY's editorial board, Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth.

"It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path," Griffin said.  "We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."