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Posts Tagged ‘nasa’

SpaceX launches private spaceship into orbit

Posted by Richard on December 8, 2010

The first operational test of the Dragon spacecraft, capable of carrying up to 7 astronauts, appears to be a success. This morning, SpaceX launched the Dragon into orbit atop its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Gizmodo has video.

This was only the second launch of the Falcon 9 (the first was in June), and the first under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The plans for this flight were ambitious: 

The upcoming demonstration mission will launch from Cape Canaveral and should follow a flight plan nearly identical to the first Falcon 9 launch, but this time the Dragon spacecraft will separate from the second stage and will demonstrate operational communications, navigation, maneuvering and reentry. Although it does not have wings like Shuttle, the Dragon spacecraft is controlled throughout reentry by the onboard Draco thrusters which enable the spacecraft to touchdown at a very precise location – ultimately within a few hundred yards of its target.

While Dragon will initially make water landings, over the long term, Dragon will be landing on land. For this first demo flight, Dragon will make multiple orbits of the Earth as we test all of its systems, and will then fire its thrusters to begin reentry, returning to Earth for a Pacific Ocean splashdown off the coast of Southern California. The entire mission should last around four hours.

It looks like they're well on their way to a successful mission.

UPDATE: Splashdown! And complete success!

The Dragon spacecraft the first private space to reach orbit and return to Earth. It just splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, after a perfect launch, separation, orbit and re-entry. This is a huge milestone in the history of space exploration.

Woohoo! Congrats to Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team!

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Let’s change the name from NASA to NEIA

Posted by Richard on July 7, 2010

You can't make up stuff like this — unless maybe you're Scrappleface or Iowahawk. And even then, some people would consider it pretty outlandish and over the top even for satire. I believe Power Line's Paul Mirengoff first broke this story on Sunday, when few of us were reading blogs (emphasis added):

In the video below, Charles Bolden, head of NASA, tells Al Jazeera that the "foremost" task President Obama has given him is "to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering." Thus, NASA's primary mission is no longer to enhance American science and engineering or to explore space, but to boost the self-esteem of "predominantly Muslim nations."

Exploring space didn't even make the top three things Obama wants Bolden to accomplish. The other two are "re-inspire children to want to get into science and math" and "expand our international relationships,"

Yesterday, Byron York added more details (emphasis added):

In the same interview, Bolden also said the United States, which first sent men to the moon in 1969, is no longer capable of reaching beyond low earth orbit without help from other nations.

Bolden made the statements during a recent trip to the Middle East. …

Bolden’s trip included a June 15 speech at the American University in Cairo.  In that speech, he said in the past NASA worked mostly with countries that are capable of space exploration.  But that, too, has changed in light of Obama’s Cairo initiative.  “He asked NASA to change…by reaching out to ‘non-traditional’ partners and strengthening our cooperation in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and in particular in Muslim-majority nations,” Bolden said.  “NASA has embraced this charge.”

“NASA is not only a space exploration agency,” Bolden concluded, “but also an earth improvement agency.”

Well, that dovetails with their emphasis in recent years of promoting bogus anthropogenic global warming information. OK, let's make it official. Since their top objectives no longer include anything to do with aeronautics and space, it's time to take "Aeronautics and Space" out of the name. Rename it the National Earth Improvement Agency.

Today, Daniel Pipes offered four spot-on observations about this nonsense (emphasis added):

First, it is inordinately patronizing for Americans to make Muslims “feel good” about their medieval contributions to science. This will lead to more resentment than gratitude.

Second, Muslims at present do lag in the sciences and the way to fix this is not condescension from NASA but some deep Muslim introspection. Put differently, accomplished scientists of Muslim origin — including NASA’s Farouk El-Baz, who is of Egyptian origins — do exist. The problem lies in societies, and include everything from insufficient resources to poor education to the ravages of Islamism.

Third, polls indicate that Obama’s effort to win Muslim public opinion has been a failure, with his popularity in majority-Muslim countries hardly better than George W. Bush’s. Why continue with these farcical and failed attempts to win good will?

Finally, it’s a perversion of American scientific investment to distort a space agency into a feel-good tool of soft diplomacy. Just as soldiers are meant to fight, not carry out social programs, so scientists must work to expand the frontiers of knowledge, not to make select people “feel good.”

Notice that the new mission of NASA — I mean NEIA — isn't to help the people in Muslim nations better themselves and achieve more competence in science, math, and engineering. It's just to make them feel good, while leaving their actual circumstances unchanged.

I'll give the President this: he's consistent. Domestically, the Obama agenda is not to increase opportunity and encourage people on society's lower rungs to climb up, but to confiscate wealth and drag those at the top of the ladder down. Likewise, internationally, the agenda is not to encourage third-world nations to emulate our success and lift themselves up, but to destroy America's wealth, deny American exceptionalism, and drag the US down. Like all socialists before him, he neither understands nor values wealth production or its producers. So his policies, ostensibly aimed at a more equal distribution of wealth and power, inevitably work toward equally distributing poverty and helplessness.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled

Posted by Richard on June 3, 2010

The inaugural flight of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's Falcon 9 launch vehicle is scheduled for this Friday, with a backup launch date of Saturday. The launch window on both days is from 11 AM to 3 PM Eastern, and the launch will be webcast here.

The Falcon 9 is SpaceX's next step in cheap, reliable private space transportation. Its predecessor, Falcon 1, has already successfully placed satellites into orbit. Falcon 9 will provide much greater payload capacities, including the reusable Dragon crew and cargo capsule that's expected to be used to resupply the International Space Station. 

One of the few decisions President Obama has made that I wholeheartedly agreed with was the cancellation of NASA's Ares/Orion shuttle replacement program in favor of relying on private companies like SpaceX. Unfortunately, after an uproar from all the vested interests and their congresscritters (Republican and Democrat), he backpedaled, so now it's going ahead in some kind of scaled-back form.

When Obama originally cancelled Ares/Orion, SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk succinctly stated the argument against the breathtakingly expensive shuttle replacement: "The President quite reasonably concluded that spending $50 billion to develop a vehicle that would cost 50% more to operate, but carry 50% less payload was perhaps not the best possible use of funds."

Orion was designed to carry four people and cost $1.5 billion per flight. SpaceX's Dragon capsule will carry seven people in crew configuration. SpaceX has a contract with NASA to resupply the ISS using Falcon 9 and Dragon. The cost? $1.6 billion for twelve flights. Total. Just a smidge more than a single Orion mission.

I hope the Falcon 9 flight goes well (although a failure or limited success wouldn't be a big deal; the first Falcon 1 launch failed, but it went on to success). The commercialization and privatization of space flight can't come soon enough. As Glenn Reynolds says, "Faster, please!"

UPDATE (June 4): Woohoo! A completely successful inaugural launch:

Posted June 04, 2010 11:54 Pacific Time
T+ 00:09:34 Please continue to check SpaceX.com for additional flight information, including photos and videos as they become available!

Posted June 04, 2010 11:54 Pacific Time
T+ 00:09:04 Falcon 9 has achieved Earth Orbit!

Unfortunately for me, it happened while I was out getting lunch. Oh, well — I'm sure they'll post a video here soon enough.

UPDATE 2: The first video clips are available. 

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Spectacular space station flybys

Posted by Richard on November 27, 2009

Those of us in the know were treated to a rare and spectacular celestial event Thanksgiving evening. At 6:12 pm, the International Space Station appeared brightly in the WNW sky, followed 30 seconds later by the somewhat dimmer space shuttle Atlantis. The pair crossed to the southeastern horizon in about two minutes — they were really moving! Tonight, the ISS provided an even better solo performance (Atlantis had already returned to Earth), appearing even brighter and much higher in the sky. It passed very close to the moon, which was quite a sight.

So, how did I know when and where to look? Spaceweather.com. Click Satellite Flybys in the right sidebar, enter your ZIP code, and they'll show you a schedule for the ISS and several satellites. The latter are significantly less bright (and less interesting, at least to me), and probably hard to spot from a metro area. But the ISS is intensely bright. Tonight's flyby was at 5 pm, with still a fair amount of light in the sky, but it shone so brightly that that was not a problem.

I also like to check out the great celestial photos at Spaceweather.com. The last three days featured photos of the ISS-Atlantis duo. At other times, they have aurora borealis shots, sun dogs, and other cool stuff. Pick some dates from the archives (right sidebar) and see what turns up.

And of course, Spaceweather.com is where I keep up with current sunspot activity as we continue an unusually long and deep trough between solar cycles 23 and 24. In fact, NASA has acknowledged that we may be heading into a repeat of the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830, toward the end of the Little Ice Age).

Let's hope it's not a Maunder Minimum — that one lasted over half a century (1645-1715) and coincided with the depths of the Little Ice Age, when the Thames frequently froze over so solidly that a commercial district sprung up on it.

But we shouldn't worry about prolonged cooling. Al Gore and the climatologists charlatans at Hadley CRU have assured us that it's going to get hotter. They have computer models that "prove" the empirical data showing a cooling trend since 1998 are wrong. And they've carefully analyzed manipulated the data to show that there really was no medieval warm period.

So pay no heed to the fact that a graph that mirrors solar activity over the past 1000 years seems to closely match global temperature variations over the same period. <snark>Your SUV and lawn mower are much more powerful factors than a little thing like the sun.</snark>

UPDATE: If you want more info about the Climategate scandal, check out the links in the comments at this post.

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Lunar Rover manual is on the Web

Posted by Richard on August 5, 2009

If you're old enough to remember the Apollo moon landings, you may recall the Lunar Rover, our extraterrestrial dune buggy. Someone at NASA scanned the Lunar Rover Operations Manual and made it available on line. The whole thing is a 38Mb PDF, but they've also broken it up into approximately 5Mb sections for your convenience.

I've only checked out the second Section 2 PDF, covering mostly the procedures for deployment of the vehicle. It's pretty well documented, but it sure wasn't simple! I can just imagine James Irwin saying, "Wait a minute, David! You need to release the inboard handhold velcro tiedown strap first!"

If you're a space exploration nut, Apollo program fan, history buff, or technical writer, you'll get a kick out of this. 

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Remembering Heinlein

Posted by Richard on July 9, 2007

Glenn Reynolds has posted the transcript of Bill Bruner's remarks at the Heinlein Centennial in Kansas City. Bruner, NASA's head of legislative affairs, talked about what Heinlein meant to him personally and what he meant to the future of freedom in space:

Beating the odds, I was the first in my family to earn a college degree – a Bachelor’s in Astronomy. Now, I am a retired Air Force fighter aviator & colonel working for America’s space agency – in large part because RAH told me that race doesn't matter, military service is honorable, freedom is better than tyranny and humankind's destiny lies among the stars.

Go. Read the whole thing. Might put a lump in your throat.

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