Friday, August 31, 2007
COMMENT: Researchers are to be commended for their desire to return to the wild an animal that would be a very big draw if put on exhibit.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Meanwhile, Boeing defeated ATK for the right to build the Ares 1 upper stage, the last of the major structural elements of the new lunar booster/spacecraft combination to be put on contract.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I'll be on the panel for the opening session as we look at what NASA can learn from its history so far and what might lie ahead.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
COMMENT: There have always been some people in the cryptozoological world who argue discoveries which upset widely held theories are suppressed to protect people's academic reputations. The publication of this paradigm-shattering find should help to disprove that.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
NASA has put together a collection of striking photographs from the STS-118 mission. It remains to be seen whether the damage to Endeavour's tiles will force any postponement of the next mission.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Thanks to Loren Coleman for pointing out this site.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Calling someone a "Bird brain" just may become a compliment....
Date Released: Thursday, August 16, 2007
Source: National Academy of Sciences
WASHINGTON - Next month, the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council will kick off a yearlong series of public lectures and colloquia in cities across the country and abroad. "FORGING THE FUTURE OF SPACE SCIENCE - THE NEXT 50 YEARS" will celebrate the spectacular achievements of space and earth science, examine new discoveries in both fields, and look ahead at what the next 50 years may bring. The series includes several "regional events" in locations across the country...
Comment: this is timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), which led to countless accomplishments by scientists around the world in addition to sparking the development of the first satellites. See the link for the locations and content of each event.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
COMMENT: A great deal of thought went into this, and some of the media coverage was horrible, either sensationalizing the risk or bashing NASA with no effort at balanced coverage. All that said, there is no way to know with 100% certainty if this call was right until the end of the mission. All fingers will be crossed until then.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Just for fun, Naish throws in a photo of a set of horns whose original owner also has yet to be identified.
Yes, there ARE many mysteries left in the natural world.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
COMMENT: While modern advances in miniature computers and communications
technology make this practical, the basic rocket-from-a-fighter-jet can trace its origin to Project Pilot, or "NOTSNIK," the semi-official satellite program created by Navy
physicists and engineers in 1958. Their five-stage, 1,000-lb launch vehicle tried to orbit a 1-kg satellite and may actually have succeeded once, though the orbit was short-lived. This was not the model for Pegasus, whose designer was unaware of the project until I mentioned it to him once at the Conference on Small Satellites, but AFRL did try a couple of years ago to revive the idea, on two tracks, one working with DARPA on an impractically complex and expensive
launch aircraft (that's been killed), and then one using an F-15 or F-22 launch vehicle carrier. AFRL officers were likewise surprised that someone had actually done this and that some documentation survived (though not much), and I sent them what I had compiled. So I like to think I (and the oft-overlooked value of knowing history) made some contributions here.
The program is discussed in my book The First Space Race (Texas A&M
University Press, 2004)
COMMENT: The tile system has never caused an accident, but it is unacceptably fragile and enormously labor-intensive to maintain. It's an outgrowth of the desire to keep development costs for the Shuttle down (which was successful) by trading off maintainability and reusability during the spacecraft's operational life. Of several options for the heat shield, the tiles were the cheapest to develop but the most expensive to maintain. All indications are the same short-sighted approach is afflicting the Crew Exploration Vehicle program.
UPDATE 8/12/2007: NASA has confirmed the damage is from a piece of foam, estimated as grapefruit-sized, that came off a strut on the External Tank (ET). Further study is still underway to determine whether the gash is deep enough to require repair. See:
Thursday, August 09, 2007
It is barely possible that a few individuals linger in tributaries of the Yangtze, but there is no chance they constitute a viable population.
It appears that humanity has driven a documented cetacean species to extinction for the first time.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Ice 100,000 to 8,000,000 years old was cut from Antarctic glaciers and carefully melted under sterile conditions. The result: healthy, fast-multiplying microbes, expecially from the younger samples. Scientists found there was a "half-life" of about 1.1 million years for DNA of frozen microbes: about half of it disappears in that time. So some samples showed, not viable animals, but fragments, which themselves could have unknown impacts if released into the aquasphere.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
COMMENT: I applaud this company, as always, for its willingness to embark on a risky venture that, if successful, will help open up human space travel. I can't help but feel a little bemused by this new tweak, though. Who, exactly, is going to see the ads? UFO pilots?
The conversation on the bridge of a flying saucer might go like this:
"Look, Bleemborg. The earthlings have come up with another idea for the rest of the galaxy to laugh at."
"It is funny, Zorgfrog, but right now I do feel a craving for a vacuum-cold Pepsi."
"I hope these people don't exterminate themselves by nuclear war or global warming. They are much too entertaining to lose."
"Well, let's go ahead and dorfeltape this scene. The network executives back home are always happy to get a new segment for their hit show, 'Funniest Earth Videos.'"
"I still like the time we punk'd their Mars Rover with those ice cubes. Their news reports were hilarious."