Friday, June 22, 2007

Browncoats at NASA: The crew of "Serenity" board ISS

A casual read of an article at caught me by surprise. DVDs of the series Firefly and follow-on movie Serenity flew to ISS on the recently completed STS-117 mission. There are a growing number of browncoats at NASA.

You can read more about it here.

Is this news shiney or what?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Global Warming: Is it Real, or is It Important?

I recently caught sight of an add from the Heartland Institute in my Adsense banner box. "I wonder what this is?" I asked myself, and then proceeded to check it out. Apparently they are a group of free market advocates, who don't believe global warming is real, that smoking isn't all that bad for you, etc. 98% of their advisory staff are either economists or lawyers, and a search of their organization would appear to indicate links to Exxon & Tobacco firms. I'm not going to say that their views are skewed, but let me at least put in my two cents worth on the Global Warming debate ...

First off, I think it's real and most of it is man-made. Even Mr. Griffin said as much, but unlike Mr. Griffin I think it is becoming a problem with which we must deal.

Second off, even if global warming were not an issue, there is the bigger problem of national security and our dependence on oil. Frankly, I'm not all that keen on getting the life blood of our economy from countries that provide so many fine examples of respect for human rights: honor killings, honor rapes, executions of infidels, suicide bombings, terrorism, abductions of foreigners, decapitations of said same, etc. and most of it in the name of religion.

Thirdly, if we don't start moving away from oil usage, either through government driven or private enterprise driven initiatives, I suspect we will encounter an economic 'hard stop', not unlike when a train comes to the end of the rail and hits the bumpers there. At that point, my intuition tells me, all hell breaks loose.

Personally, I'm thinking we're pretty close to getting practical, all-electric vehicles soon. I also suspect that nuclear energy will make a comeback -- this is because when people are sitting in the dark in their cold houses and unable to pay the bills because 'work' has closed, they won't be thinking to themselves "at least we don't have to worry about that 'dirty' nuclear energy". No, they'll be crying out for it.

Pixel Flies Lunar Lander Challenge Profile

This has been a long time coming, but congratulations are in order for Armadillo Aerospace and their recent lunar lander challenge flight of "Pixel" at the Oaklahoma Spaceport on June 2, 2007. The above pictures are part of a screen capture of the video from that flight. Pixel lifted off of one pad, rose vertically to what looks like about 100 meters altitude, transitioned 100 meters sideways, and dropped down to land on a second concrete pad. Then it was refueled and flown back along the same path to the originating pad. This was a remarkable demonstration of controlled rocket flight by a private space entrepreneur. It seems Pixel is a shoe-in for the $1.5 million X-Prize LLC prize, coming up in October of this year.

Meanwhile, Masten Space Systems continues to progress on their LLC entry, a four engine beast that is a bit like DC-X in look and feel. If not Armadillo in October, hopefully Masten.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rapid Redux: More Retraction Woes

The picture above is from STS-116, but it might as well be from STS-117. Apparently the pesky panels are balking at being folded back into their stowage configuration yet again. Not unlike cranky road maps, methinks. Maybe what they need is a spritz of vacuuum-rated WD-40.