Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Today I received a notice (actually 4) on Facebook from Robert Zubrin indicating that his book "Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism" has come out in paperback. Every time Mr. Zubrin posts on Facebook, he posts his stuff in at least four groups that I am also a part of, consequently I have no choice but to read at least one of the multitude of his posts. Sadly, I read the blurb that was attached and became incensed for the morning.

After spending an inordinate amount of time doing research, I concluded that his book is terribly flawed and full of flights of fancy. Basically Mr Zubrin attempts to go on an everything you know is wrong tirade about Malthus, other population growth scientists, Al Gore, and others, claiming that they are all "antihumanist" and clearly evil and clearly unqualified "pseudoscientists". He assumes that population growth isn't really a problem and that the technology will develop to allow us to grow our population up to 1000 times larger than our current 6 billion level.

Maybe I'm just one of those "weak minds" Einstein was referring to in the quote "Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds," but it seems to me that Mr Zubrin is an idiot, or perhaps a madman. And while it might be said that history often proves idiots and madmen right in the end, it must be remembered that history doesn't even bother recording the ravings of the much larger numbers of madmen who were completely wrong. The picture at the head of the entry provides an example of one of these unsung madmen. A full review of Zubrin's book can be found here.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Space News Agglomeration: SES-8 success, J-SSOD cannon, new Swan arrival

An impressive accomplishment occured for Space-X on Tuesday, December 3rd, when Space-X was at last able to launch the SES-8: Space's first geosynchronous orbit delivery attempt. The launch occurred at 5:41 PM EST and the Falcon 9's second stage and payload achieved orbit (LEO parking orbit) a little less than 9 minutes later. Eighteen minutes after that, the second stage commenced a short 1 minute burn which placed the payload into it's geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). The GTO is a highly eccentric elliptical orbit with a perigee at LEO altitude and an apogee that is at the geosynchronous orbit altitude. FWIW, this type of orbital change maneuver is called a Hohmann transfer.

Meanwhile, several days earlier, the Japan Space Agency's (JAXA) JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (a.k.a. J-SSOD a.a.k.a. "Awesome Cubesat Cannon") launched four cubesats from the ISS. One satellite was the PicoDragon: an earth imaging satellite created as a joint project between the University of Tokyo, the Vietnam National Satellite Center, and IHI Aerospace. Two other satellites were Ardusat-1 and Ardusat-X: Arduino-based cubesats developed for cheap access to space for students and such, and finally the TechEdSat-3: an aerobraking technology demonstrator submitted by NASA Ames Research Center, San Jose State University and the University of Idaho. Cubesats are small satellites generally fitting into a 10cm on a side cube format (hence the name), but also come in additional rectangular formats for larger loads. The simple cube is considered the 1U format, a 20cm x 10cm x 10cm rectangle is considered a 2U format, and a 10x10x30 rectangle is the 3U format. The TechEdSat-3 is of this last 3U format. The J-SSOD "cannon" is a spring loaded mechanism which ejects cubesats away from the ISS at between 1 and 1.7 meters per second (or 3.6 to 6.2 kph), about the speed of a fast walk to a slow jog. Thus the phrase "awesome cubesat cannon" might be a bit of an overstatement. The cool thing about this delivery method (cool to me at least) was that the crew of the ISS was able to checkout the satellites inside of the ISS before deploying them outside of the ISS (An airlock and the Canada arm were involved).

Lastly, December 17th marks the next Orbital Sciences Cygnus launch and Cargo Resupply Mission to the ISS. One might expect this page to have up to date information on the launch in the upcoming days.