Friday, February 6, 2009

6 February 2009

Today is 6 February 2009

Several news sites have been brought to our attention, and in our continuing effort to offer the best space news blogging resources to our readers, we are linking to them here. purports to carry stories on exploration and tourism. Don't be surprised if there are plenty of NASA cheerleading articles.

Mars Daily has not quite a new article on Mars every day. Some nice coverage here.

Moon Daily as you might expect has a few articles on the Moon each week.

Yes, a MidAtlantic spaceport, formerly the Wallops Flight Facility of NASA. Used to launch the occasional Scout rocket for Ling Tempco Vought (LTV) Aerospace. Briefly the site of the hopes and dreams of Space Services Incorporated of America and its Conestoga launch vehicle with a reusable payload until October 1995 or so when it blew up about 46 seconds after liftoff. Now Orbital Sciences is planning to use the facility as one location for their cargo missions to the Internationalist Socialist Space Station under a huge contract for NASA.

Got 25 million frequent flyer miles? Maybe you should trade them in on a trip into space. Virgin Galactic is offering one of its trips, and Virgin Blue's Velocity frequent flyer program is even giving away 25 million points to a lucky flyer on one of its terrestrial aircraft. No Virgin Blue miles? (Do they show blue films in flight on this airline?) No problem. Simply pay the $200,000 ticket price. Giving away a trip into space isn't what it was like in 1990, I can tell you that.

Iran made headlines, but no worries with the launch of a 60 pound satellite using their Safir multi-stage rocket. Look for terror-scary politicians to use the occasion to push for nuclear first strikes on and invasion of Iran. Meanwhile, space enthusiasts everywhere welcome Iran to the growing list of space satellite launching nations. If India can put a man on the Moon by 2025, Iran can put an Iranian in orbit by 2020. And maybe take some honeymooners to a space hotel.

Yawn, another extra-solar planet has been found. This one is less than twice Earth's diameter, but about 11 times Earth's density. In this case the planet was detected as it transited its star, which it orbits very closely. Its distance to its primary is about one-sixtieth the distance of Earth to the Sun. So, yes it is likely a terrestrial class planet, akin to Mercury, although much closer and much denser. It is among the smallest planets found outside our Solar System, due to the limits of our abilities to detect either the gravitational influence on a star's path through the sky, or the light from a star, using technologies now available. What we do know for certain, though, is that a great many stars in the galaxy have planets. So far over 300 planets around other stars have been identified. There is reason to think that of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy, most have planets. Perhaps 100 billion stars or more have planets, and if the average number of bodies (dwarf planets, planets, large moons) in a given star system is around 20, something like two trillion planets would exist.

If your interest, like mine, is in traveling to planets in the universe which we can make habitable, at least for tourist visits, then the odds of planets in other star systems being "Earth like" aren't especially relevant. Nevertheless, with two trillion to choose from, one would expect hundreds of thousands to millions of such planets are out there waiting to be found.

Ground controllers screw up software, space station shakes like earthquake-prone Los Angeles. The shaking came during a re-boost of the space station by Russian booster rockets. Another re-boost planned for this week was postponed while the software team scratches their collective backsides. Meanwhile, plans continue to put a "full crew" of six on the space station full time later this year. (Make it seven, the traditional number of astronauts to be massacred in a batch when NASA screws up? Nah.) Does anyone remember when Ronald Reagan announced the space station project in 1984?

He said, "Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade." And NASA's initial design called for a space station within 8 years that would host 12 astronauts. Guess what? They didn't make the schedule. It wasn't until 1998 that the space station up there now began to be ready for crews. Nor did they meet their initial estimate of $8 billion - not by a very, very wide margin. Yet, to make sure it got funded by taxpayers, George Abbey and other evil, sinful NASA people attacked and destroyed, among other projects, the External Tanks company and the Industrial Space Facility. Best estimates by non-NASA sources put the cost at around $150 billion over 30 years, not counting the billions wasted on many false starts.

NASA scum delay another shuttle launch.

Ars Technica scoffs but Singularity University is launching.

Google and NASA team up to waste slightly less taxpayer money than if NASA did the virtual tours of Mars itself. We can count on NASA to let Google get all the ad revenues, though, so that's nice. It always feels nice when taxpayer data collected at great cost in lives and treasure is turned over to some group of yo-yos with an insider deal.

An Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to liftoff shortly before Valentine's Day.

Judging only by their graphics this "space hotel" company may be some sort of scam. If they really have $3 billion of invested capital, they didn't spend any of it developing their logo, which looks like a child got loose with a blue crayon. They appear to be planning a whole new launch system, a training facility on a Caribbean island to be named, and a huge orbital facility built of various modules. While conceivably feasible within the price tag, it is interesting to wonder if construction on the space station modules actually began in October 2008 as scheduled. Their web site, meanwhile has bloated flash and dismal sound. The four-year time horizon seems aggressive, and we are not the only ones to suppose it might be a hoax.

Our old friend Jim Muncy is the subject of this Facebook group, aimed at getting him to open an account. Log into your FB page to see the lame "closed" group description.

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