2012 Prometheus Award Finalist

Buy Kindle version
Buy Nook version

A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.

April 2015
« Mar    


What Do You Get When You Cross IRVE With a Shuttle-Era P/A Module?

ULA’s Vulcan recovery concept:

ULA CEO Outlines BE-4 Engine Reuse Economic Case

It amounts to severing the engines from the stage, post-separation, and bringing them down via IRVE-derived inflatable heatshields.

An interesting method, but AvWeek’s description makes it sound a bit crude compared to going all the way to a single P/A-module-like unit. It may be that the decelerator required to bring down an object of that size and mass becomes impractical given the space and mass available to stow it on the launch vehicle. Or it could simply be the investment required makes the idea impractical (though it’s not necessarily that you’d be designing two vehicles, but rather a single vehicle that flies in two different configurations with a set of structural droptanks).

It’s nice to see the effects serious competition is having on the older players in the space industry.


But not quite. Falcon landing

Worlds better than the first try, though. It’s like watching the landing from the last DC-X flight – everything’s going great until a leg goes bad and the thing tips over.

It’s a pity (for entertainment value) that the video cuts off just as the stage explodes.

The State of Commercial Space

Not bad: Forget Musk’s Mars: Billionaires Branson, Allen Seek Earth Orbit – Bloomberg Business.

More Ingredients for Life Identified on Mars

Interesting: More Ingredients for Life Identified on Mars.

Inflatables Moving Closer to Use

Bigelow’s already demonstrated that inflatables can be deployed and operated in space. Now they’re moving closer to demonstrating an inflatable habitat with actual people in it: On the BEAM: Headed for the Space Station.

In its packed configuration tucked aboard SpaceX’s Dragon resupply spacecraft, BEAM will measure approximately 8 feet in diameter.

Once BEAM is attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility Node, onboard crew members will perform initial systems checks before deploying the habitat…

During the BEAM’s minimum two-year test period, crews will routinely enter the BEAM. In addition, the module will be assessed as to its performance to help inform designs for future habitat systems.

The expandable habitat will be monitored as to its adaption to the thermal environment of space, reaction to radiation, as well as micrometeroids and orbital debris strikes.


How Far We’ve Come

Since just 1996: Infrared Camera:

The camera weighs only 9.9 pounds and measures 4.4 inches wide, 10.3 inches deep and 7.2 inches long. The prototype plugs into a wall socket for power but the camera can readily be converted to battery power for portability.

That eyeball ain’t gonna fit on a cubesat.

(Note the image suggests that the camera produces 256 x 256 pixel images…0.065MP.)

Rose Eveleth is a Parody

Rose Eveleth: plumbing the important issues in science!

FWIW, I’ve worked in the space industry since 1997, around the time our favorite Twitter-based science expert and fashion critic was in junior high.  Most of that work has been on projects involving vehicles for carrying people. I don’t recall a project or a period from then to now when we didn’t normally refer to such vehicles as “crewed” – Crew Return Vehicle, Crewed Exploration Vehicle, Orion Crew Module, etc.

Young Rose, it would seem, is fighting the battles of the 1970s.

Mystery Mars haze baffles scientists

So maybe Mars isn’t as inert as we’ve come to believe: Mystery Mars haze baffles scientists.

Would be interesting if this was a dust plume kicked up by a small asteroid impact. On the other hand, I’d think if it had been, someone would already have teased evidence of this out of the rover data covering the period in question, if either of them carry sensors sensitive enough to register the faint effects of a rather distant seismic event or transient pressure/acoustic pulse in the thin atmosphere.

Martian Cube-Copters

This is the Drone Helicopter NASA Scientists Want to Send to Mars

Amusing. If lift is the limiting factor rather than volume or mass, that suggests to me that a bunch of these things could be sent on a single entry vehicle. Not unlike a certain NIAC proposal we put in last year, as it happens.

If You Were a Depraved Nihilist, My Love

John C. Wright addresses the moral void that is the left.

It’s easy to fall into the mental pattern of believing that the left is simply the flip-side of the right – not its opposite, but rather a philosophical complement, mirroring the right in its positions on various issues but sharing the same overall goals. And that may be true in the case of most ordinary Democrats, vs. leftists, and what I think he is alluding to with his description of what the left used to be (or claim to be) about.

But when you encounter the true believers, such as those who made up the various tentacles of the Colorado Democracy Alliance, you see exactly what Wright describes as the left of today. They champion every movement or idea or person that opposes the good, the just, and the beautiful, and the more corrosive the movement or idea or person, the more strongly they champion it.

Yes, they are liars, brazen and habitual, devoid of intellectual integrity. Yes, they are crass hypocrites, cynically portraying themselves as champions of those they exploit. Yes, they are grownup toddlers, unwilling to take responsibility for their record of failure or accept any criticism or refusal without pitching mouth-foaming tantrums. But those things are secondary to the mindless destructive impulse that underlies their thinking as a whole. What may at one time have been an idealistic radicalism demanding the dismantling of an unjust status quo and its replacement with something better has over a few generations morphed into a nihilistic vandalism aiming to tear down anything positive with no other end in mind. The “hatred of the good for being good”, Ayn Rand’s definition of envy, is a useful measure for seeing this mindset in action – examine who and what leftists exalt, and what and who they revile, and this nihilistic opposition to the philosophic good becomes plain to see.

Yes, leftists are evil – this is not insanity, it’s a morally wrong choice they make and a corrosive state of mind they willingly persist in and promote and enforce. Mr. Wright hits on the symptoms here, but doesn’t go all the way to the root of that evil.

About this part:

Point out any barbaric act by any Jihadist, and the Leftist will say two things: (1) Christians are just as bad, and therefore cannot make the moral judgement that Jihadists have done bad things…

Point number [1] might be confusing to you, like hearing a man over and over saying he can eat the Sun for lunch. It is so far removed from reality that their is no normal explanation for it. It is not the kind of lie one says in order to deceive someone, and certainly no one with an IQ number higher than his shoe size would deceive himself with such a comically unbelievable statement. What does it mean?

My summary of his view here is that this lie is meant to forestall the holocaust they imagine will take place if Christians are allowed to respond to Islamic threats as they intrinsically wish to do. (This worry about Christians’ purported Islamocidal tendencies would seem to contradict his argument that this leftist concern for minorities and tolerance and such is merely a facade, until you recognize this worry is motivated not by the left’s purported humanitarianism inspiring them to protect innocents from a violent intolerance being loosed from its chains but rather a consuming hatred and bigotry towards Christians that inspires them to imagine the possibility of such a thing in the first place.)

What struck me about this part was that he incidentally touches on the Big Lie tactic. Effective lies require some foundation in truth, which in this case is provided by the left’s narrative of ‘historical Christian barbarism’ – exaggerated to wholly inaccurate views of the Crusades, the Reconquista and Inquisition, witch burnings, etc. – long promoted to undermine the prestige of Christianity as a rival social force to the totalitarian collectivism with which leftists seek to replace it. The Big Lie here is indeed not meant to deceive, or to be believed. It is meant to shame their opponents into silence with a moral equivalence so astonishing that it disarms them, or at the very least bogs them down in trying to untie the knots of the dishonest narrative and establish credibility by separating modern Christianity from whatever happened in the past, wasting their time and patience and energy on unproductive efforts that do nothing to repel the leftist attack, let alone advance the cause of the good.