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Archive for December, 2004

Holiday Hiatus

I’ll be out of town or otherwise occupied with holiday stuff for the next two-plus weeks.

Back on January 3.

Kadish In?

I can hear the moonbats barking already: NASA’s O’Keefe to Resign; Ex-Missile Defense Chief Tops List of Contenders

Meanwhile, a White House team is weighing five candidates and plans to announce O’Keefe’s departure and pick a new NASA administrator by Thursday, according to a source familiar with the selection process.

Leading the president’s list: Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, who retired in September after three years as the director of the United States’ effort to develop a system to shield the country and its troops from a missile attack.

The other four men under consideration are former Congressman Robert Walker and former shuttle astronauts Ron Sega, Charles Bolden and Robert Crippen.

O’Keefe Out?

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Sean O’Keefe may be leaving NASA for LSU:

After three tumultuous years at the space agency’s helm, NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe is poised to leave the Bush administration to become chancellor of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

An announcement could come as early as Monday, officials familiar with the situation said today.

O’Keefe formally applied for the $500,000 a year post late Friday after heavy recruiting by the university to land him…

O’Keefe would not comment Saturday and the White House did not respond to queries Saturday.


It came down to the wire, but it finally made it: Congress Passes Space Tourism Bill

The final version allows the Federal Aviation Administration to begin issuing regulations to protect the safety of passengers and crew only eight years after the bill becomes law. Before then, the agency may restrict design features or operating practices only if they’ve resulted in a serious or fatal injury to passengers or crew, or caused an unsafe unplanned event…
The bill requires passengers to be informed of the risks involved, and the Federal Aviation Administration may issue regulations to protect the non-flying public’s health and property and the country’s national security and foreign policy interests.

It appears that now has an eight-year grace period in which to build up a real space tourism industry.

You Don’t Have To Eat The Leg, Thompson

Food crisis on space station

Food is running so low aboard the international space station that flight controllers have instructed the two crewmen to cut back on calories – at least until a Russian supply ship arrives in about two weeks.

If anything goes wrong with the Christmas Day delivery, Nasa will have no choice, given the grounding of its shuttle fleet, but to abandon the station and bring the men home in January.

See, now, if NASA were a little more media savvy, they could exploit the situation by turning it into a reality TV show…call it, oh, Survivor: Raft of the Medusa. Why not? If reality TV is a tourism booster here on Earth, think of what it might do for space tourism…

Can “Survivor: ISS” Be Far Behind?

Oracle is sponsoring a contest, the winner of which will be sent on a suborbital hop with Space Adventures:

A new quiz will be released every three weeks until May 31, and each passing score counts as a contest entry, increasing your chances of winning.

You don’t have to be a professional Oracle developer to compete, but a science background may help by the time the subject matter gets around to “Designing BPEL Processes with BPEL Process Manager.”

Those who’d rather skip the quizzes and toss their name straight into the contestant pool can just send a postcard to Oracle Space Sweepstakes, P.O. Box 4021 Grand Rapids, Minn. 55730-4021.

If you do win the big prize, the contest rules note, you’ll need to sign a lulu of a liability waiver and submit an affidavit from your doctor testifying that you’re medically fit to fly. The exact date of the trip depends on Space Adventures’ launch schedule, but it’ll happen sometime in 2006. As a bonus, Schultz promised that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will not be joining the winner.

The registration site is here, if you’re interested.

Space Pen Redux?

Sure, quality of life is important on a long space voyage, but…will astronauts really need to bring the whole kitchen along?

Future long-duration space crews may need up to 40 different food processing machines to turn crops such as wheat and tomatoes into edible foods like bread and cereals, NASA officials estimated.

Now, granted, there are lots of steps between plant and table, many of which we don’t see nowadays due to the wonders of industrialized agriculture. But…agriculture hasn’t always been mechanized, and has only recently been heavily mechanized. Wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate on crops which can be grown, harvested, and brought to the table with the fewest unique tools? Or, for that matter, to reengineer common food crops to reduce up-front the amount of processing required?

I realize that this may just be a bit of “science fair” research…work done more in the interest of generating and demonstrating new ideas of what can be done than to develop wholly practical applications. But the article is somewhat misleading in that it suggests the opposite.

Either way, this seems to completely miss the point:

Food engineer Paul Singh, of the University of California at Davis, built a prototype device that processes tomatoes into pretty much any form needed for a meal during a mission to Mars to beyond.

“It’s a tomato processing plant, a benchtop device that slices, dices cuts and purees,” Perchonok said, adding that a space food processor must be both multi-purpose and miniaturized.

There’s a perfectly reliable, inexpensive, TRL-9 piece of technology already available that fits the bill — it’s called a knife. Sure, technology which is older than human civilization doesn’t quite have the same geek cachet as a sophisticated space-age widget, but at least it’s guaranteed to work.

Spaceships And Butter

Minnesota Daily is cautiously supportive of the VSE:

In addition, while space programs keep the United States at the forefront of technology and scientific discovery, Congress must not blindly dole out whatever absurd sum of money the president deems necessary. NASA must remain funded to carry out its mission in a reasonable amount of time – the space race is over and hopefully the Mars mission will involve other countries’ space programs – but priorities at home on Earth should continue to be priorities, and space exploration is not the only form of science Bush must support.

A manned mission to Mars within the next several decades will have far-reaching impacts we have not even begun to dream of. It will rejuvenate the space program and get another generation excited about space travel and discovery beyond “Star Trek.” As long as the programs are thoughtfully and prudently funded, the next step into the final frontier will be well worth it.

Besser Spät Als Niemals

Last rocketeers set sights on Mars

To this new generation, the German rocketeers are an inspiration. For the rocketeers, the techies are reviving their dearest hope: that man will go to Mars.

“If private industry takes tourists into space, it might uplift the whole program again,” says Konrad Dannenberg, 92, a propulsion expert on Apollo. “I’m very hopeful.”

Ernst Stuhlinger, 92, who was von Braun’s right-hand man, twinkles when asked about the new generation’s dreams of Mars flights. “We old-timers have been thinking that way for a very long time.”

As It Should Be

It took the Trek mythos what, ten years to cough up its first film? Looks like Babylon 5 will make it to the big screen in seven.

[via Mark Whittington]

UPDATE: More at the all-knowing Lurker’s Guide.

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.

December 2004
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