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Yet Another Russian Space Plan

This time, it’s building a permanent presence on the Moon.

Just add money.

 

USSR, Twenty Years Later

Good riddance.

Unfortunately, it was late in coming, and in the  form of fifth-column movements, former client-state kleptocracies in the third world, the mainstreaming of thinly-disguised Marxist ideas, a defense arrangement which has infantilized Europe, etc., we are still living with the USSR’s ugly and destructive legacy.

On the bright side, at least NASA is finally starting to shake off the institutional structure and outlook it developed as a result of the early space race with the now-defunct USSR (ironically, while temporarily relying on USSR-heritage equipment).

Trivially, I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t find the news video of Yeltsin and Gorbachev signing the final documents of dissolution late on December 31st just before the flags were changed over the Kremlin – that’s my main memory of the event, highlighting just how surprisingly uneventful the end really was. (My second memory was of how ironic it was that I completed my poli-sci degree less than two weeks before…the end of the USSR pretty much rendered a lot of the acquired knowledge no longer relevant.)

Another Dead Russian Mars Probe

Maybe the Russians should just cut their losses and focus on another planet or the Moon – ESA Abandons Effort To Contact Russia’s Stranded Mars Probe:

NASA had also lent its tracking assets to the Phobos-Grunt salvage effort but was unable to pick up any signals from the spacecraft, which was launched Nov. 8 on a mission intended to land on the martian moon Phobos and return samples to Earth. The spacecraft also carries a small Chinese satellite intended for Mars orbit.

“The mission is no longer feasible,” said Manfred Warhaut, head of operations at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. In a conference call with journalists, Warhaut and ESOC operations engineer Wolfgang Hell, who had been in regular contact with Lavochkin, said Russia is unlikely to give up on Phobos-Grunt.

“We are not in a position to continue, but they definitely will not give up,” Warhaut said. “They will continue to try to send thruster commands” to get Phobos-Grunt’s engines to function.

It seems the more ambitious their Mars missions, the more quickly they fail. Which is too bad – the more Mars missions, the better, but also because the Phobos sample return on this mission would have been really interesting.

Another Russian Space Hotel

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A Russian company which plans to build the world’s first space hotel has released further details on its ambitious project.

The plan, which would see a hotel placed into orbit some 350 kilometers above the earth, was first unveiled last year by Russian firm Orbital Technologies as a commercial alternative to the International Space Station.

This week, it revealed further details of the design at an aviation industry event in Moscow, suggesting that it will be able to accommodate seven people at a time – with the most incredible views you’re likely to get out of a window…

Orbital Technologies says that the design and development of the space station is underway, and it is expected to launch in 2016.

Just add money!

I’d like to see them succeed, but given the frequency with which ambitious space projects involving the Russians emerge and then disappear, I’m a little skeptical.

Space Transport “I’ll Believe It When I See It” #45645988223

The Japan Space Elevator Association is planning to build (obviously enough) a space elevator:

Now the finest scientific minds of Japan are devoting themselves to cracking the greatest sci-fi vision of all: the space elevator. Man has so far conquered space by painfully and inefficiently blasting himself out of the atmosphere but the 21st century should bring a more leisurely ride to the final frontier.

For chemists, physicists, material scientists, astronauts and dreamers across the globe, the space elevator represents the most tantalising of concepts: cables stronger and lighter than any fibre yet woven, tethered to the ground and disappearing beyond the atmosphere to a satellite docking station in geosynchronous orbit above Earth.

Up and down the 22,000 mile-long (36,000km) cables — or flat ribbons — will run the elevator carriages, themselves requiring huge breakthroughs in engineering to which the biggest Japanese companies and universities have turned their collective attention.

Sure. And they’ll use Klipers to build out the space infrastructure, while the workers lounge at orbiting space polyps hotels on their days off.

Early Soviet Fatalities?

It’s Pravda, so take it with a grain of salt:

Not Quite “Salvage One”

Here’s a curious story from Baikonur: Metal Scavengers Detained at Russia?s Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

A spokesman for the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Vyacheslav Davidenko, has said that in late February interior ministry operatives found two CIS citizens on the territory of the space center. One of them was an Uzbek national. They were searching for pieces of non-ferrous alloys…However, the Kazakh migration police have told the agency that two Afghanis and one Pakistani citizen were detained on the territory of the space center on March 4. They infiltrated the facility in order to gather pieces of non-ferrous alloys. According to the source in the migration police, there were also two Kazakh citizens among the detainees who attempted to gather scrap metal on the territory of the Baikonur space center.

Sounds like a couple of space age can guys, collecting bits and pieces of aluminum and such for recycling cash, right? Well, maybe not:

Experts of the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys said a chemical analysis of pieces of non-ferrous alloys found at Baikonur could assist nations seeking to improve their missile technology.

Interesting. Unfortunately, the article leaves off there, with no further detail.

And Yet More Luddism

China and Russia, in hit at U.S., urge space arms ban

Yeah, I’m sure they’re doing it out of global altruism, too.

“We are ready to take on such a commitment immediately as long as the leading space powers join in a moratorium,” he said.

Hey, it’s like a Kyoto for space! “Yup, you betcha, just as soon as them American cowboys sign up to it first, we’ll be all over this treaty.”

Ah, but this part is a real gem:

Proponents of a pact, which include many European and nearly all developing countries, say it is vital to ensure that the 1967 treaty banning weapons of mass destruction in outer space is not undermined.

With the U.S. withdrawal last year from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the old Soviet Union, they argue there is no reliable legal pact barring countries from using space for military purposes.

So…we have a treaty barring weapons in space, but we can’t be sure that that treaty is worth the paper it’s written on, so we need…another treaty?

Right. Okay.

And note the clever (or stupid, take your pick) misrepresentation of what is being discussed here. The last sentence implies that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans military activity in space, generically, when it does no such thing:

Article IV

States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited

Now, if the Russians and Chinese wish to deorbit their military surveillance, navigation, and communications satellites, and ban such things in the future, as part of this new treaty they desire, well, that would suggest that they are serious about banning “military activity” in space. Otherwise, it’s just another whining attempt to undermine our NMD program.

Guardian Op-Ed Moonbattery

This op-ed by Rod Liddle in today’s al Guardian is so deliriously idiotic and filled with sneering cuteness that it would be a shame not to fisk it.

Shall we?

(more…)

China and Russia: Partners in Space?

“Russian Space Officials Meet in Beijing to Discuss More Cooperation”

Curious developments. On the one hand, China wants to get aboard the ISS project (this is a howler):

As it prepares to send astronauts into space next year and launch a space lab in 2005, China is also making new overtures to join science operations on the ISS. Without China’s participation, the ISS “is not a truly international program,” CNSA administrator Luan Enjie told the Aviation Week & Space Technology last year

Reminds one of the political thought experiment currently in vogue in Europe: “How many nations have to join in before an undertaking stops being ‘unilateral’?”

But on the other hand, they take a poke at the U.S. and our inexplicable habit of complaining about, you know, those pesky ‘human rights’ thingies:

In a lengthy joint statement signed by Putin and President Jiang Zemin on 2 Dec, China and Russia stressed their commitment to a “multipolar” world code for a world less dominated by the United States. They also complained that some governments have a “policy of double standards” on human rights, rejecting “the use of human rights issues as a lever for pressure in international relations.”

(Though with Dana Rohrabacher calling them ‘Nazis in space’, one might expect the Chinese to get a bit snippy.)

The article concludes that it would be nearly impossible for the U.S., alone among the ISS partner countries in its opposition to Chinese use of the station, to prevent such use forever — at some point we’ll have to give in to the inevitable.

Personally, I hope that we don’t. And I also hope this cozy-cuddling between Russia and China and the rhetoric about a “multpolar world” is more than just words. Why? Because a worthy rival in space (on peaceful terms, mind you) is what is desperately needed to get NASA off its backside and motivated to accomplish something more spectacular and meaningful than simply getting its financial house in order. If the Russians pull back or pull out of the ISS in favor of (for example) a revived “Mir 2″ project with the soon-to-be spacefaring Chinese, the public will be wanting to know how and why it happened, and what we as a country are going to do to answer it (well, for one thing, we’d have to crash-build a crew return capability).

Competition is a good thing.


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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.

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