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16 March 2007

+ 1 - 3 | § Today In History

Goddard with rocketOn this date in 1926, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket. From the article at the link, a bit of unrelated, but interesting, history:
In 1920, the Smithsonian published his original paper, "A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes," in which he included a small section stressing that rockets could be used to send payloads to the Moon.

Unfortunately, the press got wind of this and the next day, the New York Times wrote a scathing editorial denouncing his theories as folly. Goddard was ridiculed and made to look like a fool. He responded to a reporter's question by stating, "Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace."
A day after Apollo 11 set off for the Moon, in July of 1969, the New York Times printed a correction to its 1920 editorial section, stating that "it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error."

+ 3 - 2 | § Flying Dragon

dragonEager to see the maiden launch of the a new Apollo-esque capsule that can carry NASA crew and cargo into space, but don't want to have to wait until the next decade for Orion? Well, apparently, you're in luck.

SpaceX has released new information about Dragon, the capsule it is designing through NASA's COTS commercial acquisition program. From the sound of things, it's a rather impressive vehicle -- up to seven crew capacity, ISS docking or lunar fly-by capability, ground or water landing.

And when would you expect a vehicle like that to be available for testing? SpaceX is aiming for a maiden orbital uncrewed flight in Sept. 2008, following ed an ISS-rendezvous test flight in second quarter 2009 and a docking the following quarter.

Of course, it's important to note that this depends on SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster being available for the launch. The Falcon 9 is currently slated for a maiden launch the quarter before the first Dragon test flight. But thus far, in a year and a half of trying to launch its smaller and theoretically more mature Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX has managed only to drop one into the ocean. So in the same amount of time they've been trying unsuccessfully to launch the Falcon 1, they're planning on successfully launching the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon.

SpaceX's Web site is currently reflecting plans for another Falcon 1 launch attempt next week. I'll allow myself to be a bit more excited about Dragon when SpaceX actuallly puts something in space. I'm confident that they will eventually, but to launch Dragon on a Falcon 9 next year, the ball's going to have to start rolling soon.

15 March 2007

+ 1 - 4 | § One-Part Harmony

HarmonyNASA today announced the new name for Node 2, the connecting module that will be attached to the International Space Station during the STS-120 mission, scheduled for this summer, and will make it possible to add the European and Japanese laboratory modules to the station.

The first U.S. module to have a name suggested by somone outside of NASA, Node 2 was named by a student contest. The winning entry, and new name of Node 2, is Harmony.

Which is nice, but I'm disappointed that they didn't go with my idea -- Giant Death Ray. It would have stirred much more public interest in the space station to have headlines like "Astronauts will attach Giant Death Ray to ISS" or "Spacewalk activates ISS's Giant Death Ray."

+ 2 - 3 | § Space Ham

first in space coverFrom Newsarama:
This April, Oni Press will join the space race by releasing the all new original graphic novel FIRST IN SPACE by talented newcomer James Vining, winner of a 2006 Xeric Award. Set in the early 1960s and extensively researched, FIRST IN SPACE tells the true adventures of Ham, America’s first chimpanzee launched into space by NASA.

“This was a story I was determined to tell,” explains James Vining. “Regardless of whether or not it ever found a publisher, I was going to make it happen. It took a while, but I finished the graphic novel and had just barely started to show it around. I was fortunate enough to be recognized by the Xeric Foundation at the same time Oni approached me about publishing it. It was pretty amazing to have those two things happen at about the same time –especially considering this was my first graphic novel.”
In FIRST IN SPACE, Ham is paired with his human handler to undergo his training for the space flight. Smart and quick, Ham quickly outpaces his fellow chimpanzees, but nearly misses his flight because his fondness for banana pellets gets in the way of weight restrictions.

If you follow the link, the page with the article also has a ten-page preview of the comic.

Keywords: comics,history,monkeys,nasa,space

02 March 2007

+ 3 - 3 | § What If The Moon Doesn't Come Back?

lunar eclipseThere's going to be a lunar eclipse tomorrow, so go check it out.

If I'm reading the article correctly, for folks in the Central Time zone, the moon will actually be fully eclipsed as it rises, and starting a little before 6 p.m., you'll be able to watch the moon coming out of the eclipse.

01 March 2007

+ 4 - 0 | § You Say You Want A Revolution?

Orion CSMPer
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told a Senate panel Wednesday that development of Orion crew spacecraft and the Ares launch vehicle will be delayed four to six months, pushing the first operational flight of the new system into 2015.

Griffin said the slip is unavoidable in the face of a flat 2007 budget that denies NASA’s exploration program about half of the more than $900 million increase it was seeking.

“The reduction does not halt any planned work we were going to do on [Orion and Ares] but it does stretch it out,” Griffin told the Senate Commerce space and aeronautics subcommittee.

He said the slip would delay everything from the planned April 2009 test flight of the Ares I-1 rocket to the first operational flight, which had been targeted to occur no later than 2014.

I'll refrain from any commentary on the results of last year's election that resulted in this.

As of right now, the gap will still be less than the grounding between ASTP and shuttle. That gap was between July 1975 and April 1981, for five years and nine months. This delay puts the Orion launch somewhere around five years after the final shuttle launch, currently planned for around April 1, 2010.

Addendum: SpacePolitics has some commentary on the issue, and notes that Griffin later clarified he was referring to FY15.