Brief updates

  • 11:13 Experiencing a blast from the past: I have Eve Tokimatsuri songs running through my head now. #
  • 11:45 @snidegrrl “The spiders launched to the space station a supply of tasty fruit flies for food” – spiders with orbital capability? Uh-oh. #
  • 12:07 Noting that the “post Twitter entries to LJ” script is doing so at wildly varying times of day for some reason. #

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A little more crowded

Space is getting a little more interesting now, with reports of developments in both government and private sectors.

The Chinese astronauts have returned safely to Earth after almost three days in space; one ‘taikonaut’ performed a spacewalk during the mission, a task which remains difficult and risky despite many successes on the part of the U.S. and Russia. The Chinese return capsule made a ‘hard’ landing on solid ground, which is a bit trickier than landing in water. According to Wikipedia, an airbag-based ‘hard’ landing system for NASA’s Orion capsule has been removed for weight and complexity reasons, returning Orion to water landings.

Space X’s Falcon 1, carrying a dummy payload, achieved orbit around the Earth on Sunday morning. This is the first time a privately funded company has done such a feat with a liquid fuel rocket; the company’s press updates page has some cool pictures from a webcam mounted on the side of the launch vehicle. Video is supposed to follow soon. By 2010, the company plans to have a version that will safely launch heavy payloads and human beings.

The last thing the U.S. needs right now is another artificial “space race” where we pick a goal, achieve it, and rest on our laurels for another 40 years. But competition, both at home and abroad, is a good thing if it provides motivation and options. A problem suffered by both the American and Soviet space programs is that they generally had the budget to choose one method to achieve a goal, and if committing fully to that choice turned out to be inefficient, tough. No going back. Perhaps this is changing.

Only vaguely related: if you don’t read XKCD, you need to check out “Height“. There’s a poster of that image, and yes, I want it.


Assuming that I have converted my time zones correctly, and that nothing went awry with the countdown, the third Chinese manned space mission is heading for orbit right about now. There should be three crew aboard, one of which will perform a spacewalk during the mission, using a spacesuit based on Russian designs.

This mission is to lay the groundwork (spacework?) for a Chinese space station, to be constructed in orbit from emptied fuel tanks before 2020. This idea was proposed by American scientists decades ago, but eventually rejected.

Meanwhile, we are still trying to decide whether to throw tons of money at the Shuttle to keep it flying, buy Soyuz spacecraft, or beg for rides from the Russians (who we’re currently mad at because they’re invading people again). Who knows, maybe the SpaceX manned program will work out.

Need healz 4 Ares and Orion runs

Once again, here at Langley we have more work than we have people to perform it.

If you have at least a year of IT experience, and are interested in temporary work in Hampton, VA, you’re encouraged to drop me a note. We are slowly moving the whole base from their old subcontractor-owned Mac, Windows, and Linux machines to our own equipment, and we need people who work well with the public and can handle unexpected glitches in file transfer and account configuration.

General aerospace fanaticism not necessary, but makes the job cooler.

One Small Step

Thirty-nine years ago today…

“Houston… Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed.”

From that day on, mankind could only be limited to one fragile world if they chose to be. For the most part, we have chosen that, but I don’t think that state of affairs is permanent. I don’t believe we can afford to let it be so.

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130 Leagues Over the Asphalt

T – I – R – E – D.

Went back to Roanoke on Saturday. My mom’s doing great: she can move both her leg and arm now, and on Sunday took a few steps (with a great deal of support). I’m told this is still Gold Medal performance, and my optimism was repeatedly fed this weekend. nanoreid was there for a bit, and I got to say hi to Ginny and Ian as well. Starr bought my mother a knitting loom which can be fastened to a solid surface, and now my mom can indulge her addiction one-handed for the duration!

Roanoke felt a little odd, there are buildings and shops which weren’t there last time I passed through – a bit like hearing an old song on the radio and finding an entirely new chorus after the second stanza. I took a hotel room there Saturday night to save us the drive to and from shrewlet‘s offered crash space in Blacksburg, but while the room was huge, the bed was hard as a plank, and we slept poorly for folks who would be driving 204 miles home. Route 460 was a beautiful, tranquil drive, though. I’m sold on that road for now.

Yesterday we woke too early, and headed over to spend lunch with Starr’s mom, then the afternoon at Amy’s with the gamer group. Her mom was going to gas grill the food, but after the gas loop rusted away at a touch, we went with good old charcoal, and lunch was yummy. I now know where Starr gets her habit of cooking a regiment’s food for a few people, and felt guilty leaving before I could consume a second hamburger.

While the afternoon was sold as a combination grilling / gaming event, I’m not sure anyone was really into the gaming, and after a few hours of excellent chatting and cattching up, we left to get me some badly needed quiet time. I developed yesterday something that feels much like my old migraine headaches, something which comes in short, searing pulses then goes away for a half-hour or so. (One of the first things Starr did when hearing about that was to check me for stroke indicators – of which I seem to have none.)

In geek news, the Mars Phoenix robot probe has a Twitter account. Andy Ihnatko referred to the account as cosplay for rocket scientists, but I’m enjoying keeping up with what the probe’s doing (or at least what it was doing 15 minutes ago – speed-of-light lag, y’know). Some quick Googling finds images taken by the Mars Recon Orbiter of Phoenix on the way down (Phoenix Down?) which means that we Earthlings not only managed to hit a target scores of millions of miles away, we got a picture of it from another camera that had previously done so under our instruction. [T]hese are the things that hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years. – Carl Sagan

So, yeah. Probably another early bedtime tonight, which is a shame because I wanted to get some WoW levelling in. With luck, the rest of the week will go a little easier on me!

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Brief updates

  • 08:14 Parking a block farther from the office building to make myself get more walking in. #
  • 08:44 We are role-playing a flame war on a discussion forum. “I cast Straw Man!” “I cast Ad Hominem!” #
  • 09:15 Three-week-old kitten having breakfast: #
  • 12:34 “Keep Track Of Equipment” poster has picture of Space Shuttle Main Engines. Are we misplacing those often? #

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We Still Choose To Go

Taking a short break from reporting on weather and virtual worlds:

Tomorrow is Yuri’s Night, the anniversary of the first human spaceflight, and of the first space flight of the Shuttle. Forty-seven years ago, a Soviet cosmonaut took mankind’s first step toward the final frontier. Twenty-seven years ago, the American space program began our first experiment with reusable spacecraft. On April 12th we celebrate a milestone which will stand as long as we reach for the stars.

There are Yuri’s Night parties in Richmond, DC, and the Raleigh area, and more all over the world – even in Second Life! The Yuri’s Night website has plenty of information about the celebrations, including a chance to win a ride on G-Force One, a plane that performs weightless simulation flights.

Our space exploration efforts have faltered in recent years, but mankind hasn’t given up; whether it be aboard an Orion capsule, a Soyuz spacecraft, or a Rutan spaceplane, a steadily-increasing number of us will have the chance to see the world from above, and dip their toes in the vast sea of stars that awaits the human race.

EDIT: jameshroberts correctly points out that our robotic exploration efforts are remarkably successful; it’s just the manned side which has faltered somewhat.

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