November 21, 2014

18.02.11: A Titan(ic) Flyby.

Titan (Lower Left) paired with Saturn as seen from Cassini last year. (Credit: NASA/Cassini/JPL/The Space Science Institute).

Far out in the depths of the solar system, one of our most distant orbiting ambassadors is completing a flyby of the largest known moon. On Friday, February 18th at 11:04AM EST NASA’s Cassini orbiter will skim the Saturnian moon at a distance of just 2,270 miles above the enigmatic moon Titan. [Read more...]

The Smart Phones Strike Back: The STS-132 NASAtweetup!

Astroguyz in uber-nerd mode! (All Photos by Author).
Astroguyz in uber-nerd mode! (All Photos by Author).

    I got into Twitter about a year ago with some apprehension; did I really want to know (or care?) what someone’s cat did today? Was “micro-blogging” a cop-out to serious writing? After all, a scant decade ago, we barely knew what e-mail was. Here it is a year later, and we’re hooked. Twitter has produced tangible benefits, such as the opportunity to attend the launch of STS-132 last week and the NASAtweetup! Fans of this space will note that we attended our first Tweetup at the Johnson Space Flight Center in March. While that was a stellar session, we’d always wanted to do a launch event, and not be stuck viewing from the peanut gallery or a Home Depot parking lot in Orlando, but up close with the “serious” media.  [Read more...]

15.04.10: President Obama Addresses the Space Coast.

(Credit: NASA).

(Credit: NASA).

 Project Orion: Old School-style; due for a dust-off? 

    President Obama made a short stop to speak at the Kennedy Space Center today on his way to Miami. He was greeted by both space enthusiasts and nervous NASA employees who rightly wonder about the ultimate fate of their jobs as a result of the ending of the Space Shuttle program later this year. Would his speech be a Kennedy-esque vision or a consolation prize?

It’s a truism that when Kennedy spoke we didn’t even know how to reach LEO; 8 years later, we were on the Moon. That’s the kind of vision we need. Obama’s last visit to Florida didn’t fill NASA fans with a lot of hope; not only did he essentially nix the Constellation, but his promised “train to Disneyland” seemed like a bit of a snub. Mind you, we like this Prez… during the election, he was the only candidate that could speak articulately about science. Still, there seems to be a certain reluctance for the current administration to do something truly visionary. [Read more...]

29.01.10: A Failed Vision: Where does the U.S. Space Program go from here?

The launch of Ares X-1 last year; a one shot rocket? (Credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph/Kevin O'Connell).

The launch of Ares X-1 last year; a one shot rocket? (Credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph/Kevin O'Connell).

By now, everyone in the astro-blogosphere has heard the bad news concerning the Constellation program. No Ares. No Mars. No permanent presence on the Moon. This week’s announcement of Congress failing to provide funding for the future manned space program comes as a tremendous blow to all who work in and follow the space industry. All we’re left with is the vague promise of the development of a heavy lift rocket to get us out of low-Earth orbit, a promise that might be over a decade from lift-off… at this point, it seems as if we may be headed towards another lean decade, much like what struck the space program in the 70’s after Apollo.

But is there hope? Certainly, the dual forces of crisis and opportunity may well come into play here. While the shuttle program is coming to an end, the extension of the International Space Station out to 2020 assures us that our manned presence in space will indeed continue. Scientists and astronomers may quietly breathe a sigh of relief, as the axe didn’t fall on their pet space probe, and funds for small shoe-string unmanned projects won’t be sacrificed to the dollar-guzzling manned space program.  Perhaps, as some might argue, the “Apollo on steroids” approach lacked the vision to truly grab the public’s imagination and was doomed from the start. But all would ultimately acknowledge that we truly need both, a robust manned program and a diverse unmanned space exploration program. It’s true; we are in financially troubling times. Unfortunately, space exploration tends to wind up on the short list of many inside the beltway as they search for perceived pork barrel projects to cut. But history has shown that nations that cease exploration and curiosity tend to end up as historical has-beens’ as they become introspective and withdrawn. Perhaps the sight of Chinese or Indian astronauts setting up shop alongside our hallowed Apollo sites will be enough to inspire a new space race… but will it be too late? “How could this have happened?” the credulous public will then say… how did we end up so far behind?

We here at Astroguyz believe now is the time for vision and action in space. What’s needed are some truly innovative plans for exploration; how about a manned mission to an NEO such as Apophis in 2029? Or funding the shelved Terrestrial Planet Finder?  Or further exploratory landers for Europa or Titan? A heavy lift platform also gets astronomers wheels spinning as to the payloads it could launch. Now might be the time to dust off some of those innovative alternate plans that engineers were said to have been moonlighting over years back. But one thing is certain; any new drive into space must be accompanied with a twin drive in science education as seen in the 60’s to be truly effective. This week’s news may have been a major setback, but there are lots of intriguing options out there; let’s get out of low-Earth orbit and back into deep space exploration, this time, for good!

Review: Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone.

Cover.

Out now from Candlewick Press.

Chances are you’ve never heard of the “Mercury 13.” OK, we all know about the Mercury 7 via movies such as the Right Stuff and an endless stream of Discovery channel documentaries, but there also exists another little known but fascinating tale of the early American manned space program; the contributions of women. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone, follows the saga of 13 women who under went the candidate selection process to become astronauts. As this month is the anniversary of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova’s flight in 1963, this book adds an enlightening chapter to the story of women in space. [Read more...]

Viewing the STS-125 launch and a Servicing Mission 4 Update.

STS-125

Blast-off! (Photo by Author).

On Monday, May 11th, 2009 at 2:01PM EDT local the Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a historic mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope(HST) one last time. The day was blistering hot at the Kennedy Space Center(KSC), but the launch went off without a hitch. I’d like to share our notes on the launch viewing experience, as well as give you an update as to what’s happening in orbit. [Read more...]

Red Moon by David S. Michaels & Daniel Brenton

Red Moon.

Red Moon (Breakneck Books).

   Recently, we had the distinct pleasure of reading Red Moon  by David S. Michaels & Daniel Brenton. It is a near future action thriller that posits an alternate history; could the Russians actually have secretly landed on the Moon before Armstrong? The book itself is a fascinating look into the clandestine Russian Moon program, and an interesting glimpse at what might have been. Warning; spoilers beyond!  [Read more...]