For those who love the cosmos and have a yearning to explore it, a landmark event occurred this morning. There is now a new way that man can achieve the escape velocity needed to break free from Earth’s gravitational pull.
SpaceX, which is a private company and not a government agency like NASA or the NSA, successfully launched this morning their “Dragon” commercial module via their Falcon9 rocket. The module’s destination is the International Space Station (ISS). This is historic because until this launch, only three countries had ever pushed a capsule into space: the United States, Russia and China. SpaceX just joined this small club.
SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk, the man who founded X.com, which became Paypal.
When Paypal was sold, he became a very wealthy man and with part of his wealth he founded Telsa Motors, which made the first production electric car, where he makes $1 for salary. A year and a half ago Wired wrote a good article titled “Supercharged” about this company.
He also used part of this wealth to found SpaceX, which upon completing this cargo mission will enable it collect on a $396 million contract to develop a cargo ship, and enter into a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for a dozen future cargo flights.
Not too shabby for a private company breaking into an area that has only been served by the government thus far.
“We’re really at the dawn of a new era of space exploration,” Musk says. “I think there’s perhaps some parallels to the Internet in the mid-’90s, when the Internet was created as a government endeavor, but then, the introduction of commercial companies really accelerated growth of the Internet, and made it accessible to the mainstream.”
When “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley visited the SpaceX factory in March for “60 Minutes,” he found that Musk’s goal is grander than cargo.
“You know,” Pelly remarked, “what I noticed about your cargo ship is that it has windows.”
“Yeah,” Musk responded. “The windows are there in case there is an astronaut who wants to look up.”
“But,” Pelley said, “people don’t put windows in cargo ships.”
“That’s right. Exactly,” Musk replied.
“What that tells me,” Pelley said, “is that this was never intended to be only a cargo ship.”
“No,” Musk confirmed. “Dragon was always designed to carry astronauts.”
Also, the SpaceX’s factory was used as a shooting location for Iron Man 2, and Musk has a cameo in the movie.
Simply put, he rules.
What has Marc Zuckerburg ever done besides start a little social network?
Via info obtained from CBS News and Wired.
This past Fri night my wife came home talking about how everyone was talking about the moon and how bright it was that night. A bright moon means it’s a full moon – a new moon (hello Twilight fans!) means no light and all of those bright full moon were named by the Native Americans of what is now the northern and eastern United States a few hundred years ago. These tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon so they knew what to do that month. This past week we saw the the Full Wolf Moon.
As an FYI, a lunar month is 29.5 days which means that every year, 11 days are “missing” from our 365 day a year calendar. This is why religions, such as the Jewish religion religion, add a leap month (not a leap day) to their calendar every four years.
The next time super bright moon will show up in about 30 days, Feb 28 to be exact. In case you want to know, the 2010 Naming Convention is as follows:
- Jan. 30, 1:18 a.m. EST — Full Wolf Moon.
- Feb. 28, 11:38 a.m. EST — Full Snow Moon or Full Hunger Moon
- Mar. 29, 10:25 p.m. EDT — Full Worm Moon, Full Crow Moon, Full Crust Moon, Full Sap Moon or Paschal Full Moon
- Apr. 28, 8:18 a.m. EDT — Full Pink Moon, Full Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon or Full Fish Moon
- May 27, 7:07 p.m. EDT — Full Flower Moon, Full Corn Planting Moon or Milk Moon.
- Jun. 26, 7:30 a.m. EDT — Full Strawberry Moon
- Jul. 25, 9:37 p.m. EDT — Full Buck Moon, Full Thunder Moon or Full Hay Moon
- Aug. 24, 1:05 p.m. EDT — Full Sturgeon Moon, Full Red Moon, Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon
- Sep. 23, 5:17 a.m. EDT — Full Harvest Moon
- Oct. 22, 9:36 p.m. EDT — Full Hunters’ Moon
- Nov. 21, 12:27 p.m. EST — Full Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon
- Dec. 21, 3:13 a.m. EST — Full Cold Moon
A giddy sort of excitement swept through me today when I heard that significant amounts of water has been found on the moon. A NASA mission that plunged a rocket into the moon’s surface last month on purpose to possibly detect water in fact detected about 25 gallons of water in the form of vapor and ice.
“The moon is alive,” a mission scientist says. What a groovy thing to say about the lifeless rock that controls our tides.
While this is not the first time that water has been found on the moon, previously water was found in such an insignificant amount that it did not really matter at all.
This time around though things are different: this amount of water is enough to start one dreaming about setting up moon bases and then having them drill for water to survive. Carrying water is a heavy proposition – any who has hiked a decent distance will agree with that statement – and flying hundreds of gallons to the moon would be super expensive. The long time dream / fantasy for all moon explorers is that you wouldn’t need to transport water to the moon, rather you could just drill for water when you get there. Now, that seems to be at least a real possibility. Moon tourism in my lifetime? That has moved into the possible but not probable category, which is definitely better than “No way Jose.”
Via ma femme
40 years and about 5 minutes ago man first touched down on the moon and I got to listen to the way it happened. I actually got chills as they were landing. Seriously.
“Houston (uh) Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”
“Roger Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. We got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, they’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
For more info, see my previous moon related post which is about the site that is allowing me to experience this event “first” hand.
To honor the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission, during which mankind first stepped foot on a galactic body that was not our own (and where the United States claimed ownership over the Moon – ours is the only flag up there even today), the JFK Presidential Library has launched a simply gorgeous site called We Choose The Moon.
On this site, you can view photos, videos and information related to the Apollo 11 mission. You can track the mission through 11 different stages (11 to honor the mission number) from take off to landing on the moon and then the return back to our planet. You can follow the mission on Twitter three different ways: with tweets from CapCom, from the Spacecraft and/or from the Eagle lander. You can even download a mission tracker widget for your desktop. Fun stuff.
I just love the name of the site. You choose to _____? We choose the moon. Boosh!
Not only did we choose the Moon as a challenge, most importantly we succeeded and year later, little kids like me grew up and knew that when I stared off into the night sky, not only was it possible to get to the moon and back but that really anything was / is possible. If we could do that – what couldn’t we do?
While the early 60’s were a time of great challenges (then again, really, when hasn’t our nation faced dire challenges?), on May 21, 1961, JFK took a strong stand in support of space exploration. Standing before Congress to deliver a special message on “urgent national needs,” he asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” And we did. ‘Nuff said.
The rocket “blasts off” in just under 12 hours and I plan on tracking the mission every step of the way.
While I would love to sky dive – something that I have never done – I think I would rather take the Zero G parabola flight. First, because it’s safer, and second, because it simulates being an astronaut, floating around a contained space. It is more expensive than sky diving but a hell of a lot less than a ride on Virgin Galactic The ZERO-G Experience, which includes a flight of 15 parabolas [each gives you 30 seconds of weightlessness], flight suit, complimentary merchandise, awards, a post-event party, photos, and a DVD of the flight, is offered at a price of $4,950 per seat.
The Zero G site says that by the end of the flight you will log about 7 to 8 minutes of reduced gravity – that’s about as much zero-gravity time as Alan Shepard experienced on America’s first human spaceflight.
In case you were wondering, a Virgin Galactic doesn’t provide weightlessness, only a sick view and experience, and costs $200,000.
Karl Marx famously said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” and nothing better could be used to describe how James Doohan’s ashes were destroyed yesterday when a rocket carrying them into space failed to make it into orbit and instead blew up.
If you don’t know the name James Doohan, maybe you know him as Scotty from “Star Trek.” He passed away in 2005 and to have his ashes to make it to the stars, the locale where he made his living, would have been oh so poetic.
The first attempt was made last year and it was unsuccessful – the rocket crashed and it was over two weeks later before they found his remains.
As “they” say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The Doohan family obviously shares this adage as they launched his remains again one year after the failed attempt. This time, they were even less successful because not only did the rocket fail, but the ashes were destroyed.
I’m not sure how one destroys ashes. I guess they are just hopelessly scattered.
Oh what a night if you are into star gazing. Not only will there be a total lunar eclipse (something that will not occur again until Dec, 2010) but the U.S. Navy very well might try to shoot down that failing and falling “toxic” spy satellite.
All of this occurs after the Atlantis lands back on Terra Firma at 9:07 am. Fingers crossed.
The eclipse will occur on the east coast from 8:43 pm through 12:09 am Thu, 2/21. It should be red and glorious. Enjoy. The satellite is being shot down over the Pacific and I’m sure our friends in the Orient will be paying close attention.
The next race to the moon has begun! The X PRIZE Foundation and Google Inc. today announced the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon. The press release boldly states: “Moon 2.0, the second era of lunar exploration, will not be a quest for “flags and footprints.” This time we will go to the Moon to stay.”
To win the Grand Prize – worth $20 million dollars – a team must successfully:
- Soft land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon
- Rove on the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters
- Transmit a specific set of video, images and data, called a “Mooncast,” back to Earth
The Mooncast consists of digital data that must be collected and transmitted to the Earth composed of the following:
- High resolution 360º panoramic photographs taken on the surface of the Moon
- Self portraits of the rover taken on the surface of the Moon
- Near-real time videos showing the craft’s journey along the lunar surface
- High Definition (HD) video
- Transmission of a cached set of data, loaded on the craft before launch (e.g. first email from the Moon).
Just as the Ansari X Prize led Burt Rutan to build Spaceship One, hopefully someone in the near future will actually be able to pull this off. That would be, in the words of my inner 12 year old, totally sweet.
Ever since I read the “2001” series by Arthur C. Clarke, I’ve been thinking about China and its relationship to space. For those unfamiliar with the first book and/or the movie, the Chinese launch a space shuttle at the beginning of the story which takes everyone by surprise. I’ve always been fascinated by other societies and people that can date their history back a couple thousand years (maybe because I’m Jewish). I’ve always thought that for China, being a civilization that has been around for 5,000 years (give or take a millennia) and one that has over a billion people, conquering space has been only a matter of time. If the US doesn’t work harder to keep our lead, we’ll lose it altogether. It’s bad enough that China is holding trillions of dollars in T-bills and holds our economic future in their banks. Soon, they might control our military future as well. My overall fear is that China is like the slow, plodding turtle in the “Tortoise and the Hare” fable. While it lumbers and takes forever, in the end it’ll win.
To that end, I read in today’s NY Times about a secret Chinese missile test from this past week – they blew up one of their own satellites and proved they can shoot anything out of the sky. Check it out:
China’s Muscle Flex in Space
China spread alarm and consternation among space powers when it destroyed one of its own satellites last week with a missile fired from the ground, thus becoming the first nation in more than two decades to successfully test an anti-satellite weapon. This aggressive show of force puts a wide range of United States military and intelligence satellites at risk and holds the danger of starting an arms race in space. Too bad the Bush administration’s own bellicose attitudes — and adamant refusal to consider an arms control treaty for space — give it scant standing to chastise the Chinese. The administration needs to reverse course promptly and join in talks aimed at banning further tests or use of anti-satellite weapons.
The Chinese test, which Beijing has not acknowledged but was tracked by intelligence agencies, destroyed an aging communications satellite some 500 miles above the Earth. The missile smashed the satellite into hundreds of pieces large enough to pose a danger for a decade or more to spacecraft or satellites that pass through the debris.
The Chinese have now demonstrated that — should they ever choose — they could destroy essential American satellites used to conduct military reconnaissance, spot nuclear tests and direct smart weapons. A top intelligence official told reporters last August that China had used a ground-based laser to illuminate an American satellite. That could signal a nascent effort to develop a way to blind satellites or to guide a missile to a target in space
The Bush administration has been flexing its own muscles in space. A national space policy issued in October declared that “freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.” It asserted a need to deter others from interfering with America’s right to operate in space. The policy did not address whether Washington would place weapons in space — as some in the Pentagon have been urging — but the administration continues to oppose any restrictions.
Surely it would make military and diplomatic sense to pursue the opposite course and seek to ban all tests and any use of anti-satellite weapons.
The United States and the Soviet Union successfully tested such weapons decades ago and have no overriding need to develop better versions, although the United States is clearly trying. China’s success in matching the feat reportedly came after three earlier tests failed, so the Chinese could only benefit from additional testing. The United States, with many more satellites in orbit than any other power and a military that has become increasingly dependent on satellites, has the most to lose from an unbridled space arms race.
Some experts suggest that China’s latest test is intended to prod the United States to join serious negotiations. The way to counter China or any other potentially belligerent space power is through an arms control treaty, not a new arms race in space.