Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome Home Endeavour

STS-126 waved to Edwards, with Wheels Stop at 4:25 pm, the 124th mission of the Space Shuttle

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chang'e's New Map of the Moon

Finally, the PRC delivers, a stream of excellent analysis and the first full lunar photographic image since Clementine's albedo tapestry of 1994. The best full-resolution image of the Chang'e map can be rendered HERE.

CNSA is to be congratulated, and the Pioneers take back all we wrote concerning the deafening silence from the Party regarding any actual science coming from their outstanding engineering achievement Chang'e 1. As Chuck Wood points out in the November 26 LPOD, there are new things about the Moon to be found in this Map.

The Inset shows a portion of the best yet available full-rez Chang'e mosaic, centered on the Near Side. North is up, with Copernicus to upper left, southwestern Mare Tranquillitatis in the upper right and the central Near Side Highlands in the south, where a great deal of the wonderful relief available in the image is well-illustrated.

The albedo contrast brings out previously unseen rays, as Chck also points out, in small-scale beauty in the portion showing South Pole-Aitken. This new map should be appreciated as just that, an outstanding, unprecedented small-scale wonder.
If you're looking for detail on the large scale, however, secondary craters and especially the haunting swirls, then this is not your map. It is designed to appreciate the global structure of our noble natural satellite. It delivers.

But, if you are a Reiner Gamma, Descartes, Mare Ingenii sort, as the Pioneers obsessively, and most definitely are, at the moment, you'll have to wait. She's a whopper and a keeper, suitable for the Great Hall of the People.

Isn't it great, after such a famine of lunar data, to have a competitive choice of galleries from Japan, India and China? NASA has a pretty hard act to follow with LRO, next year.

Iran test fires second Kavosh

The BBC reports "Iran has test fired its second "space rocket," though, as the United States knew after the successful launch into orbit of Sputnik in 1957, the Soviet Union's ability to arrive in orbit signaled the ability, in theory, to deliver a payload, perhaps an atomic warhead, anywhere on the surface of Earth.

Regardless, the report reads, "State media said that two more tests would be needed before an Iranian-built satellite could be launched into orbit."

Iran denied its long-range ballistic technology is linked to its atomic program, and "is already under international pressure to give up its nuclear work," which, it says, "is purely civilian."

The US referred to the February satellite launch as "unfortunate", given the questions over the recent IAEA assessment that Iran now has processed sufficient plutonium to construct an atomic bomb.

"Iranian state TV," the BBC report continues, "says the rocket was carrying a space lab and a data-monitoring and processing unit. "Kavosh 2 completed its mission and returned to earth with a special parachute after 40 minutes," the channel reported.

Iran added the rocket had been designed and built by Iranian aerospace experts, though "much of Iran's technological equipment derives from modified Chinese and North Korean" designs.

Earlier this month Iran said it had test-fired a new medium-range missile. Its 2,000-km (1,240-mile) range would be capable of reaching Western Europe."
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The BBC omits the obvious fact that Kavosh, with it's 40 minute flight time, comes close to putting Iran's nominal payload within range of everywhere on Earth but the antipodes of Tehran, in the western South Pacific, coincidentally the graveyard of hundreds of satellites. The entire United States is within range of an airburst.

This tiny nation, as President-Elect Obama has called it, no longer needs Libya or an aircraft carrier for projection of force. They will soon possess the ability to negotiate with terms.

As Sting wrote in his beautiful Cold War melody of the Russians, "I hope the Iranians love their children too."

Based on their celebration of the Martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war, where 500,000 very young men died sends a strong signal that their own particular brand of Shia' Islam has instituted the very human fact that it often easier to love the dead than the living.

Meanwhile, outgoing Secretary of State US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice downplayed reports Wednesday that Iran had fired a new rocket into space, and stressed America's heightened profile in the region.

"I don't think anybody is confused about the balance of power in the Gulf," she said in response to a reporter's question at a press briefing she held at the State Department.

"The United States has had a period of enhancing the capabilities of our allies in the region," she noted, referring to new defense deals with Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel. "The United States has increased its presence in the region."

She also referred the emphasis the US has put on missile defense as "the best answer to some of these Iranian efforts."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meanwhile, ISRO Releases Lunar Data

November 1 through the 15th, smaller version of the Lunar Fly-By Windows Media Video referenced in the following note:
As the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) methodically troubleshoots Chandrayaan 1's thermal problems, Pradeep Mohandas, President of SEDS in Mumbai, reports, "ISRO has released more of its lunar flyby videos," HERE.

"But," Pradeep writes, "what might be more interesting for the space geeks are the first results from Chandrayaan 1 released publicly, HERE.

The Pioneer agrees with Pradeep's recommendation, that everyone "enjoy and savour them!"

Chandrayaan Overheats, Mission 'Endangered'

Mere days after its arrival in lunar orbit, India's Chandrayaan 1, still being calibrated for it's international survey of the Moon "is in dire straits as the temperature inside the satellite soars to more than 50C," according to the London Daily-Mail.

"Scientists are desperately trying to find a way to cool it down after a sudden surge of temperature inside the country's first unmanned lunar craft, Chandrayaan 1.

Indian Space Research Organisation chairman Madhavan Nair said the craft was 10C too hot, enough to affect its instruments."

Read More HERE.

Roscosmos sends upgraded Progress to ISS

According to the Associated Pres, Star City Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said the unmanned Progress M-01M cargo ship has a new main computer and features a fully digital telemetric system along with other improvements.

Lyndin says the Soyuz-U booster rocket carrying the ship lifted off as scheduled at 3:38 p.m. (1238 GMT) Wednesday from the Baikonur.

He says the ship is set to dock at the station Sunday.

Europe reaches deal on space spending

THE HAGUE, Nov 26 (Reuters) - European countries reached a deal on Wednesday allowing them to juggle growing ambitions in space with fears of recession after capping the budget for a mission to Mars in 2016, negotiators said.

Haggling over the ExoMars project as well as the International Space Station dominated wider talks on 10 billion euros ($13 billion) of overall spending sought by the 18-nation European Space Agency at a meeting of science ministers.

"Germany wants to be sure the money is spent during a longer period to ease the pressure on financial commitments. It produced a lot of discussion in the corridors," a delegate said.
ESA meets at ministerial level every three years.

ExoMars would involve landing a rover on the surface of Mars and drilling down 2 metres (6.6 feet) into the soil to take soundings. The cost has roughly doubled since an earlier plan.
ESA ministers, who meet along with Canada every three years, agreed that the financial structure of ExoMars would be set by end-2009 and that their combined contribution must not exceed 1 billion euros, a delegate said.

A further 200 million is expected to be raised through co-operation with the United States and Russia. Meanwhile, Canada has pledged a considerable sum to stay within the European agency's future expeditions.
And, according to The Register, ESA and Innovation minister Lord Drayson have signed an agreement to build a research center at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, england.

"The centre will focus on space robots and innovative power sources including development of ExoMars." ExoMars, a source of some controversy as ESA's ministers worked out their priorities, is a planned robotic probe designed to search for life on Mars.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ISS new urine recycler passes

In cost $174 million, though how that money breaks down its real cost is not known. Further testing is needed before the future expanded crew of the International Space Station is cleared to do precisely what the crew of Apollo did as early as 1968.

Recycle urine into drinking water.

While some are reporting the use of such a system will not outlast the lifetime of ISS, its difficult to see how the Armstrong South Pole-Aitken semi-permanently manned lunar station will get along without it. I want to learn more, whether it is a true closed system, for example.

XCOR Announces Ticket Sales for Suborbit

XCOR is heavily promoting a press announcement of its partnering with another company to sale tickets for suborbital flights. Never a company to mince words, touting itself as "builder of the 2-seat Lynx rocket powered suborbital vehicle," so far appearing only in YouTube videos, the company calls their planned news conference in Beverly Hills, "a display of the power of competition."

"American entrepreneurs have broken the government monopoly on space travel, and succeeded in lowering the cost of space access before a single paying participant has taken a flight," the announcement reads. "Even if the overall economy may look down, the market for space tourism is looking up.

"On Tuesday, December 2, XCOR Aerospace is introducing its General Sales Agent for ticket sales and will announce a price that is substantially lower than prices quoted by leading competitors."

XCOR says it "will introduce its new partner, a well-known and established travel entrepreneur with extensive experience in high-end adventure travel, who will outline the total Lynx flight experience, from initial screening, to training, and finally, the flight itself."
Read more HERE.

Lunar Lander Challenge 09, Pomerantz and Diamandis

From the SpaceFellowship, here is "an update from the Launchpad:

In late October, the 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge drew to a close. History was made several times over: the first prize awarded in that competition, the largest prize to date as part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges, the first attempt at Level Two of that competition, the first time with multiple vehicles flying at the event. But before that event was finished, we at the X PRIZE Foundation were already turning our eyes towards 2009, with a goal of offering the remaining prize money in the most fair and most sustainable way possible.

In the first two years of competition, the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge was tied to a larger event called the “X PRIZE Cup,” an educational exposition bringing crowds in contact with rockets and with the entrepreneurial and inventive teams who design and operate them. In 2008, there was no X PRIZE Cup, so the Challenge was offered as a stand alone event. In all three years, the Challenge was offered at great expense to the X PRIZE Foundation, which receives no funding from NASA to conduct this competition.

Moving forward, the concept of conducting a large common event at which all teams fly their vehicles is likely not financially sustainable for the Foundation. Additionally, the conduct of such an event imposes non-negligible expenses on our teams, who must not only transport themselves and their vehicles to the venue for the competition, but who also must complete their design process, their regulatory paperwork, and their procurement of insurance with not only their own “home facility” but also the competition venue in mind. As such, the fairest and most sustainable model may prove to be one where each team plays host to a crew of Judges and X PRIZE personnel at a facility of their choice.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chandrayaan 1 Impact Probe Shoots Shackleton Approach

"Not since Ranger 9," Chuck Wood reports over at LPOD, "in 1965, has a probe crash-landed into the Moon with cameras clicking all the way down. Until yesterday. India's Chandrayaan-1 satellite, which recently achieved lunar orbit, released a small Moon Impact Probe (MIP) which spent 25 minutes diving towards the surface before reaching its target, reportedly inside Shackleton crater. These two images from the sequence appear to be from near the end."

The Hindu reports ISRO "Over the Moon"
India Fifth Nation in World to Reach Moon
The Times reports from Mumbai HERE.

MUMBAI: The tricolour landed on the Moon at 8.31 pm on Friday, opening a new chapter in the history of India’s space exploration. ( Watch )

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt's Parting of the Ways from The Planetary Society

""Consensus", as many have said,
merely represents the
absence of definitive science."

From Harrison H. Schmitt

You may or may not be aware of this weekend's dust up in the press between The Planetary Society leadership and me. In case you are interested, here is the full text of the email I sent to Lou, Jim and Scott in response tothe Society's release of its space policy statement.

Best regards, Jack------

From: Harrison H. Schmitt, Friday, 14 Nov 2008
Subject: Resignation from Society
Dear Lou, Jim and Scott:

I am sorry, but I can no longer support the society in its goals as they seem to have gone back to being more political than rational. I want humankind on Mars more than most, but I, at least, feel obligated to look at this goal rationally. Specifically, relative to your bullet points:

TPS Statement * focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight

---Having been deeply involved in this issue for many years, and having led several objective studies related to it, it is clear to me, and many other knowledgeable people, that returning to the Moon is the fastest and most cost effective path to Mars for the following reasons:

1. We need generations of engineers to relearn how to operate in deep space at and for long durations on a location that is more accessible than a trajectory to Mars or on Mars itself.

2. We have no clear technology approach for landing large payloads (40MT+) on Mars. Developing entry, descent and landing (EDL) concepts and testing those concepts in the Earth's upper atmosphere will be a major program in and of itself with uncertain cost and duration.

3. Knowing whether 1/6th g triggers human re-adaptation from the adverse consequences of 0g is critical to the design and mass of both Mars transportation systems and Mars surface operations.

4. Many concepts that will be required for operations on Mars need testing in a real-world deep space environment before committing to using those concepts in Mars exploration, including autonomous crew operations during entry, decent, landing and real-time exploration without communications support from Earth.

5. We need a heavy lift launch infrastructure that can support the assembly of large interplanetary spacecraft in Earth orbit, and the requirements to return to the Moon support the development of that infrastructure.

6. We need to develop an interplanetary propulsion system that allows continuous acceleration and deceleration so the travel time to Mars can be cut significantly. That also constitutes a program of uncertain duration and cost.

7. Depending on future understanding of several unknowns already mentioned above, access to lunar-derived consumables after leaving Earth-orbit may be necessary to reduce the launch mass of an interplanetary spacecraft to a feasible amount.

8. We need to certify sample collection and protection protocols on the Moon with exposure to lunar dust and polar volatiles as surrogates for micro-organisms or the planetary protection lobby will make sample return from Mars impossible.

9. We need to use robotic drilling and definitive testing on Mars to penetrate what is probably the only potential biogenesis and evolutionary environment on Mars that has been stable for >3.8 billion years, namely, the cryosphere-hydrosphere interface below the surface.

10. Extremely strong scientific reasons for further lunar exploration exist as have been documented by a large fraction of the lunar and planetary research community at the NASA Advisory Council's 2007 Tempe Workshop and by the National Research Council's recent study.

11. Returning to the Moon has a far better chance of sustained political support than does a far, far more costly, start from scratch Mars program. Absent sustained and increased budgetary support for the Vision for Space Exploration by the incoming Administration and Congress, any deep space initiative will be in doubt.

12. Finally, becoming a deep space-faring nation again constitutes a mult-generational endeavor, particularly if Mars is in the mix. Unfortunately, the government-run, politicized K-12 school system will not currently support such an endeavor. It has totally failed several generations of young people, not just in STEM subjects but in history, language and economics. This problem has to be solved first. The people requirements for a return to the Moon should help jump start that process, although it will take a much more grassroots effort to be successful.

TPS Statement *deferring humans landing on the Moon until the costs of the interplanetary transportation system and shuttle replacement are largely paid

---This strategy would leave deep space activities, exploration and resources to others, i.e., China, India, maybe Russia, for the indefinite future. I believe that would be major step in initiating the decline of America's global influence for freedom and the improvement the human condition. Although I wrote the book "Return to the Moon" as an illustration of how it makes financial and national sense for private investors to provide the Earth with the benefits of lunar Helium-3 fusion power, having NASA develop the initial Earth-Moon infrastructure may hasten the time when that alternative to fossil fuels and non-economic other alternatives becomes available.
TPS Statement * accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations

---As a geologist, I love Earth observations. But, it is ridiculous to tie this objective to a "consensus" that humans are causing global warming when human experience, geologic data and history, and current cooling can argue otherwise. "Consensus", as many have said, merely represents the absence of definitive science. You know as well as I, the "global warming scare" is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society's activities.

TPS Statement * achieving a step-by-step approach of new achievements in interplanetary flight, including a human mission to a near-Earth object

---Returning to the Moon achieves "step-by-step approach of new achievements in interplanetary flight" far better than not doing so, as I have indicated in my list above. Not going by way of the Moon will make the Mars objective far more difficult and more costly to achieve.

---Also, returning to the Moon enables a mission to a near-Earth object if such a mission can be justified scientifically, operationally, or resource-wise. I remain a skeptic on all three but am willing to debate the point.

---Returning to the Moon further enables, in a much more timely fashion and would a Mars initiative, the capability to do something about diverting an asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. We had this capability once, but lost it when the Saturn V assembly line was shut down in the early 1970s.

TPS Statement "In short, the Roadmap calls for "A new and flexible program, based on a series of important first-time achievements and an international commitment to exploration and discovery." International cooperation is strongly recommended both to reduce costs for any one nation and to increase public interest and support."

---I see that the Society has gone back to its roots on "international cooperation." If that phrase means "international management" of the critical path items in a Mars Program, then you clearly do not want to go to Mars. Nothing will prevent success with more certainty than to try this. The rest of the world will want a "one-nation, one vote" management regime for which history shows only a record of abject failure.

Many of the Society's members are good friends, but I just cannot support you in this effort.

Best regards, Jack

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cape Canaveral Lunar Declaration

10th ILEWG Conference on Exploration
and Utilization of the Moon

31 October 2008
Approximately 200 International Lunar Explorers gathered at the 10th ILEWG Conference on Exploration and Utilization of the Moon (ICEUM10) co-sponsored by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), NASA Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), Space Resources Roundtable (SRR), and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, from 27 to 31 October, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. The conference engaged scientists, engineers, industry, and organizations in the review of recent activities and the coordinated preparation of the next steps on the Moon.

The Japanese Kaguya and Chinese Chang’e-1 celebrated one year in lunar orbit, and have delivered a wealth of science data, discoveries and exploration findings. The SMART-1 team presented the latest data on polar peaks relevant for future landers and bases. The Indian ISRO Chandrayaan-1 mission (carrying six international instruments) has just been launched on 22 October toward the Moon. The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) impactor are scheduled for joint launch in spring 2009. The participants appreciated the steady progress in technology development within the NASA Constellation program.
Read the Declaration HERE.