Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SpaceX (Finally) Has a Successful Launch

Well, they finally did it. After three lost rockets and three lost satellites, SpaceX finally succeeded in their fourth launch attempt! And it's about time.

The payload this time was simulated; just a big chunk of metal to prove that their rockets can indeed successfully launch something into orbit. I frankly didn't doubt this; all of the problems they have had are minor. However, as I said before, minor problems + space = spectacular destruction. This was probably making the investors a bit skittish, but things are good now.

Though the launch was delayed by the better part of a week, everything went off flawlessly. The Falcon 1 launched, the first stage separated, the second stage fired, was turned off, and then was fired a second time later on just to prove they could do it. See for yourself; here's the full 40 minute launch video (credit SpaceX).

This bodes well for their likely launch of the Sundancer space hotel prototype in two years.

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05

Monday, September 29, 2008

Japaneese Company Announces Space Elevator

I know, I know, I'm way behind on space tourism news. I plan a flurry of posts in the next couple of days to catch up.

It seems the LiftPort Group has some competition! Another group, the Japan Space Elevator Association, has announced that it is in the initial stages of planning a space elevator.

The elevator's cables (presumably made of the same carbon nannotube material that the LiftPort Group plans) will rise out of the atmosphere and cross the 22,000 mile span to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. The energy required to lift items into space using this telescope is anticipated to be as little as a hundredth of that required to launch a space shuttle. And they only plan to spend a trillion yen to build it.

I couldn't find a lot of information on the Japan Space Elevator Association itself; they don't have an official website that I could find. When I do find more information. I'll write up a full company profile.

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05

Friday, September 19, 2008

SpaceX Flight 4 Planned for Next Week

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's well past time for me to get back to some actual space news. Well here you go.

SpaceX announced today that barring any unforseen issues, the fourth attempt to fly a Falcon 1 rocket will proceed next week, sometime between Tuesday and Thursday. I'm certainly glad they gave us a bit more warning time than Flight 3's surprise launch and failure.

Also, SpaceX has announced that Flight 5 will likely happen in January, and Flights 6 and 7 are in the works. They anticipate having a flight every four months until 2010, when they will ramp it up to every two months.

If Flight 4 succeeds, it will be SpaceX's first successful launch, as Flights 1, 2, and 3 all ended in spectacular disasters.

In other SpaceX news, they have officially received an operational license from the Air Force to launch from Cape Canaveral. This is another in a long list of steps leading up to the launch of the first Falcon 9, and later, the manned Dragon capsule. I wish them luck!

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A T-Rex Flying a Fighter Jet

I usually hate those images that people make to annoyingly post in online forums to say something about that particular thread, with a couple of exceptions. This is one of them:

So I was looking at that, and the only thing I could think of at that moment that would be more awesome than a T-Rex flying a fighter jet is a T-Rex flying a modified fighter jet that's strapped to a space shuttle solid rocket booster/external tank assembly while the earth explodes. Dinos win.

I then decided that I need to draw that; it was one of the most awesome thoughts I've ever had. If anyone out there has any drawing abilities, see if you can outdo me. It won't be hard.

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bridge to Nowhere?

Okay, so since McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, she's been going around saying she's a reformer, and using the following words as evidence: "I said, 'thanks, but no thanks' to the bridge to nowhere." Well, when you look at the record, you find out that she was all for the bridge until it was determined that Alaska would have to pay for it. However, I'm not writing to discuss Palin's dishonesty. I'm writing to express a different bit of dissent:

I'm totally in favor of building the bridge.

And why should I express such an unpopular opinion? Well, it just wouldn't be as much fun to talk about it if everyone agreed with me.

McCain once described the project as "a bridge in Alaska to an island with fifty people on it." This is technically true, but at best, misses the point, and at worst, is intentionally deceptive. Not exactly uncommon with political rhetoric. The bridge in question would be called the Gravina Island Bridge, and would connect the city of Ketchikan, Alaska to the nearby Gravina Island, which is inhabited by fifty people. And an international airport.

Wait, what?

Yes, that's right. There is currently no way to reach this international airport by ground unless you take a ferry, which runs twice an hour, and four times during tourist season. Seriously. Look, here's a map.

That's the city of Ketchikan, the fifth largest city in Alaska on the right, and its local international airport on the left. Notice the big blue gap between them. That's kind of hard to get around, especially considering the fact that boats and that airport are the only ways to access either island! That's right. To get to Alaska's fifth largest city, you have to either take a boat, or fly into its airport and then take a boat. But that's not the only reason for the bridge.

See, the city of Ketchikan sits at the base of some pretty difficult mountains. You'll see them if you hit the terrain button on the map above and zoom out. There isn't a lot of room left for easy expansion of the city. But notice, if you will, the nearby island of Gravina. That's right, the one with the international airport on it. It has plenty of nice flat land ready for development. It would be a whole lot easier to develop it if there were an easy way to get there!

The main argument against the bridge, of course, is the cost. But let's take a look at the cost. Most estimates reveal that the cost of the bridge would be about $400 million dollars. Now what else would 400 million buy that we could do without? Well, that will buy about four miles of four-lane freeway. Yep, four miles. Our freeways are pretty pricey. But guess what? Ketchikan doesn't get any freeways. So the least we could do is build them a freaking bridge to their freaking airport, right?

What else costs $400 million? Well, about three F-22 fighter jets. Yep. those things that litter the grounds of all those military airfields. Three of them would pay for that bridge.

Or dare I get more political? I dare! $400 million would pay for about a day of war in Iraq. Yep. One day. Say, how about we cut the war short by a few days and have a bridge and a massive nationwide party! Sounds like a better use of money to me.

Or how about this one? $400 million buys most of Bush's presidential library! Couldn't we forgo that and instead put up a booth with a cowboy hat, a barrel of oil, and a copy of My Pet Goat?

So let's just build these people their freaking bridge already. It would be rather neighborly of us. And then I could stop hearing about it. Over and over again. Ad-nauseam. Stop it already. Stop it. Stop.

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reactions to Protesters

Okay, I know I haven't written anything in two weeks or so. It isn't out of laziness this time; I just haven't had a lot to say. No new space tourism news has come out that I am aware of, and with the political conventions going on, I've sort of been in a politics overload and haven't really felt like writing about it. But that changed last night.

I watched (and actually, recorded) both of the dominant parties' presidential candidates' speeches. Last night, Code Pink protesters tried to interrupt McCain's speech several times. Did you notice the excessive amount of U-S-A U-S-A chants? It turns out that many of those were started by delegates trying to drown out protesters who were shouting and holding up signs with slogans such as "McCain Voted Against Vets" (true) and "You Can't Win An Occupation" (it's about time someone makes that point). One of the protesters finally succeeded enough to attract the news networks' cameras and cause a reaction by McCain himself, but she had to start stripping off her clothes to do it.

Code Pink is a group that was formed, mostly by women, to prevent Bush from starting a war with Iraq. These days, they are dedicated to ending it, and have also begun acting on several social issues (health care, for example). They specialize in getting behind the camera, both covertly (slowly standing up behind a speaking politician wearing a pink shirt with an anti-war slogan) and overtly (outright interrupting a speech such as the one last night).

The point I am bringing up here is not that there was a protester. There are protesters everywhere, dissenting against almost every conceivable opinion. What interested me was McCain's reaction: "My friends, don't be diverted by the ground noise and the static. Americans want us to stop yelling at each other, OK?" I found that more than a little patronizing. There are many ways he could have tactfully handled this, but he decided (granted, at the spur of the moment) to be disrespectful toward those with dissenting opinions.

The point I am trying to bring up here is that everything, everything about these political campaigns is scripted and rehearsed ad-nauseam. The only chance we have of potentially seeing these peoples' true personalities is at spur-of-the-moment reactions such as this. And there is a similar example of Obama's reaction when presented with a similar situation.

Early in August, Obama was giving a speech in Florida when a group of protesters used a rather Code-Pink-like tactic, raising a sign behind him and starting to shout while he was talking. The sign said, "What About the Black Community, Obama?" The crowd reacted with boos, and then chants of "Yes We Can" to try and drown them out. (Sound familiar?) At that point Obama turned around and saw the protesters, one of whom was still shouting. And what was his reaction? "Excuse me, young man, this is going to be a question-and-answer session, so you can ask a question later." and then "Sit down. You'll have a chance to ask your questions." This seems a bit patronizing as well, but at least Obama showed a willingness to listen, and later, he did allow the protester to ask a question. This, of course, wouldn't have been possible at McCain's speech last night, but at least McCain might have shown a little respect for dissenting opinions instead of dismissing them as 'static' and 'ground noise'. Dismissing dissenting opinions outright is what Bush does, and it's frankly troubling to me.

Oh, and if McCain wants to win, someone has got to tell him not to walk out to the podium like an old guy who has his pants hiked up to his nipples.

Just sayin'.

Progress: 4.03%  Flight Time: 0:06:05