Monday, July 24, 2006

Back from Vegas and NewSpace 2006

Definitely a good trip, both fun and inspiring. Definitely a sense that a lot is going to happen in the space industry in the next few years. Clark Lindsey has a quick wrap-up including links to other sources, and he'll probably have more later at HobbySpace.

The timing and location of the conference was perfect, coming in the wake of the launch of Genesis-1 by Bigelow Aerospace. I was fortunate to be a part of a group that was given a tour on Thursday afternoon of the company's facilities by Mr. Bigelow himself. No picture taking was allowed, but a separate media group was allowed selective picture taking. Jeff Foust provides a photo gallery plus a very descriptive article on Bigelow's efforts and their new openess about them.

Outside of conference activities, I enjoyed time in the pool and good food and libations. Thursday evening I went to an enjoyable show up at the Sahara by the Scintas, a great family musical comedy act. Plenty to do in Vegas without losing all your $$.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006



Thursday is the 37th anniversary of humanity's first expedition to the lunar surface. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic event.

I'll be off to attend the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2006 Conference. We'll be discussing how to bring about human settlement of the Moon and other places on the frontier in an appropriately dry place with temperature extremes and an artificial environment. The conference is being held in Vegas.

Thursday is also the third anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Embryonic Conflict

As the Senate debates and the Old Media distorts, W is prepared to stand by principle and veto a bill funding embryonic stem cell research and sign two other bills prohibiting 'fetal farming' and promoting legitimate alternatives.
We are all Israelis Now

The situation in the Middle East which exploded in the past week calls for our prayers for peace and for the people of Lebanon and Israel. That does not mean there is a moral equivalence here. Hezbollah and their more powerful backers are clearly the aggressors, and this situation is only part of a global picture.

There has been much commentary, but Larry Kudlow in his NRO article says it as good as anyone.
All of us in the free world owe Israel an enormous thank-you for defending freedom, democracy, and security against the Iranian cat's-paw wholly-owned terrorist subsidiaries Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel is doing the Lord's work. They are defending their own homeland and very existence, but they are also defending America's homeland as our frontline democratic ally in the Middle East.

And on the connection to the war in Iraq:
Israel's next front may indeed be Syria, which is also directed by Iran and is a safe haven for terrorists - including former Saddam Baathists and others who move freely between Syria and Iraq in order to cause trouble. Many experts still believe that Syria is safe-harboring Saddam's unfound inventory of weapons of mass destruction.

Kudlow discusses the economic aspects, and the closes with a salute to Israel's courage in responding to this crisis.
When the dust clears the world will applaud Israel for its courage. Sensible freedom-loving people everywhere will realize that Israel's furious response in the face of senseless terrorist attacks will have made the world a better place.

In fact, we are all Israelis now.
Happy Landing

Shuttle Discovery landed safely today after a highly successful mission. The ship landed with one less crew member than when it launched as European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter stayed behind on the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is now staffed up to three crew members, with major assembly Shuttle missions upcoming.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Contrasting World Views

The successes of Shuttle Discovery and Bigelow's Genesis-1 are good news to those who see human expansion into space as a vital way of providing for future generations. However, as Michael Huang points out in his Space Review article this week, there are some who not only see no human future in space but would prefer there be no long-term human future at all. Welcome to the bizarre world of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT).
Of course, the repulsion of VHEMT lies in the end of humankind: the loss of cumulative achievements in the arts and sciences, the elimination of countless future human lives, and the end of intelligent life on Earth. Of great consequence is the loss of a future for life itself.

Do we take the path of seeking the death of the human species or the path of expanding to welcome and provide for future generations of human beings? This question once again frames what Pope John Paul II so aptly described as a conflict between a culture of death and a culture of life.
Welcome to the Hotel Bigelow

Well, the guest rooms aren't ready for checking in yet, but Bigelow Aerospace has launched its first inflatable test vehicle riding a converted Russian ICBM into orbit. The company reports that the vehicle, Genesis-1 has been successfully expanded and its solar arrays are deployed.
Bigelow Aerospace has received confirmation from the Genesis I spacecraft that it has successfully expanded.

We have also confirmed that all of the solar arrays have been deployed.

This is the first of a series of test flights using technology from a NASA program called TransHab (cancelled in the late nineties before any test vehicles could be flown). The goal is to commercially develop space modules for use as laboratories, manufacturing sites and, yes, hotels in the next ten years.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Non-Conflict Between Ethics and Progress

With a crucial Senate vote coming up this week, Robert George and Eric Cohen last week pointed out the fallacy of the hype for embryonic stem cells.
Instead of engaging in fraud and coverup, or conducting experiments that violate the moral principles of many citizens, we should look to scientific creativity for an answer. Since the cloning fraud, many scientists -- such as Markus Grompe at Oregon Health & Science University and Rudolf Jaenisch at MIT -- have been doing just that. And others, such as Kevin Eggan at Harvard, may have found a technique, called "cell fusion," that would create new, versatile, genetically controlled stem cell lines by fusing existing stem cells and ordinary DNA. Scientists in Japan just announced that they may have found a way to do this without even needing an existing stem cell line.

In other words: all the benefits of research cloning without the ethical problems. Looking ahead, it is becoming increasingly likely that reprogramming adult cells to pluripotency, rather than destroying human embryos, will be the future of regenerative medicine. It offers both a more efficient and far more ethical way forward.

The STS-121 mission appears to be achieving its objectives so far, including docking with the International Space Station (ISS), validating the intactness of the Shuttle's thermal shielding, and yesterday's EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity - the formal name for a space walk) which repaired some critical ISS hardware and tested the sturdiness of a boom that could allow the crew to do repairs on the bottom side of the Orbiter, a capability that is crucial for NASA potentially giving a go-ahead for a final Hubble servicing mission.

Check out the STS-121 mission page for links to mission reports as the flight progresses.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rockets' Red Glare


Space Shuttle Discovery soared into space with today's spectacular July 4th launch. While some small debris were spotted falling from the External Tank, analysis so far does not indicate any major problem. Discovery is set to dock with the International Space Station on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Il had to grab attention with some fireworks of his own as North Korea test fired several missiles today around the same time as the Discovery launch. The anticipated test of a long range missile apparently turned out to be a dud, failing early in flight.
Happy Independence Day!

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Go for Launch

NASA has decided to go ahead with tomorrow's July 4 Discovery launch after analyzing an anomaly with the External Tank's foam coating.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mexican Election Outcome

Felipe Calderon and his party appear to have won the Mexican national elections in a tight race. Calderon's win favors free market policies and a cooperative position with the US and is also a positive outcome for the prolife movement.
This is not an Old Saturday Night Live Skit

The state of New Jersey REALLY is still closed!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hubble Eye Reopens

The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a key Hubble Space Telescope instrument, was reactivated on it's redundant side after the instrument stopped operating nearly two weeks ago.
Let's Try This on Tuesday

Weather once again scrubs the Discovery launch. Next attempt will be for a July 4th launch.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Scrubbed for Today

Weather conditions have caused the Discovery launch to be rescheduled for tomorrow.