Friday, July 31, 2009

Endeavour Lands As Space Future Considered

A lot happening on the space front this week. For one, the STS-127 Endeavour crew returned today from their busy 16 day mission to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, the Augustine committee considering the US human spaceflight program held public meetings this week across the South, in Houston, TX, Huntsville, AL & Cocoa Beach, FL (all near NASA centers). The events included reports from its subcommittees laying out options ranging from extending the Space Shuttle Program to in-space fuel depots and various exploration strategies (including Moon, Mars, Near Earth Objects, and deep space surveys of any or all of those). Also, a recommendation to state the obvious as to what our ultimate objective in space should be.
Here's how MIT aerospace professor Edward Crawley answered the "why" question during Thursday's hearing:
"Our ultimate objective should be viewed as the exploration and eventual extension of human civilization within the solar system. We have to keep our eye on the big prize. This will take a long time, but the time has come. The political alignment is here to allow this to be a goal for our nation, and it's a goal worthy of a great nation."

XCOR's Greason added a kicker to that comment, according to Irene Klotz's account for "I know this sounds terribly ambitious and dramatic, but if that is not the point of human spaceflight ... then what the hell are we doing?" Greason asked.

Finally, I'm attending this year's Mars Society convention this weekend, which is being held close by at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Heading Home Saturday

It's shortly before midnight PDT, Friday night, my last night in California for this trip. After the conference and the gala completed on Monday, Tuesday I headed up to stay in Mineral near Lassen National Park. Hiking and driving around the park were Wednesday's highlights along with a couple of nights under really starry skies to get reacquainted with the Milky Way and some of the well known (but some seldom seen in light-polluted areas) constellations. Thursday I returned to stay in Mountain View (a couple of blocks from where I lived for 17 years) for the final two nights in California for this trip.

Today, Friday, I made the pilgrimage I last made at least 14 years ago to the mother-of-all food festivals, the Gilroy Garlic Festival. As in those previous visits years ago, I tried a number of garlic-laden delicacies. By the time I got to the garlic-vanilla ice cream, my garlic-numbed tongue could only detect a hint of garlic.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Raise a Toast for the Moon


Today is the 40th anniversary of humanity's first expedition to the lunar surface. The anniversary is getting wide coverage in many media sources. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage. Meanwhile, NASA's current Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned images of the Apollo 11 and other Apollo landing sites.

LRO image of Apollo 11 landing site. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

I am enjoying the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2009 Conference being held this year at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. Check out Clark Lindsey's recent posts covering some of the highlights here. Tonight's gala will conclude the conference by celebrating the Apollo 11 anniversary.

Today is also the sixth 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.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite, RIP

The world's most famous TV newsman, Walter Cronkite, passed away on Friday at age 92. The CBS news anchor for several decades covered the most momentous stories of that era, including wars, assassinations, political campaigns and elections, etc. But it is most poignant that his passing came just three days before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first human landing on the Moon, as his coverage of the exciting early days of the space age is so well remembered.

Here's a (10 min) video of Cronkite and astronaut Wally Schirra's coverage of the final breathtaking minutes of Eagle's descent and landing on the Moon. (Neil Armstrong had to search for a safe landing spot so the actual touch down took place more than 30 seconds after the CBS simulation shows the lander on the surface.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Giant Leap For Life

Former astronauts and other space program veterans are supporting a prolife TV ad that illustrates how our historic leap to the Moon 40 years ago shows the potential and dignity of every human life.
"For thousands of years, man has looked at the moon and the stars in awe. But forty years ago, we did the unthinkable: We landed on the moon. This new ad by captures the spirit of this historic mission by highlighting the potential of human life," Kerwin said. Gene Krantz, best known as the flight director at mission control manager during Apollo 13, was also on hand to premiere the ad.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Celebrating the Past, Planning the Future

I am off to California tomorrow to participate in the New Space 2009 conference at NASA Ames. This conference will focus on how to further enable enable human expansion into and development of space while celebrating the 40th anniversary of when humans first made landfall on another world.

Look for attention to this historic anniversary on TV, in newspapers and on the Internet. The JFK Library is providing a very informative site featuring a minute-by-minute replay of the mission.

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Here is a (10 min) video of the final minutes of the countdown and the first few minutes of flight.

While we observe this anniversary, space endeavors continue with this evening's STS-127 launch to the International Space Station and the SpaceX Falcon 1 launch success earlier this week.

While in California, I'll also be visiting friends and places for a few days.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), covers a broad range of issues including human life, economics, the environment and justice, all in the light of Christian truth and charity. As is often the case, a papal encyclical is a complex document that can't be easily summarized in a newspaper or blog headline. This encyclical, like many others will be analyzed for years to come, but early interpretations include those of Thomas J. Reese, S.J. and George Weigel, who presents some interesting insights into how the encyclical was developed.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Galileo's Telecope

I had a good July 4th weekend visiting family up in the Philly area. While there, Saturday morning I went to the Franklin Institute to see the exhibit on Galileo, which is highlighted by one of his original telescopes (one of the original ancestors of the Hubble Space Telescope). Through the glass case, one can see a little handwritten note by Galileo on the telescope tube (near the rim on the upper end as displayed in the case). If you can be in or near Philadelphia, try to catch this exhibit, which closes September 7. (The Institute is also currently featuring a Star Trek exhibit that's worth seeing.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

July: The Fourth and an Upcoming Anniversary

Now it's July and the full range of summer experiences are all around.

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.

Also, now that it is July, expect to hear more about the upcoming 40th anniversary of the first landing of human beings on the Moon. There's already a lot of material on the Internet and Alan Boyle lists some of the highlights.