Daily Archives: 09/18/2003

My Own Deep Eye Into The Sky

Rounding out my space Thursday here on Guam, I got one more post. Many months ago I ordered a Meade ETX 125EC telescope online. Kudos to Craig Cleland for handling the trans-shipment of the telescope, a dicey affair that took far longer than I expected; backordered equipment, snafu delivery attempts, and finally a slow boat to Guam via parcel post. Craig handled it all with aplomb, so my heartfelt thanks Craig.

Too bad it was raining like mad this evening, all set up and nothing to see. Maybe this weekend will be better. I am excited, the night sky is excellent here on Guam and a telescope is a good choice for the serious stargazer. This ETX 125 is large enough to resolve interesting object, but still highly portable and affordable. Plus it came with a automatic star finder and sturdy tripod for stable positioning. I can’t wait to try this thing out.

Spaceship One

Continuing with today’s space theme, I got to mention Burt Rutan and Scaled Composite’s privately funded drive to achieve sub-orbital space flight. Spaceship 1 is the odds on favorite to win the X Prize, a $10 million award for the first private venture to reach 100 kilometers in a spacecraft with three people, return safely to earth and repeat the launch within two weeks.

While several X Prize teams are working on smaller versions of traditional rocket launchers, Scaled Composites plan harkens back the to NASA’s X-15 experimental rocket plane flights of the early sixties. Like the X-15, Spaceship 1 is ferried aloft by a larger conventional jet airplane. Upon reaching approximately 60,000 feet, it detaches and fires a rocket motor for over a minute to propel the spacecraft to 2,500 miles per hour and a maximum altitude of 60 miles. When the propellant is used up, Spaceship 1 becomes a glider and floats down to a runway landing about an hour later.

Unlike most of the X Prize teams, Scaled Composites actually has all the components constructed and in the testing stage. Last month the mother ship White Knight took Spaceship 1 to 47,000 feet and released her for a controlled glide back to the desert runway. And just last week the rocket motor was successfully fired. Next step, mounting the rocket motor to the spaceship and running more in-flight tests.

While Scaled Composites has set no firm launch date, rumors about that they plan their launch to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brother’s Kitty Hawk flight. That happens on December 3rd, only a few months away. A new era in space flight may be upon us.

Space Elevator: High Hopes, Lofty Goals

Interesting story on the continuing development of a space elevator; interest in the concept is growing, especially considering NASA’s continuedtroubles with a launch vehicle. NASA is actually considering reverting to an Apollo style capsule to launch astronauts into orbit. Sources state that the costs to develop a new space capsule are drastically cheaper than designs for a re-usable space plane. Here’s a newsflash – the Russians already have one, it’s called Soyuz, and they use it all the time. Hell, there’s one docked to the space station right now. Let’s just subcontract with them to toss astronauts into space. I am certain they’d love the exposure, not to mention the infusion of cash. It would certainly function as a serviceable stop gap measure until a space elevator can be constructed. Realistic estimates on a space elevator put it about 15 years in the future. Once constructed, the cost to reach Earth orbit drops from $10,000 a pound to $100 a pound.

Home At Last

Just got home from work about ten minutes ago. Yes, it’s after 1:00 a.m. Just lovely. Anyway, I just wanted to rave about Eudora 6.0 and it’s spam filter. Wow, it works like a charm. Spam is banished, with very good results right out of the box – and it will only get better. Amen.