Saturday, November 24, 2007

According to, presidential candidate Barack Obama stated that his education plan—if he is elected—will involve diverting funds from the Vision for Space Exploration and delay NASA’s Constellation program (which involves developing and launching the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle) for five years. Let’s see... There’s already a projected five-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first manned mission by Orion in 2015... That means the U.S. will be relying on Russia to send our astronauts into space till 2020 (which is when we would have returned humans to the Moon). Do the math, and that’s a 10-year absence where America isn’t gonna have its own manned spacecraft to send its own astronauts into orbit. As an advocate of the space program (in case you didn’t notice from most of the Blogs on this page), this is totally freakin’ unacceptable.

Overlooking Hilary Clinton's presumably positive stance on human spaceflight, I'm probably not gonna vote Democrat in 2008. Additional reasons would be that I wasted my vote on this losing side in 2000 (to the dull, but Nobel Prize-winning vice president) and 2004 (the bunny suit-wearing flip-flopper from Massachusetts). Obama's plan is hypocritical. And foolish. He wants to motivate kids to get more interested in math and science, and yet he wants to cut funding to the one government agency whose work is the epitome of math and science being used to the fullest. Good one, dude. I was thinking about voting for him until I read about this nonsense. Politics piss me off.

No to Obama as President in 2008.

UPDATE: Found this interesting tidbit on a message board:

"Just a note on survivability of a program beyond a President's term...ISS (the International Space Station) started under Reagan in 1984 and has survived—albeit not without change and compromise—through four presidencies, ten Congresses (a "congress" officially lasts two years) and 24 attempts to kill it in the Congress along the way. It's just not as simple as an initiative of a single presidential term...which is why the Congress "adopted" it as "national policy" in the 2005 NASA Authorization it wouldn't be tied to the president alone.

Obama, if elected, could propose diverting funds from Constellation to education, and the Congress could simply tell him "no." They are the ones that ultimately decide where the money goes; the president, whoever he or she is, only requests a budget."

Hm- That makes me feel a whole lot better. If you overlook the fact Congress is currently controlled by the Democrats.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The ORION logo that will be used by NASA on future Crew Exploration Vehicle missions.

ORION Update: This past week has seen a number of milestones for the Constellation Program...which is responsible for developing NASA’s replacement for the space shuttle after it is retired in 2010: The Ares rocket and Orion space vehicle. On November 9, construction began at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B for a trio of lightning towers that will protect the Ares rocket when it is out on the pad during a severe thunderstorm. Ares will begin test flights from Florida in 2009. The launch tower at LC-39B itself will not undergo renovation until late 2008...since it will be used one last time for the space shuttle next year. LC-39B will host a second shuttle (Endeavour) in case it has to launch on a rescue mission if Atlantis (the orbiter assigned to the mission) is found damaged in orbit after launching on next summer’s final Hubble Space Telescope servicing flight. Additional photos of the construction can be found here.

TOP PIC: Construction begins on the first of three lightning towers at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B.  BOTTOM PIC: An artist's concept of how LC-39B will look after being modified for the ARES rocket.
NASA / George Shelton

In other Ares-related news, NASA successfully tested the main parachute for the Ares’ first stage rocket booster during a drop test today at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Click here for more details.

The main parachute for Constellation Program rockets is tested Nov. 15 over the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz. Measuring 150-feet in diameter and weighing 2,000 pounds, the parachute is the largest of its kind that's been tested.
NASA / Marshall Spaceflight Center

In New Mexico, workers broke ground on a pad where NASA will test a launch abort system for the Orion spacecraft at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range. You can read more about it here.

TOP PIC: A computer rendition of a launch abort system (LAS) test taking place in White Sands, New Mexico.  BOTTOM PIC: A computer rendition showing NASA's ORION Crew Exploration Vehicle separating from its LAS during flight.

Damaris Sarria, a NASA engineer widely known for a Blog that is chronicling her exploits to become an astronaut, posted a brief entry on Tuesday talking about a prototype heat shield for Orion being shipped to NASA by Boeing. The shield was constructed at the Boeing facility in Huntington Beach, California. Too bad the actual spacecraft itself won’t be constructed at Huntington Beach...which is only a half-hour drive from me. Oh wait— Orion is being built by Lockheed Martin. Nevermind.

TOP PIC: Boeing engineer Elizabeth Chu inspects a prototype heat shield for the ORION Crew Exploration Vehicle.  BOTTOM PIC: A computer rendition showing ORION re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
NASA / Damaris B. Sarria

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The crew of shuttle mission STS-120 gather inside the Harmony module a day after it was attached to the International Space Station.

7 MISSIONS DOWN, 11 MORE TO GO... Of course, this excludes two as-yet unconfirmed contingency shuttle flights around 2009 or 2010. The orbiter Discovery touched down at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 10:01 AM, PST today...paving the way for one more shuttle flight in 2007 as Atlantis prepares for launch next month. Atlantis is now mated to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters, and will be rolled out to the launch pad on Saturday. Its cargo, the European Space Agency’s Columbus science module, arrived at the pad last night. With each completed mission, the International Space Station (ISS) continues to grow in size [except during next year's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission... I'll get to that soon]. And yet sadly, each mission accomplished means the shuttle is getting closer to retirement 3 years from now...after 29 years of being America’s primary way of sending astronauts into space. Atlantis herself is scheduled for deactivation after she flies the very last servicing mission to HST in 2008 (this is the only remaining flight in the program where the shuttle won’t be going to the ISS). The third image below contains artwork depicting the shuttle’s replacement, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, in its latest incarnation. Orion is scheduled to become operational no earlier than 2014, when it will initially be used to carry out logistical flights to the ISS. From 2016 on, however, the CEV will hopefully be utilized for what President Bush announced back in January of 2004: Returning humans to the Moon, and eventually setting the stage for a manned flight to Mars. Or at least a Near-Earth Asteroid. That last one seems a bit more doable right now. Somewhat.

Space shuttle DISCOVERY touches down at Cape Canaveral in Florida on November 7, 2007.
NASA / Tom Farrar & Kim Shiflett

Computer renditions of the ORION Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Courtesy of

UPDATE (November 8): President Bush greets the STS-120 crew outside Air Force One, on the tarmac at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas:

President Bush greets the STS-120 crew outside Air Force One, on the tarmac at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.
White House / Eric Draper

UPDATE (November 10): Last flight of the year... Rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building around 1:43 AM PST this morning, space shuttle Atlantis was officially secured at the launch pad around 8:51 AM PST today. Its launch on mission STS-122 is still set for December 6.

Rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building around 1:43 AM PST this morning, space shuttle ATLANTIS was officially secured at the launch pad around 8:51 AM PST today.  Its launch on mission STS-122 is still set for December 6.
NASA / Kim Shiflett