Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Want to travel to space?

Virgin Galactic has sold out their initial offering of the first 500 seats on SpaceShipTwo, a sub-orbital craft expected to begin regular service to space in 2016.
“Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson revealed that the company has now accepted deposits for suborbital flights on SpaceShipTwo from 529 future astronauts, a number greater than the total count of people who have been to space throughout human history.”
The price for being one of these pioneers was $200K USD. However, reservations for future sub-orbital flights are expected to be $20K. Orbital flights are also being planned.
I’m borrowing today’s gankimage from the Mars Society’s Facebook Page:
If you missed out on one of Virgin Galactic’s premiere seats, there’s still time to head out to West Texas and hitch a ride on Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule. Founded by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin keeps a low profile. After three successful launches in recent years, Blue Origin suffered their first real setback in 2011 with an unsuccessful launch. News of Blue’s current itinerary is sketchy, although they announced successful completion of a System Requirements Review (SRR) in May, 2012. According to the press release:
Blue Origin is maturing the design of the Space Vehicle in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. The (SRR) review assessed the Space Vehicle’s ability to meet safety and mission requirements, and evaluated the technical readiness of the design, the concept of operations, the feasibility of project development plans, and planned verification activities. The review also included results from recently completed wind tunnel tests of the biconic shape, validating the vehicle’s aerodynamic design, stability and cross-range.
The New Shepard is a vertical launch assembly, currently using the Atlas V rocket. Think Apollo, Gemini, Galilleo, and the Shuttle. By contrast, it should be noted that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo uses an in-flight launch system - jetting off from a heavy-lift aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, propelled by a stage rocket called LauncherOne. If you saw the June launch of NuSTAR 1 from the carrier aircraft, Stargazer, you’ll have an idea of how WhiteKnightTwo operates.

Apropos of nothing, NuSTAR was launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Which incidentally happens to be where I grew up.

Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are now hiring.

  1. NuSTAR is the first focusing telescope to image the sky in the high energy X-ray (6 - 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Its initial mission is to take a census of collapsed stars and black holes and map material in young supernovae, among other objectives.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy 54th Birthday, NASA!

It's birthday time!  Not mine.  NASA's! 
Driven by the competition of the Cold War, on July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, providing for research into the problems of flight within Earth’s atmosphere and in space. The act inaugurated a new civilian agency designated the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The agency began operations on Oct. 1, 1958.

If you get a few moments, check out this amazing animated timeline of the history of NASA.  Set aside a bit of time to go through it all.  Not only has NASA done an amazing amount of exploration, both terrestial and in space, but the music on the animation is groovy!

And, I've mentioned it before, NasaTV is terrific!  Something happening all the time over at NASA.  This week, tune in for the launch of the SpaceX Dragon (scheduled for October 7th at 8:34 pm EDT). NASA and SpaceX have invited the social media to participate with the same rights and access as the regular media. Apparently, tweets and blogs have replaced (or at least tremendously augmented) corporate journalism in terms of getting the word out about the amazing things happening in the space program.  More at SpaceX and NMR.

While I'm thinking about it, let me put a plug in for the streaming internet radio, Third Rock Radio (America's Space Station!). I listen to them occasionally, and they have some interesting interviews.

Happy Birthday, NASA!