Category Archives: Space


Today’s Atlas launch heralded an end of an era:

Younes suggested that those future data relay satellites might be owned and operated by commercial entities rather than NASA. “NASA’s optimum goal is to push the technology to enable the commercial sector such that these services can be provided by commercial providers, and NASA will not need in the future to build these kinds of capabilities,” he said. “They can become a user, like any other user.”

In general, NASA needs to move to procuring services, rather than hardware.

The Google Lunar X-Prize

There’s a lot of talk today about their having “extended” the deadline to March 31 of next year. I have a clarification in email from Katherine Schelbert:

To clarify, this is not an extension. In this case, this is more of a re-focus. The most recent Dec 31, 2017 date was established as the date by which teams needed to initiate a launch, and was used as a means to down select to the current 5 finalists. Now, what is more important to teams, who all have different mission profiles (and paths to the moon, length of time in orbit) is the deadline by which they need to complete the mission, which is now the only date that matters. This competition is designed to not just inspire teams to launch, but to complete the mission, which is also why we are further incentivizing teams with the in-space Milestone Prizes, which are important achievements that will occur post-launch, on the way to fulfilling the competition requirements.


New Leadership At NASA

Apparently it’s going to be Jim Bridenstine as administrator, and former Chief of Staff John Schumacher as his Deputy. This is much better news than if Lightfoot had been given the job. Bridenstine told me in February that he had read my book. He will continue to pay lip service to SLS as long as seems politically necessary, but I think he knows what a programmatic disaster it is.

Next Launch

The Cape has been quiet for a few weeks while undergoing needed modernization. But things are about to pick up, with today’s SpaceX CRS launch less than an hour away. If they don’t get it off today, they’ll have to wait another five days, due to EVA scheduling issues and other things. You can watch here.

[Post-launch update]

Another successful launch, and perfect landing. Mission won’t be complete until Dragon delivers its cargo to ISS, then returns to earth, but it’s off to another good start.


feel weird.

I wonder if the breaking down in tears is a current phenomenon, or if it’s traditional from when most people didn’t know what was going on, and thought it was the end times?

I disagree with this, though:

…for an eclipse with specific properties (such as total versus partial, long versus short, and tropical versus arctic) to make a repeat appearance in any particular region, one has to wait while eclipses work their way around the world like a set of gears, which requires three Saroses—a length of time equal to fifty-four years and around one month, or, more precisely, thirty-three days. Because this surpasses human life expectancy in that era four thousand years ago, it’s astonishing that the cycle was noticed at all.

Only if you don’t understand that life expectancy is an average, with a high standard deviation. Many, and particularly ancient astronomers, would have likely lived much longer than average.

We were in Denver over the weekend, and went up to Wondervu Saturday might for a meeting of the Sky Watchers club (invited by Leonard and Barbara David, who have a place up there in the mountains above Boulder). One of the lecturers (retired from the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden) gave a talk on NREL’s analysis of probability of not having clouds along the entire path. He had seen the one in Aruba in the ’90s, and he and most of the people there planned to go up to Casper to see it. I’d like to, but I can’t justify time/money right now.