Category Archives: Space

Vacation

We decided to drive up to Santa Ynez for a weekend holiday wine tour. We left last night in hopes of getting up here in time for the Delta IV launch out of Vandenberg, but it was scrubbed for a technical issue. The good news is that it’s rescheduled for an earlier launch tonight (1006), and we’ll still be up here. The weather is clear, and it should be good viewing of a night launch if it goes. It’s the first time in many months that we’ve traveled just for pleasure, with no business. Back to the grind on Monday.

[Update after the launch scrub]

Well, that was disappointing. We had a great spot on Ocean Avenue to view, a clear sky, and it aborted seven seconds before liftoff. No word on cause yet.

Still Off The Air

I flew up to DC on Tuesday after checking out the house in Florida, and was at the Galloway Symposium all day yesterday, with two back-to-back receptions afterward, and didn’t get back to my room until midnight. It was a very useful day, but it was marred by texts from my realtor that someone had attempted to break into the patio door and damage it, and she has open houses scheduled this weekend. So this morning first thing I had to find a handyman to go check out the situation.

Today is getting caught up in emails this morning, then a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where I’ll have meetings with some officials from the Dept of Commerce, then a late-afternoon flight back to California. So no blogging today (either).

Europa

Elections have consequences; Eric Berger looks into what Culberson’s loss means for the mission. This is politically huge:

During their November briefings with Culberson, the Europa scientists were careful to say they still planned to launch the Clipper on the SLS rocket, but that has not stopped them from looking at alternatives. Until recently, there hadn’t been any good ones. However, as Goldstein said during the briefing, “We’ve had a major development, and it’s really relieving for the team.”

The development had come about as the Europa planners had worked with NASA’s Launch Services Program and SpaceX. All of the rockets available for launch today, including SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, require multiple gravity assists to reach Jupiter, because they just could not provide Clipper the change in velocity needed to go directly to Jupiter.

Until the breakthrough, all of these rockets, including the Delta IV Heavy, needed about 7.5 years to reach Jupiter, and they also had to go into the inner Solar System to obtain a gravity assist from Venus as they ramped up energy for the outbound trip. In fact, this tortuous trajectory necessitated gravity slingshots around Earth, Venus, Earth, and finally Earth again before moving toward the outer Solar System. The mandatory Venus flyby troubled planners, because passing so close to the Sun would raise all manner of thermal challenges and require significant changes to protect Clipper from high temperatures.

The breakthrough referenced by Goldstein involved the addition of a Star 48 “kick stage” to the Falcon Heavy rocket, which would provide an extra boost of energy after the rocket’s upper stage had fired. With this solid rocket motor kick stage, Goldstein said Clipper would need just a single Earth gravity assist and would not have to go into the inner Solar System for a Venus flyby.

“Nobody is saying we’re not going on the SLS,” Goldstein said. “But if by chance we don’t, we don’t have the challenge of the inner Solar System. This was a major development. This was a big deal for us.”

Gee, I’m old enough to remember when I was cricized for saying that FH could do the job. And you know what? Star 48s have been around a long time. The only “major development” here is the ability to talk about a non-SLS Europa mission in polite company.

[Update a few minutes later]

I would note, though the article doesn’t, that while Enceladus is a tougher mission from a velocity standpoint, it’s a lot easier from a radiation standpoint.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment

Anthony Watts is having fun with it.

I continue to be amazed at people who continue to attempt to compare landing a probe on another planet to predicting something as complex as the climate and the economy eight decades from now.

[Thursday-morning update]

Bjorn Lomborg: What the media got all wrong about the report.

Pretty much everything.

[Update Friday morning]

“The NCA’s projections are simply not borne out by the data.”

Unexpectedly!

[Bumped]

[Late-morning update]

How the Trump administration blew it on the NCA:

The Administration now has a problem since some Democrats say they will use the report to oppose a number of the Trump Administration’s attempts to weaken a number of the Obama climate regulations that they have proposed, including using the report to persuade courts to reinstate the original Obama Administration regulations. All this was quite foreseeable. So why did the Administration publish the report without reviewing it? Was it because it was not paying attention to what the bureaucracy was doing? This is hard to believe, but appears now to be the case. One obvious possibility is that they wanted to avoid the charge that they had “corrupted” the report writing process. But the costs are likely to be high. Another possibility is that Acting Administrator Wheeler did not want to endure questions about possible intervention at his confirmation hearing. But the evidence appears to suggest inattention by the Trump Administration was the major problem.

You don’t say.

Welcome To The Narcisscene

This is from last summer, but I finally got around to reading it. I’m wondering what the implications are for space colonies, potential botanical gardens and zoos in the solar system, and the O’Neillian/Bezos vision of earth as a nature park.

[Update a while later]

In reading this:

Because one cannot conceive of the length of geologic time, one cannot comprehend the brevity of the past 75 years in relation to it. The Anthropocene, if officially recognized, would be inconceivably ephemeral, momentary — indeed, instantaneous — existing only in real time. But it will endure until the Götterdämmerung, that is, until humans go extinct; it will run to the end of recorded history — turning the hourglass of geologic time upside down.

…I’m reminded of people who believe that every hurricane or fire is some unprecedented event, caused by our SUVs, when most are unaware of what happened a century ago, let alone millennia.

New NASA Chief Of Staff

Janet is an excellent choice. It’s just a shame that Bridenstine couldn’t get the deputy administrator he wanted.