Category Archives: Space

On The Radio

Sorry for the short notice–it slipped my mind. I’m going to be live on The Space Show with David Livingston in about an hour. On the air in the Seattle area, and there’s an internet feed here.

[Update afterward]

The interview went well, but I found out it wasn’t broadcast live (thought it was on the internet). It was taped for a later broadcast. I also want to remind people that Bill Simon (transterrestrial webmaster) and I will be on the show next Tuesday. It’s the thirty-fifth anniversary of the first Apollo landing, and we’ll be talking about that, and the sedar-like ceremony that we developed to commemorate it.

If you’re really into the significance of that date, it would be a good time to gather with family and friends, and have a dinner to help remember the first liberation of our species (and earthly life itself) from its homeworld, just as the Jews celebrate their liberation from Egypt at Passover.

Despite all the saturation coverage of space in the past year and a half, it would seem that we need such tools to educate ourselves about this new frontier, as Jay Manifold sadly points out today.

Rocketforge shwag, evolvable design

Mike Mealling over at RocketForge has added to his shwag offerings. In particular the Apollo LEM mug is cool, though the Skylab Mousepad is also quite geek-chic. I’m hoping he’ll add an RL-10 mug (hint).

I’m a big fan of the RL-10, since it’s as close to the realizing the ideal of evolvable design as any spaceflight gadget that I’m aware of, having been in use since 1963, with continuous upgrades and improvements since then. It’s also the engine that was used (in yet another variant) on the DC-X, which is enough to earn it a spot in space history even without the large number of variants. I suspect that there are Russian engines which come close to the RL-10 in realizing evolvable design, but none pop immediately to mind (a reflection of ignorance more than anything else).

I’d be interested to hear of other candidates for best realized evolvable design in space hardware. Bear in mind that by “realized evolvable design” I mean not just design that is capable of incremental improvement, but design which has actually undergone substantial incremental improvement, or which has spawned a large number of useful variants. Soyuz is one obvious candidate. I suspect that there are Russian spacesuit designs which also meet the criteria for realized evolvable design.

This post honestly started out as just a pointer to the new RocketForge mug, but obviously I’m in a bit of a rambling frame of mind. For more on why you too should be a fan of the RL-10, check out the relevant collection of archived Usenet posts on Yarchive.

Political Tourism Barriers

Here’s an interesting article, on a couple of levels.

With demand waning for its traditional service – clearing Arctic shipping lanes – the Murmansk Shipping Company, which operates the world’s only fleet of atomic icebreakers, has started offering tourists a chance to chill out at the top of the world for $20,000 per head.

The business has outraged environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth Norway, which is urging would-be ticket buyers to consider the damage a nuclear accident can do to the pristine region’s fragile ecosystem…

… The green group has found an unexpected ally in the Russian Audit Chamber. Parliament’s budgetary watchdog, after investigating partially state-owned Murmansk Shipping’s finances earlier this year, urged the government to revoke the company’s license to operate the fully state-owned icebreakers because it had “improperly used $79 million worth of state property and cheated the state out of $7.3 million in revenues,” auditor Yury Tsvetkov said June 29.

The superficial (i.e., obvious) one is the issue of whether or not we’ll let environmental groups object to tourism on grounds either real or spurious (and in particular, the notion that it shouldn’t be allowed because it’s a nuclear-powered ship is extremely spurious, and one that we should expect to confront in the future as we start to use nuclear reactors in space).

But the other one is that the Russian government itself is opposed to such tourism. That indicates to me that some there are starting to figure out what things actually cost, and that the tourist dollars don’t actually cover the operating costs.

While popular legend has it that Dennis Tito paid twenty millions bucks for his ride into space, reality is that such things are extremely negotiable, and that he actually paid much less (perhaps a little over half) of that amount. The Russian space program has survived largely on the basis of its prestige (one of the few things that Russia can surpass the US at, at least by some criteria). If they discover that tourist flights (and NASA payments) aren’t covering the true costs, will that continue?

Better Late Than Never (Or Even On Time)

The latest issue of The Space Review is up a day late (I assume due to the holiday yesterday) but it was worth waiting for. I’m too busy to post much, but go read about Oklahoma spaceports by Jeff Foust, an old study on asteroid deflection by Dwayne Day, a cautionary note to space entrepreneurs about patents from Sam Dinkin, and a report from Taylor Dinerman on the prospects for a new space military service to supercede the Air Force.


I’m headed to Boca Raton. We don’t have internet connectivity there yet (and as of the last few hours, we don’t even have a land line), so I don’t know when I’ll be logging on again, but hopefully by early in the week.

Until then, congratulations to the Cassini team. Sometimes, amidst all of the ongoing disaster of our space policy (for instance, check out this bit of micromanagement foolishness by Congress), it’s easy to get jaded, but if someone had told you thirty-five years ago (the first moon landing) that there would be a satellite in orbit around Saturn sending back such spectacular close-up pictures of its rings and its many moons (most of which we were unaware at that time), you would have been amazed, even in the face of the manned moon landings. This is one of those moments (which are happening ever more frequently) in which I finally feel like I’m living in the twenty-first century.