Latest on Apophis

As far back as 2004 I mentioned the asteroid Apophis. Most recently in 2009. Now in 2013 it’s back in the news. It’s bigger (“1,066 foot (325 meters), with a margin of error of ±49 feet (±15 meters)”), and will pass closer than the orbits of some geostationary satellites. Possibly even taking a few out on its flyby.

Curious what we’ll learn in the next few years as astronomers gather more data and crunch more numbers.

Petition To Bring USS Enterprise Spaceship To Life

There is now a assign NASA to do a feasibility study and conceptual design of the Gen1 USS Enterprise interplanetary spaceship I’m all for a Manhattan project style roadmap, it pushes to do great things and changes the world and the nation for the better. I’m not convinced we have the technology or will in the near future for the propulsion system. I also suspect it’s size would make it difficult secure enough resources, the same problem with the death star proposal.

NASA Researching Warp Drive

From Boing Boing:

Harold White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center is currently leading an effort to design a warp drive space ship. But, as Amy Teitel explains in a story for Vice’s Motherboard, the fact that this is happening does not necessarily mean a real working warp drive is possible. It’s more about the fact that NASA is partly in the business of letting really smart people try things that are kind of crazy and unlikely, if they can back up the idea with a reasonably plausible hypothesis. Speculative research is a thing that happens.

I don’t think there are too many things I want more in this world than to live in a world where warp drive is a reality. The other half of that want is the ability to say “warp speed ahead” and not be talking Sci Fi.

Landing A Shuttle

I was reading Austin Mayer’s blog post on shuttle orbiter re-entry when this piece struck me:

After de-orbit burn, the shuttle heads for the atmosphere at 400,000 feet, 17,000 miles per hour, and 5,300 miles away from Edwards. (Yes, you are landing in the Mojave desert and you are starting your landing approach West of Hawaii). Not a bad pattern entry, huh? In reality, the autopilot flies the the entire 30-minute re-entry, and the astronauts do not take over the controls of the shuttle until the final 2 minutes of the glide. The astronauts COULD fly the entire re-entry by hand, but it is officially discouraged by NASA. The reason is obvious… these speeds and altitudes are way outside of normal human conception, so our ability to “hand-fly” these approaches is next to nil.

In the history of Shuttle missions (the 100th mission has just come to a close as I write this), the real space shuttle has been hand-flown for the entire re-entry only ONCE, by an ex-marine pilot, as I understand it, who was ready for the ultimate risk and challenge.

A few minutes of research suggests this was Joe Engle a retired U.S. Air Force Major General and a former NASA astronaut. The Wikipedia entry credits him as “the only astronaut to have manually flown the shuttle through reentry and landing”. It should be noted however that he flew Shuttle Enterprise, and from 25,000 feet to landing. He didn’t re-enter the atmosphere from space. That however doesn’t diminish the task. He flew what was likely the worlds heaviest and untested glider successfully by hand. An absolutely insane task, and succeeded!

Upcoming Comet To Be Brighter Than Moon

From Astronomy Now:

A new comet has been discovered that is predicted to blaze incredibly brilliantly in the skies during late 2013. With a perihelion passage of less than two million kilometres from the Sun on 28 November 2013, current predictions are of an object that will dazzle the eye at up to magnitude —16. That’s far brighter than the full Moon. If predictions hold true then C/2012 S1 will certainly be one of the greatest comets in human history…

Well, guess I should mark the calendar. This sounds like something I won’t want to miss. How could you miss something that will be “one of the greatest _____ in human history”?

Refurbished Satellites?

From Network World:

Scientists at DARPA say there are some 1,300 satellites worth over $300B sitting out in Earth’s geostationary orbit (GEO) that could be retrofitted or harvested for new communications roles and it designed a program called Phoenix which it says would use a squadron “satlets” and a larger tender craft to grab out-of-commission satellites and retrofit or retrieve them for parts or reuse.

This is some serious Star Wars stuff here.