DIY space photos

Tom James @ 19-03-2009

stratosphereThis is really neat, via Slashdot, some Spanish students have sent a camera on a balloon up into the stratosphere, with excellent results:

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.

Read and see more here.

[from the Telegraph, via Slashdot]


Chinese to launch military space station

Tom James @ 10-03-2009

china_stationThe Chinese government has announced its intention to launch two space stations over the next two years, one for civil use and one for military activities:

The design, revealed to the Chinese during a nationally televised Chinese New Year broadcast, includes a large module with docking system making up the forward half of the vehicle and a service module section with solar arrays and propellant tanks making up the aft.

The concept is similar to manned concepts for Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle.

While used as a target to build Chinese docking and habitation experience, the vehicle’s military mission has some apparent parallels with the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program cancelled in 1969 before it flew any manned missions. MOL’s objectives were primarily reconnaissance and technology development.

This is all due to happen in the same year that NASA is phasing out the space shuttle: how will Chinese progress in space affect US space policy?

[from SPACE.com via Slashdot][image from SPACE.com]


Rockets not jets: the future of orbital launch

Tom James @ 04-03-2009

rocketA fascinating article on the pros and cons of air-breathing spacecraft vs. rockets for orbital launch at Short Sharp Science:

Trying to build a spaceship by making airplanes fly faster and higher is like trying to build an airplane by making locomotives faster and lighter – with a lot of effort, perhaps you could get something that more or less works, but it really isn’t the right way to proceed. The problems are fundamentally different, and so are the best solutions.

[image from jurvetson on flickr]


Space elevators and orbital solar power

Tom James @ 05-01-2009

neonA nice confluence of Clarkian techno-positivism and 21st century orbital solar power in this post on Short Sharp Science:

There’s another slight problem: the elevator doesn’t exist.

And neither do the supermaterials that could make it a reality. The elevator community’s oft-quoted carbon nanotube fibres languish in labs unable to stretch more than a few tens of centimetres without breaking.

All the more reason, says Swan, to get serious research into elevator technology underway. “We should initiate the space elevator project now and have the space solar power people buy into the concept that we’ll have one by 2030 and start planning for it. Instead of a 50-year horizon, let’s have a 20-year one.”

Stirring stuff. The space elevator is in the class of things I definitely hope to see within my lifetime.

[from Short Sharp Science][image from tanakawho on flickr]


Ray Bradbury on the real Martians

Tom James @ 29-12-2008

bradburyRay Bradbury has written the foreward for a recent issue of National Geographic, fans of The Martian Chronicles will apreciate his sublimely poetic enthusiasm for space exploration:

I like to think of the cosmos as a theater, yet a theater cannot exist without an audience, to witness and to celebrate. Robot craft and mighty telescopes will continue to show us unimaginable wonders. But when humans return to the moon and put a base there and prepare to go to Mars and become true Martians, we—the audience—literally enter the cosmic theater. Will we finally reach the stars?

Also check out the accompanying art by Michael Whelan.

[via Boing Boing][image from Kuja on flickr]


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