Forgot Someone on the Old Christmas List? Buy Them a Walk in Space for $45 Million

The headline says it all. We now know how much it will cost to become the first private citizen to walk in space. Virginia-based Space Adventures is now advertising spacewalks at ISS for $45-$55 million. Meanwhile, if you just want to go up there for a little vacation, the price tag has soared to $35-$45 million.

The question is: Which filthy rich tech titan will be the first to go where hundreds have gone before? Will it be Google billionaut Sergey Brin? Or two-time Microsoft billionaut Charlies Simonyi? The world awaits breathlessly.

Virgin Galactic Signs 20-Year Lease Agreement with Spaceport America


Governor Bill Richardson today announced that Virgin Galactic has signed a 20 year lease agreement with the State of New Mexico. Virgin Galactic’s world headquarters will be established in New Mexico and its operations will be located at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.


Some Thoughts on the Eve of a New Year….

Well, it’s the holidays again – specifically, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day – which means it’s time for NASA’s annual dump of bad news in the hope that nobody is paying much attention.

Last year, the space agency treated us to the New Year’s Eve release of an aviation report that had some very scary things to say about the safety of America’s air transportation system. That NASA fought the release of this information for 18 months on the basis that it would hurt commercial aviation and then dumped it at a hastily called news conference at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Eve….it’s all a big co-incidence, to hear NASA tell it.

Ah, bullshit


China and India Blasted Off in 2008

News review 2008: Asia’s space race takes off
New Scientist

“While NASA struggled to maintain space capabilities it had acquired decades ago, newcomers China and India were progressing by leaps and bounds.

“September saw China’s first space walk when taikonaut Zhai Zhigang (in the centre of the picture, right) briefly ventured outside the Shenzhou-7 craft…

“India too raised its profile in space in 2008 with the launch of the Chandrayaan-1 moon probe, its first spacecraft to venture beyond Earth orbit. In November it joined two craft already orbiting the moon – not American, Russian or European, but Chinese and Japanese.”

Virgin Galactic Scottish Spaceport Plan Gets Political Support

Lossiemouth spaceport plan backed by SNP
The Scotsman

“The SNP wants Scotland to be home to the UK’s first commercial spaceport.

Virgin Galactic has already identified RAF Lossiemouth in Moray as a potential launch site, and Angus Robertson, the local MP and the SNP’s Westminster leader, is backing the idea. He wants to meet Lord Drayson, the UK’s science and innovation minister, to push the case for Lossiemouth, and he says he is working to bring together the local community, government and enterprise agencies behind the proposals.

Lovell: Bail Out NASA, Not Those Wall Street Weasels


The Coalition for Space Exploration, the leading collaboration of space industry businesses and advocacy groups, announced today the release of a statement by James Lovell, who served as part of the crew of Apollo 8 – the first human voyage to a celestial body in December 1968. Apollo 8’s successful mission to orbit the Moon paved the way for Apollo 11 to realize U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon before the close of the 1960s.


Effort Underway to Save Mike Griffin’s Job

Former NASA AA Scott “Doc” Horowitz has started an online petition urging the incoming Obama Administration to keep Mike Griffin on as NASA Administrator. Horowitz, who is primarily linked with designing the Ares rocket that would be his and Griffin’s main legacy to the space agency, believes that NASA’s current leader is “one of the most technically and managerially competent administrators in NASA’s history.”


Is Station Plasma Causing Soyuz Re-entry Problems?

Soyuz Re-entry Failure Theory To Be Tested
Aviation Week

“Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Yuri Lonchakov will install a Langmuir probe near the Soyuz docked at the station’s Pirs docking compartment so Russian engineers can gauge the temperature and density of the surrounding plasma as well as its electric potential.

“Kirk Shireman, NASA’s deputy ISS program manager, said the probe was a last-minute addition to the cargo in Progress M-66/31P, which docked Nov. 30. Russian engineers believe the plasma environment around the station contributed to the failures of explosive bolts on two successive Soyuz re-entries, and they wanted to characterize the plasma environment as close to the Soyuz as possible.”

Did Bush Nix U.S.-China Co-op? AvWeek Says Yes, NASA Says Not Really

Bush Administration Nixed NASA’s U.S.-China Cooperation Idea
Aviation Week

“NASA tried and failed to obtain Bush administration approval of an overture to China for a cooperative U.S.-China space mission, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin tells Aviation Week & Space Technology. The White House believes that a higher level of cooperation is too great a reward to China for its human rights and arms-trafficking violations of international law.”

NASA’s Response to AvWeek Article

Unfortunately, Aviation Week’s recent article of Dec. 21, 2008, entitled “Bush Administration Nixed NASA’s U.S.-China Cooperation Idea,” is inaccurate and misleading.


Meet the New COTS, Same as the Old COTS

NASA has awarded the next phase of the COTS program, and the winners are the same two companies that won the last round: SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation. The two companies beat out PlanetSpace, a consortium of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and ATK. NASA’s press release follows:

NASA has awarded two contracts — one to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and one to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif. — for commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station. At the time of award, NASA has ordered eight flights valued at about $1.9 billion from Orbital and 12 flights valued at about $1.6 billion from SpaceX.


Bye Bye Ares I?

Barack Obama under fire from Nasa over plans to slash budget
The Daily Telegraph

The president-elect’s team is developing plans to scrap the new Ares rocket, designed to blast a new generation of astronauts into space, Nasa advisers said.

The team is also investigating whether military Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, already more than 20 years old, could be adapted more cheaply. Nasa insiders say that that possibility was rejected years ago because the military rockets are not safe enough for manned flights. Nasa put a premium on safety after the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters.

It’s a VERY Happy Holiday for the Virgin Galactic Folks

SpaceShipTwo Carrier Craft Makes Successful First Flight

A carrier aircraft designed to be the first stage of a commercial spaceline system made its maiden test flight today at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Designed by Scaled Composites, the huge and unique WhiteKnightTwo mothership rolled down the runway and muscled itself into the air using four Pratt and Whitney PW308A turbofan engines. The WhiteKnightTwo flew for about an hour, departing the runway at roughly 8:17 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, safely touching down at the Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 9:17 a.m. PST.

Status Update

Hey everyone.

The holidays are upon us. I’m going to take a bit of a break to celebrate the end of the year with some dear and old friends. So, there will be relatively light blogging for the next week or so.

Happy Hanahkah
Merry Christmas
Happy New Year
Happy Kwanzaa

The best of luck to everyone out there!

Is the Climate Beginning to Spiral Out of Control?

Global warming skeptics believe that scientists are being overly alarmist in their projections. I think this position represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how science actually works.

Science, by its nature, is conservative. There is so much data crunching and theories and challenges and peer reviews….getting to a consensus on anything takes an awful long time. And by the time the data are refined to the point where one can draw conclusions, reality has moved far beyond the millions of individual data points that make up the picture.

With climate change, that can be deadly.