Archive for January, 2011


The ISS is going to need space traffic control!

January 30, 2011

Russian Progress incoming!

So far there are three supply ships at the ISS at the same time. The Russian Progress docked yesterday, bringing a couple of tons of equipment and consumables and a ton of propellants. There is already a Progress docked that arrived in September, and two Soyuz lifeboat capsules are docked that remain there permanently for the crew.

HTV-2 being docked on the ISS

The Japanese HTV-2 automated supply craft arrived on January 27. Unlike the Progress, it had to be captured by the Canadarm and attached to the Harmony module by the crew. The Progress is controlled from the ground but executed the final 11-minute docking procedure automatically, connecting to the Pirs module. It was the 41st Progress module to supply the station in the last 11 years.

ATV compared to Apollo and Progress

The first European ATV, or automated transfer vehicle, the Jules Verne, was docked to the ISS for six months in 2008. The second, the Johannes Kepler, is to dock with the ISS within the next few weeks. The ATVs are built by EADS and have a cargo capacity of eight tons, or over two and a half times that of the Progress vehicle. They are also said to be man-capable.

Eventually the last shuttle mission will fly this spring as well. And soon, the SpaceX Dragon commercial spacecraft will be flying resupply to the ISS. Shortly after that with a bit of luck the man-rated version of the Dragon will be flying passengers to the ISS.

Rendering of the SpaceX Dragon supply ship docking to the ISS

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Let’s make it busier up there! Now add to it the fact that NASA is talking to Bigelow Aerospace about using their inflatable habitats to increase living room on the station, and we could really have a party!

Rendering of a Bigelow Inflatable Habitat


Your cat moment for today…

January 29, 2011

Click on the image above to wake the kitteh.

Got to icanhascheezeburger for lotz of other lolcats and kittehs!


In Memoriam…

January 29, 2011

Astronaut Memorial Patch

I’m a couple of days late at this. The 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion was on January 27, and I understand that NASA now has a yearly memorial service to honor the fallen from Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.

There is a very fine web site devoted to all the astronauts and cosmonauts who lost their lives. You can find it here. The site owner, Scott Furtaw, has links for each of the astronauts and cosmonauts, as well as other information¬† about honors, memorial services, and Presidential speeches. I urge you to take a look. We need to remember these people. Space flight is still dangerous, and never routine, and because the TV networks no longer televise each “space shot” we don’t even always know when itthey are taking place. We have had a continuously-occupied space station since November 2, 2000. Do you realize that? For over ten years, we have had people occupying a space station! It doesn’t look like the von Braun wheel station, or even the one in “2001,” but it’s up there and it’s working!

We just need the will to travel among the stars, friends. The rest is just engineering…

What we thought we might get...

What we have now (as of 2009)

What we may still have someday...


Illinois: New Jersey wants your companies!

January 28, 2011

Y'all come to New Joisey!

As I was driving to work this morning, I heard a radio commercial from the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. He was promoting his state as a business-friendly environment. This is not a bad thing, usually, but in this commercial he actually targeted Illinois businesses. He told them to move to his state if they were “tired of having the state government balance their budgets on the backs of the businesses.” (That may be somewhat paraphrased, sorry.)

He also guaranteed that as long as he was Governor he wouldn’t raise taxes on them. That’s a pretty bold statement, but Christie is a pretty bold guy.

The commercial aired on WLS-AM, a 50,000 watt clear-channel station, at about 6:30 AM. At that time of day a pretty fair percentage of the folks in their cars are businesspeople commuting to work. They definitely targeted their audience correctly.

According to Illinois Governor Quinn’s spokesdude, Illinois isn’t going to do anything to counter this kind of PR and go directly to the “decision makers” at individual businesses.

Governator Quinn, you be dumb. I’ve heard time and time again that the backbone of American business is small business. Are Quinn’s people going to talk to every small businessman in Illinois? Of course not. They might talk to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is making noises about leaving the city. They won’t talk to a company owner who would find it easy to move his 50 employees – if not all the way to New Jersey, at least to Indiana, or even Wisconsin. Let’s say you’re a small business owner in in East Charleston, Illinois. It’s not that big a deal to move to Valaparaiso or Lafayette. (The college football would be better, too.)

Update January 29:

Governor Christie certainly is aggressive. He’s been proposed as a possible Presidential candidate. I’d rather see him have two terms as a successful governor as experience before running, and to actually demonstrate a track record, but he understands the basics of the relationship between government and the economy: keep taxes low and regulations to an absolute minimum. He may not be there yet, but he’s on his way…and Pat Quinn is certainly not moving in that direction!


Steampunk Palin!

January 22, 2011

What can I say? Just go to Antarctic Press and get the book. Things From Another World is already sold out. I don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, you need to see the battle between Robama and Steampunk Palin.

Also available from these fine folks:

President Evil - He's no Ash!

I'm not even sure about this one...


Book Review” “Outies,” by Dr. Jennifer Pournelle

January 21, 2011

Dr. Jennifer Pournelle

Dr. Jennifer Pournelle is an Assistant Professor in the School of the Environment at the University of South Carolina. She is a former US Army Intelligence officer and extensive experience and training in archaeology, especially in the Middle East. In addition to a bundle of scholarly articles, she has now written a science fiction novel. It’s set in the universe created by her father, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, and Larry Niven, in the landmark First Contact novel “The Mote In God’s Eye.”

A Motie Engineer

“Outies” is the term used for those humans who live on planets not yet formally admitted to the Second Empire of Man.The planet of New Utah is one such place, colonized by two Mormon splinter groups from another Empire world, and then also populated by religious groups from a variety of other places. Still, there’s a lot of open space on a planet, and the humans who have been on New Utah for only a few generations don’t all know what’s going on everywhere

The book is pretty well written, especially if it is a first novel. There are a few nagging misspellings and other editing errors that another careful reading would have cleaned out, but nothing that detracts from the story. The main characters are pretty well drawn, even though there are quite a few and at first it’s difficult to keep them straight.

I’d hate to give the story line away too much. I will tell you this – the story not only connects with “The Gripping Hand,” the sequel to “Mote,” (it takes place shortly after the events in that book), but to the events in “Mote” as well. It adds depth to the universe created by Niven and Pournelle the Elder and opens the possibility for more books to come, without this one being a cliff-hanger.

"Outies" cover illustration

The book is only available electronically. Right now it’s only available for B&N Nook and for Kindle, but you can use the Kindle version on a variety of platforms, so that shouldn’t be that much of a problem.I don’t doubt it will be available on print-on-demand eventually through Amazon as well. I’ve purchased several POD books through Amazon over the last year or so and the quality is very good. Any problems I’ve noted came from the original source document, not from the printing process.

By the way, I like the iPhone version of the Kindle app a lot better than the Nook app right now, and on the iPad I think it’s every bit as good as Apple’s iBook app, and searching for content is far easier.

If you’ve never read the other two books, I recommend you read them first, in the original order. “Mote” is not a short book, but as I said, it is considered one of the definitive First Contact novels, if not THE definitive one – even Robert A. Heinlein said so! There is an essay Niven and Pournelle wrote called “Building ‘The Mote in God’s Eye'” that can be found in Larry Niven’s short story collection “N-Space.” In it they explain how they created the Moties, and how the Motie biology dictated much of the plot of the story. They even talk about how a model kit of a fictional spaceship, the Leif Ericsson, was used as a starting point for the INS MacArthur in the book.

Chris Doll's magnificent "MacArthur" scratchbuilt model

As I said, it’s a deep and rich universe. The Second Empire of Man is a part of Jerry Niven’s future history series, which includes many of his novels describing the time leading up to the First Empire of Man. It’s all worth reading, but you don’t need to read all those to get the storyline of these books. “Mote,” “Hand,” and “Outies” work together very well to give you a very satisfying picture of a spacefaring civilization by the best hard-science fiction writing team (and now, daughter) in the business. The book, like the two before it, is very much recommended.


Why do I not post on FaceBook?

January 19, 2011

1. I don’t have pithy thoughts every day.

2. I figure nobody cares what I had for lunch.

3. I teach high school, and I don’t want to get sued.

4. FaceBook seems to follow Sturgeon’s Law. (That would be the second one.) Why should I add to it?

These are the same reasons I don’t Tweet.

If I was as clever as Frank Fleming, I’d be Tweetin’ up a storm.