Dedicated to the Health and Safety of the Personal Space Traveler

Thursday, October 13, 2011

China Manned-Space Program Moves Forward

According to an article posted on the English version on PeopleDailyOnline, the Chinese space program is moving forward.  They are currently choosing astronauts for Shenzhou 8 and Shenzhou 9 missions planned for next year.

They will be working on maintenance and docking tasks as well as testing and measuring physiological and psychological changes which occur in space.  It would be interesting to know what measurements and tests they will be performing and to see the results of these tests.

It looks like the Chinese are stepping up their program at a time when the United States seems to be in a holding pattern.  Maybe this activity will spur those in the US, both private sector and NASA to step up their game.

To read the article in PeopleOnlineDaily, click here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Do We Need To Go To Space?

We need to go to space for several reasons.  We are explorers.  We need the jobs.  We need the medical research.

Humans have always been explorers.  From the earliest point in time we have been on the move - across continents, across oceans, under the seas, through the air, into space.  We need to see, we need to feel, we need to know.  We have google-mapped the planet and we still need to know more.  We have been to the moon, we have sent probes to the planets and we still need to know more.

We need the jobs.  People balk at the large price tag for space exploration.  And that is a good thing.  But, the vast majority of the price tag goes to salaries.  And those salaries go to people right here on earth.  Those salaries pay for mortgages, car loans, groceries, movie tickets, cable bills, internet bills, hair cuts, and much more.  Every dollar spent for space explorations circulates through our economy several times and keeps many businesses going.  Cut space programs and jobs dry up quickly.

Yes there are probably more cost effective ways to do medical research, but there is some research which requires the special environment found in low earth orbit.  Cancer research, osteoporosis, chromosome analysis are just a  few of the places benefiting from research done in space.  For more of these benefits read this ABC News article.

Yes the budget will be cut.  That is the political climate in Washington these days.  Let's hope they make intelligent cuts.  Cuts that make sense.  Cuts that don't hamstring NASA's ability to explore, create jobs, and conduct vital research.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Flying Blind in Space Long-Term?

In a September 2nd article on the website MedLine Plus, a site run by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, being in space for extended periods of time can affect your eyesight.

"The new study, of more than 300 astronauts in the U.S. space program, found that almost 50 percent of those who served on long missions -- six months or more -- reported experiencing new problems with their ability to see objects near to them while in space and for some time after returning to Earth. Roughly 23 percent of astronauts who spent shorter periods in orbit reported problems with their near vision during their missions and after getting home."

Yikes!  I hope we can find a solution for this.  Otherwise, we will not be able to see what we discover when we go venturing away from the planet.

Studying this and other space health issues should be something we are doing on the International Space Station.  After all, we don't even know what the health effects are for someone staying in space for as short as two years.  Hey, NASA, let's put some money into this please.

To view the entire Medline Plus article, click here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Science Fairs are Coming

Calling all Science people!  Science Fair season in coming up in the next month or two.  I have already received two emails inviting me to judge at science fairs this fall.  If you think you might like to judge at a science fair, don't be afraid.  It is fun, easy, and you are helping to support the future. 

Don't know where to start?  Contact your local high school, middle/junior high school, or local board of education.  Let them know that you would be interested in judging.  They can put you in touch with the teacher or science coordinator in charge.

Then show up and spend 3 to 4 hours talking science with students.  Granted some of the projects will be duds, but when you see the work done by students who "get" it, you will be glad you showed up.

Do it now, you know you want to do it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Moon Day!

When I moved out to West Virginia about 13 years ago, I started a tradition.  Almost every year since then, I have sent an email to my good friend Dr. Eleanor O'Rangers celebrating what we call Moon Day.  That day, July 20th is the Anniversary of when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the Lunar surface.

Usually I rant for a few paragraphs on the lack of direction this country now has in space.  This year I want to try something different.  A few positive thoughts (or at least non-negative) might be better.

First I have a link to a blog post written by someone I went to high school with.  I guess I did not know him as well as I thought.  Turns out he is a "space" guy as well.  In this post he talks about going to the launch of STS 135. The title is "Space Shuttle Launch: Joe's Personal Experience" published online via "The Boone Examiner".  I just wish I had gotten to see one of them launch too.

Forty-two years have passed since man first set foot upon the moon.  If I have my numbers right, that means most Americans have been born since that event.  As a kid growing up, I had thought that we would have a space station and that we would be refueling spacecraft there.  And that those spacecraft would be taking us to the other planets, and maybe, just maybe, to some distant star.  I hope kids growing up today feel that same awe and wonder as the space shuttle flies it's last.  I hope they dream of building spacecraft, robots, and space stations too.  I hope one of them discovers a way to allow our fragile bodies to conserve muscle and bone to allow long space flights.  I hope one of them discovers better propulsion and better life supports systems.  I hope one of them makes a computer breakthrough which allows us to fully map our solar system's weather allow us to predict events hazardous to our astronauts and plan for their safety.

I think someday soon, they will.

Happy Moon Day Eleanor, and everyone.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dangerous Shuttle and ISS Events

Since the last space shuttle mission lifted off this morning, I thought I would share a link to a Scientific American article and slide show entitled:

The 10 Most Dangerous Moments in Space Shuttle and Station History

Most of them I remember, but a couple of them snuck in under my radar.  Let's just hope NASA and the commercial companies springing up these days learn from these problems.

Enjoy and have a great day!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Dream is Dead?

Cosmos Magazine recently published an article discussing the "reality" of human spaceflight. That is, physical (rocket technology) and chemical (the frail human body) make it nearly insurmountable to practically roam into the vast stretches of deep space successfully. Sadly, this is true, no matter what the Star Trek enthusiasts want to think (and I'm one of them!)
Are we doomed to remain bound to earth-- or, at best-- to continue to make the equivalent of sortis into LEO and maybe... if we're lucky.... to a NEO or the moon? Is human exploration of Mars simply impossible (sorry Bob Zubrin)?
I have to admit, when you consider the limitations of the human body, space radiation (for starters) and the fact that we simply don't know the dose of the "gravity prescription" (as one colleague has noted on several occasions), you have to wonder. Is it all a pipe dream?
What do you think?

Mars suit tested

Mars suit tested

SpaceX proposed Crewed flight in 2014


Friday, March 4, 2011

Astronaut Garrett Reisman Joins SpaceX

" Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is proud to announce that NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman is joining the company as a senior engineer working on astronaut safety and mission assurance.

“We’re excited about the great team that we are building. Our talent is the key to our success. Garrett’s experience designing and using spaceflight hardware will be invaluable as we prepare the spacecraft that will carry the next generation of explorers,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Technology Officer.

Dr. Reisman will join former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox’s team in preparing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. In December, Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully return from orbit. In the coming years, NASA will use Dragon for at least 12 cargo missions to the International Space Station, creating strong flight experience before the first manned mission.

“I am excited to help SpaceX because I care deeply about the future of human spaceflight,” said Dr. Reisman. “I see commercial spaceflight as our country's best option for a robust and sustainable human spaceflight future.”

Beyond safety, Dr. Reisman’s experience as an operator of both American and Russian spaceflight hardware will help SpaceX in the development of human interfaces including controls, displays, seats, suits and environmental control systems.

“After the Space Shuttle's last flight later this year, America will be dependent on our Russian partners for getting NASA astronauts to space. NASA's commercial crew development program is our only hope for a quick, safe and affordable alternative, and SpaceX is well-positioned to lead this effort given the strength of their performance during the NASA COTS program,” said Reisman.

Both the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been designed from the start to one day carry astronauts.

Dr. Reisman comes to SpaceX from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration where he has served since 1998. He has flown on two Space Shuttle missions, which include launching with STS-123 and returning with the STS-124 crew, as well as flying on STS-132. During these two missions, he logged over 3 months in space including over 21 hours of extravehicular activity (EVA) in 3 spacewalks. Dr. Reisman served with both the Expedition-16 and the Expedition-17 crews as a Flight Engineer aboard the International Space Station. Early in his time at NASA he was assigned to the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch, worked in the Astronaut Office Advanced Vehicles Branch, and was a crewmember on NEEMO V in 2003, living on the bottom of the sea in the Aquarius habitat for two weeks.

Dr. Reisman holds a B.S. in Economics and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He is an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Dr. Reisman is from Parsippany, New Jersey. "

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Project Apollo-- a unique convergence of factors, never to be repeated again?

Jeff Foust (the Space Review) posted his review of the new book entitled, "John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon" by John Logsdon.

Jeff notes that "Logsdon... now believes that Apollo was perhaps something unique, a case where a set of factors 'almost coincidentally converged to create a national commitment and enough momentum to support that commitment through to its fulfillment.' If that's true, then 'there is little to learn from the decision to go to the Moon relevant to twenty-first century choices.' Apollo then, should be treated not as a model for future space efforts, but instead as an amazing achievement particular to the circumstances of its era, including the leadership provided by President Kennedy."

Phew! If I read this right, we were lucky to have witnessed this amazing event no only because of its audacity... but also because it may very well be a singular event in our lifetime. What a depressing thought for the future of interplanetary exploration.

What say you? Are we doomed to mediocrity and no more "giant leaps for mankind?"

Friday, February 11, 2011

The hazards of space exploration... what is our tolerance threshold for handling a death in space?

A recent article on NPR's blog discussed the realities of space travel and its inherent-- and not insignificant--- dangers. The article went on to also make the case that if and when we commit to interplanetary settlement, we must accept that even death will occur during travel... and that this should not pose a "showstopper" for continued exploration.

The issue of handling a death in space has been about as taboo at NASA as discussing drinking alcohol on the ISS... or *gasp*... sex in space. These issues must be intelligently considered and anticipated for in long duration missions and especially for interplantery exploration.

What are your thoughts regarding the issues and implications of a death in space? Consider this impacts a mission, its crew, families and the broader spacefaring community...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Science Fairs Rule

Do you ever wonder where the future of this planet is?  Where are the people who will lead the way to tackle the problems facing us?  Do you just want to get your geek on?  Look no further than your local Science Fair.

For the past three years I have been involved with Science Fairs, at the school, county and regional level.  I have to say it is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had.  Yes there are some projects at the school level that aren't very good.  But then there are a few projects that make you take a step back and go "WOW! This kid gets it!"

Judging at three different levels (school, county, region) there is an opportunity to teach as well as critique.  Here in Jefferson County, WV, the Judges are encouraged to provide comments to the students on the back of the scoring sheets.  Even if the project goes no further than the school level, the student can learn something and improve their scientific thinking and methods.

This year, I have seen this in action.  At the school level this year I was a Judge for the Earth and Planetary Science category.  The winner of the category was a project on measuring Sunspots.  It was a good project, but not in my view, an outstanding project.  I gave the student a half a page of comments on how to correct mistakes, improve the project, and the presentation.  When the County Science Fair came around, this student had taken my suggestions.  His project had improved, and so did his understanding of the subject.  He won Reserve Grand Champion for the Junior High Division.  I can't wait to see what the project does at Regionals.

At the County Level this year, I had the honor of being a judge for Senior High Champion.  It was tough.  My fellow judge and I had to look at 14 category winners and pick the top two to move on to State.  The students with the two best projects were head and shoulders above the rest.  One had done a study of how a certain protein affects growth of blood vessel cells.  The other had measured the efficiency of a radio telescope's reception of signals from High and Low energy sources.  Either of these projects, in my opinion, will do well at State.

Sound like fun to you?  If you want to Judge or Advise students with their Science Fair Projects, contact your local Board of Education or a Science Teacher at your local junior or senior high school.  They are always looking for Judges... and you can get your geek on!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Delivering bad news to astronauts

A recent article in ScrippsNews posed the following question in the title of their article: "Should NASA deliver bad news to astronauts in space?" This... in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords tragedy (her husband is astronaut Mark Kelly.)

The article can be found here:

What's your opinion? Should astronauts be shielded from events on earth of a personal nature? What's more important-- keeping a family member informed... or ensuring all systems nominal on a space mission?