Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Two Cents On Top Space Stories of 2006. is polling readers for the top space story of 2006. The top 10 so far can be seen here. They are about what you'd expect with the hardy and totally lovable little Mars Rovers coming in first, followed by the decision to save Hubble, and NASA's return to flight.

In my view the top space story of 2006 is Bigelow Aerospace's successful launch and continued operation of its inflatable prototype for a private space station. This story signals the promise of private human space operations in orbit. (Here.)

Second would be NASA's awarding of the COTS contracts, which demonstrates the government's move towards reliance on private space companies for operations in lower Earth orbit. (Here.) Tied for second would be the Democratic Party's takeover of the House and Senate, which has immediately imperiled NASA's plans for human space operations. (Here.)

Third is publication of the United States new space policy document which makes official the view that space is a place within America's security and economic spheres of influence. This is a baby step in the direction of undermining the current unrealistic legal regime that governs human activities in space. (Here and here.)

The most ridiculous space story of 2006 is number 8 on the list. That story is the decision by astronomers to adopt the neighborhood bully definition of planets and fix the Solar System's planetary population at 8. The story gets my vote for most ridiculous story because it reveals how out of touch scientists are from the general public. (Here.)

What's your opinion?


Republished once to fix links.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Energy Sultans Of The Moon?

Dennis Overbye, science writer of The New York Times, recently questioned why America is going back to the Moon when Mars is so much more interesting. (Here.) Robert Zubrin, interviewed in US News and World Report, expressed similar thoughts. (Here.) No surprise that.

Common to each opinion is the belief that the Moon is a dead world with nothing to offer whereas Mars has all the resources necessary for human life and is just a much more interesting place to study. Putting aside the false dichotomy of "either-or" thinking in Moon versus Mars debates, there is something to be said for exploring desert wastelands, as oil company executives will tell you.

An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday (here) described the problems with batteries for cellphones, laptops, and other portable electronics. Fuel cells are being touted as the future power source for these devices. But as the article said about fuel cells, "They are costly to make; their electrodes are usually fashioned from platinum, an expensive metal."

Which brings us back to the future direction of human space exploration.

What if Dennis Wingo is right and there are remains of asteriod impacts under the Lunar surface chock full of platinum group metals? In a future fuel cell economy, the people who control all that platinum could be very rich indeed, even if they do live on an arid, lifeless, little world, orbiting the Earth. And then there's all that sunlight falling on the Moon's surface (here) plus the potential use of Helium-3 for future fusion reactors (here).

Arab princes today have lucked into prosperity and political power by living in a desert wasteland on top of all that oil. Will future Lunar energy princes possess similar political power and bring the Moon to life using the money they make providing platinum, fuel, and power, to an energy-hungry Earth?


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Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holy Days And Merry Christmas.

It's Christmas morning in San Diego and the temperature in my backyard is 82. Even better, it's a dry heat. The only semblance of a white Christmas is the occasional cloud in the light blue sky. This part of the country is paradise.

It was interesting to see another blogger using the greeting Happy Holy Days to mark this season. (Here.) I began using it last year as it recognizes the religious nature of December's holidays and is inclusive of the various faiths that populate this country. (Here.)

So Happy Holy Days everybody, Merry Christmas, and Peace on Earth to people of good will.


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Sunday, December 17, 2006


My take on Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is up on (Here.)


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