krpalmer: (Default)
I managed to notice that not only was SpaceX about to launch another satellite, but that launch would use one of the first stages they've begun collecting by managing soft landings on floating barges with in-jokey names or even heading all the way back to where they've started. The launch was scheduled for when I'd have a chance to watch it via streaming video, but I suppose I was conscious of the chance of something going wrong. That thought only got stronger as I saw the Falcon 9 rocket standing on the launch pad repurposed from Apollo's Saturns to the space shuttles and now to another generation of rockets, aware all the same SpaceX had moved in after blowing up a rocket at the launch pad they had used to use.

The rocket lifted off into a clear evening sky, though, and the second stage separated. The first stage was left to descend towards its barge, and I did notice its pop-out stabilizing grids starting to glow from re-entry before the video cut out. To the accompaniment of a very enthusiastic crowd at the SpaceX headquarters, though, the picture returned to show the first stage once more standing in one piece on the barge. Knowing the space shuttles wound up needing a lot more refurbishing in between flights than they were supposed to require, I am still wondering what it'll take in the end to turn the first stage around again, but it is something that it managed to land a second time.
krpalmer: (Default)
I had taken note of the news that SpaceX said it had worked out just why one of its Falcon 9 rockets had exploded on the launch pad (well short of actually trying to launch, not the moment you'd most anticipate unexpected shocks) and was preparing to launch another rocket. Not having worked out the exact moment it would happen, though, I was surprised to see the effort had succeeded through a comment on the day's Peanuts comic strip. Beyond the extra bit of news that another first stage had landed on a seagoing barge, I found an odd sense of heartening interest in knowing the rocket had launched a whole cluster of replacement satellite phone satellites. The "Iridium" network might have found success only after the company that had gone to considerable expense to launch the first satellites had gone out of business, but it's something to know "cell towers spaced across the civilized world" haven't made one use for space altogether obsolete after all.
krpalmer: (smeat)
Having managed to hear a "return to flight" launch was about to happen for one of the space station cargo ships, I turned into the streaming coverage. The engines of the Antares rocket not igniting until an instant or so after "zero" did catch me, but after that things seemed to go well. With the launch happening at night there wasn't much to see (there wasn't "ride-along" camera footage, in any case), but I did stick around for the second stage burn, which was represented by a computer display. The "perigee altitude" caught my attention for being a very large negative number; as the rocket gained speed towards orbital velocity that number ticked down, but it took until the final seconds for it to speed up to a blur that at last turned positive as an "up and down" arc turned into an orbit. It was good to see the Antares rocket working again; although a Cygnus supply craft had been launched using a different rocket since the last one exploded during launch, since the unfortunate accident two different Falcon 9 rockets have exploded, one without being anywhere near launch.

As I was looking up more information on the launch, though, I happened to see a post saying a European Mars probe was just a few days away from arriving, and that it would be dropping off a small lander. It does take time for space probes to get to Mars, but I can't remember if I'd even noticed its launch in the first place. Intent on making up for that, I started following the news a little more closely, but the only reports that arrived said contact had been lost with the lander seconds before landing. I'd noticed the lander didn't have actual legs, just a sort of "crushable pad" underneath, but it now seems the evidence is pointing towards the timing being completely off for the landing rockets.
krpalmer: (Default)
Always looking for my next book to read, I dug into a somewhat older pile and pulled out a library discard I'd managed to buy at a book sale a while ago. Thinking back, I don't suppose I'd have hesitated much at the chance to get an old copy of Gerard K. O'Neill's The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space, but I'm pretty sure that once I had the book I only skimmed through it and then left it to sit. You may not have to fear the ominous future "if these immense space colonies aren't built for the good of everyone" sketched out early in the book is now inescapable, or even springboard off to heap blame on familiar agencies for not having your ticket up to "L5" already (as I recall the foreword by someone else to a more modern reprint did), to still dwell on the whole "I resent this gee-whiz technology from popular works in decades past not being available yet" attitude. At the same time, though, I was quite aware there are people other than embittered space buffs who would recognize O'Neill's designs; they were pulled into the setting of the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime, adding a distinguishing factor other than "just" "giant piloted robots of a particular design."
Selling a concept versus building a story )
krpalmer: (Default)
It's one small sign of how long I've managed to keep posting things to this journal, and a small illustration of how history keys together too, that I've managed to get from the fortieth anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon to the fortieth anniversary of Viking 1 landing on Mars. The two are linked on the calendar even if by accident; Viking 1 had been meant to land on the American Bicentennial, but its intended landing site had wound up looking too rough to the improved cameras of its orbiter. When it did make it to the surface, though, it pretty much set expectations; I was surprised and somehow invigorated when Mars Pathfinder had seen more prominent hills on the horizon two decades later, and surprised again whenever another rover doesn't find the sand at its landing site as littered with rocks as the Vikings did. At the same time, though, I did spend at least a bit of today remembering the Soviet probes that had reached the surface before the Vikings, even if the longest-lived of them only sent back a few seconds' worth of an indecipherable picture before it gave out in the dust storm it had managed to touch down in.
krpalmer: (Default)
After some first looks at small worlds last year, it makes for a change to get back to a large world. I had started to pick up on the Juno probe's final approach to Jupiter after a nearly five-year journey from the covers of astronomy magazines, but something about the news pieces in the last days before arrival had me worried about close-in debris or just something else "going wrong," perhaps not with quite the same intensity as with New Horizons but still with concern. The crucial moments would happen at night; I checked first thing in the morning, and was pleased to see things had worked out during that first and apparently most hazardous close approach. Now, it's a matter of remembering to follow up and see just when the public outreach pictures start appearing; I remember hearing the onboard camera isn't expected to last very long in Jupiter's radiation.
krpalmer: (Default)
I knew SpaceX was planning to launch another Falcon 9 rocket, and that another attempt would be made to land the first stage on a barge out at sea, but I had the impression the chances for another success still weren't high. At work yesterday, though, a slug of text on the information-cluttered screen of a local cable news channel reported the landing had happened, and at night no less. That this has been done twice in a row is impressive, but I do wonder about whether "making things look easy" will start to clash against those reported odds against success. I also wonder how long it could be before we find out how much work is needed to refurbish a first stage for use again, knowing how much work the space shuttle orbiters wound up needing (although it's possible they were more complicated machines).
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
I seem to have worked out a pattern for alternating between monthly and bimonthly computer magazine covers from 1977, although I suppose it'll change as other titles enter the fray. I also happened to repost a thoroughly classical arrangement...

Personal Computing, March-April 1977
Kilobaud, March 1977
BYTE, March 1977
Creative Computing, March-April 1977
Kilobaud, April 1977
BYTE, April 1977
Personal Computing, May-June 1977
krpalmer: (Default)
I knew in a general sort of way another Falcon 9 rocket was going to launch another Dragon supply capsule (containing, among other things, the first small "inflatable space structure" I've been hearing plans for for quite a while now) to the space station soon, but my schedules got sort of scrambled when I fell somewhat sick this week. Now that I'm managing to mend I'm paying a bit more attention to the news, but I didn't manage to hear the launch had been a success until it had happened. Then, I noticed reports "the first stage had landed," and supposed it must have been able to fly back to solid ground again, knowing how many explosions there have been on SpaceX's fannishly if somewhat obscurely named barges.

As I checked a bit further into the news reports, though, I saw the stage really had managed to land on a barge; I even managed to see a bit of video showing just how fast the final stage of the landing happens and the barge bobbing back and forth afterwards. Just as it took SpaceX several tries to get a rocket into orbit, perseverance seems to have paid off for once. This pretty much tops "inflatable space structures," at least for the moment.
krpalmer: (Default)
After just about forgetting about promises that the DSCOVR satellite would return regular full-disc images of the Earth, another "Astronomy Picture of the Day" pointed me to a site that already provides enough of an archive to show both poles pointed at the sun. At first glance, it seemed that archive is more accessible using iPad Safari than Macintosh Safari, but I remembered the several different browsers I keep on my computer just in case I need them. (Then, I followed a more roundabout route to the site, and all of a sudden it was working in my regular browser.) Hopefully, I'll be able to remember to keep up with the site, even if not every day will show the moon's shadow tracking across the Earth.
krpalmer: (Default)
I might have become really aware another Falcon 9 rocket launch was upcoming hearing about its launch delays. In becoming aware about it, though, I was able to realise the latest launch attempt was going to happen in the early evening, right when I'd have a chance to follow it through streaming video. As the rocket was "just" lifting a communications satellite up to geostationary orbit, it didn't seem to be featured on NASA's own streaming video, so I went to the SpaceX site itself, which had a good number of on-camera commentators and an enthusiastic crowd in the background.

That the launch itself succeeded was one thing, but I knew yet another attempt was being made to bring the first stage back down to a barge at sea. Just as the stage was coming in, though, the live feed from the barge cut out. While the crowd stayed as noisy as before, I decided to check news reports later only to find something went awry again on touchdown. That seemed to make the experience a bit more familiar.
krpalmer: (smeat)
I managed to be half-surprised by news SpaceX was launching another Falcon 9 rocket. The first thing I checked for was confirmation it had put the satellite on top of it into orbit: that was what really counted, after all. Not that long after that, though, I saw news the first stage had steered back down to another huge barge out at sea, only to explode in the process. That this seemed to stem from the trivial matter of a landing leg not locking into place just seemed to keep convincing me I could leave it be and go ahead with a different plan for making a post to my journal this week, one springing from the post just previous and taking the bold, almost "Tumblr-esque" step of being built around pictures.

To manage that with this journal, though, means uploading pictures to a Photobucket account, and when I tried that I kept getting error messages. This is a much smaller problem than a rocket stage you were hoping to get back in one piece exploding, but somehow it prompted some sympathy for that bigger problem.
krpalmer: (Default)
I did happen to hear SpaceX was getting closer to its own "return to flight" launch, and still using its own Falcon 9 rocket. In taking in that coverage, though, I also began to gather there would be another attempt to bring the first stage in for a soft touchdown, except that this time it would head all the way back to Cape Canaveral. While trying to make a precise lineup with a barge, however large, out in the ocean didn't seem to have worked before, I could still remember how on first hearing the thought of a first stage boosting the second to sufficient velocity but still saving enough fuel to cancel its "downrange" velocity had sort of outraged my sensibilities.

After hearing of a few launch postponements, though, I got around to checking the NASA site itself, and saw a Twitter post congratulating SpaceX on its feat. I suppose I've got to accept the accomplishment. While I've heard questions about how easy it'll be to start refurbishing a kerosene-burning rocket to fly again and I know the space shuttle wound up needing a lot more maintenance than it was supposed to, that SpaceX has managed to work through problems somehow has more of an impact on me than a "private" company coming up with stunning solutions the first time around just because it's "private enterprise."
krpalmer: (Default)
I had dinner in the oven yesterday when I realised the latest scheduled time for the launch of an Atlas V rocket with the replacement Cygnus cargo spacecraft would be before that dinner had finished cooking, and hurried back to my computer and the official NASA streaming video. On Thursday and Friday, I had tried watching the launch coverage (on those days, the shifting launch window had it scheduled for after I'd eaten), but both attempts kept being put off because of bad weather into darkness and the end of the launch windows. Yesterday, the clouds at Cape Canaveral were low, but everything else seemed to work and the rocket blasted off into the clouds; most of the video that followed was from the ridealong camera. I managed to keep watching until the second stage took over, the rocket not having flown all the way into night yet, and then I had to go and put the rest of my dinner together.

The use of an Atlas rocket instead of the specially designed booster used for the Cygnus before that had blown up on liftoff the last time did get my attention, given I've associated it before with the larger and further-going space probes, and I'm wondering if this rocket is more expensive or about the same price. However, I also know the Atlas is being planned to be used to launch a people-carrying capsule, so perhaps this counts as a step to that.
krpalmer: (europa)
The full dataset from New Horizon's Pluto encounter is data-linking back, and even at speeds reminiscent of dial-up modems from the 1980s, or the Galileo mission with its faulty main antenna, there are some interesting pictures coming in. Some of the first ones I saw in the new set looked to have quite a few craters in them at last, even if still juxtaposed against the smoother and fresher plains of ices more exotic and cryogenic than water that first caught my eyes. One that showed up just a little later, though, was more purely "dramatic," and after a little while I started trying to articulate why.

 photo pluto_horizon_zpsevrkoag1.jpg

The rugged mountains were one thing, even if I wonder if they might look as smooth closer up as the moon's meteor-blasted terrain turned out to be after all those years of artists not thinking things other than "atmosphere" could wear things down. More than that, though, it was the rounded horizon of a world where mountains can stand comparatively higher than our own that wound up putting things together. I found myself thinking of warnings that "the vertical scale is exaggerated," and of old-fashioned planet models in science fiction movies and the like. That got me remembering a picture from New Horizon's Jupiter flyby I had decided could be taken to look like Star Wars itself and turned into a journal icon. If the resemblance is non-specific this time around, that just might make it seem more "itself."
krpalmer: (Default)
Just when I was starting to wonder when the Deep Space Climate Observatory would get around to providing full-Earth pictures on the promised "regular" schedule after its first public debut, I ran into another striking one on the Astronomy Picture of the Day site.

 photo earth_and_moon_zpsrykue9e9.jpg

It's almost the same face of Earth as before (and again, I happened to notice there aren't any clouds over the Central Valley of California), but the "guest star" of the picture stands out, even if the far side of the moon isn't as photogenic as the one that's fixed our way. In thinking ahead from the specific to the pictures still to come, though, I did fixate for a moment on a bit of the first blurb I saw that said "about twice a year"; this, however, is just referring to how often the moon will get in the way (just as there isn't a solar eclipse every full moon).
krpalmer: (Default)
While continuing to look for new pictures of Pluto to be radioed back to Earth, I also happened to see that the solar monitoring satellite I recorded the launch of a few months ago has sent its first full-disc picture of Earth back. The blue of the Bahamas banks caught my attention first; I then went looking for my own neighbourhood to see there were clouds over the northwestern Great Lakes but things were clearer over the southeastern ones. It was an attractive picture in total, one that has me thinking about other hemispheres hopefully to come. I can suppose, though, that remembering the "environmental outreach" aspect of it I did pick up on how there were no clouds over California's Central Valley, and also remembered the articles I've been reading about the drought there.

 photo earth-2015-07-06_zpsoanpa0d0.jpg
krpalmer: (Default)
As the days counted down to New Horizon's closest encounter with Pluto I was making regular checks of the mission's official site, but I suppose I was also worrying about how nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to outer space. If I wasn't thinking that before the "safe mode" incident at about ten days to go, first hearing about that little interruption from a weblog post with a possibly panicking title did impress it into my mind. Even when more approach pictures started appearing again and, with hardly any days left, Pluto crossed the threshold of "Mars on the eve of Mariner," I was still wondering about the possibility of each new picture being the best we'd get. While "one space pebble in the wrong place" did come to mind, so did "equipment malfunction" or just "some other subtle bug in a complex system," kindling uncertain thoughts that even if the probe did manage to turn back to Earth after its closest encounter, it just might have lost track of where everything was and wound up taking pictures of empty space...

On the evening after closest encounter, I tuned in to the official NASA streaming video and saw mission control picking up the carrier just as the hosts cut to them; the positive telemetry followed after not too much of a wait. With that small reassurance, even as I held to my resolve to wait for the first encounter pictures to be radioed back, the very last picture sent back before encounter was starting to impress itself on my mind.

 photo pluto_500_zpsyc5gjt2l.jpg

Even more than the "heart" people had been picking up on just days before, something as small as the picture being in colour might have done it for me. With "orange" modulating to "peach," all of a sudden the old mental models and artists' conceptions that could be brought to mind which had always seemed to suggest "it's _cold_ out there," with a good dose of "perpetual twilight" too, now seemed replaced by "well-lit, inviting, and oddly pleasant." Even the recent artists' renderings with their dramatic large, ragged-edged blotches of orange and black promoting the encounter hadn't been quite the same, and yet I didn't quite seem to be missing them either. It was also rather different from "craters on craters," the less interesting and not that unique yet seemingly quite plausible possibility I'd been wondering about, and that mattered a bit more.

Driving back from work the day after closest encounter, I heard on the radio that the first encounter pictures had come back, and was intrigued to hear there weren't any craters showing up in the close-up. As soon as I could check on the picture, it also got my attention. In these first days of instant analysis, Pluto does seem more "active" than a small body without a gas giant to provide some tidal squeezing would seem to be, and rather more distinctive than "just one lump that happened to be noticed decades before any of the other ones and was hard-sold to start with." I can see the point of "looking at things in context as a system," and understand there can never be "nine" planets going around the sun again (we're already well above "ten" or even the "eleven" science fiction would invoke to be really daring), but when I wonder about being told "this is science, hard truths that have to be faced without sentiment!", I can now start to think there might be a hard truth to, just as most of the universe is made of something other than what we're made of, there being "worlds innumerable" out beyond the tidy interior too.
krpalmer: (Default)
It wasn't that long at all after the unfortunate fate of the SpaceX cargo launch to the space station that another Russian Progress supply capsule was being launched, but recalling that the last Progress capsule launched went awry in orbit and fell back to Earth I started thinking there's still a chance for anything. It turned out there was also a chance for success, though, when I saw the supply craft has now docked with the space station. Whether this only begins "climbing back out of a supply hole" I don't know yet, but it was a nice piece of news to see.
krpalmer: (smeat)
I seem to be losing track of just when the SpaceX Falcon 9 launches are scheduled. Wondering most of all about updates on New Horizon's approach to Pluto, I went to the official NASA site only to start seeing notices that something had gone wrong. Before long, I had sorted out the rocket had exploded well into flight; a little while after that, I was seeing news the specific problem seemed to have been with the oxygen tank in the second stage overpressurising while the first stage had still been burning.

After two previous failures of different supply rockets to the space station, I do have the sensation superstition may be threatening to set in. I'm also remembering, though, that SpaceX had tried several times to launch its first Falcon 1 rocket before getting one to work, whereupon they immediately started work on the larger Falcon 9. I can certainly hope they'll be able to identify the problem and bounce back, but even so the feeling the company had managed to "build up reliability" may have been dented, and once more they may have to work at keying back into that casual feeling that "private organizations" are obviously more competent than "government bureaucracies." (For some reason, when I saw the movie Interstellar last year its establishing "NASA," even with a new and presumably not necessary to authorize logo, as the can-do organization working in secret to save humanity was one point where it didn't quite seem aligned with the casual invocations of the written science fiction I'm familiar with.)

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