Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Falcon 9 Integrated at the Cape

According to the SpaceX website:
Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage (see above photo). This was the final step in the integration process—one day ahead of schedule.

With Falcon 9 integrated, our focus shifts to the big launch mount and erector. All the pieces have been delivered, and the coming days will see a tremendous amount of welding to join them all together.

The long hours put in by the SpaceX team over the last several weeks, particularly the folks on the ground at the Cape, are certainly paying off. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, we'll transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009. Happy New Year!

Details of the Falcon 9 (also from the SpaceX website):

Like Falcon 1, Falcon 9 is a two stage, liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) powered launch vehicle. It uses the same engines, structural architecture (with a wider diameter), avionics and launch system.

Length: 54.9 m (180 ft)
Width: 3.6 m (12 ft)
Mass (LEO, 5.2m fairing): 333,400 kg (735,000 lb)
Mass (GTO, 5.2m fairing): 332,800 kg (733,800 lb)
Thrust (vacuum): 5.56 MN (1.25 M lb)

The Falcon 9 is a human rated rocket, designed to carry the seven passenger Dragon spaceship to the ISS by 2010. The Dragon spaceship can also carry cargo and in fact its first trips to the ISS will be to ferry cargo rather than people.

The first launch of the Falcon 9 (of the very vehicle in the photo above) is scheduled for early 2009.
See SpaceX for more details.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas from Hamas

According to columnist Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post:
On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

Read the whole article, Column One: The 'realist' fantasy. It is disturbing.

Israel and the Palestinians

There are people protesting against the Israeli assault on Gaza. Odd. I don't recall any protests being staged during all the weeks before when Hamas was shooting hundreds of rockets and morters at Israel. I don't recall any hurried meetings at the UN.

It takes two to make peace. If the Palestinians would lay down their arms, there would be peace. If the Israelis laid down their arms, the Palestinians would simply kill them all.

That's why there is no peace in the Middle East. When the Palestinians decide they want peace, they can have it.

In 1948 the UN partitioned Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the agreement, the Arabs rejected it and attacked. Between 1948 and 1967 Jordan and Egypt had control of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians did not attack Jordan and Egypt or demand they establish a Palestinian state. Instead they formed the PLO in 1964 and began terrorist attacks against the Israelis. If a Palestinian state is really so important to the Palestinians and the Arab nations, why didn't it happen druing the two decades they controlled those territories?

If Israel were not willing to do just about anything for peace, then why did they hand back the Sinai to Egypt (along with the only oil wells they ever had)in exchange for a peace treaty?

The Palestinians do not want peace. They simply hate the Jews and want to kill them. They are anti-Semitic thugs, and so are those protesting Israel's attempts to defend themselves.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Zechariah 4:10

Zechariah 4:10 reads:
Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

The "day of small things" refers to times when little progress is apparent for God’s people. In context, the author was speaking about the rebuilding of the Temple following the Babylonian captivity. But most of life is a matter of small things, of incremental steps. The writing of a novel does not happen in a day. Instead, it is like building a wall, brick by brick, or like eating a cow, something all of us have done, but its been one hamburger at a time. If you write one page a day, in a year you have a book.

Whatever it is that God has you doing, just keep at it. Perseverance over time is the key. Don't despise the day of small things. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was just one more tiny infant born to unwed parents, a speck in the vast teaming mass that made up the Roman Empire. But in the fullness of time, he was the Savior of the world.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SpaceX Falcon 9 Selected by NASA for ISS Supply

Another SpaceX press release:
F9/Dragon Will Replace the Cargo Transport Function of the Space Shuttle after 2010

Hawthorne, CA – December 23, 2008 – NASA today announced its selection of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS) Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract award. The contract is for a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg to be carried to the International Space Station. The firm contracted value is $1.6 billion and NASA may elect to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.

"The SpaceX team is honored to have been selected by NASA as the winner of the Cargo Resupply Services contract," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, SpaceX. "This is a tremendous responsibility, given the swiftly approaching retirement of the Space Shuttle and the significant future needs of the Space Station. This also demonstrates the success of the NASA COTS program, which has opened a new era for NASA in US Commercial spaceflight."

Under the CRS contract, SpaceX will deliver pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS, and return cargo back to Earth. Cargo may include both NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads requiring a pressurized or unpressurized environment. SpaceX will provide the necessary services, test hardware and software, and mission-specific elements to integrate cargo with the Dragon delivery capsule.

In 2006, SpaceX was named a winner under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under the existing COTS agreement, SpaceX will conduct the first flight of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft in 2009. The final flight, currently scheduled for 2010, will demonstrate Dragon's ability to berth with the ISS.

Falcon 9 flight hardware has already started to arrive at the SpaceX launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, in preparation for Falcon 9 going vertical on the pad within a few weeks. Construction of the SLC-40 launch site is proceeding ahead of schedule and is estimated to be completed in early 2009.

SpaceX Falcon 9 at the Cape

From a SpaceX Press Release:
Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Yesterday we lifted the first stage off the shipping truck and lowered it onto the integration assemblies. With all of the F9 hardware currently at or on its way to the Cape, we are on track for a fully integrated launch vehicle by year's end.

Barring any unforeseen delays, the second stage and fairing are expected to arrive at the Cape by December 28th and will be mated on December 31st, just in time for the New Year.

The erector is also on track towards operational status in early January, with the base assembly to be aligned and tacked by December 26th and welding to be complete early in the New Year. Hold down assemblies are expected to arrive shortly after the New Year and with our ground control system at SLC-40 currently operational, it's just a matter of days before F9 is vertical at the Cape.

Monday, December 22, 2008

40th Anniversary of Apollo 8

Forty years ago this week three men became the first human beings to travel to the moon. The astronauts of Apollo 8, James Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders, did not land on the moon: they merely orbited it ten times. But they were the first people to ever leave Earth orbit, the first people to see the Earth as a full sphere hanging in the blackness of space, the first to watch the Earth rise above the moon, and the first to find themselves completely isolated and cut off from the rest of the human race on the back side of the moon, unable to see the Earth at all, and unable to receive or send any radio communications. They were also the first human beings to celebrate Christmas in space. On Christmas Eve, 1968, they did a live television broadcast from orbit, reading the first ten verses of Genesis.

Apollo 8 was launched on the morning of December 21, 1968. It entered lunar orbit at 4:59 AM Eastern Time on Christmas Eve and left lunar orbit at 1:10 AM Christmas morning. It splashed down into the Pacific Ocean on the morning of December 27, 1968.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

WhiteKnightTwo Mothership Makes Maiden Flight

MSNBC reports:

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

Designed by Scaled Composites, the huge and unique White Knight Two mothership rolled down the runway and muscled itself into the air using four Pratt and Whitney PW308A turbofan engines. The White Knight Two flew for about an hour, departing the runway at roughly 8:17 a.m. PT, safely touching down at the Mojave airport at approximately 9:17 a.m. PT.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SpaceX Update

From a SpaceX press release that I got today. It looks as if they are on track for the first demonstration flight of a Falcon 9 early in the new year:

Hawthorne, CA – December 18, 2008 – Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) announces the arrival of the Falcon 9 first stage flight tank at SpaceX's newest launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Arriving as scheduled, delivery of the Falcon 9 first stage fulfills SpaceX's commitment to having Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape by year-end.

"Christmas has arrived a few days early for our team at the Cape," said Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "The packages measure extra large this year, and they will keep everyone busy in the coming weeks."
In preparation for the launch vehicle's maiden flight in 2009, all Falcon 9 elements and ground support hardware have departed SpaceX's manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California. The hardware is currently making its way across the United States on a dozen big rigs which will converge at the launch site over the next two weeks.

Separated into sections for travel, the major parts of the 180 foot long, 12 foot diameter rocket included nine Merlin 1C engines mounted on a massive engine mount structure; a thrust skirt that transfers the force of the engines into the first stage propellant tank; a carbon composite interstage; a new Merlin Vacuum upper stage engine fitted to the second stage propellant tank; and the two halves of a 17 foot diameter payload fairing—large enough to enclose a school bus.

The prelaunch fitting will include a mix of both flight ready and qualification hardware which will undergo final integration at the launch site in a horizontal position, and then be raised to vertical on the custom built erector.

Arrival of Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape represents yet another critical milestone in a year of significant accomplishments for SpaceX. On November 22nd, the company successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of the Falcon 9, validating SpaceX's design which uses nine engines on the first stage.

In addition, SpaceX has been rapidly upgrading SLC-40 into a state-of-the-art launch facility which will serve as a gateway to a new era in commercial space operations. Located on the Florida space coast, just south of NASA's launch site for all Apollo moon missions and Space Shuttle flights, SLC-40 is a world class heavy lift launch facility, capable of supporting Falcon 9 and future Falcon 9 Heavy missions, as well as cargo and crew carrying missions using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

"2008 has been a year of rapid progress for SpaceX," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The delivery of the Falcon 9 to the Cape is a major milestone in designing and deploying the most reliable, cost-efficient fleet of launch vehicles in the world. I applaud our SpaceX team who has worked 24/7 to make this happen."

SpaceX currently has four Falcon 9 flights on the manifest for 2009, two of which are demonstration flights with the Dragon spacecraft as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under this agreement, SpaceX will conduct a total of three flights of its Falcon 9/Dragon system to demonstrate cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station (ISS). At the option of NASA, the agreement can be extended to include demonstrating transport of crew to and from the ISS. The Falcon 9 will be the first vehicle since the Saturn V and Saturn 1 to have the ability to lose any engine/motor and still be able to complete its mission without loss of crew or spacecraft.

A video tour of SpaceX launch facilities at SLC-40, Cape Canaveral AFS, led by Elon Musk, can be found at the SpaceX website: www.spacex.com.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is revolutionizing access to space by developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed Merlin engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions. On September 28, 2008, Falcon 1, designed and manufactured from the ground up by SpaceX, became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.

As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap in American spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing Agreement, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. SpaceX is the only COTS contender with the capability to return cargo and crew to Earth. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the ISS using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system.

Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers more than 620, located primarily in Hawthorne, California, with additional locations, including SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor near Waco; offices in Washington DC; and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.

Go to the SpaceX website, SpaceX.com, to see photos and other information.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Beethoven's Birthday

The composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born December 16, 1770 in Bonn, Germany and moved to Austria in his 20s.

Monday, December 15, 2008

MKV: Multiple Kill Vehicle Test

Interesting video of the test at Edwards, AFB. Science fiction made real:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"A Day That Will Live in Infamy..."

Quote for the Day:
...December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day

Last year, Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day was on Saturday, December 8, as reported in Wired Magazine:

The whole idea is to pretend for the day that you are a traveler from a different time - except that, of course, you can't actually *tell* people you're a time traveler, because they'll think you're crazy. There are, of course, options as to how a traveler from a certain other time might act:

1) Utopian/cliché Future - "If the Future did a documentary of the last fifty years, this is how badly the reenactors would dress." Think Star Trek: TNG or the Time Travelers from Hob. Ever see how the society in Futurama sees the 20th century? Run with it. Your job is to dress with moderately anachronistic clothing and speak in slang from varying decades. Here are some good starters:

- Greet people by referring to things that don't yet exist or haven't existed for a long time. Example: "Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?" "What spectrum will today's broadcast be in?" and "Your king must be a kindly soul!"

- Show extreme ignorance in operating regular technology. Pay phones should be a complete mystery (try placing the receiver in odd places). Chuckle knowingly at cell phones.

2) Dystopian Future - This one offers a little more flexibility. It can be any kind of future from Terminator to Freejack. The important thing to remember is dress like a crazy person with armor. Black spray painted football pads, high tech visors, torn up trenchcoats and maybe even some dirt here or there. Remember, dystopian future travelers are very startled that they've gone back in time. Some starters:

- If you go the "prisoner who's escaped the future" try shaving your head and putting a barcode on the back of your neck. Then stagger around and stare at the sky, as if you've never seen it before.

- Walk up to random people and say "WHAT YEAR IS THIS?" and when they tell you, get quiet and then say "Then there's still time!" and run off.

- Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO"

- Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

- Take some trinket with you (it can be anything really), hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say "In thirty years dial this number. You'll know what to do after that." Then slip away.

3) The Past - This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture's set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

- Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

- Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

- Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

This year December 8 is on Monday. Have fun!

Monday, November 24, 2008

One of the Most Important Advances in Spaceflight Ever

STS-126 mission specialist Don Pettit used some of his off-duty time on Saturday to improvise a new coffee cup for use in space. No more drinking coffee through a straw!

Coffee lovers will name a planet after him someday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Video of SpaceX Falcon 9 First Stage Test Firing

From the press release:
At full power, the rocket generated 855,000 pounds of force at sea level. In vacuum, the thrust increases to approximately one million pounds or four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. The test consumed over half a million pounds of propellant. All nine engines fired for 160 seconds, then two engines were shut down to limit the acceleration and the remaining seven engines continued firing for 18 more seconds, as would occur in a typical climb to orbit.

The Falcon 1 that launched into orbit in September used 1 of the Merlin 1C engines in its first stage. The Falcon 9, a heavy lift human rated launch vehicle, will use 9 of the Merlin 1C engines in its first stage. This was a test fire of that first stage.

Significant Milestone Achieved as SpaceX Prepares to Demonstrate U.S. Transport to the International Space Station

Press release from SpaceX today:

Hawthorne, CA - November 23, 2008 – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle's first stage at its McGregor Test Facility in Texas, on November 22. For the static test firing, the first stage remains firmly secured to the massive vertical test stand, where it fired for 178 seconds or nearly three minutes – simulating the climb of the giant rocket from the surface of the Earth towards orbit.

At full power, the rocket generated 855,000 pounds of force at sea level. In vacuum, the thrust increases to approximately one million pounds or four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. The test consumed over half a million pounds of propellant. All nine engines fired for 160 seconds, then two engines were shut down to limit the acceleration and the remaining seven engines continued firing for 18 more seconds, as would occur in a typical climb to orbit.

The test firing validated the design of SpaceX's use of nine engines on the first stage, as well as the ability to shut down engines without affecting the functioning of the remaining engines. This demonstrates the ability of Falcon 9 to lose engines in flight and still complete its mission successfully, much as a commercial airliner is designed to be safe in the event of an engine loss. Like an airliner, the Falcon 9 engines are enclosed in a protective sheath that ensures a fire or destructive loss of an engine doesn't affect the rest of the vehicle.

The Falcon 9 will be the first vehicle since the Saturn V and Saturn 1 to have the ability to lose any engine/motor and still be able to complete its mission without loss of crew or spacecraft. Engine out reliability proved crucial to mission success on two of the Saturn V flights.

"In the past month, we performed significant upgrades to the test stand and flame trench in preparation for this test," said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. "We added the flight base heat shields around the engines to protect the bottom of the rocket from the prolonged blast of heat and vibration."

"The full mission-length test firing clears the highest hurdle for the Falcon 9 first stage before launch," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "In the next few months, we will have the first Falcon 9 flight vehicle on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, preparing for lift-off in 2009."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tenth Anniversary of ISS

Ten years ago today (July 20, 1998) the first piece of the International Space Station was launched into orbit, the Zarya module (built by Russia, financed by the US). It was lofted by a Russian Proton K booster from the Russian launch complex, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in Khazakstan. Two weeks later the first American piece, the Unity node, was launched aboard a Space Shuttle from Florida.

The ISS has been continuously inhabited since July, 2000, usually with a three person crew which is scheduled to increase to six in the first half of 2009.

Animation of the construction of the ISS.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What you get from Google and Amazon

If it weren't for Google and Amazon and my own self-absorbtion, there's all sorts of things I'd have never learned. For instance, that there is a village in Holland called Nettelhorst. I assume that's where my ancestors came from, especially since my family's last name was originally von Nettelhorst.

Or that there's an elementary school in Chicago named after a relative of mine, Louis Nettelhorst.

I also found out that I've been quoted on occasion. In fact, most commentaries on Matthew or Luke since about 1990 have mentioned my theory for reconciling the genealogies of Jesus that I proposed in an article that appeared in 1988 in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS). For instance, Raymond Brown footnoted that article in his book, The Birth of the Messiah. Last Saturday, as I was googling and trying to discover which translations of my book have appeared in print (at least 10 out of the 13 projected), I stumbled upon the fact (via Google, which has been digitizing every book in the world) that Josh McDowell actually quotes a full paragraph from the same article Raymond Brown only footnoted. It appears in his book, New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. So far Google has only scanned in the Spanish edition of that book, but you can see it here:

New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Spanish)

UPDATE (Saturday November 22)

I picked up a copy of the English language version of New Evidence That Demands a Verdict at Barnes and Noble today. The quotation is of two paragraphs from the article and it appears on pages 297-298; I'm also listed in the index and the bibliography. The book was published back in 1999. I didn't find out I was in it until last Saturday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Star Trek Movie Trailer

The latest trailer for the upcoming Star Trek movie (May 8, 2009) was released this morning. You can watch it here, at the official website:


Sunday, November 16, 2008

NASA Video of Future Trip to Moon

Video created by NASA of the Ares V and Ares I going to the moon circa 2020.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

German Translation of My Book

The German translation is available for sale here:

Die 100 Bekanntesten Gestalten der Bibel

The German edition looks about the same as the English, French, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Slovak, Swedish, Hungarian, Estonian and Romanian editions, except for the words. The title looks as if it translates from German as "The Hundred Best-known Figures of the Bible" which differs considerably from the title Reader's Digest gave it in English: The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Swedish Edition of My Book

The Swedish translation is available for sale here:

Apostlar och profeter

The Swedish edition looks about the same as the English, French, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Estonian and Romanian editions, except for the words. The title looks as if it translates from Swedish as "Apostles and Prophets" which differs considerably from the title Reader's Digest gave it in English: The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

A Swedish blog has reviewed the Swedish edition of my book (the following links to a machine translated version of the blog):

Gurgin: Last Book Read

Romanian Translation of My Book

The Romanian translation is available for sale here:

Cele mai fascinante personaje din Biblie

The Romanian edition looks about the same as the English, French, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Estonian and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title looks as if it translates from Romanian as "The Most Fascinating People of the Bible" which is the same title Reader's Digest gave it in English The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Norwegian Translation of My Book

The Norwegian translation is available for sale here:
100 skikkelser fra bibelen

The Norwegian edition looks about the same as the English, French, Danish, Dutch, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Estonian and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title translates from Norwegian as "100 Characters from the Bible" which was essentially its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Danish Translation of My Book

You can see the Danish edition for sale here:

Portrætter fra Bibelens galleri

The Danish edition looks about the same as the English, French, Dutch, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Estonian and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title translates from Danish as "100 Characters from the Bible" which was essentially its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

French Edition of My Book

The French version can be seen for sale here:

100 Personnages clés de la Bible

The French edition looks about the same as the English, Dutch, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Estonian and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title translates from French as "100 Characters from the Bible" which was essentially its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Estonian Edition of My Book

The Estonian version can be seen for sale here:

100 tegelaskuju piiblist

The Estonian edition looks the same as the English, Dutch, Slovak, German, Hungarian and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title translates from Estonian as "100 Characters from the Bible" which was essentially its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Hungarian Edition of My Book

The Hungarian version can be seen for sale here:


The Hungarian edition looks the same as the English, Dutch, Slovak, German and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title translates from Hungarian as "100 Characters from the Bible" which was essentially its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dutch Edition of My Book

You can see it here (machine translated by Google):

100 bijbelse figuren

The Dutch edition looks the same as the English and Slovak and German and Swedish editions, except for the words. The title translates from Dutch as "100 Biblical Figures" which was essentially its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Slovak Version of My Book

See it for sale, here: Sto postav z bible

Looks the same, except for the words. It was released on November 11, 2008. The title translates from Slovak as "100 Characters From the Bible," which was its working title before Reader's Digest changed it to The Bible's Most Fascinating People.

Shuttle Launches On Time

The Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on time at 4:55 PM PST and reached orbit safely about 9 minutes later.

Space Shuttle Scheduled to Launch Today

MSNBC reports:
A cold front is on its way to Florida but NASA officials say there's about a 70 percent chance the weather will cooperate enough to go ahead with the 7:55 p.m. EST launch. About a fourth of all shuttle missions start at night.

Endeavour and its seven-person crew will spend 15 days in orbit, including Thanksgiving. Its payload bay is filled with thousands of pounds of home remodeling supplies for the space station. That will allow NASA to double the size of the space station's crew by June.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Extrasolar Planets

MSNBC reports "First-ever images taken of extrasolar planets":
Astronomers have taken what they say are the first-ever direct images of planets outside of our solar system, including a visible-light snapshot of a single-planet system and an infrared picture of a multiple-planet system.

Read the linked article for more details and to see the photos.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quote for the Day

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.

Winston Churchill

Friday, November 07, 2008

Joke for the Day

Jack and Max are walking home from church. Jack wonders whether it would be all right to smoke while praying.

Max replies, “Why don’t you ask the pastor?”

So Jack goes up to the pastor and asks, “Pastor, may I smoke while I pray?”

The pastor replies, “No, you may not! That shows utter disrespect for God.”

Jack goes back to his friend and tells him what the good pastor told him.

Max says, “I’m not surprised. You asked the wrong question. Let me try.”

And so Max goes up to the pastor and asks, “Pastor, may I pray while I smoke?”

To which the pastor eagerly replies, “By all means, my son. By all means. You can always pray whenever you want to.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Googling Oneself

Occasionally I Google myself. Recently, I found this on a Swedish blog (the following links to a machine translated version of the blog):

Gurgin: Last Book Read

My book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People, came out in a Swedish edition just last month.

Quote for the Day

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts the human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority....

An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail (1963)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Quote for the Day

No one can understand history without continually relating the long periods which are constantly mentioned to the experiences of our own short lives. Five years is a lot. Twenty years is the horizon to most people. Fifty years is antiquity. To understand how the impact of destiny fell upon any generation of men one must first imagine their position and then apply the time-scale of our own lives.

Winston Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, Vol. 1

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Quote for the Day

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

George Orwell, Preface to Animal Farm

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Poem for the Day

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

Stephen Crane, from War is Kind

Quote for the Day

For a country to have a great writer is like having a second government. That is why no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote for the day

It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes. It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions — especially selfish ones.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Friday, October 24, 2008

Armadillo Aerospace Wins Level 1 Lunar Lander Challenge

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is a competition funded by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. The competition offers a series of prizes for teams that launch a vertical takeoff/vertical landing (VTVL) rocket that achieves the total delta-v needed for a vehicle to move between the surface of the Moon and its orbit. The multi-level competition is conducted by the X PRIZE Foundation, with sponsorship from the Northrop Grumman Corporation who run the competition. The prize purses are paid by NASA. It has been held annually at the X PRIZE Cup, making its debut at the 2006 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup in October, 2006.

The competition is divided into two levels. Both levels require teams to demonstrate control of their vehicle by flying to an altitude of more than 50 meters (160 ft), flying laterally for 100 m (330 ft), and landing on a pad. For level 1, this pad is a simple 10 m (33 ft) diameter circle; for level 2, it is a simulated lunar surface, complete with craters and boulders. After completing this first flight, the vehicle can then be refueled, and must then fly a second leg back to the original starting point. Each flight must meet a required minimum flight time of 90 seconds for level 1 and 180 seconds for level 2. For each level, the two flights along with any necessary preparation must be accomplished within a short 150-minute time period.

Each Level offers a first- and second-place prize. Level 1 features a first place prize purse of $350,000 and a $150,000 purse for second place. The more difficult level 2 offers a first place prize of $1 million and a $500,000 second place prize.

This afternoon, Armadillo Aerospace was able to win the Level 1 prize. They will try for the Level 2 Prize on Saturday, October 25, 2008. This was the third year that Armadillo had competed.

Armadillo Aerospace is an aerospace startup company based in Mesquite, Texas founded by John D. Carmack, best known as the owner of Id Software and the developer of the game, Doom. Its initial goal is to build a manned suborbital spacecraft capable of space tourism, but it has stated long-term ambitions of orbital spaceflight. The company was founded in the year 2000, and was incorporated on January 1, 2001.

Video is of the second, prize winning flight:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Quote for the Day

"Describe worrying," he went on.
"Pretend I'm someone who has never worried. I'm mystified. It don't get it. Tell me how to worry."
"Well...I guess the first step is to envision a sequence of events as they might play out in the future."
"But I do that all the time. And yet I don't worry."
"It is a sequence of events with a bad end."
"So, you're worried that a pink dragon will fly over the concent and fart nerve gas on us?"
Neal Stephenson, Anathem

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quote for the Day

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

1000 Days From Earth

The New Horizons space probe was launched on January 19, 2006 bound for Pluto, traveling faster than any space craft in history. It passed the orbit of the moon in barely 8 hours (it took Apollo astronauts 3 days to cover that same distance). Today is the 1000th day since that launch. It is only 1/3 of the way there, at about 32 Astronomical Units out, putting it past the orbit of Saturn. An Astronomical Unit is the distance from the Sun to the Earth: 93 million miles. New Horizons will not reach Pluto until July 14, 2015.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Commentary Magazine has an interesting article, 1948, Israel, and the Palestinians: Annotated Text:
Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation,[1] and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.[2]

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.

Take a look at the whole thing.

Soyuz TMA-13 Safely in Orbit

The latest Soyuz launched to the International Space Station tonight, carrying two Americans and one Russian. It took off on time on Sunady, October 12, 2008 at 12:02 AM PDT. One of the Americans is a space tourist. His name is Richard Garriott. His father, Owen Garriott was a NASA astronaut who flew aboard America's first space station, Skylab. Richard Garriot paid about 30 million dollars to go into space tonight. He made his fortune making the Ultima series of computer games as well as the currently available online game, Tabula Rasa (a MMORPG).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

There are 1011 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

Richard Feynman

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Possible way of Testing if the Many Worlds Hypothesis is True?

Frank J. Tipler, best known for his books, The Physics of Immortality and The Physics of Christianity, has published a paper entitled, Testing Many-Worlds Quantum Theory By Measuring Pattern Convergence Rates.

Up until now, no one has been able to come up with an experiment that would distinguish between the various possible interpretations of quantum physics. Whether Tipler's proposed experiment will actually do what he hopes is the big question, of course.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

NASA's 50th Anniversary

The legislation authorizing the creation of NASA was signed on July 29, 1958 but the funding to actually create it wasn’t available until the beginning of the next government fiscal year, which always starts at the beginning of October. So today, October 1, is the actual start date for NASA.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Successful Launch of Falcon 1

The fourth launch attempt of SpaceX Falcon 1 was successful. Launching at 4:15 PM, the vehicle reached orbit about 9 minutes later. Falcon 1 has made history as the first privately developed liquid fueled launch vehicle to achieve earth orbit!


MSNBC.com now has an article by Alan Boyle giving details of the launch.


Video of the launch:

Falcon 1 Launch Scheduled for This Afternoon

According to SpaceX, their Falcon 1 is scheduled to launch between 4 PM and 9 PM Pacific Time on Sunday, September 28, 2008:
The Flight 4 Webcast will provide live coverage of launch activities. The webcast will be accessible via a link on the SpaceX home page at www.SpaceX.com. The launch window runs from 4 PM to 9 PM (Pacific time) each day. The Falcon 1 launch facilities are situated on Omelek Island, part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site (RTS) at United States Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA).

The Falcon 1 Flight 4 vehicle carries a payload mass simulator of approximately 165 kg (364 lbs), designed and built by SpaceX specifically for this mission. Flight 3, which took place on August 2nd, executed a picture perfect first stage flight, ultimately reaching an altitude of 217 km, but encountered a problem just after stage separation that prevented the second stage from reaching orbit. The origin of the problem arose due to the longer thrust decay transient of our new Merlin 1C regeneratively cooled engine. Unlike the ablative engine used previously by SpaceX in Flights 1 and 2, the regenerative engine had unburned fuel in the cooling channels and manifold that combined with a small amount of residual oxygen to produce a small thrust that was just enough to overcome the stage separation pusher impulse.

SpaceX was aware of and had allowed for a thrust transient, but did not expect it to last that long. As it turned out, a very small increase in the time between commanding main engine shutdown and stage separation would have been enough to save the mission. The fix was also very simple, requiring one line of code to be changed.

We made the fix and immediately began work on Flight 4. Less than two months later, Falcon 1 Flight 4 is now on the pad at Kwajalein, ready for flight.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chinese Perform Their First Space Walk

According to Wikipedia, "as of February 15, 2008, there have been a total of 104 spacewalks devoted to assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station. A total time of 653 hours, 43 minutes has been spent in EVA activities. 75 of these EVAs have been from the station, totaling 458 hours, 25 minutes. 28 assembly EVAs have been performed from a shuttle, 53 from the Quest Joint Airlock, and 22 from the Pirs docking compartment."

The Russians and Americans made their first space walks in 1965. The first Russian space walk by Alexey Leonov lasted about twelve minutes, on March 18, 1965. The first American space walk, by Edward White lasted about 22 minutes, on June 3, 1965. This Chinese space walk by Zhai Zhigang lasted slightly less than fifteen minutes, on September 27, 2008.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Space X Update

Space X did a static fire of their Falcon 1 on Saturday, September 20 as scheduled. The launch window for the fourth launch attempt of a Falcon 1 is now set for some time between September 28 and October 1, according to the Space X website:

Flight Four Launch Update

Dark Flow

As if the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy weren't vexing enough, another baffling cosmic puzzle has been discovered.

Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can't be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon "dark flow."

The stuff that's pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude.

Read the whole article, Mysterious 'dark flow' discovered in space:
Stuff pulling on matter believed to be outside the observable universe

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flight Four of Falcon 1 Has Been Scheduled

According to a press release I just received from Elon Musk of SpaceX, the next launch attempt of the Falcon 1 will probably occur between September 23 and 25:
As mentioned in my update last month, we do expect to conduct a launch countdown in late September – as scheduled.

Having said that, it is still possible that we encounter an issue that needs to be investigated, which would delay launch until the next available window in late October. If preparations go smoothly, we will conduct a static fire on Saturday and launch sometime between Tuesday and Thursday (California time).

The SpaceX team worked hard to make this launch window, but we also took the time to review data from Flight 3 in detail. In addition to us reviewing the data, we had several outside experts check the data and conclusions. No flight critical problems were found apart from the thrust transient issue.

Flight 5 production is well underway with an expected January completion date, Flight 6 parts are on order and Flight 7 production will begin early next year. We are now in steady state production of Falcon 1 at a rate of one vehicle every four months, which we will probably step up to one vehicle every two to three months in 2010.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Every September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Visit the official website and learn how to do it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quote for the Day

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

— Thomas Paine

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mystery Object

Scientists using the Hubble have found something odd, unlike anything they've ever seen before. They simply don't know what it is. Sky and Telescope reports:
Don't get the idea that we've found every kind of astronomical object there is in the universe. In a paper to appear in the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers working on the Supernova Cosmology Project report finding a new kind of something that they cannot make any sense of.

Read the whole article (with a photo) from the link above.

Borg cube going to warp?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Image of Possible Planet Around a Sun-like Star

MSNBC reports:

Astronomers have taken what may the first picture of a planet orbiting a star similar to the sun.

This distant world is giant (about eight times the mass of Jupiter) and lies far out from its star (about 330 times the Earth-Sun distance). But for all the planet's strangeness, its star is quite like our own sun.

Previously, the only photographed extrasolar planets have belonged to tiny, dim stars known as brown dwarfs. And while hundreds of exoplanets have been detected by noting their gravitational tug on their parent stars, it is rare to find one large enough to image directly.

For the picture and more details, read the full article by Clara Moskowitz.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Musical Road

Not far from Quartz Hill Community Church and Quartz Hill School of Theology, Honda created a musical road for one of their commercials; I've heard that the only other places in the world that have a road like this are in Japan and Switzerland:

Reason and Faith

Jerry Pournelle, the science fiction author, wrote today on his blog:
This was in a recent Wall Street Journal article on social conservatism:

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that "we do not offend God except by doing something contrary to our own good." If Thomas is right, then rather than claim that a debased practice offends God, politicians can—and, I would add, should—explain to the public what aspect of some immoral behavior is contrary to our own good, especially the common good—and why a just and decent society shouldn't accept it.

This is of a piece with the doctrine that Reason and Faith are not in conflict, and if they appear to be, we have misunderstood something. (It used to be that we had more confidence in our interpretation of revelation than in the findings of science. Actually, that was good reason; science, until the development of scientific method, was not reliable. Those were the days when Astrology and Alchemy were considered good science, and illusionists posed as scientists. Today we have enough experience with the results of applying real scientific method -- that is, framing falsifiable hypotheses and testing them by experiment, and yes, I know that's a reductionism that ignores a number of important implications -- we have enough experience with the results of scientific method to have confidence that scientific truth is important, and if science conflicts with revelation then we have probably misinterpreted revelation.

Read the whole thing here.

Quote for the Day

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Quote for the Day

Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.

George Orwell

Friday, September 05, 2008

Quote for the Day

The Unexpected always comes at the most awkward times.

Larry Niven

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Quote for the Day

Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.

Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Quote for the Day

Lack of originality, everywhere, all over the world, from time immemorial, has always been considered the foremost quality and the recommendation of the active, efficient and practical man...

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


An interesting opinion page piece by Crispin Sartwell in today's LA Times, A Righteous Refusal is Everyone's Right:

I am a pro-choice atheist. But I support a regulation, recently promulgated by the Bush administration, that would cut federal funding to nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not allow their employees to opt out of providing certain types of care -- including abortion services -- on grounds of conscience and personal belief.

Ask yourself: What are some of the bad things that have happened because people refused, on conscientious grounds, to do what the institutions in which they were embedded demanded? Now ask yourself: What are some of the bad things that have happened because people overcame serious qualms and did what they were ordered to do?

The idea that we must respect individual conscience as a moral arbiter is a fundamental insight of the Protestant Reformation and of the American individualism of such figures as Emerson and Thoreau. It is at the core of our traditions and our freedoms. This idea means nothing if we respect it when we agree with its results and not when we don't.

He does a good job, I think, of pointing out the importance of respecting individual conscience. I'd recommend reading the entire article.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mojave Air and Space Port Promotional Video

Mojave Air and Space Port promotional video; it gives a nice overview of some of what's going on at the world's first commercial space port:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Not Everything is Made in China

Sometimes the U.S. builds things and sells them to the Chinese:

GE Transportation has announced that the first China Mainline Locomotive (CML) will be delivered around Aug. 30, 2008, to the Tianjin Port in Tianjin, China. After being transferred to the Tanggu Depot for inspection, the locomotive will make its way to China's capital Beijing.

Locomotive "CML 50001" is the first of three hundred 6,000-horsepower Evolution Series China Mainline Locomotives being delivered to the Ministry of Railways P.R. China (MOR). The contract was signed in October 2005 and valued at $450 million.

The full locomotives and locomotive kits are being built in Erie, Pennsylvania. The kits will then be assembled in China.

Full article: First Of 300 GE China Mainline Locomotives To Arrive In China

Monday, August 11, 2008

Warp Drive?

arXiv.org has a paper in PDF on the potential for creating a working warp drive (how to get from point A to point B faster than light). It was submitted July 12, 2008 (and revised July 15) by Richard K. Obousy and Gerald Cleaver, both at Baylor University. The researchers said their theory is based on the Alcubierre drive (proposed in a paper in 1994). The physic paper's summary states:

Over the last decade, there has been a respectable level of scientific interest regarding the concept of a warp drive. This is a hypothetical propulsion device that could theoretically circumvent the traditional limitations of special relativity which restricts spacecraft to sub-light velocities. Any breakthrough in this field would revolutionize space exploration and open the doorway to interstellar travel. This article discusses a novel approach to generating the warp bubble necessary for such propulsion; the mathematical details of this theory are discussed in an article published in the Journal of the British Interpanetary Society. The theory is based on some of the exciting predictions coming out of string theory and it is the aim of this article to introduce the warp drive idea from a non-mathematical perspective that should be accessible to a wide range of readers.

The full paper may be accessed from the link below:

Putting the "Warp" into Warp Drive

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Space X Update

Another press release from Space X:
Timing is Everything

On August 2nd, Falcon 1 executed a picture perfect first stage flight, ultimately reaching an altitude of 217 km, but encountered a problem just after stage separation that prevented the second stage from reaching orbit. At this point, we are certain as to the origin of the problem. Four methods of analysis – vehicle inertial measurement, chamber pressure, onboard video and a simple physics free body calculation – all give the same answer.

The problem arose due to the longer thrust decay transient of our new Merlin 1C regeneratively cooled engine, as compared to the prior flight that used our old Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine. Unlike the ablative engine, the regen engine had unburned fuel in the cooling channels and manifold that combined with a small amount of residual oxygen to produce a small thrust that was just enough to overcome the stage separation pusher impulse.

We were aware of and had allowed for a thrust transient, but did not expect it to last that long. As it turned out, a very small increase in the time between commanding main engine shutdown and stage separation would have been enough to save the mission.

The question then is why didn't we catch this issue? Unfortunately, the engine chamber pressure is so low for this transient thrust -- only about 10 psi -- that it barely registered on our ground test stand in Texas where ambient pressure is 14.5 psi. However, in vacuum that 10 psi chamber pressure produced enough thrust to cause the first stage to recontact the second stage.

It looks like we may have flight four on the launch pad as soon as next month. The long gap between flight two and three was mainly due to the Merlin 1C regen engine development, but there are no technology upgrades between flight three and four.

Good Things About This Flight

Merlin 1C and overall first stage performance was excellent
The stage separation system worked properly, in that all bolts fired and the pneumatic pushers delivered the correct impulse
Second stage ignited and achieved nominal chamber pressure
Fairing separated correctly
We discovered this transient problem on Falcon 1 rather than Falcon 9
Rocket stages were integrated, rolled out and launched in seven days
Neither the near miss potential failures of flight two nor any new ones were present
The only untested portion of flight is whether or not we have solved the main problem of flight two, where the control system coupled with the slosh modes of the liquid oxygen tank. Given the addition of slosh baffles and significant improvements to the control logic, I feel confident that this will not be an issue for the upcoming flight four.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Third Launch of Falcon 1 Fails to Reach Orbit

From the press release from Space X:
Plan Going Forward

It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3]. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened.

The most important message I’d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.

As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment. Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon. There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.

Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.


(In a message to Employees, August 2, 2008)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Space X Plans a Launch of their Falcon 1 Today

Space X has announced a 4:00 PM PDT launch attempt of their Falcon 1 rocket. This will be their third attempt to launch a Falcon 1. The first attempt exploded shortly after takeoff. The second attempt had problems with its second stage and just failed to make orbit.

They are broadcasting the lauch attempt live on the web, beginning at 3:30 PM PDT:

Live Webcast of Falcon 1 Launch

Friday, August 01, 2008

Space X conducts Falcon 9 Engine Test

On July 30 Space X test fired, for the first time, the full 9 Merlin engine complement of their Falcon 9 first stage. The nine engines firing together generated about 850,000 pounds of thrust.

For more information and a video of the test firing, go to Spaceref.com

Monday, July 28, 2008

Virgin Galactic Unveils WhiteKnightTwo in Mojave

WhiteKnightTwo is the carrier aircraft that will be be used to help carry SpaceShipTwo, the commercial upgraded version of SpaceShipOne. An article with several pictures of this morning's rollout at the Mojave Air and Space Port can be seen on Wired.com:

One Giant Step For Virgin Galactic

For more photos and information, see Wired's Science Blog.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

TV Footage of the Moon Landing 39 Years Ago Today

39th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two people to walk on the face of the moon. I was twelve and living in Ohio at the time. I remember watching it on TV with my parents and grandparents. My dad, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, would leave for Viet-Nam for his second tour of duty about a month later. He could recall when they had installed electricity on his parent’s farm while he was growing up. What amazed him most of all about the successful trip to the moon was the fact that it was being televised. He’d always figured we’d get there, he just hadn’t expected we’d get to watch it happen on live TV.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

From the man that brought you Firefly, Serenity, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Check it out; it goes away on Sunday, July 20 at midnight (that is, it will cost money after that; till then, it's free).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Earth and Moon

A video of the Earth and moon taken from 31 million miles away by the Deep Impact probe:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quote for the Day

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.

Daniel J. Boorstin

Monday, July 14, 2008

Science Fiction Author Quote for the Day

There is no cause so good or noble that it will not attract fuggheads; and the fuggheads will get all the press

Larry Niven

Thursday, July 03, 2008


The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:...

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Happiness Is Increasing

Americans, and people around the world, are getting happier all the time according to an article at the National Science Foundation. This is consistent with an article I read in Scientific American a few years ago that indicated that most people, in most parts of the world, most of the time, are happy. I wonder if we make a mistake when we accept Voltair's assumption, and that of most critics of theism, who argue that the world is an awful place and that therefore the horrendous suffering of the planet means that there can't possibly be a good, loving, all-powerful God. If most people are happy and getting happier, wouldn't that argue against Voltair's assumption?

Leibnitz argued that if we assume that God is good, loving, and all powerful, then in fact this must be the best of all possible worlds--given the existence of human free will. Perhaps the data supports Leibnitz's position?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Growing Asparagus on Mars

According to Mars Daily, Martian Soil Good Enough For Asparagus:

Washington DC (AFP) Jun 27, 2008 Martian dirt is apparently good enough for asparagus to grow in, NASA scientists said Thursday, as they announced the results of a soil analysis collected by the US Phoenix Mars lander. "There is nothing about the soil that would preclude life. In fact it seems very friendly," said Samuel Kounaves, the project's lead chemist at the University of Arizona in a telephone press conference.

"The soil you have there is the type of soil you have in your backyard," said Kounaves. "You may be able to grow asparagus very well."

The analysis is based on a cubic centimeter of soil scooped up by the lander's robotic arm and introduced into one of its eight ovens, where it was gradually heated up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Kounaves said his team was "flabbergasted" at the results that came back.

"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements of the nutrients to support life, past, present or future," said Kounaves.

MSNBC.com reports that while it would be good for asparagus growing, it wouldn't do well for strawberries. The soil is a bit too alkaline.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Overview of SpaceX

Also from the same press release from SpaceX, a nice overview of the company and what they are up to:
About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of both manned and unmanned space transportation ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally developed Merlin engines, SpaceX is able to offer light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth orbit to geosynchronous to planetary missions. SpaceX currently has 14 missions on its manifest plus indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts with NASA and the US Air Force.

As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing contract, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the International Space Station (ISS) and returning to Earth. NASA also has a contract option on Falcon 9 / Dragon to provide crew services to the ISS after Shuttle retirement.

Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers nearly 500, located mostly in Hawthorne, with four additional locations; SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor Texas outside of Waco, offices in Washington DC, and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.

The first Falcon 9 will arrive at the SpaceX launch site at Cape Canaveral by the end of 2008.

SpaceX Conducts Static Test Firing of Next Falcon 1 Rocket

According to a press release I received today, SpaceX conducted a static test firing of its next Falcon 1 rocket:
Hawthorne CA – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full launch dress rehearsal and hold down firing of the Falcon 1 Flight 3 vehicle on June 25, 2008 (Marshall Island Time) on Omelek Island, SpaceX’s launch site at the Kwajalein Atoll. This test is the final step before launch of the Falcon 1 rocket.

This marks the first launch pad firing of SpaceX’s new Merlin 1C regeneratively cooled engine, which operated at full power with only the hold-down system restraining the rocket from flight. In the coming weeks, SpaceX will conduct a thorough review of all data prior to the opening of the launch window for flight, which runs from late July through early September.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Twenty-fifth Wedding Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago today, my wife and I got married. Things have changed a bit since then: we've added three daughters to the mix.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Theology Quote for the Day

The goal of human life is not death but resurrection.

Karl Barth, TIME magazine (20 April 1962) cover story "Witness to an Ancient Truth"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stargate Continuum

Teaser trailer for Stargate Continuum:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Solar-Hydrogen House

Not quite cost effective, but it is an interesting technology demonstration, nevertheless:

Mike Strizki has not paid an electric, oil or gas bill—nor has he spent a nickel to fill up his Mercury Sable—in nearly two years. Instead, the 51-year-old civil engineer makes all the fuel he needs using a system he built in the capacious garage of his home, which employs photovoltaic (PV) panels to turn sunlight into electricity that is harnessed in turn to extract hydrogen from tap water.

Although the device cost $500,000 to construct, and it is unlikely it will ever pay off financially (even with today's skyrocketing oil and gas prices), the civil engineer says it is priceless in terms of what it does buy: freedom from ever paying another heating or electric bill, not to mention keeping a lid on pollution, because water is its only by-product.

"The ability to make your own fuel is priceless," says the man known as "Mr. Gadget" to his friends. He boasts a collection of hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles, including a hydrogen-run lawn mower and car (the Sable, which he redesigned and named the "Genesis") as well as an electric racing boat, and even an electric motorcycle. "All the technology is off-the-shelf. All I'm doing is putting them together."

The entire article is interesting: Inside the Solar-Hydrogen House: No More Power Bills--Ever, by David Biello in Scientific American.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is the Universe All Math?

Discover Magazine has an interesting article, Is the Universe Actually Made of Math, by Adam Frank, theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Rochester in New York. It is an interesting article that is mostly an interview with Max Tegmark, discussing Tegmark's ideas. Tegmark is a cosmologist at MIT:
According to Tegmark, “there is only mathematics; that is all that exists.” In his theory, the mathematical universe hypothesis, he updates quantum physics and cosmology with the concept of many parallel universes inhabiting multiple levels of space and time. By posing his hypothesis at the crossroads of philosophy and physics, Tegmark is harking back to the ancient Greeks with the oldest of the old questions: What is real?

Tegmark has pursued this work despite some risk to his career. It took four tries before he could get an early version of the mathematical universe hypothesis published, and when the article finally appeared, an older colleague warned that his “crackpot ideas” could damage his reputation. But propelled by optimism and passion, he pushed on.

"I learned pretty early that if I focused exclusively on these big questions I’d end up working at McDonald’s,” Tegmark explains. “So I developed this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde strategy where officially, whenever I applied for jobs, I put forth my mainstream work. And then quietly, on the side, I pursued more philosophical interests.” The strategy worked. Today a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tegmark travels among the world’s top physicists. Backed by this well-earned credibility, his audacious ideas are sparking fascination and taking flight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gay Marriage

I was reading in my newspaper today about local pastors standing outside the courthouse and protesting against gays getting married, reading Bible verses at them, and denouncing both those who went in to get married, as well as the government officials who were doing the marrying.

I'm a bit puzzled as to how this is part of the Great Commission, or preaching the gospel.

I'm wondering what Paul would think about it. Oh, I do know what Paul would think about it:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

1 Corinthians 5:12

It also seems to me that Jesus' approach with sinners was somewhat different than how these Pharis--um, preachers--are operating. In fact, I seem to recall he saved his venom for people who were doing the sort of things these preachers were doing.

"Love, and do what thou wilt..."

I've been reading an old book by E.L. Allen, entitled From Plato to Nietzsche: Ideas That Shape Our Lives; it is a thin book, but a good overview of philosophy and theology for the last two thousand years. One phrase from Augustine (from De Genesi ad Litteram) I liked was “Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good”, since it reflects (unsurprisingly) what Paul says in Romans 13:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet, ”and whatever other command there may be, are summed upc in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. ”Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

It serves as an antidote to legalism (that is, worldliness; see Col. 2) and the endless concern with rules. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, then we can do as we please, since what we please will not harm our neighbor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Genetically Modified Bacteria Create Oil?

According to the Times of London, a Silicon Valley company is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to produce 'renewable petroleum.'

The Myth of Moderate Islam

From Foreign Policy, by Steven A. Cook:

Of all the cures commonly proposed for the many ailments afflicting the Middle East, there is one tonic nearly everyone seems to agree on: boosting moderate Islam.

It sounds eminently reasonable. If Islamic extremism is the problem, moderate Islam must be the solution. It follows that Western governments should therefore find ways to make the moderates more powerful and encourage the extremists to become more moderate. Allow Islamists to compete and accumulate power, the argument goes, and they will have little incentive to radicalize. Furthermore, assuming the mundane tasks of day-to-day governance will compel even the most extreme groups to focus more on filling potholes than on destroying the Great Satan.

But this belief is dead wrong. Not only is it impossible to agree on a working definition of the word “moderate,” but there is scant evidence that extremists really do moderate once they assume power.

An interesting, if discouraging, article. Read the whole thing.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Astronomy in Poetry

I open the scuttle at night and see the far sprinkled systems,
And all I see multiplied as high as I can cyper edge but rim of the farthest systems.
Wider and wider they spread, expanding, always expanding,
Outward and outward, forever outward.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shuttle Discovery Returns to Florida

The Space Shuttle Discovery has landed safely back in Florida. It touched down about 8:15 AM today, Saturday, June 14, 2008.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Science Quote for the Day

There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

Robert Oppenheimer

Thursday, June 12, 2008

27th International Space Development Conference

Glenn Reynolds posts a report on the 27th International Space Development Conference (May 29-June 1, 2008) on The Atlantic's website:

The main source of excitement at this year's conference was space tourism—folks in the industry prefer the term "personal spaceflight"—involving many companies, from the well-known (Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic) to the sort-of-known (Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin) to the comparatively obscure (XCOR Aerospace). Just this week it was announced that Google co-founder Sergey Brin plans to be a space tourist on a flight to the international space station in 2011. The space tourism business has, according to the results of a study presented at the conference, attracted over 1.2 billion dollars in investment, and grown its revenues from $175 million in 2006 to $268 million in 2007. That's peanuts compared to what NASA is spending on the Space Station or its Constellation project aimed at returning to the Moon, but it's real money and, unlike NASA's budget, it's growing.

Read the whole article: Not Your Father's Space Program

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Video from Aboard the Kibo Module on the ISS

The International Space Station is large. Here's video from the recently installed Japanese Kibo module. The Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from the Space Station today and is on its way home.

Gamma-Ray Telescope Launched

Today (June 11, 2008) at 9:05 AM PDT , the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) was launched aboard a Delta II 7920-H rocket. GLAST is a joint venture of NASA, the United States Department of Energy, and government agencies in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.

GLAST's main instrument is the Large Area Telescope (LAT) which will make an all-sky survey of astrophysical and cosmological phenomena such as active galactic nuclei, pulsars, dark matter, and other high-energy sources. A second instrument, the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM), will be used to study gamma ray bursts.

GLAST will orbit at an altitude of about 345 miles. By comparison, the International Space Station orbits at an altitude that varies between a minimum of 173 miles to a maximum of 286 miles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Climate Change

Dana Longcope, a solar physicist at MSU, said the sun usually operates on an 11-year cycle with maximum activity occurring in the middle of the cycle. Minimum activity generally occurs as the cycles change. Solar activity refers to phenomena like sunspots, solar flares and solar eruptions. Together, they create the weather that can disrupt satellites in space and technology on earth.

The last cycle reached its peak in 2001 and is believed to be just ending now, Longcope said. The next cycle is just beginning and is expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012. Today's sun, however, is as inactive as it was two years ago, and scientists aren't sure why.

"It's a dead face," Tsuneta said of the sun's appearance.

Tsuneta said solar physicists aren't like weather forecasters; They can't predict the future. They do have the ability to observe, however, and they have observed a longer-than-normal period of solar inactivity. In the past, they observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots. That period coincided with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700....

Read the entire article:

Sun Goes Longer Than Normal Without Producing Sunspots