Monday, December 31, 2007

Top Ten Space Stories of 2007

2007 has been a busy year in the space industry. Since this is the time of year for top-ten lists, I decided to put together this list of the top ten space stories for 2007. Your mileage may vary.

10. Charles Simonyi

On April 7, Charles Simonyi became the fifth space tourist. After training at Star City, the Microsoft executive launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-10, arrived at the ISS on April 9, and returned to earth on the Soyuz TMA-9 on April 21.

9. Scotty goes to space

The beloved actor James Doohan died in 2005. On April 28, 2007, a vial of his ashes, along with those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and about 200 others, was lofted into space on a suborbital flight aboard the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL. Mr. Scott's engines finally did have enough power, cap'n - and he didna do it on any United Federation of Planets spacecraft either, he went on a private spacecraft. With the expansion of the private space industry of late, pretty soon we're all going to be able to go, and not just our ashes.

8. Opportunity enters Victoria Crater

The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity far exceeded their mission specifications years ago, and are still chuggin' away. On September 11, 2007, the rover Opportunity took its first tentative steps into Victoria Crater. Analysis of the layers of rock in the crater walls will provide a boon for planetary geologists, allowing them to peer further back into the history of Mars than ever before.

7. New Horizons reaches Jupiter

The New Horizons spacecraft is on its way to Pluto. Launched in January of 2006, it is the fastest object ever launched. But, it needed to go even faster than it could be launched. So, at the end of February of 2007, New Horizons used the gravity of Jupiter to provide it an additional boost. As the spacecraft approached the giant planet, it took some spectacular photos of the planet and its moons, including this amazing shot of the Galilean moons Europa and Io. Even though these moons look like they are side by side, they were actually separated by a distance of 790 thousand kilometers, roughly twice the distance between Earth and the Moon.

I posted some videos about New Horizons on my blog here.

6. Bigelow Aerospace launches its second private space station

Bigelow Aerospace launched its second space station into orbit on June 28, 2007. With that launch, Bigelow had done something that no government space program had ever done before, having two space stations in orbit at the same time. Granted, these stations are small and unmanned, however Genesis I and Genesis II are both still holding atmospheres inside without human intervention. Bigelow has decided not to launch the larger Galaxy stations due to rising launch costs. Instead they will test those stations on the ground, and then proceed with the even larger, human-habitable Sundancer space stations. By the way, Bigelow is hiring in 27 job categories. Space geeks, polish up your resumes!

5. the Wrong Stuff

Quick! Name even one of the astronauts who launched aboard space shuttle Discovery in November of this year. Unless you're related to or a close friend of an astronaut, or are working for NASA, chances are that you don't know a single name. It's quite a change from the "Right Stuff" days of the 60's, when every schoolkid knew the names of the astronauts. If you know that name of one astronaut who made the news in 2007, it's probably Lisa Nowak. In one ill-conceived cross-coutry road trip, Lisa Nowak blew the image of astronauts as swaggering Top Gun test pilots with nerves of steel, and showed that astronauts are just normal people with faults like the rest of us.

4. Gliese 581C

One of the most exciting stories of the past year has to be the discovery of Gliese 581C only 20.5 light years away. This is the smallest extrasolar planet found so far, only about 1.5 times the mass of the Earth. What makes Gliese 581C so interesting is that it is orbiting in the "Goldilocks zone" around its star, the red dwarf Gliese 581; it is close enough to the star for water to be liquid, but not so close that water would boil. Whenever we finally start travelling to other star systems, Gliese 581 would have to be at the very top of the list, if only to have a look at Gliese 581C.

3. Year of the Comets

2007 was a pretty good year for comets. In January, Comet McNaught put on a darn good show, mainly for those in the Southern hemisphere; McNaught was the brightest comet in over 30 years. Vidar Martinsen made this video (and composed the music too) of the comet from Norway:

Then on October 23-24, Comet 17P/Holmes outdid McNaught, brightening by a factor of over a half a million in the space of 42 hours. By November 9, the coma of the comet was so large that Holmes was briefly the largest object in the solar system, just slightly bigger than the sun itself.

2. Explosion at Scaled kills three

There is always an element of danger any time you are working with lots of energy being expended in a very short period of time. Rockets move via what amounts to a controlled explosion. This point was driven home on June 26, 2007 when a nitrous oxide flash explosion killed Glen May, Eric Blackwell, and Todd Ivens at Scaled Composites' test stand in Mojave, California. Those of us in the space business know how dangerous it is, and we do it anyway - and we're going to keep on doing it until, in the words of Dr. David Livingston, space becomes "like any other place we choose to visit, work in, or call our home. It should be just another destination, like Tahiti, Hawaii, or any place available to us right now on Earth".

1. Google Lunar X-Prize

On September 13, 2007, Google and the X-Prize foundation announced the $30 million Google Lunar X-Prize. The $20 million first prize will be awarded to the first private entity to launch a rover to the moon which travels at least 500 meters and returns video, images and data to the earth; the other ten million is in subsidiary prizes such as $5 million for second place, discovering water, imaging Apollo landing sites, and so on. Just as the Ansari X-Prize boosted research into suborbital flight and spawned several viable suborbital space companies, the Google Lunar X-Prize will further accelerate the private space industry. One company, Odyssey Moon, has already officially entered, and hundreds of other private companies and individuals (including me) have also expressed interest in the prize.

So, those are my choices for the top ten space stories for 2007. Happy New Year, and see you in 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

a thought experiment

What would the world be like today if, rather than merely shutting down Apollo in the 1970s, Richard Nixon had shut down all of NASA instead? Discuss in the comments.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I may have stopped posting space videos on this blog, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop posting videos - particularly when I find a classic movie in the public domain, like this one. This is particularly appropriate for the Christmas season, so enjoy It's A Wonderful Life.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

private property in space, redux

Recently in Reuters there was a rather tongue-in-cheek article about the increase in value of lunar property over the course of 2007. Mark Whittington posted (scroll down to December 18, 2007, 9:20 am; I can't make his permalinks work properly) that he was
...somewhat agog at the news that lunar land prices are booming. Mind, no one can actually own lunar land, for various reasons, and people who think that they do actually own pretty pieces of paper. Still, it shows that there is a market if an arrangement could be made for people to legally own lunar real estate.

It is reasonable to assume that Mark's assertion that "no on can actually own lunar land" is based upon the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty, since he wrote about this last year in an article in Associated Content:
The pertinent article of the treaty is Article II, which reads, "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." The problem is that private property rights are determined and defended by a sovereign nation. Absent sovereign authority, property rights can be determined by international treaties. But with sovereign authority forbidden on the moon and "other celestial bodies" and no international treaty governing private property on other worlds, there is literally no body of law governing such things.
The key phrase in the above quote, and the axiom upon which the remainder of his argument rests, is that "private property rights are determined and defended by a sovereign nation". However, the concept of private property precedes the establishment of sovereign nations or even the idea of laws. The very earliest formal laws - the Codex of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments - both contain prohibitions against stealing; such a prohibition would be utterly meaningless without a prior widespread acceptance of the concept of private property. Furthermore, every parent has experienced their child going through the "MINE!" stage, wherein the child lays claim to all he sees or touches. Clearly the concept of private property predates laws and sovereign nations and may even be an intrisic part of human nature.

I discussed this at length last year, but this issue just keeps coming up. So, I want to expand on what I wrote last year and talk about the enforceability of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (and by extension the 1979 Moon Treaty). In the Enforceability of Law, F.S. McNeilly states that
'the law is enforceable' means (a) provisions exist for forcing people to conform to the law who if these provisions did not exist might not conform, and (b) the existence of these provisions is adequate to ensure a sufficiently high degree of conformity to the law.
To see how both these treaties are unenforceable when applied to private individuals, let's do a bit of a thought experiment. Suppose that, after a few years of successful launches of the Falcon-9, Elon Musk builds an even bigger rocket, capable of delivering a sizeable (say, several tonnes) payload to the asteroid (6178) 1986 DA for a few dollars per kilogram. Suppose further that Rand Simberg comes into a large sum of money and uses that to purchase the SuperDuperFalcon rocket and launch a payload consisting of machinery (either painstakingly teleoperated, autonomous, or some combination thereof) capable of mining and smelting material on the surface of that asteroid. Who owns the pure iron, nickel, and other metals on that asteroid? Rand Simberg, of course.

Now suppose that Keith Cowing (not to impugn your character, Keith; I just needed a name recognizable to the space geeks out there) also comes into a lot of money and buys his own SuperDuperFalcon rocket and launches a payload to that same asteroid. The payload just happens to be a machine that takes the pure iron mined by Rand, melts it, adds some carbon, and produces steel I-beams and steel panels - without any sort of purchase agreement between Keith and Rand. If Rand can successfully defend his mined material, then Keith's machine is disabled or destroyed when it lands on (or, more accurately, docks with) that asteroid. If Rand cannot defend his property, then Keith's machine takes possession of that property and the resulting steel I-beams become Keith's.

In the above thought experiment, no provisions exist for enforcing the 1967 treaty, since the actors involved are not sovereign nations, they are private individuals. Of course both those men are US citizens, so US law would apply to their dispute. However, let's extend the thought experiment a little further, and assume that Keith's steel-making machine successfully takes Rand's iron, and the I-beams and other steel products are formed into a space station to which Keith launches himself (declaring himself King of Cowingtopia and disavowing his US citizenship). Now suppose that this doesn't happen just once, but thousands of times with thousands of individuals from nations all over the earth, all within the span of a few years after the SuperDuperFalcon becomes available.

How could the Outer Space Treaty be enforceable in that case? Space Police? Have a look at these diagrams:

Ever called the police in an emergency? In a best-case scenario, there might just happen to be a cop cruising around within your neighborhood and you'll get a response within a few minutes. Now consider the size of the asteroid neighborhood - what are the chances that the SpacePolice would have a cruiser close enough to make a difference during a theft like the one I describe above? If you guessed somewhere between "zero" and "HAHAHAHAHA", you're right. There are over a million asteroids bigger than 1km in size in the main asteroid belt; that number rises to over 1 000 000 000 000 000 when including all bodies over 100 meters across throughout the solar system. Even a SpacePolice force a billion men strong would be inadequate to police them all, and response times would average in the weeks, months, or even decades if one goes out far enough. The only ones who would be able to protect private property rights would be those individuals who actually possessed and were able to defend their own hunk of rock.

So, if enough people go out there and start claiming asteroids, there is no way that the UN or any imaginable SpacePolice force could "determine and defend" private property rights. No provisions could conceivably exist for forcing people to conform to the UN Outer Space Treaty. The only way to enforce the treaty is to prevent private individuals from going (or sending their robots) out there, forever and ever. Come to think of it, that explains a lot about NASA's actions over the last 35 years.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Space Video of the Day is moving

Over the last half a year I have posted a space video of the day on most days. At the same time, my actual blogging here has shriveled away to nearly nothing. So, I'm going to move the space video of the day off this blog entirely, and starting tomorrow will be posting it instead at Space Feeds; that site is a more natural location for the space video of the day anyhow. I'll still be posting things here, but rather than daily space videos it will be more conventional blogging, like I did for the first four years on Robot Guy.

Space Video of the Day - 071217

Today's space video of the day is the final episode of the 1997 documentary miniseries Stephen Hawking's Universe; this episode is entitled the Answer to Everything. It doesn't get much more comprehensive than that.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I have decided to allow comments throuh the Blogger system in addition to the Haloscan comments. Previously I did not moderate comments that came through Blogger, but I had a lot of problems with spam, so now the comments that go through Blogger will be moderated.

Space Video of the Day - 071215

Today's space video of the day is episode 5 of the 1997 documentary miniseries Stephen Hawking's Universe; this episode is entitled Black Holes and Beyond.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071213

Today's space video of the day continues the 1997 miniseries Stephen Hawking's Universe. This is episode 4: On the Dark Side.

Space Video of the Day Archive

carnival time

The 33rd Carnival of Space is up at Universe Today. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time that the folks at Astronomy Picture of the Day have contributed to the carnival of space.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071210

Earlier today, SpaceX released a monster update of their activities. Included with the update were links to several videos; unfortunately, whether through incorrect URLs in the update or overloading of their servers, I was unable to watch any of their videos. What I do have is today's Space Video of the Day, taken about a month ago at SpaceX's BFTS facility (the acronym officially stands for Big Falcon Test Stand, however one would be excused for thinking that the original meaning of the F was something different, as the BFTS stands 238 feet tall). This is a full 170-second test of their Merlin 1-C engine, which will power all Falcon-9 rockets in the future.

It should be noted that the amount spent by SpaceX on developing the Falcon-1, Falcon-9, the Dragon (seven-member crew capsule), several completely new rocket engines, the BFTS, and their facilities in California, Texas, Florida, and the equatorial Pacific since the company's inception six years ago totals about what NASA spends every week and a half: that's the difference between a guy (Elon Musk) using his own money, and a government agency frittering away taxpayers' dollars.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071209

Today's space video of the day is a news conference given earlier today by NASA. On four out of the last seven launches, the engine cut-off sensors have failed during the shuttle external tank filling process, and it happened yet again today. After over a hundred launches they still haven't figured out the problem with this relatively simple back-up part, which doesn't speak well for the level of competence of those involved with Shuttle operations - no matter what lame excuses you hear in this video. With the ECO sensors they seem to be repeating the mistake which brought down the space shuttle Columbia: "oh, this particular problem hasn't killed anyone yet, so maybe it isn't that big of a deal".

Also, I am pretty sure that the external tank being used on this particular shuttle launch, which was to launch the ESA's Columbus module to the international space station, is the same tank that was so heavily damaged by hail in a launch attempt earlier in this year - and NASA still hasn't figured out that putting up a simple tent to protect their two billion dollar asset from hail is a good idea.

I am thoroughly disgusted by NASA. They are giving rocket science a bad name.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Friday, December 07, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071207

Today's space video of the day continues the 1997 miniseries Stephen Hawking's Universe. This is episode 2: the Big Bang. I'm going to be trying something new with the video today, putting all five segments into a playlist; the segments should automatically follow one another within the single video frame.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Carnival of Space #32

Welcome to the 32nd Carnival of Space. Since these things generally have some sort of theme, this week's Carnival will start out on the ground and get progressively farther from Terra Firma.

We'll start out with world traveller and cosmologist Louise Riofrio of A Babe in the Universe, whose travels have taken her to New York on the way to Princeton. While in New York she visited Grand Central Station, with its celestial model on the ceiling, and finished with a night at the American Museum of Natural History. There is no word on whether Louise wore her skin-tight spacesuit in the museum.

With the price of oil flirting with the $90 per barrel mark, Darnell Clayton of Colony Worlds shows that the way to make space relevant to the average person is the energy, stupid! Whether it is mining of Helium-3 or solar power satellites, outer space holds the promise of cheap, clean energy.

Next, we take a trip to the moon. China's Chang'e spacecraft began taking pictures of the moon's surface recently, and some accused China of plagarizing a NASA photo from 2005. Nancy Houser of A Mars Odyssey says that China's space program is actually fairly ambitious, and mocks those who suggest that China might have faked a moon photo.

Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society also says that the Chinese moon photo isn't a fake - but that the Chinese rebuttal of the accusation, which pointed to a new feature evident in the Chang'e image, is in error.

Stuart Atkinson of TheVerse notes the stunning images of the moon taken recently by Japan, China, and the European Space agency. While Stuart, a self-confessed lifetime Mars fan(atic) has been waiting for "bootprints on Barsoom", his love of the Red Planet has until recently blinded him to the fact that the Moon is cool again.

Speaking of the Red Planet, Fraser Cain of Universe Today says that future Mars explorers might never actually set foot on Mars; instead they would remain in orbit and operate robots on the planet's surface.

Going a little further out, my favorite Astropixie, Amanda Bauer (ok, she's the only astropixie I know of, why can't she be my favorite?) explains some interesting features of a composite photo of Jupiter and Io taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto. She was particularly excited by the 200-mile-high volcanic plume of Io's famous volcano, Tvashtar, which is only one of 36 actively flowing volcanos on Io's surface.

The Space Files says that an old idea about travel around the solar system, the Solar Sail, is about to rise again, this time on a more reliable rocket. Space Files also goes into the history of the solar sail idea in some detail, with lots of pictures.

It might come as a surprise that Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has been attending mass - but of course, what he is talking about is not the Catholic tradition, but rather attending to the question of whether "mass" can be used as a verb. The answer he comes up with is that when it comes to stars, it can - and it makes for better writing, too.

Spreading out into the galaxy, Paul Gilster of Centauri Dreams carnival entry for this week is called Of Young Stars and Ancient Planets. This is a discussion of recent work on how young planetary systems form, but goes on from there to look at an interesting Russian study that speculates on whether stars in our part of the galaxy that can support terrestrial worlds may be a fairly recent phenomenon. This has implications for the Fermi question: Where are they?

Since I'm hosting this Carnival, I suppose I get the last word. That fits thematically too, because this week's Space Video of the Week is way, way, way out there: the definitive bad science fiction movie Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Update: Whoops! for some strange reason my mail account sent several carnival entries into the Spam bin, which is really stupid since they were all routed through Fraser. I blame Yahoo. Sorry about that, folks.

Music of the Spheres gave a review of the book Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. Mark Whittington says that Barack Obama is pitting the space program against school kids. Advanced Nano has a review of some of his favorite launch system proposals.

So that's it for this week's Carnival of Space. If you would like to enter next week's Carnival, be sure to email your entry to; also feel free to visit visit Universe Today for the Carnival archives (which Fraser should really update, ahem hint hint).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071202

Today's space video of the day is taken from one of my favorite (and one of the best) science fiction movies ever. These are several scenes from the 1950 classic, Destination Moon.


big trouble


Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071201

Today's space video of the day is from the Google Tech Talk series, and is entitled Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071128

It isn't often that I find old movies that have become part of the public domain, particularly a movie that is space-themed. So, I was quite happy to find a classic of the genre - if, by "the genre", one means "really really really bad science fiction". It has everything: a Big Star (Bela Lugosi)! Zombies! Aliens! Zombie Aliens! So, without further ado, allow me to present today's space video of the day: Plan 9 From Outer Space!

This is the Space Video of the Week. Be sure to check out the Space Video of the Day Archive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071127

Sorry about the lack of posting over the previous week; I've been busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. Regular posting of space videos resumes today with a look at the New Horizons spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter, which took place in late February of this year.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071120

Today's space video of the day is again from the History Channel's series, The Universe, with this episode entitled the Life and Death of a Star. As an aside, I want to point out that Keith Cowing at NASAwatch has also started posting space videos fairly regularly; be sure to check his videos out.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071118

Occasionally a large company will realize the value of YouTube. One such company is National Geographic, which has uploaded more than two hundred videos to the site. Today's space video of the day is produced by National Geographic, taking us inside the eye of a solar storm.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071115

An "earthrise" is only visible from objects which orbit the moon. Japan's KAYUGA spacecraft is doing that right now, and prouced this (high definition) video of an earthrise and a setting earth. There's no sound in this space video of the day; in space, no one can hear you giggle.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071113

On Sunday the Amateur Spaceflight Association in Housoton test fired their 2000 pound thrust liquid-fuelled rocket motor; the test is today's Space Video of the Day. It looks like the only casualty was a camera placed too close to the exhaust.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071111

Today's space video of the day is a documentary about New Horizons, the mission to Pluto.

Update: here are parts 3 and 4:

Space Video of the Day Archive

Never Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— John McCrae

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071110

Sometimes I think that the only part of NASA that is worth anything is the Jet Propulsion Lab. If you look at the last several years, the majorly cool missions - the ones where the edge of the envelope of science are being pushed - are all being done by JPL. Today's space video of the day shows JPL's latest innovation, a robot platform called ATHELETE. There are several things I like about this ATHELETE robot. First of all, it can easily be envisioned as a common platform for plenty of future robotics missions. The design is so versatile - with the legs useable as wheels or legs or tool actuators - that dozens of future missions could all be accomplished with this same platform as a basis. Secondly, I can see how this design could be packed into a launch vehicle; when all the legs are folded up, one ends up with a hexagonal prism less than a foot tall. Third, there are lots of cameras - at least a dozen pairs of stereo cameras available, surrounding the robot body and one pair on every wheel. This is the sort of thing that all of NASA should be doing: innovating. Why is it that only JPL seems to understand that?

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Comments

A persistent spammer has forced me to shut down the Blogger comments, as there was no way to filter that person out using Blogger. However, I still want legitimate comments, so I have added Haloscan commenting to the blog. I have kept the Blogger comments in my blog template, so people searching through the archives can still read those; however, I am the only one who can post new comments via the Blogger commenting system. Anyone can use the Haloscan comments, but if I get spammers in the future then at least I can filter them out via their IP address. We'll see how it goes.

Space Video of the Day - 071108

Today's space video of the day shows some animations of possible future moon bases, space stations, and cities on the moon.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071106

This is a little different for the space video of the day. It is a speech by Burt Rutan given in 2005 to the National Space Society, basically tearing NASA lots of new orifices.

This is the Space Video of the Week. Be sure to check out the Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, November 05, 2007

no more anonymous comments

A spammer from has been leaving a whole bunch of comments on my last few posts. I suspect that it is either a person with way too much time on their hands or else a spambot has found a way around the Captcha system. Well, I had enough of that BS; from now on, only registered users can leave comments on the blog. If anyone wants to leave me a comment without registering with Blogger/Google, then they can find my email address in the sidebar. Note that clicking on the badge in the sidebar doesn't bring up my email address - you actually have to read it and copy it yourself. Die spambots, die.

Update: That spammer from boxsweeper is one persistent expletive deleted. I have disabled all comments for now, at least until I can come up with a new commenting system that will block this spammer.

Space Video of the Day - 071105

In today's space video of the day, Woody Woodpecker explains rocket science (from the 1950 movie Destination Moon).

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071104

Today's Space Video of the Day is the first installment of This Week In Space, produced by the Rockets Away! blog, and hosted by Louise Riofrio of A Babe In The Universe.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071103

Today's space video of the day shows astronauts performing a tricky repair on a tear in a solar panel array on the international space station. Parts of the video have been sped up to fit what was a more than seven hour spacewalk into this ten minute video.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Friday, November 02, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071102

Today's space video is a BBC: Horizons documentary on supermassive black holes, and their role in the formation of galaxies.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071101

This past weekend at the X-Prize Cup, Armadillo Aerospace was the only team to compete in the Lunar Lander Challenge. They came oh so close to winning, too, needing only to hover for a few seconds longer. Today's space video shows their first attempt to win the prize at this year's cup. It looks to me like the Module 1 craft started to oscillate after having hovered for a fairly long time, which probably led to sloshing withing the tanks, which made the oscillations worse, and so on. It ended up crashing from a height of a few feet.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071031

The International Space Station suffered a bit of a problem during the redeployment of a solar panel array. As the panel array was being extended, a two and a half foot long rip appeared, halting the redeployment operation. Today's space video shows the redeployment procedure right up to the operation abort.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071030

Today's space video is the conclusion of War of the Worlds, in doll-o-vision, with audio as presented by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre troupe 69 years ago today.

Part 2 Chapter 1

Part 2 Chapter 2

Part 2 Chapter 3

Part 2 Chapter 4

Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, October 29, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071029

Today's space video of the day continues the War of the Worlds week with part 1, chapters 5 through 8. Chapters 1 through 4 may be found here.

Part 1 Chapter 5

Part 1 Chapter 6

Part 1 Chapter 7

Part 1 Chapter 8

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071028

69 years ago, on October 30, 1938, Orson Welles scared the hell out of radio listeners with a reading of H.G.Wells' War of the Worlds. Today and for the next couple days the space video of the day will be an animated (with dolls) version of the Mercury Theatre radio play. (hat tip to The Discovery Enterprise)

Part 1 Chapter 1

Part 1 Chapter 2

Part 1 Chapter 3

Part 1 Chapter 4

Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071027

George Lucas made the term "Death Star" famous. His version of the Death Star was a manmade object capable of destroying the planet that it orbited. Well, nature has done George Lucas one better. There are real Death Stars throughout the universe, natural objects that would wipe out all life on Earth from a vast distance; if one went off three hundred light years away, it would cook the Earth with the energy of a million suns, like a nuclear blast everywhere on earth at once. Today's space video of the day is a BBC documentary (in five short parts) on these natural Death Stars, the sources of Gamma Ray Bursts.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Friday, October 26, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071026

People have long been fascinated with the possibility of alien intelligence. A common theme in fiction has been the potential of an invasion of Earth by aliens, whether it was Orson Welles scaring the hell out of everyone with a radio performance of War of the Worlds or the campiness of Independence Day. Video game designers have also tapped into this theme for decades. One of the first such examples of this is also one of the first arcade video games, Space Invaders. Today's space video of the day shows a unique animation of this classic video game, using people as pixels and a theater as the dot matrix.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071025

Today's space video of the day won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It is also an extra on the Men In Black 2 DVD. Man, I wish I was this funny. Be sure to watch through the credits for a surprise ending.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071024

Yesterday the space shuttle Discovery launched to the international space station, lofting the Node 2 (Harmony) module. Today's space video of the day shows the flawless liftoff.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071023

The Cassini mission has been sending back some spectacular pictures of Saturn's neighborhood. Today's space video was taken by Cassini as it flew by Saturn's moon Iapetus. The mountain ridge in the center of the moon is over ten kilometers tall (Mount Everest is 8.85 kilometers tall), so these are some of the tallest mountains in the solar system; only Maxwell Montes on Venus and Olympus Mons on Mars are taller.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, October 22, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071022

Today's space video of the day is unlike anything I've posted before. Alien Irwin productions is putting together an animated film, using marionettes such as the ones in Thunderbirds or Team America: World Police, but with human mouths overlayed upon the marionette's mouths. Today's video is a demo clip from the movie, Spacescape. The action is set in Earth orbit, in and around the first space hotel. Much of the technology shown in the video is very well thought out, and borrowed from serious space development projects. For instance, the hotel is built out of expended space shuttle external tanks, using orbital maneuvering vehicles. The craft used by the hero while in space is a Lockheed-Martin X33. Th story is pretty good too; this demo was put together in the hopes of securing enough funds to make a feature film, or at least further episodes.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071021

I used to love the Muppet Show when I was a kid. One of the regular features on the show was Pigs In Space. Today's space video is a collection of several Pigs In Space episodes.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071020

A few days ago someone asked me for an RSS type feed that would describe the celestial events of the evening. Obviously this would vary from place to place aroud the earth, so it would be very difficult to have a single feed that would encompass all possible viewing areas on the planet. Instead, there are a number of free software programs available that allow one to view the night sky from anywhere on the earth, cloud-free and with labels. The program discussed in today's space video is Stellarium, but there are a number of other programs like Celestia, Distant Suns, and the Sky Screen Saver. Also, Space Weather has up-to-date information on meteor storms, aurorae, and other events happening in our planetary neighborhood. Further visalization programs are available in the Images, Models, and Simulations category in the Big List O' Space Links on my Space Feeds aggregator. I hope that helps, Nick.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Friday, October 19, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071019

OK, so I didn't post a video yesterday, so today's space video of the day is actually two videos: parts 1 and 2 of Return To Venus.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071017

Today's space video of the day shows some of the companies involved in the new private spaceflight industry, as highlighted by Michael Belfiore in his book Rocketeers.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, October 15, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071015

The University of Arizona wants to send a spacecraft called OSIRIS to collect a sample of the Near Earth Aseroid RQ-36. They have put together the retro-look video Destination: Asteroid to explain their mission plan.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Something has come up this week, and it's going to keep me busy all week; I may or may not get a chance to post this week, but I'll be back for sure on Monday.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071008

Today's space video of the day is a collection of video taken on the various Apollo missions, set to the music of Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071006

Here's Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield describing one of the mundane but crucial elements of human exploration of outer space: the Space Toilet.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Friday, October 05, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071005

Yesterday wasn't just the anniversary of Sputnik. Three years ago SpaceShipOne, built by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, won the Ansari X-Prize by being the first private manned and passenger-capable vehicle to rocket up past 100km in atltitude twice within the space of two weeks (the Scaled team actually did it twice within five days). Today's space video of the day shows (I believe) Brian Binnie on the winning second launch.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071004

Fifty years ago today, the world freaked out as the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite: Sputnik.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071003

I used to love the TV series Space:1999 when I was a kid. Today's space videos are both taken from that show. First, the opening sequence:

Next, here's what Space:1999 might have looked like if it were a silent movie. This is Space:1899. (warning: some naughty language)

Space Video of the Day Archive

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 071002

The early US space program was sort of hit-or-miss as far as sucessfully getting rockets off the ground goes. Today's space video shows some of the early US rockets, both successful and not so much, set to the music of (among other pieces) Pomp and Circumstance and Flight of the Bumblebee.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070930

A few years ago, rabid Star Trek fan James Cawley wondered what a fourth season of the original Star Trek series would look like. He obtained the blueprints of the original set and started building the old Enterprise bridge in his barn. Then, with some other like-minded souls, he put together a pilot for the fourth season, complete with special effects (and starring, you guessed it, himself as Captain Kirk). Well, Star Trek: New Voyages became an instant hit online. Since that first show, the production values have become better and better, and the New Voyages team has attracted some of the original stars of the show in guest roles, and even got D.C.Fontana to write an episode. Today's space video of the day is the trailer for the new episode, released in August, called World Enough and Time. This episode features George Takei in a guest starring role, with a cameo by Grace Lee Whitney and the computer voice performed by Majel Barret Roddenberry. The entire episode is available on the New Voyages website.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, September 29, 2007

what the...

OK, I give up. I have been reading this comic strip for months, and I still have no clue what the heck is going on. A little help...? I mean, what's up with the flesh-eating zombies, and the angst of multitudes of characters that all look exactly like each other, and, and... arrgh.

Space Video of the Day - 070929

Today's space video shows the launch of the Dawn spacecraft, bound for the asteroids Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015. I have argued before on this blog for the outright cancellation of the mission (and the firings and possible prosecution for fraud of the mission manangers, due to the enormous cost overruns and delays), but it is on it's way now. Hopefully the mission proves to be worth being nearly 40% over budget and several years late.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070926

Today's space video is a rather long one, broken up into five sections - a History Channel program called Mars: the Red Planet.

This is the Space Video of the Week. Be sure to check out the Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070922

Not all rocket launches take place from the ground. On April 25, 2007, NASA launched the AIM satellite on a Pegasus rocket, which is brought to high altitude and high speed by a carrier plane before being dropped and ignited, much like Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070920

Today's space video of the day is a retrospective of the 42 year career of John Young, Orlando's favorite son and astronaut extraordinaire, which was produced by NASA on his retirement in 2004.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070918

Today's space video is actually two videos, parts 1 and 2 of a video about America's first space station, Skylab.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Monday, September 17, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070917

A week ago, the Cassini spacecraft did a flyby of Saturn's moon Iapetus, giving us the clearest view yet of this strange moon. There is an equatorial mountain range circling the moon, with some mountains up to 20 kilometers tall; it almost looks like the moon was broken apart and squished back together.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070916

On September 14th, the Japanese Space Agency launched their KAYUGA probe to the moon; today's space video shows the launch of the spacecraft.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070914

In the 1920s, the Orteig prize was offered for the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, in an effort to increase research on aircraft. Won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, the Orteig prize sparked innovation in the aircraft industry. Similarly, in 1999, the X-Prize (later the Ansari X-Prize) was a $10 million prize offered for the first team to send a craft capable of carrying passengers above 100 miles altitude twice in the span of two weeks. This was won in 2004 by Scaled Composites, and it sparked the beginnings of a suborbital launch industry that will be offering launches to paying customers before the end of the decade.

Yesterday Google and the X-Prize foundation announced the Google Lunar X Prize, the largest international prize in history, with $30 million in prizes up for grabs. The $20 million first prize is for the first team to soft-land a robot on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and return panoramic images and video. The $5 million second prize goes to the second team to complete the task, and the remaining $5 million is for bonus prizes for such things as surviving the 14.5 day lunar night, for imaging an Apollo landing site, for travelling longer distances (ie 5 km) and/or for verifying the presence of water ice in the permanently-shaded crater bottoms on the lunar poles. The first prize is available until December 31, 2012, and the contest closes on December 31, 2014.

I am going to enter this competition (I didn't name this blog Robot Guy for no reason). Of course, I'm not going to do this all by myself, but the team I am on includes some very smart engineers, including the guy who invented the afterburner and the thrust tubes used on all supersonic aircraft today. I am very excited about this prize, and even if I don't win it will spark innovation in both the launch industry and in autonomous robotics.

Space Video of the Day Archive

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Space Video of the Day - 070910

Today's space video of the day is the pivotal scene from the classic science fiction movie 2001: a space odyssey. Open the pod bay doors please, HAL.

Space Video of the Day Archive