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Blog Entries from 2007-06-01 to 2008-09-12

American Oil Dependence
What region supplies the most oil to the US?
  • United States is first, supplying itself 1.64 billion barrels last year (roughly a quarter of total oil used).
  • Then NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, supply 1.43 billion barrels.
  • Then Africa at 987 million.
  • Then Latin America at 930 million.
  • Fifth is Middle East at 805 million.
  • Europe/Former Soviet Union is sixth at 530 million.

See U.S. Imports by Country of Origin.
Space Based Solar Power
Promotional alternative energy video for the next U.S. president.

The soundtrack is a little annoying and the narrative ignores the hugh hurdle of the cost of access to space. However, it is a good overview of the alternative energy opportunity.

A Day In United States Airspace

FlightAware offers this live flight tracker of US airspace and a QuickTime animation of a day of U.S. air traffic. FlightAware also has live maps of local airports such as Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Beausoleil Island 2008
Weekend camping with relatives on Beausoleil Island in the Georgian Bay. Click on the photo for the Flickr set.
Sunday in Chicago
Pleasant day on the Navy Pier and Chicago River. Click on the photo for the Flickr set.
Family Reunion in Berrien Springs
Rode Amtrak's Lakeshore Limited to a reunion along the Saint Joseph River in Michigan.
Click on the photo for the Flickr set.
London with Virgin Media
Business trip with colleagues from Synacor. Click on the photo for the Flickr set.

Business trip with colleagues from Synacor. Click on the photo for the Flickr set.
Launch Services and the Aldridge Commission
The Report of the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy was delivered in June 2004 by a panel chaired by Pete Aldridge. The Report articulated that the successful implementation of the national space exploration vision would require significant cultural and organizational changes in the federal government’s approach to managing the effort. This month, I'll revisit aspects of the Exploration Architecture to see where the Report had little influence on NASA's implementation.

NASA recognize and implement a far larger presence of private industry in space operations with the specific goal of allowing private industry to assume the primary role of providing services to NASA, and most immediately in accessing low-Earth

  • NASA discounted the available private industry Delta IV and Atlas V options and instead opted for a government designed and operated Ares I and Ares V launcher family.

For years later....

Report of the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy

A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover

June 2004

In the Shadow of the Moon
Just finished an excellent documentary of the Apollo Program by Ron Howard: In the Shadow of the Moon.

In the Shadow of the Moon Poster

Not Your Father's Space Program
The Atlantic Monthly: Who needs NASA when private enterprise is turning the stuff of science fiction into reality?

There's little doubt that most of these ventures will crash and burn, metaphorically if not literally (since this really is rocket science). But because the new ferment in commercial space activity means that NASA isn't the only game in town, it doesn't matter if dozens of space companies fail—so long as some succeed. In this regard, it's an environment more like aviation or automobiles in the 1920s, or computers in the 1970s and 1980s, than like space in the "Right Stuff" era of the 1960s.

Politics and command-and-control systems got us to the moon in a decade, but they proved powerless to keep us there. Achieving a space-faring civilization incrementally though profit-making enterprise may take longer, but such an approach doesn't depend on the whims of Presidents, or on right guesses by NASA. It's an approach that takes patience—a quality that has arrived, as it often does, through a combination of time and disappointment.

Not Your Father's Space Program
The Atlantic
June 5, 2008
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Fastest Space Transport: 42,000 Miles per Hour

While much of our discussion involves space transportation in Earth suborbital, Earth orbital and Cislunar space, it is worth considering how the current state-of-the-art scales to other destinations in space.

The fastest spacecraft flying today is NASA's New Horizon mission which is racing to Pluto at ~42,000 miles per hour. It was launched on an Atlas V on January 19, 2006 and accelerated to heliocentric escape velocity by a Boeing Star 48 upper stage. It should reach Pluto by July 2015.

Looking out further, the distance from the Sun to Alpha Centauri, in the next nearest star system, is 25.7 x 10^12 miles; approximately 276,000 times farther away than from Earth to the Sun. Transport to Alpha Centauri, traveling at the same Atlas V + Star 48 + gravity assist velocity of 368.2 x 10^6 miles in a year, would require a one-way trip of ~700,000 years.

If New Horizons had the stamina to continue and traverse the entire Milky Way galaxy (100,000 light years across) it would take
approximately 1.6 billion years to go from one side of the spiral galaxy to the other.

Consider the unfathomable: the comoving distance from Earth to the edge of the observable universe is 46.5 billion light-years. If cosmic expansion froze, New Horizons could travel across today's observable universe in 742 trillion years - or 54 thousands times older than the age of universe.

Space transport technology has quite a ways to go! I'll stick with the barely imaginable cislunar transport market.

Travels in the Hawaiian Islands
Belated honeymooning for a week on Oahu and Maui. Click on the photo for the Flickr set.

EarthNow! Landsat Image Viewer
Live LandSat feed from Earth orbit

Landsat satellites have been acquiring images of the Earth's land surface since 1972. Currently there are more than 2 million Landsat images in the National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive.

See the live broadcast:

Lincoln's Avenger: Christian Ulrich (1839-1906)
Joshua's Great Great Great Great Uncle was born in Württemberg, Germany.

After immigrating to the United States at age 7 he settled on a farm near Buffalo, New York. Later in life he joined the U.S. Army and fought in the Civil War. On April 26, 1865, 3 miles from Port Royal, VA, Private Ulrich, one of 25 men of Company E-16th New York (Lincoln's Avenger) Cavalry, captured John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. Christian Ulrich is buried in a cemetery in West Seneca, New York off of Reservation Road.

Verizon Wireless Broadband Access
In rural northern Erie County, EV-DO access with Verizon Wireless is a little slow.
Sunshine (2007)
Great science fiction movie set 50 years in the future.

Featured a level of technical accuracy unusual for Hollywood. The spacecraft assembly resembles something evolved from the International Space Station and - great space walks! Recommend watching it.

Sunshine (2007)
Frustrations with NASA's ESAS
Why does NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study forgo a sustainable and open approach?

Bob Mahoney gets to the heart of the matter of why many space development insiders are frustrated with NASA's current spaceflight architecture.

Somewhat as a clamor in the wilderness

The Space Review - Monday, February 11, 2008

Why was there an apparent unwritten prohibition against any in-space supporting infrastructure, such as refueling/refurbishment depots for space-based aerobraking orbital transfer vehicles or space tether momentum-transfer facilities in Earth orbit, lunar orbit, or at any of the five Earth/Moon Lagrangian points? How does launch of all hardware from the Earth’s surface (historically the most bottleneck-prone aspect of space operations) on every single flight contribute to the long-term viability of supporting a (presumably) growing outpost on the lunar surface that should in time provide in-situ resources, including rocket propellant?

Why are we choosing to throw away so much multi-million-dollar hardware (e.g., the Earth Departure Stage, the Orion Service Module, the Altair lander stages) with each and every flight to the Moon, when we spent the last thirty-five years of shuttle development and operations advancing the technologies of reusable spacecraft? What criteria determined that this disposable toss-as-you-go scheme was the optimum way to establish a long-term space exploration architecture robust enough to support continued operations on the lunar surface, asteroid exploration, and eventual manned Mars missions?

Imperial History of the Middle East
Visualize 5000 years of changing territory in 90 seconds.

Mars Water Map by 2001 Mars Odyssey
The 2001 Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer mapped water frozen in the ground near the surface of Mars.

Finding water on Mars is a key science objective on the path to uncovering past or present life on the red planet.

Mars Water Map

Family Tree DNA
Genealogy by Genetics runs the MyFTDNA web portal for individuals who have sequenced their own DNA to identify specific genographic markers.

Through the MyFTDNA portal, users can upload their DNA profile to find genetic matches with other users. This process is enhanced with the uploading of traditional family tree GEDCOM files.

See for more info.

I recommend National Geographic's Genographic Project if you'd like to have your DNA sequenced. Through the Genographic Project I now have this map showing the journey of my direct male ancestors tracked by Y-chromosome

Spacecraft for the Universal Modification of Orbits
A technology risk reduction program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and executed by the Naval Center for Space Technology (NCST)

SUMO will demonstrate the integration of machine vision, robotics, mechanisms, and autonomous control algorithms to accomplish autonomous rendezvous and grapple of a variety of interfaces traceable to future spacecraft servicing operations. SUMO is designed to service many types of spacecraft without requiring servicing aids; however, it can take advantage of such aids if they exist.

Read more about the Spacecraft for the Universal Modification of Orbits (SUMO).

Setting Iframe Height to Iframe Content Height
Setting the height of an iframe to the height of the document loaded into it so the regular window scrollbars can be used is not possible if the document loaded is from a web server other than the parent iframe document.

This JavaScript example from Dynamic Web coding shows how to set the height of the iframe to the height of the document loaded into it so the regular window scrollbars can be used.

Setting Iframe Element Height to Iframe Content Height

However, if the parent document iframe needs to call a child document on another web server, the child document is unable to set the iframe height to its content height due to the JavaScript Same Origin Policy.

JavaScript Security: Same Origin Policy

Great Lakes Drainage Basin

While the Great Lakes hold a tremendous volume of fresh water, they only drain a land area surprisingly close to their shores. The Great Lakes are youthful, on a geologic time scale. The Lakes formed under ice cap scouring and depression during the Wisconsin Glaciation only a few thousand years ago. (The Earth is over 4 billion years old.) See the illustration below from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

NASA Plans Asteroid Interceptor
Launched by an Ares V, the nuclear interceptor spacecraft could deflect near Earth asteroids of 100-500m diameter two years before impact, and larger asteroids with at least five years warning. NASA plans 'Armageddon' spacecraft to blast asteroid
By Rob Coppinger
August 3, 2007
Flight International

Each interceptor vehicle, with a terminal rendezvous package (TRP),
would have a hydrazine-fuelled engine, a nitrogen tetroxide reaction
control system and a lidar, and W/NFOV cameras for guidance.

The first vehicle/TRP could be launched, for a stand-off detonation
near the NEO, 5h before the last interceptor's release, or the six TRPs
could arrive at 1h intervals where the Cradle is 100h from intercept.

The warheads would explode at a distance of one-third of the NEO's
diameter and each detonation's X and gamma rays and neutrons would turn
part of the NEO's surface into an expanding plasma to generate a force
to deflect the asteroid.
Home Constructed
In June 2007 we moved in to our newly constructed home in Clarence, New York.