Places I should be traveling to

NASA posted high resolution scans of all the Apollo photos, so obviously I had to browse through them. A few thoughts: When you see the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module at high resolution, or in real life, it looks really crap. It’s like something welded together out of dented leftover sheet metal and wrapped in aluminium foil. Obviously part of the design problem was making it as lightweight as possible, but it’s hard to believe that something so flimsy looking landed on the moon and took off again.

Shuttle porn at 0.007 mpg

Someone with a new Nikon digital SLR took a bunch of photos of the Space Shuttle as it rolled out to the launch pad from the Vehicle Assembly Building. Sheesh, that thing looks skanky, the right side looks like a model that someone’s spilt coffee on. Now I understand what they mean by “ageing shuttle fleet”. I’m not sure I’d want to fly in it. There are more photos posted at keyhole.

Choices, choices

Amount NASA will save by cancelling the Voyager 1 and 2 projects and no longer receiving the scientific data they are sending: $4 million. Amount NASA plans to spend in 2005-2006(PDF) to improve their IFMP financial reporting system: $77 million.


I’m not sure I can explain why space travel means so much to me.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting with my grandfather, watching one of the Apollo moon landings on TV. I’m not sure which one, but since the Lunar Rover was involved it must have been one of the later ones. I would watch Sci Fi TV shows with him as well. “UFO”, in particular, and sometimes “Dr Who” if it wasn’t too scary.

Later I began reading SF, starting with Arthur C. Clarke. By then “Space:1999” was on TV, and soon I read the novel of “2001”. I remember working out how old I would be in the year 2000. With some delight, I calculated that I would be the right age to be one of the people working on the moonbase. So that became my plan.

I learnt everything I could about the space program. I collected books about astronomy, and books with diagrams of how rocket engines worked. I learned about relativity, zero gravity, orbits, black holes, red shifts and how zero gravity bathrooms worked, all before I’d got as far as trigonometry at school. I memorized the sequence of vehicle maneuvers for an Apollo moon landing. I studied souvenir brochures from the Kennedy Space Center, with pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building, Skylab, Soyuz, Gemini, and the Angry Alligator.

Jews… in… spaaace!

Israel’s first astronaut is about to fly on Space Shuttle Columbia. This brings to mind all kinds of intriguing questions. Like, have the Rabbis ruled on when you should observe the sabbath if you’re in a non-geostationary orbit? Do you wear a yarmulke inside a space helmet? Can you operate a space suit on the sabbath or do you have to hold your breath? Presumably the first Muslim in low orbit will need some kind of motorized zero-G prayer harness with automatic Mecca-seeking action.

Pluto (not the dog)

In order to save 50¢ per taxpayer, George W. Bush has cut NASA’s budget so that they can’t afford to send an unmanned mission to Pluto. The problem is, the last viable launch window to get a gravitational slingshot to Pluto is in 2006. If we don’t hit that window, Pluto will move too far away from the sun, and its atmosphere will freeze and precipitate out onto the planet’s surface.


I think that discovering evidence of alien life would be the best thing that could possibly happen tomorrow. Then, when mankind wipes itself out in a few years’ time, I could at least die knowing that the entire universe wasn’t wasted on just us.