Welcome to the first Friday in 2012! Let’s make it a good one. Here’s a fun roundup for this week.
Around the Solar System
Eight years ago this week, on January 3, 2004 (California Time) the Spirit Rover touched down at Gusev Crater. If you want a pick-me-up, watch this great highlight video of the touchdown sequence as it was experienced by the flight controllers and mission managers in the JPL control room.
I can’t wait to see this same scene in 8 months when Curiosity lands at Gale Crater.
Speaking of Mars Rovers, Opportunity is still alive and well, also about 8 years after her landing. With Martian Winter approaching, the engineers at JPL appear to have found Oppy’s parking space for the season.
On January 4 the ISS had a beautiful 6:30 PM pass over us here in Houston. The pass lasted 6 minutes, was as bright as Venus, and halfway through passed right in front of the waxing moon. Here’s a picture of the event from NASA.
I managed to see the flyover from my apartment. The clouds parted around the moon just in time, but I was too far West and the ISS passed over the eclipsed side of the moon for me.
Here’s a nice long interview that the ISS crew did with Fox News Radio this week.
Down to Earth
India’s plans for manned spaceflight seem to have slipped into the next decade.
40 years ago in 1972, President Richard Nixon met with the NASA Administrator to discuss the Space Shuttle concept.
NASA’s MPCV – or Orion – crew capsule will have it’s last water drop test today in Virginia.
Based on this trailer, I am skeptical about the film’s scientific accuracy. There is a lot of CGI that is misrepresenting the density of debris in low earth orbit. To point, if you were to be standing on top of one piece of space debris, there is no way with the human eye you would be able to see any other piece of debris – just like the asteroid belt. However, in their dramatic trailer they show fields of junk. I’m just hoping this movie will be better than it looks and serve to educate rather than spread misconceptions.
The Personal Spaceflight blog has an interesting critique on high altitude balloon tourism – specifically a discussion the New Scientist article about the new company Zero2Infinity that wants to charge almost $150,000 for a 2 hour trip to 36 km altitude (that’s 64 km below the Karman Line). It’s a good analysis. Ballooning at that altitude would be fun, but it’s missing a lot of the key components of spaceflight and I don’t think it would be worth the hefty pricetag when compared to what Virgin Galactic is offering for just about $60,000 more.