Jul 022011

I should stow this until Atlantis is safely back on the ground, but I can’t stop braining so all I can do is write.

Everything is pointing towards this really being the beginning of the end. How many times in human history has a civilization put a mega-scale project down, and then actually picked it back up again?

After Atlantis lands, the U.S. will be unable to put a manned vehicle into Earth orbit, will be unable to performed extra-vehicular activities, and has no operational plans to recover these abilities in the future. The plan is essentially to rely on industry to provide these are commercial services.

Rather than focus on the Richard K. Morgan style sexually explicit gore of this nightmare- I’ll do something else.

I’ll tell you what I believe a planet of almost 7 billion people could do in one year.

We could effectively end hunger. With the cooperation of industrialized nations we could begin a systematic campaign to eleminate malnutrition world-wide. Beginning with focused internal national efforts to a) provide baseline nutritional needs to every human being within national borders b) begin massive peace-corps like employment/works campaigns to recruit those willing to bring this to the rest of the world. Beginning in the least-dangerous countries, work will begin to produce environmentally and economically sustainable crops locally using scientifically tested techniques. Moving to more difficult areas will require the potential use of intially overwhelming physical presence and economic force followed by sustainable presence and estabilishment of transparent, world-sanctioned food distribution practices to avoid the potential for local abuse. The absolute most difficult areas such as those in extreme isolation and repression as N. Korea will of course be a persistent problem that could make the goal of 1 year unachievable. However, as the credibility of a world-wide, well-supported anti-hunger movement grows, it may be more and more difficult even the most repressive regimes to deny the potential benefits to their people.
Those countries invested in ending world hunger must first end hunger in their own borders. This is crucial, but this really is the easy part. America has the resources to end hunger now, the only logistal factor in some cases would be finding it, but as the effort became established and sustained this would be less and less of a problem. I don’t feel I have to get into the possible political problems involved in getting this done in  the US, because those problems boil down to the fact that starving children cannot contribute campaign funds. One year, hunger has been defeated in N. America and Europe. Hunger in the rest of the world is getting really scared.

We could end the war on drugs. Actually this one is sort of wrapped up with ending hunger. Basically drugs from marijuana to lsd, cocaine to heroine will be regulated and taxed. Taxes will be used to fund drug rehab, education and
houseing for the non-violent drug offenders that will be released from prison, and of course, ending hunger. Additionally hemp will be re-intruduced as an industrual and food-crop. Hempseed will be used extensively in malnurished areas as it is a complete protein food. Once again special interests such as commercial prison services providers can suck eggs.

We could return to the moon, and launch a mission to mars. Okay, this ones a stretch I know, and I would rather not push a moon landing or mars launch date. I’m gung-ho but I want safe flights, rugged, tested hardware, and extensively trained crews, and I know that takes more than a year even for a return to the moon. Maybe 3 years for a moon return and 5 for a mars launch. That would require a total rededication of funds at least on the order of Apollo. It took 10 years from virtually nothing. For the return to the moon we could have a spacecraft designed in a year, built and tested in another year, and another year for more flight tests and crew training. Then the mars mission could build on that. So why should we? because last time we grew a pair we got ourselves a whole treasure trove of cool new technology out of it, plus a boat-load of science nerds that run university’s and big companies and fuel our economy.


[tminus t=”08-07-2011 15:26:46″ omitweeks=”true” style=”carbonite” id=”STS-135-Liftoff”]— LIFTOFF ATLANTIS!!! —[/tminus]

This really could be titled STS-1 – STS-135, but this is about the last flight of Atlantis OV-104.

Her first flight was on October 3, 1985. She was the last built of the original orbiters. The Endeavor was commissioned to replace the Challenger. Atlantis service time and flight record was second only to Discovery, with very similar statistics.

In 33 missions she helped repair Hubble and build the ISS, deployed 14 satellites including the Magellan and Galileo probes that surveyed Venus and Jupiter.

In a few days her engines will fire and she’ll ride 2,800,000 pounds of thrust into orbit one last time, carrying a crew of veteran astronauts
Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.

This crew will dock with the ISS, deliver equipment and supplies to the ISS, then return to the Earth.

Then the United States of America will forfeit its capability to put human beings into orbit.

For the first time since Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mercury Mission, America will have no flight-ready manned orbital spacecraft, and none in production.

Gus Grissom has something he’d like me to say for him:
“Hey you latte sucking gimps! I died so you yuppies could enjoy satellite radio and talking GPS in your goddamn BMW? Fuck that bull-shit! No fucking way. I died so that Neil, Pete, Dave, Eugene and all my buddies could be your eyes and ears in a place you dream of but cannot reach. I died so that America and the world could look at the stars and see a world waiting for them. I died so that we could begin a new age. Now you fucks have apparently decided the age I died to help create is a little too enlightened and you’d rather wallow in fear and consumption. You’d rather worry about patenting genes and making sure space is profitable.
Space is profitable – you fucks just don’t know how to count.
Grissom OUT!”

Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Vladimir Komarov, the crews of the Challenger, Colombia, and Soyuz 11 share similar sentiments as Gus.

t: +10:00
That’s what manned spaceflight is all about. Unfortunately that’s all there is. The human race will now crawl back into caves and trees and contentedly throw poo at each other. Sentience was fun, wish we could have made more of it.

t: +8:30
15,000mph. 3 good main engines, 3 good APUs, 3 good fuel cells. Standing by for MECO. MECO. ET sep good.

t: +4:30
Gimme MECO baby.

t: +1:40
21 high, 24 downrange, standby for SRB sep. Good sep.

t: +0:30
Roll program complete.

t: -0:10
Main engine start.

t: -0:30 – resuming
Good to go.

t: -0:31 – hold
Some kind of failure here. Doesn’t seem too substantial. Something with a camera? Did’n’t retract from the SRB or something?

t: -1:30 – counting
Florida’s seagull population is cowering.

t: -3:30 – counting
Gimbal check, I love that. Big ole bells, ring baby ring.

t: -5:00 – counting
Retracting that arm. Last time we’ll see that beauty on the pad. Such a calm leviathan, but no gentle giant.

t: -9:00 – resume count
Weather looks good. This is going to happen. Commander said this is only the end of a chapter of a story that will never end. I hope so, but what’s with the frequent and lengthy intermissions?

t: -12:00
Weather looks good from here, but I’m in Baton Rouge…

t: -05:00:00
I probably shouldn’t watch this launch. It’s very upsetting as it is. It has to be a perfect launch. It will be a perfect launch, a perfect flight, and a perfect landing.
I’m trying to stow my despair for now and concentrate on appreciating the people who are doing their finest work to manage this flight. But it’s hard not to think about what this means and get really pissy about it.
Makes you feel like we just don’t stand a chance. We didn’t care that much when they shut down Apollo either. If spaceflight can’t inspire us, we’re totally fucked. How is money supposed to inspire us more than this? Little kids aren’t supposed to dream about becoming millionaires, they’re supposed to dream about becoming doctors, scientists, astronauts.
I think maybe a society can be judged by what the majority of its kids want to be when they grow up. Ask around, see what we’re headed for.

May 272011

Today I commend one Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. The first sentence of his wikipedia page says it all.

“Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (born March 14, 1978) is a Swiss born Greek writer and television presenter specializing in ancient astronaut theory.”

Not that I don’t think ancient astronaut theory is fun and interesting, even Carl Sagan suggested it deserved a serious look.  I just think this guy is like the Tommy Chong of space advocacy.

Then again maybe I’m worse- he’s just telling a fun story. I’m saying if we don’t start building spaceships like Noah on steroids then we’re all going to die. Yeah, I’m worse.

So I hereby rescind the ‘Kook of the Month’ award. That was quick.

May 242011

To get a photo of Blender running in space. Or if one exists, to make lots more.

• Lots! Why not? It’d be really cool!
• To raise the profile of Blender as a tool for education.
• To cultivate awareness, interest, and support for space science and technology.
• To create more opportunities for those of us who are gravitationally challenged to participate and contribute to space science and technology.
• To effectively synergize backwards overflow.

Recruit Suzanne’s Space Monkey Corps! A small army of artists, game designers, developers, coders, kooks, quacks, and nerds, ready and willing to work on small blender projects that an astro/cosmonaut might use in space. Then work on said projects for said ‘nauts. Then ask them to take a picture of themselves using it in space for us.

• Artistic renderings/animations for space education and advocacy.
• Visualizations of data gathered from various research.
• Reaction time, concentration, coordination, or memory testing ‘games’ for cognitive experiments.
• Data logging ‘games’ to allow versatile input of data from inflight experiments. For example an experiment where a mission specialist must observe several insect behaviors in a short span of time. A ‘game’ might be setup with multiple timers and key inputs to report certain behavior ‘events’, results are logged for later analysis and/or visualization.
• Real time visualization of data from external devices connected by tcpip/usb/bluetooth.
• Earth training simulations for experiments to be performed in 0G.
• <insert cool idea I haven’t thought of here>

• Make a post with lots of bullet points.
• Get comments from all the brilliant blender people out there to see if this is just crazy or not.
• Volunteers sign up and specify their areas of interest and abilities. (for now just reply to this post and say you’re in and what you’re awesome at)
• Maybe some kind of demo reel / 30 second spot to get the idea out. (beyond the Blenderverse)
• Contact every possible space agency, business, and advocacy group and see what kinds of projects might be useful for currently planned or possible future missions.
• When potential projects arise, open requests will be made to volunteers. Organize work on these projects.
• Stare at the cool pics of Blender running in space and bask in the awesomeness.

I’m just a Blender guy obsessed with space. Here is some of the stuff I’ve done with Blender. Nothing revolutionary, but I like to think I contribute.
I’m very passionate about open source in general. Somewhere between passion, vanity, and delusion I decided that this would be a good idea and that I am somehow qualified to crank up the mission.
For now my plan is to make this post, let it percolate, and meanwhile compile information we need to know to make this happen. Stuff like finding out about existing ISS crew data services. For instance, could a crew member easily download a .blend file aboard the ISS from the internet? Does the ISS use standard wifi/bluetooth protocols or something else. What hardware OS/specs are normally flown? Does the crew fly with personal laptops? What kind of security restrictions, if any, might we need to consider, what can we do to satisfy the security requirements?
Once ‘The Corps’ materializes a little I’ll start writing to the organizations that can help to get the ball rolling, offer our capabilities and announce the mission. Basically try to get the attention of people who fund, fly or live in space and see what they say.
Once projects arise, I’d be happy to organize any projects that are my league, but I’m not sure what league I’m in, so I’d be just as happy to hand off to any of the masters and gurus who are in leagues that make my league look silly.

I realize this is a pretty lofty goal and might look a little naive. Maybe it is. Even so, space travel captures the imagination, and I think the world is in desperate need of imagination. Students from elementary through graduate school have designed experiments that have actually been flown in space. This could be an opportunity to open a whole other avenue for student/amateur participation in space programs, especially since there’s no delta-V required to put a .blend file in orbit. Though it could and probably will take a long time to get this going, there is actually a small chance it could take off very quickly. Technologically the first ‘Blender in Space’ pic could happen overnight. I’m not pinning any hopes on that, just deserves saying.

Just to clarify, I’m NOT suggesting that Blender be a part of any critical functions. Nothing remotely related to flight controls, power, navigation, life-support, or anything like that. We’re talking about little stuff here, experiments and tests and such that could involve a consumer grade laptop or netbook.
Also – this is NOT a request for doctored photos pasting a Blender screencap on an astronauts computer screen. If this works each image would be very precious and have a long story behind it including a lot of peoples hard work and dreams. I’d hate to dilute this with questions of authenticity. Hope that didn’t come across wrong, just had to say it.

How would people feel about volunteering for commercial space companies (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Armadillo, SpaceX, Bigelow, etc). As of yet none of these companies could actually take a photo of Blender in space, and since they are commercial they don’t fit into my perfect star-trek vision of enlightened exploration of the universe. However they do fit in a Heinlein universe, and Orson Scott Cards, sort of. Anyway- they are making spaceships, and I love spaceships.
Are there any intellectual property concerns?
Is this just way too far out a limb? Nah, it could work.

Every mission needs a patch. I propose Suzanne with a helmet somewhere in it. Any artists want to take a swing at it?
Also- I request to be the CAPCOM for this mission. Any objection? No? Great! I accept!

So whaddya think?

May 162011

t: +10:00
not that any part of a spaceflight is ‘safe’, but we’re definitely into a less pant-soiling part of the mission. that was really exciting.

as much of a space-advocate as i am i have not watched very many shuttle launches. i’m not sure if the Challenger was the first launch i saw, i was only in second-grade, but it had an impact and these things make me more emotional than i generally like to get about such things. i’m not sure i’ll be able to watch the final mission, might break down.

got MECO, they’re in orbit. another OMS burn to hook up with ISS, but looks like we had an ideal launch.

t: +4:30
i’ll feel a lot better once we have MECO.

t: +3:15
wicked awesome. everything’s go. main engines still burning. 50 miles up

t: +2:00
SRB sep.

t: +0:!!!

t: -0:10 – counting
firing chain armed.

t: -0:30 – counting
there is a seagull that has no idea what he’s about to be a part of. arming sound supression. handing off control to onboard computers. good bye seagull.

t: -2:00 – counting
things moving on the tower. very exciting, everything nominal. praying.

t: -3:30 – counting
look at those giant engines gimbal!

t: -9:00 – resume count
can’t imagine the pressure some of these techs are under. last chance to verify everything is go, or if there’s that tiny flaw that you have to decide if it’s worth shutting down the millions of dollars and the hopes of so many. how many life and death decisions will be made in these minutes? though the number of lives at stake is few, the number of mortal decisions must rival that of warfare. but what a much better expendature of human effort. and i think, the risk of life. these are lives that know full well the risk, and the purpose. they are not soldiers, they are the cause.

t: -9:00 – scheduled hold – 5:00 to go
having said all that about the superbowl and NASCAR i’ll add that commentation is an art form and PAO’s often don’t have much more on-air saavy than some sports people. but at least they’re generally knowledgable. Schirra was a good NASA commentator. still not big on the lengthy shots of PAO’s talking, might as well leave the camera on the pad.

SRB’s are badass. the external tank looks funny, but it’s a great idea.

kinda too bad the Buran program didn’t succeed. The shuttle concept is good, it just needs to be redesigned with post-2000 materials and components.

going around the horn, sounds like we might be ready to launch this thing. “it is in the DNA of america to reach for the stars” -from Mark Kelly (CDR). i wish that were true, but the fact that we shut down Apollo after 17 tells me that’s wishful thinking. he’s an astronaut so maybe he’s got a perspective i don’t. i certainly hope he’s right.

t: -9:00 – scheduled hold
i just want to see this thing go as smooth as butter. easy peezy. i think that’s what makes NASA such a poor contender with NASCAR. nobody watches a launch hoping to see a crash, at least i’m pretty sure nobody does, if they do that’s messed up. not that it’s any less messed up to want to see a NASCAR crash but there is at least a slight chance of surviving those, and the rampant desire to see those crashes is pretty evident from the fact that there is still a ‘sport’ called NASCAR.

NASA is showing a little montage of Endeavor missions. Okay, not to harp on this but this is not great production value. I’m not suggesting that there be a production crew on hand for training and launches- the stock footage is fine, but use some modern editing techniques for god sake. would it kill you to throw in a little CG graphics showing the upgraded hardware or something? i know the budgets tight but farm it out to a film school or something, you could get some good production value.

oh, here’s some CG about the research hardware, that’s cool. still, now it’s all CG and looks like an industrial video. i hate pandering to the gen-X, Y, whatever, but hey- “you know what makes these birds go up? funding. no bucks, no buck rogers.”

t: -11:00 – counting
that’s a damn impressive machine up there on the pad. still would have liked to see a saturn V though. i can only imagine being up in that thing. what an amazing idea. how has this not captured as many imaginations as the xbox and ps3? kind of sad, but could still be remedied. this stuff is intrinsically amazing and if you peel away the acronyms and checklists you find an astonishing thing. all the other distractions in peoples lives are empty when you cut away the veneer.

t: -20:00 – resume count
this is some of the most coordinated and controlled work in the world. a symphony of engineering and genius at breakneck tempo. makes and amazingly dull show though. too bad we’re so obsessed with theatrics. i guess if you threw all the cash and production expertise that goes into a superbowl at it- it might spice it up. i’m not sure i’d want to see that but at this point i’d deal with the vulgarity of it to increase funding.

t: -20:00 – scheduled hold
one last soaring song
escape and return through fire
precious flight of hope

always looks so quiet on the pad at these times. so many things to check, so many variables to gauge. they’re just doing their jobs really, that’s probably how they think of it. they’re professionals.

let’s have a perfect launch and a perfect mission. god speed crew of Endeavour, and of the ISS.