Neil Armstrong passed away

Since I’m a bit involved in Explore Mars I got a somewhat closer to one of the first men walking on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Well, probably as close I’ll ever get. Buzz is an advisor to Explore Mars. Still, it must be awsome to the American Explore Mars members to work with Buzz now and then.

Neil Armstrong passed away

Yesterday, August 25th, the other one, Neil Armstrong passed away. Old age got the better of him and he died from complications during a surgery. I was too young when Gagarin died but Neil and Buzz were always there, alive and kicking. It is odd now that the first man on moon isn’t among us anymore.

That first moonlanding is now 43 years ago and I’ll bet you that in the many commentaries, blogs, articles, etcetera, the question will asked, “why did we stop at the moon and didn’t we go any further?”. People no doubt will reflect on Armstrongs death and conclude that manned space got stuck and there was no progress after the Apollo program.

Progress is a relative term. Progress implies a starting point and a direction, when neither is made explicit the usage of the word progress will sound empty. A lot has happened since Apollo, most importantly a fledgling new direction for progress is suggested. Commercial manned space travel, tourist to low earth orbit and perhaps beyond.

Off the beaten track
Sometimes the old direction isn’t perhaps the best one and it is better to choose a new one. In the Space industry this can take a long time, but it is possible. Elon Musk saw that the old way of doing space travel had its best time and started is own rocket company. Musk showed us that there is another way. A new organization, Mars One, completely baffled the mainstream media with their “one way ticket” to Mars. And surprisingly Mars One wasn’t dismissed as a bunch of nutcases.

It will be a long road still towards a Space civilaization, whether on Mars or somewhere else. Scientific research is still seen by many, even manned space advocates, as the only reason for our presence in space. Of course this is false and it makes the proponents for manned space travel, like Explore Mars and the Mars Society, an easy target for the opponents of a human presence in space, like the Planetary Society.

Neil Armstrong didn’t do to much about space advocacy, I believe. Buzz Aldrin, on the other hand, is a staunch proponent of humans in space. I hope Buzz will be among us for many years in order to spread the good word. And I hope people will see the Apollo program as just one of many possible direction and not as the last really big achievement of western civilization, because we have done so much more since then.

A Dragon Took Flight

Again a big triumph for SpaceX, the space company of Elon Musk. It had its maiden launch of its capsule Dragon. The launch vehicle itself, the Falcon 9, was only the second of its model. The Dragon reached its orbit and for what I gathered it came into the ocean safely.

Launch of the 2nd Falcon 9 with the Dragon.

The Dragon is primarily a freighter ship for supplying the ISS, for this SpaceX has a contract under the COTS program. If launching future Dragons and returning them to earth will go flawlessly, a manned Dragon may be possible. America will has its successor for the Space Shuttle

For now, marvel at the ongoing miracle called SpaceX.

Crochet Rocket

This is one of NASA’s better endeavours, “space crafting” with wool. Isn’t it cute?


If you’re artistic and know how to craft, you can enter a competition and get your creation on the last Shuttle flight. But hurry up, the deadline is the 2nd of November.

The competition is brought to you by NASA and Etsy, Etsy being an online social website for selling all things crafted. It’s funny to see a multi billion operation as NASA teaming up with the small scale cottage industry individuals of Etsy.

Maybe it’s a sign of the time, big government (and big corp for that matter) trying to get in touch with the “grass root” population. A population which is less and less charmed by big governments and big corporations. One way people expressing their feelings is by making their own products and selling these online with as little “middlemen” as possible.

Is this this new “maker” movement you keep hearing about?

Water on the Moon. Finally?

Probably everybody interested in space affairs has already read the good news about the confirmation of water on the Moon. The results of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) were in and they found 5.6 per cent water in the material ejected by its companion LCROSS (Lunar Crater Remote Observation and Sensing Satellite). LCROSS and a rocket stage impacted on the moon in order to create two visible plumes of Moon material.

Image by the LRO Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment
Now, during the decades the discussion was whether the Moon contains water or not. For future long term manned Moon missions that would be a big plus. The rocks from the Apollo missions indicated to a bone dry Moon. Hope was put on the eternal shadows of the Lunar poles where water could be deposited by the solar wind and remain there. An idea that was difficult to proof and until the LRO mission for the pro Moon lobby something like grasping at straws.

Large quantities of water and other volatiles are now pretty certain, so what’s the big deal. Well, remember the little capsule on top of the Saturnus Moon rocket? That was the only thing that returned to earth of this huge spaceship. Most of it was fuel. Now what if you could produce the fuel for taking of the Moon and returning to earth on the Moon itself? That would save an enormous amount of expensive lift-off mass on earth. A moon-base could get to be much more affordable and it could produce fuel and consumables for other kinds of space missions.

With this confirmation the attention is getting back to the Moon. Bush’s Moon-plans died pretty much under Obama and Obama aims at the Mars. But without real commitment. It looks that the future manned space plans of Obama will be dead on arrival. No concrete plan and no good and solid long term goal. It would direct and waste efforts of the US space community into a dead end for decades to come.

With plenty of volatiles on the Moon (one suspects billions of litres of water in a radius of 10 km from the impact of LCROSS) this satellite becomes interesting again. Especially for the private industry. In my opinion a small space industry near earth is more important for the future of manned space-flight than the Apollo style missions of politicians. The Moon as producer of fuel and consumables would be a good step in the right direction.