Monthly Archives: July 2009

USA May Exit Manned Spaceflight

Forty years after single-handedly landing the first men on the moon, the USA may be unable to deliver on plans to land men on Mars or the moon anytime soon.

Once NASA grounds the space shuttle fleet next year, the USA will no longer have the capability to send men into space without help from other countries.  Current plans call for NASA to suspend its own manned space launches for six years until the scheduled deployment of an all-new “Orion” capsule (an update on the old Apollo capsules) mounted atop an “Ares” rocket (pictured below).


But now, a so-called “Augustine Commission” is questioning the cost of the new system, and NASA-watchers are bracing for yet another delay in US plans to fly humans into deep space.  The charge of the “Augustine Commission,” currently meeting with NASA engineers, is to conduct an independent review of America’s manned space efforts.  Unless they develop solid plans and commitments to manned spaceflight, the final shuttle flights next year could mean the end of America’s lead in manned spaceflight.

The new economic restraints along with a change in America’s political will over the past 40 years suggest international and commercial coalitions may dictate man’s future in space, instead of NASA.


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Best Advice to Lawmakers: “Butt Out”!

Congressional lawmakers are reported to be crafting a new bill aimed at addressing industry shortcomings, experts say contributed to the crash of the Colgan Air, Continental commuter near Buffalo, NY last February (see Feb. 15, 18 blogs below).

Lawmakers say the bill tightens rest requirements and minimum flight hours for regional pilots, but a statement issued by the Airline Transport Association (ATA), the industry trade group, seems to suggest Congress should butt out:

The best process for advancing safety involves not just the airlines but also the extensive network of safety professionals in government, manufacturing, and our workforce… We believe in that process, and we believe it should be allowed to proceed to a successful conclusion.

Captain Jay agrees with the ATA.  While Congress may be well-intentioned in legislating the problem away, they do not have the expertise to do so.  Just as Congress should not single-handedly write medical directives for physicians, neither should they re-write airline regulations.  The FAA and NTSB, in concert with airline management, unions, and other industry professionals are better equipped to address the big picture.

My advice to Congress: “Don’t call us; we’ll call you”!

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Police Fly to New Lows

Aerial police in Ripon, California are going decidedly low-tech; they’ve traded in the helicopter in favor of a powered parachute (PPC), like the one pictured below.


In the face of ever-tightening budget constraints, Ripon Police say they can deploy the two-seat PPC to chase down criminals, carry on aerial surveillance, or for search-and-rescue efforts; far more cheaply than with a helicopter.  They say a helicopter costs the department about $1500 per hour to fly, but the new PPC only costs $30 per hour.

Ripon (located about 80 miles east of San Francisco) is the first California police department to fly the craft.


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Man Lands On the Moon!

as11_40_5903That was the headline flashed around the world 40 years ago today, when America’s Apollo 11 spacecraft landed safely on the moon.

Crowds gathered around TV sets the next day just to witness that magical moment in history, as Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar plain and pronounced, “That’s one small step for (a) Man, one giant leap for Mankind”!  NASA is celebrating the event with a re-broadcast of the entire mission in real time (see July 16 blog below).

President Obama congratulated the three astronauts at the White House this afternoon.  NASA is hoping to return astronauts to the moon by 2025.

America Online has a fun article reporting “11 Things You May Not Know About Apollo 11” that reveals why the American Flag no longer “flies” on the moon, what the moon smells like, and how “Buzz” Aldrin got that nickname:|welcome|dl3|link3|

And for all you conspiracy buffs, who think we never went to the moon in the first place; NASA has posted a rebuttal:

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NASA “Love Triangle” Astronaut Engaged


M_IMAGE.1103f92a75e.93.88.fa.d0.59c67ea2America Online is reporting former astronaut, Bill Oefelein, has proposed marriage to Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman (right)  during a long canoe trip in Alaska this past June.

The two made big news February 2007, when fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak (center) was arrested after allegedly wearing adult diapers while driving virtually nonstop from Houston to Orlando to confront Shipman over Oefelein.

Oefelein admitted to police  he had been romantically involved with Nowak.  And both astronauts were married with children at the time.  Subsequently, both Oefelein and Nowak have left NASA.

Nowak has a trial set for December 7 to face charges for attempted kidnapping, burglary, and battery with assault.

Oefelein and Shipman plan to marry next summer.

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NASA Grounds Shuttle Fleet

After numerous launch delays for weather and mechanical problems, Space Shuttle Endeavour finally launched yesterday with a crew of seven.  But today, NASA has grounded all its shuttles after photos reveal foam and/or ice separating and striking Endeavour during the 8-minute ride into orbit.

79p-065The shuttle fleet has already shown great vulnerability to damaged exterior tiles, which act as heat shields for the vehicles.  Columbia, the first shuttle launched back in April 12, 1981, disintegrated over Texas during re-entry on February 1, 2003 after launch debris damaged the tiles.  Now NASA isn’t taking any chances whenever the integrity of the tiles is questionable.

The orbiter is scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station Friday.  As it approaches, the shuttle crew will pitch the spacecraft up, so it can be closely inspected by the Space Station crew.

The current mission is scheduled for 11 days.  It will be followed by seven more shuttle missions to finish construction of the space station some time next year, and then the fleet will be permanently retired.

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NASA Celebrates Apollo Moon Landing

NASA is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of mankind’s first moonwalk with pictures, stories, and a live stream of the entire mission in real time.

Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin, and Mike Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral aboard the massive, multi-stage rocket known as the “Saturn V.”  Then on July 20, 1969, people around the world stood transfixed before TV sets watching live images of Neil Armstrong taking mankind’s first steps on another world.  It is arguably the greatest technical achievement in the history of mankind.

But now NASA is admitting to a huge blunder: much of the original moon walk video has either been lost or erased!  Undaunted, Hollywood experts are now helping to clean up the familiar grainy images we know with copies and also high quality video recently discovered archived in Australia (see June 30 blog story below).

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