All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

Monday, January 23, 2012

NASA + MIT + DARPA + Students + ISS

NASA Joins MIT and DARPA for Out-of-This-World Student Robotic Challenge

WHO: NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and high school student teams from the U.S. and abroad
WHAT: the third annual Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge
WHEN: Monday, Jan. 23, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST
WHERE: MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., broadcast live on NASA Television

For the competition, NASA will upload software developed by high school students onto Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station.

The top 27 teams from previous competitions will have their code sent Monday to the space station, where an astronaut will command the satellites to execute the teams’ flight program. During a simulated mission, the teams will complete a special challenge inspired by future satellite technologies, such as formation flight and close proximity operations.

Student finalists will be able to see their flight program live in the televised finals. The team with the highest software performance over several rounds of the competition will win the challenge. The winning team will be awarded certificates and a SPHERES flight patch that was flown to the space station.

In addition to their use in this competition, the satellites are used inside the space station to conduct formation flight maneuvers for spacecraft guidance navigation, control and docking. The three separate satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the space station's cabin. The satellites provide opportunities to test a wide range of hardware and software at an affordable cost.

The SPHERES National Laboratory Facility on the station is operated and maintained by NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

MEDIA ADVISORY: M12-010, Jan. 18, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Space Race Photo Finish

On July 4, 1969, the CIA's Corona orbiting spy satellite had returned a series of photos disclosing that the Soviets had brought an enormous rocket to the pad of their Baikonur Cosmodrome. Were they also preparing to go to the Moon?

There was so little information on the Soviet program that nearly anyone in a position of authority at NASA or the Department of Defense still considered the Space and Missile Race an extremely close call.

If the Soviets suddenly announced they had established a Moon base, after all, it would not have been any more surprising than many of their previous achievements, from Sputnik to Laika and Gagarin.

On one orbit, the Corona's pictures revealed the giant N1 rocket and its spacecraft, the L3, on the pad being tanked with fuel.

When the satellite returned in its orbit to take another series of pictures, however, the rocket had vanished, as had the launch pad's lightning towers. 

Its turning tower gantry had been blown off its rail track and the crossbeams holding the rocket above its flame ducts were missing.  Instead, there was a strange blur, and a scar upon the ground.

Later the Soviets would reveal that there had been an electrical short. When fuel in stage three had subsequently ignited, it blew apart the fuel lines of LOX, causing a fire that spread to consume the three thousand tons of propellant.

The greatest fear of everyone who works with rockets came true again on July 4 at Baikonur: a never-ending cascade of fire, smoke, and explosion as a giant rocket collapsed upon itself and died.

Had Apollo 11 failed, it turned out, the Russians were planning to immediately use this rocket to send cosmonauts to the Moon.
HT: Rocket Men, pp. 30-31.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Principles Are Few

As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

HT: The Personal MBA, p. 2

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Borrowed Prosperity

A Borrowed Prosperity and Its Uncertain Future by Toby Neugebauer from Summit Lecture Series on Vimeo.

In this lecture, Toby Neugebauer discusses the debt crisis and its horrendous effects on the modern economy. He then explains why an economy built on debt is unsustainable, ending the presentation with an overview of the world situation and the life and death choices facing the nation in the future.

Debt does not increase the consumption of goods, but it changes the timing in which goods are consumed. While debt in the 1940s and 1950s greatly increased the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the present GDP actually loses money at the same time it borrows. Because of this phenomenon, an economy built on debt is unsustainable. Neugebauer explains, "The US has had no real GDP growth without borrowing from your future in the last 40 years." In other words, no one knows what a modern economy without debt looks like.

Neugebauer then explains that the real debt is not $14 trillion, but at least $64 trillion, or even as high as $74 trillion. What interests and frightens economists is that in the past eight years, the worldwide debt has more than doubled the previous debt of the last two millennia. While the solution of some leaders is to print more money, Neugebauer calls for a return to a sustainable level. Most developed countries have as much or even higher debt levels than the US. And some of these countries have already experienced economic collapse.

Neugebauer concludes with an honest look at the choices Americans face in the future. "We're going to have to make life and death decisions," he explains. “Healthcare options will simply not be available. Because of the enormous debt obligations, the promises made to the American people cannot possibly be kept.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wallops Launch Window This Morning

VIRGINIA: Wallops rocket launch scheduled

WALLOPS ISLAND— A flight test of a NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket is scheduled for January 11 from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Using surplus rocket motors, the vehicle is being developed to support NASA science missions.

Based on the approved range schedule, The rocket is set for launch between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m., and backup launch days are scheduled for Jan. 12 and 13. The rocket will be visible to residents in the Wallops area.

The NASA Visitor Center will open at 6:30 a.m. on launch day for public viewing, with the mission web cast beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Mission Status:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"If they refuse..."

From: James Kvaal - Policy Director,
Date: Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Subject: For those of us with credit cards, mortgages, or student loans

President Obama has been saying for months he won't wait around for Congress to get middle-class families and working Americans back on their feet. He'll work with Congress when he can, but if they refuse to act -- he will.

United States Constitution
Article I, Section 3:
if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
Article II, Section 2:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

There is a difference between Congress being on "Recess" and Congress "refus[ing] to act."

Article II, Section 1:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
Article II, Section 3:
he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

The Constitution does not call on a President to "work with Congress when he can" but to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

That's why it's executive power and not absolute power.

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