Friday, October 31, 2008

Lubbock's Halloween UFO for 2008

I was driving south on Frankford Ave and just after passing Erskine Ave, I noticed what I at first thought was a low flying aircraft slightly to the west of Frankford ave. In fact, it was moving so slowly I began to wonder if it was hovering above the Shadow Hills golf course. The closer I got, I still had not heard any aircraft like sounds above the sound of the wind racing pass by driver side window that was rolled down to enjoy the warm weather. Near the retirement home, I decided that I had to pull over to check this out.

I did.

Well, for a few minutes, I thought I was going to have my second daylight UFO sighting in my lifetime. By the time I pulled off onto a side street to get a better look, I had id'ed the flying object as a net full of balloons that had gotten loose from somebody. But it was just sitting in the sky at just the right angle with he sun to make figuring it out difficult until I could stop my pickup truck. Other balloons had gotten free of the net but were “flying” in formation with the main bunch.

Well, I post this just in case anybody else DID report a UFO over northwest Lubbock this afternoon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Airship Ventures' Zeppelin Coming to California

There was an article published on line by AP news (My Way News) about a company called Airship Ventures that will soon be offering sightseeing tours of California based out of the old U.S. Naval airfield Moffett Field. As a bit of trivia, Moffett Field has one of the 13 remaining airship hangers in the country.

The Zeppelin was invented by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of Germany in the late 19th century. The massive airships were use in war and peace until the airship era came to an end in Lakehurst, New Jersey. In 1937, LZ-129 Hindenburg burst into flames and crashed just short of the docking mast, and it was viewed by thousands. Newsreel footage of its destruction has been played ever since. Out of the 97 people onboard, 35 died in the accident.

Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik began building a new generation of zeppelins in 2001. Their Zeppelin NT (as in New Technology) is 246 feet in length. Which makes it about 15 feet longer than a Boeing 747 airliner. The ship was built in Germany, but shipped by containership to Beaumont, Texas, before a cross country flight to California. While the Zeppelin might look like a blimp, its not. It has a rigid internal frame covered by a outer canvas hull. It can carry 12 passengers and two crew members. Now while the Hindenburg had flammable hydrogen as its lifting gas, the Zeppelin NT uses the nonflammable helium. Since the Zeppelin NT has been operational in Germany, 80,000 people have now flown on the airship.

Typically, it takes about 18 months from start to finish to build one of the Zeppelin NT s. There is one in Germany and another zeppelin in Japan. Zeppelin NT #4 is the airship that Airship Ventures now flies. It had its maiden flight in May of 2008. Airship Ventures has ordered two additional zeppelins that would operate on the east coast of the United States providing the same type of tours on that side of the country. Those flight operations are being planned to begin around 2010. New York and Florida the likely spots.

Airship Ventures president Brian Hall, who started this company with his wife Alexandra, took his first airship ride in Cologne, Germany in 2006. Brian Hall made his money being a software entrepreneur. To reporters, he said the following, “It's a way to see the world that you haven't experienced it before. In a zeppelin, you're flying low and slow. You're going at a leisurely pace. You're seeing things that you wouldn't see from the road.”

While worries of the current economy is not far from Mr. Hall's mind, he still expects to sell about 15,000 tickets a year in the Bay Area tours. Aiming to attract people who want something special for birthdays or anniversaries.

This week starts flight operations for Airship Ventures by offering rides to view Napa and the Sonoma wine country, Big Sur coastline, and other San Francisco view spots. Costs per person is $495 for the hour long flight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Interesting Two Week in Aerospace News
by shanksow

Mars Moon Phobos More of a Pile of Rubble-from article by Clara Moskowitz posted on October 16, 2008. (

The largest of Mars two moons might be more of a collection of rubble than a single body. Quoting Pascal Rosenblatt of the Royal Observatory of Belgium who is a member of the Mars Express Radio Science team. The mass and volume information allowed researchers to reckon Phobos' density, and the scientists found that the moon is not solid, but probably filled with giant caverns. Researchers call this kind of body, which is basically a clump of rocks held together by gravity, a rubble pile.

The density of Phobos is 1.85 grams per cubic centimeter (0.067 pounds per cubic inch) – is lower than the density of Martian surface rocks. Their density is anywhere between 2.7 to 3.3 grams per cubic centimeter (0.098 to 0.119 pounds per cubic inch). Its (Phobos) density is more like that of the asteroids and its sister moon Deimos. In other words, its doubtful that the two moons were formed out of Mars itself.

There will be a Russian mission launched in 2009 to check out Phobos specifically; its called Phobos-Grunt mission.

V-22 Osprey Doing Well is Iraq Operations-from news (

After twenty plus years of development, the V-22 Osprey is operational and the Marines that are flying the machine call it a “Bat out of Hell.” It doesn't carry the same firepower as the old CH-46 Sea-Knight helicopters, but that is offset by the Osprey's higher speed. The one major complaint appears to be that there is no firepower fixed up forward, the aircraft carries a machine gun that is fired from out of the rear of the tilt-rotor.

Other critics of the V-22 cite the soaring costs of the aircraft - $100 million per unit when you factor in the research and development costs. The Osprey has been flying in Iraq since September 2007. With the Osprey, new tactics have been developed to maximize the positives of the machine. Come in high to avoid ground fire, the drop into the landing zone. The Ospreys currently operate out of Asad air base.

If the tilt-rotor is hit in one of its engines, the other can still power the other rotor for auto-rotation to land safely if needed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Star Trek Movie Buzz

This week, Paramount Pictures released some production stills from the new J.J. Abrams production of "Star Trek." Set for release in 2009.

MTV, as one of several website, received from Paramount Pictures, some new production stills from the new J.J. Abrams' “Star Trek” movie to be released in 2009. In an article published by Rick Marshall and Shawn Adler. MTV was given permission to show the new bridge design of the starship Enterprise. Before getting to that, I like to add the following. Can anyone say “Battlestar Galactica”?

Now, Do not get me wrong on this – I like the new “Battlestar Galactica.” And it look like that J.J. Abrams is doing the same thing to Star Trek as what had happened to BG. A totally new look and revision to the franchise. Co-producer Damon Lindelof (known for “Lost”) added some additional information in the interview.

The Bridge:
In the photograph on the MTV site, it shows actor Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk sitting in the Captain's chair. Hes all in black which Mr. Lindelof tells MTV is a important story hook in the movie. Behind him we see the new Doctor McCoy (Karl Urban) deep in thought. Now he is wearing the classic blue shirt/black pants combo which is the Starfleet uniform. Zachary Quinto as Spock. Kirk and Sulu are both ragged since “they” have just come out of a fight before this scene.

As for the bridge itself; its very bright looking – think Apple Store. Quoting from the article: Abrams was insistent that every piece of equipment on the bridge serve a legitimate purpose – that they all have “functionality.” According to Lindelof, the maps we see in the background near the top of the communications desk were based on the generally accepted layout of the Star Trek Universe. Lindelof also confirmed that the film would be two hours long running time.Now other pictures that were released show the film's bad guy as a Romulan with facial tattoos.

The movie will open with another starship U.S.S. Kelvin (NCC-0514 ) getting hammered by the bad guys. The Kelvin looks alot like the old destroyer class that was included in the original Starfleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph (the leatest version of which you can get for yourself here ( It jsut has the warp nacelle on top of the saucer section instead of below it. Then again, from the above picture, there just might be a second nacelle below the hull as well ( the upper/lower twin engine designs that crop up from time to time in (Star) Treknology circles.

(Ref. and )

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Satellite Discovers Ancient Peru Pyramid

There was a recent article by Rossella Lorenzi posted on, about satellites discovering some new, buried pyramids in Peru. (ref., “Ancient Peru Pyramid spotted by satellite” by Rossella Lorenzi. Posted on Oct 5, 2008).

Italian researchers of Italy's National Research Council (CNR) Nicola Masini and Rosa Lasaponara discovered the new sites by analyzing infrared and multispectral images from the Quickbird satellite which imaged the Cahuachi desert of Peru. They were looking at an area along the Nazca river. Now covered with plants and grass, the test area was about a mile away from a current archaeological site which contains the remains of what is believed to be the world's biggest mud city. Lorenzi's subtitle headline for this article was “ Infrared and multispectral images reveal 9,000-square-mile structure.”

Archaeologists already knew about some 40 mounds in the Cahuachi desert that they think cover more buildings. Masini told Discovery News the following: “We know that many buildings are still buried under Cahuachi's sands, but until now, it was almost impossible to exactly located them and detect their shape from an aerial view. The biggest problem was the very low contrast between adobe, which is sun-dried earth, and the background subsoil.”

Cahuachi is where the Nazca civilization flourished in Peru from the first century B.C., and the fifth century A.D. The Nazca civilization faded into oblivion and replaced by the Inca Empire which dominated the Andes of South America. Best known for the famous carvings of animals and birds that are best viewed from the air. The Nazca people built Cahuachi as a ceremonial center. The pyramids, temples, and plazas were molded from the desert itself. From these centers, Nazca priests conducted human sacrifices. The human subjects for these sacrifices being drawn in from the surrounding regions. What lead to the declined of the Nazca civilization where two natural disasters of a great flood and a earth quake. This is what lead scholars to believe lead to the abandonment of this site by its inhabitants. But before leaving, all the buildings where sealed up and buried under the desert sands.

Archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici, who has spent many years excavating the Cahuachi desert stated in the conference paper, “Up to the now, we have completely unearthed and restored a huge asymmetrical pyramid, known as the Grand Pyramid. A terraced temple and a smaller pyramid are in an advanced state of excavation.” The newly discovered pyramid that features a 300 by 328 foot base that consists of at least “four degrading terraces which suggest a truncated pyramid similar to the Grand Pyramid.” This pyramid was sculpted straight from the desert landscape with large adobe walls.

Another archaeologist Andrea Drusini from Padova University spoke with Discovery News about the Grand Pyramid. “This is an interesting finding. As with the Grand Pyramid, it is likely that also this pyramid contains the remains of human sacrifices.” In previous excavations at Cahuachi, Drusini found some 20 severed “offering heads” at various locations inside the Grand Pyramid. Each skull have circular holes cut into the forehead and were perfectly prepared from an anatomical point of view Drusini said.

Nicola Masini stated to Discovery News, “This innovative technology opens up new perspectives for the detection of buried adobe monuments in Cahuachi and elsewhere. Once we have more information about the size and shape of the structures, we might turn to virtual archaeology to bring the pyramid and its nearby structures back to life.”

If the reader is a avid viewer of the History, Discovery, National Geographic channels, etc. like I am; there are programs using CGI to bring these past civilizations back to life. I'll be looking forward to seeing these programs appear on the History Channel in a few years. I would also love to be able to actually travel to Peru to visit this site in person and to see the famous lines in the desert.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Senator Barack Obama's Space Policy

Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has provided his most detail position yet on Space Policy. He wrote to the Democratic leadership stating that “America needs to renew its commitment to NASA and to provide sustained, stable direction with an honest budget and sufficient resources for success across all of its critical missions: human spaceflight, science, and aeronautics research.”

It was also reported that he supports the extension of the authority to buy seats on future Soyuz spaceflights for the U.S., Canadian, European, and Japanese astronauts after it suppose to end in 2011. Obama also supports funding more shuttle missions to the International Space Station and close the gap in time between the end of shuttle and first flight of the Ares/Orion system.

(Ref Sept 29, 2008 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Washington Outlook by John M. Doyle. )
Note: It has been reported on other news sites that Presidential candidate John McCain also has voiced his ojbections to the Manned Space Flight gap that will follow the retirement of the shuttle.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A New Means of Getting to Space

Last month, I pointed out a article about the anniversary of the DC-X(Single-Stage-To-Orbit, Vertical Take-Off, Vertical Landing) demonstrator technology. After reading about it in, I was looking around on that website and there was a link to a new book entitled: Floating To Space. The Airship To Orbit Program by John M. Powell. Looking at their website and the photographs there, I decided to order the book and read it.

I was impressed. The book includes a DVD and I watched that first. It was film clips of their test flights and airship to orbit proposal. All of this comes from a company called JP AEROSPACE. And going by the time line in the appendix, this began all the way back in December of 1993 with suspended rocket test launch series (as in firing a rocket suspended from a line connected to a launch balloon).

Now the concept of using balloons to get to outer space has been around for a long time and Mr. Powell cites a 1913 book by B. Krasnogorskii called “On the Waves of the Ether.” There are other examples in science fiction of floating cities such as the Cloud City in the Original Star Trek TV series (Stratos) and in the Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back” the cloud city of Bespin.

But wait, what does floating cities have to do with airships going up to space? Simple it seems. A cloud city will serve as the second stage of a three stage system using airship technology. The first stage is a large “V” shape airship known as “Stage One Airship” which would be about 800 feet long and 150 feet tall. This makes it larger than the U.S. Navy's Macon or the German Graf Zeppelin. And with modern materials, the lifting capacity is much better than in the 1920s and 1930s. This stage has the biggest challenge. It must be able to climb up to 140,000 feet altitude to dock with the second stage.

The Second Stage of this proposal is known as the Dark Sky Station. Its a space station that floats at that altitude. Aside from docking there, it is also a research facility, shipping port, and ship yard. And that gives us the final, Third Stage of this concept – The Orbital Airship that can only exists at 140,000 feet plus altitude. And this thing is BIG. Another “V” shape craft that is 6,000 feet long!

I'll let the reader get a hold of their own copy of the book to learn little details about how a airship will be able to go supersonic, the larger Orbital Airship and the Deep Sky Station will be built while floating in the sky. How the vehicles will actually survive reentry, etc. Also, John M. Powell describes how they will go about funding this project. Now that chapter is worth getting the book anyway.

I recommend this book just for the fact it shows someone thinking outside of the conventional box.

As an aside. Seeing the cover of the book made me think about the huge UFO that was spotted over Phoenix, Arizona, back in the 1990s. After reading the book, the huge “V” shape UFO that was reported with the Phoenix Lights flew at a much lower altitude than what the Third Stage Airship could handle. Read the book to find out why the 6,000 foot long airship that JP Aerospace is working on could not be what was witness in the Phoenix Lights.