Friday, February 26, 2010

Burt Rutan - Manned Space Flight For the Future

Please check out my post about Burt Rutan on my other blog - The Shanks Dimension. And the recent email/letter he sent out. ( NOTE: Just in case you don't know who Burt Rutan is, he's the guy on the right standing next to Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic. The mothership and VG's first passenger carrying spacecraft in the background.

Obama & Congress to Work on a Mars Plan NASA Chief Says

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden-a former shuttle craft commander, spared with senators concerning the agency's fiscal 2011 budget. Congress is pushing for specific missions and deadlines. They (the Obama administration) has drawn opposition for plans to scrap the Moon return and Mars mission for long-range goals.

So far, about all we got out of the administration is an expansion of robotic exploration of Mars.

I want to quote two sections from Seth Borenstein's article that was posted on And while the new NASA plan includes extra money — $6 billion over five years — for private spaceships and developing new rocket technology, NASA shouldn't be just about spending, the senators said. It should be about John F. Kennedy-like vision.

"Resources without vision is a waste of time and money," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said, calling the Obama space plan a "radical change of vision and approach." He vowed to fight the plan "with every ounce of energy I have."

And former chief astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson said the new plan "has no clear path, no destination, no milestones and no program focus."

And this quote: That is why he said the new NASA plan invests in developing in-orbit fuel depots, inflatable spaceship parts, new types of propulsion and other technology.

Bolden would not even guess when NASA would try to send astronauts to Mars, but said the technology NASA is studying could cut the trip to the Red Planet from three months to a matter of days if it works.

"We're oh-so-close, but we've got to invest in that technology," Bolden testified. end quote of article.

New technology huh? Anti-matter? That's going to take longer to develop I afraid than conventional means of travelling back to the Moon and to Mars.

Maybe Bolden is hanging his space helment on VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket). I would if I was him. It would make for a quicker trip to Mars to go with that engine technology. In October 2008, the VX-200 prototype achieved ful power using Argon as propellant in the Ad Astra's Houston laboratory.

VASIMR video at full power in 2009.

But, just what are you going to hang the VASIMR onto? Now this is where Orion as a test vehicle makes sense to me.

Or, another off-the-wall idea I had was to convert one of the space shuttles into a deep space exploration craft. Basically, you cut the wings off since the vehicle will never again return to the surface of Earth. Instead, it will be "home ported" at the International Space Station. This new craft will be launched in the normal space shuttle fashion and dock with the ISS. Replacement (fully fueled) fuel tanks will be launched up to the ISS and mated to the shuttle where the wings used to be, whenever it needed for a mission. The payload bay will contain the docking adaptor, airlock, and the pressurized mission module. The flight deck would be gutted and all the avionics developed for Orion will now be installed in this new exploration craft.

Now THAT type of craft I envision would benefit from the VASIMR technology.

UPDATE: February 26, 2010- Blue Origin, the outfit that founder Jeff Bezos created announced on additional information on their New Shepard, a Vertical Take-Off and Landing rocket. (

Ref. Business Week. February 24, 2010. "Obama Will Work With Congress on Mars Plan, NASA Chief Says" by Jeff Bliss.(
-will-work-with-congress-on-mars-plan-nasa-chief-says.html)., February 25, 2010. by Seth Borenstein (AP).
NASA website, anti-matter (

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Energy in a little box

Energy in a little box is the promise. Called the Bloom Box, it has some major backing form big money sources such as Wal-Mart. But you can read the article yourself. Eventually, they hope to bring the cost down to about $3000.00 so that individual home owners can take part in it and thus if that happens, our nation will be better off from having to import all that crude oil, etc.

Ref.: Reuters. "Is Bloom Energy the next GE?" February 24, 2010. (

Monday, February 22, 2010

Private Sector Space Dreams

The American bureaucracy of which NASA is a part of, has by force of congressional decree and presidential inattention except in election years, become affraid to take any bold moves in manned spaceflight.

They talk a good game, the public takes it hook, line, and sinker, and nothing really ever becomes of it. The shuttle was just suppose to be a part of a shuttle-station program. Towards the end of its career, it finally did that job. But in the beginning, it was nothing more than a glorified dump truck.

And it was paid for by the American taxpayer.

Back in the 1990s, there was a chance to replace the shuttle with a newer spacecraft. The VentureStar from Lochkeed Martin or the DC-X vertical take-off/landing, single-stage to orbit spacecraft. The DC-X was a sub-scale, flight tested piece of hardware. The VentureStar was a computer animation only. Guess which one the Clinton Administration went with? That's right: VentureStar.

Then Columbia broke up on reentry.

President Bush proposed shutting down the shuttle program and replacing it with the Apollo on steroids program known as Constellation. Now President Obama will cancel even that and hope that the private sector will take over.

Well, I (slightly) agree with President Obama that it would be better for the private sector to come into its own as far as transporting folks up into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). But, the government should have kept the Constellation Program going.

I remember in a Air Force ROTC classroom in my college days, my instructor was describing the problem faced by FDR in the Pacific War. He had General MacArthur promoting a campaign that would go through the Philippines. Admiral Nimitz wanted to go straight across the Pacific to the China coast cutting the Japanese supply line in two.

President Roosvelt decided that it would be in the best interest of the war effort to go with BOTH strategys.

I submit to the reader that the same thing could have been applied to the Constellation Program. I'm on record opposing the idea of Super-Apollo, but NO American manned spaceflight program is even worse to think about.

So where this this lead us to? Private Space Industry.

In fact, I think it is going to be up to men like Bigelow and Rutan to get American civilians back up into space (without government aid). And more important, get them to the surface of the moon and back to Earth on a regular flight schedule.

Eventually, a lunar base will be built. And maybe then, NASA will get funding from Congress to lease a base on the moon.

So, are there enough deep pockets in the worldwide civilian sector to make it possible for the non-government space program to make it to the moon and Mars ? And do it before the Chinese gets there.

Check out the article "Moon dreams" from The Economist website(February 18, 2010) for the article that inspired me to write this posting.

Ref. The Economist, February 18, 2010, "Private-sector space flight. Moon dreams" (

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Tomorrow That Never Was

I have always loved airships. And I happened across this blog that had this image from a Modern Mechanics October 1934 magazine.

Take a look for yourself. Also think about that movie form several years ago Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Cap'n Bob & the Damsel blog. February 19, 2010.(
Sky Captain and the Wolrd of Tomorrow images at The Internet Movie Database website.(

Friday, February 19, 2010

V - Shape UFO Video

Found this very interesting UFO video today. Took place on a flight on January 30, 2010 on a flight from Manchester, England to Bulgaria. Photographer's daughter spotted it and then pointed it out to her father.

You can read more details from the YouTube site itself, just click on the video to watch it.

V-Shape UFO.

UPDATE: February 20, 2010-Seeing the above video made me think of something that I wrote about a long time ago. Finally found the link to it and you can check it out. Its a plan to "float" up to space instead of "blasting-off" to space. Check it out (

Ref. (

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

India's Home Grown Aircraft Carrier Project

I came across this blog (Live Fist) by accident and it made for a great read. Since I wrote a article about Japan getting back into the aircraft carrier business(they call them Helicopter Destroyers). Please use the links below in the Ref section to read the entire article, and or my previous article on the Japanese Helicopter Carriers.

The Indian Indiangenous Aircraft Carrier Program is in the finalization phase of the design and equipment purchases have already begun for it. The new ship will be built by Cochin Shipyards.

The photograph with this article is of a model of the proposed ship that is based upon the Russian model of naval aircraft operations. In fact, look closely and you will see the models on the flight deck are Mig-29s.

Ref. Livefist blog. February 10, 2010 by Shiv Aroor. (photo by Shiv Aroor also).(
Aerospace, Technology, Paranormal and UFOs. by Don W. Shanks. September 6, 2009.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Ongoing Saga of the Charlie-Foxtrot Tanker Deal

Well, I think after reading this article (see link below in ref section), the Great US Air Tanker saga is going to end up with a split buy between Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

Its (really) no longer about getting what the Air Force really needs. It's about politics and keep voters supplied with jobs in key states. That means both Boeing and Northrop Grumman will both win the KC-X tanker project.

The KC-135s are REALLY long in the tooth now and needs to be replaced quickly as possible. Neither company is in favor of the dual build contract. Boeing and Northrop Grumman want a winner take all approach. The USAF supply chain would prefer just a single type of aircraft to support for this mission instead of two.

By doing the split buy, the Air Force gets new tankers in the air quicker. Current projections mean that at least 15 new tankers can be built a year. It will take decades to replace ALL of the KC-135.

Image is of the Boeing offering based upon the Boeing 767 airframe.
Ref. (

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Evidence of Water on Enceladus

Recent data from the Cassini probe that is in the lunar system of Saturn has spotted water vapour spewing from the moon Enceladus' icy surface. This just adds to more evidence of a sub-surface ocean on that moon.

The probe spotted negatively charged water molecules in the moon's atmosphere. On earth, such ions are seen where liquid water-such as water falls, or ocean waves crashing against the shore is seen.

Quoting that article: "We see water molecules that have additional electrons added," explained Andrew Coates from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory. "There are two ways they could be added - from the ambient plasma environment, or it could be to do with friction as these water clusters come out of the jets, like rubbing a balloon and sticking it on the ceiling," he told BBC News.

Cassini has also detected sodium in these plumes. This is a sign of dissolved salts in any mass of liquid water that has been in contact with rock for a long epriod of time.

Picture are from the BBC article.

Ref. BBC, February 8, 2010. "Cassini detection adds to Enceladus liquid water story" by Jonathan Amos. (