Monthly Archives: July 2014

Has it really been a year?

Celebration

For the readers and site subscribers, this is kind of space-related.  But only because I’m the one who is writing for this site.  It’s really a celebration!!

Why?

It’s because I’ve written a lot of stories, almost every day, for a year!  That’s right!!  I started themadspaceball.com and my writing on the site a year ago.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead.  I still don’t, although I think I have a better picture of what I’m doing with the site now (after 325 posts, I guess I should).  I do know that my writing has improved.  I’ve probably written more in the last year than I did any time before–even when I worked on my Communications degree at the University of Washington.

So–a very big THANK YOU!!! to themadspaceball.com’s e-mail subscribers.  There are now 120 of you, which means some of you think my writing is interesting enough that you want it cluttering your inbox almost every day.  This, in spite of some disagreements a few of you might have had with what I’ve written.   I truly appreciate you wading through all the drek that sometimes comes from my site.

Also, a THANK YOU to Lindy Kyzer, the editor over at Clearancejobs.com.  She had the courage to take me on as a relative newbie to write for Clearancejobs.com.  It’s been a challenge, I think, for both of us.  We’re finding out that maybe an employment site’s readers might not be so interested in space topics–unless it’s somehow related to the job-hunters perusing the site.  But Lindy’s given me the opportunity to expand my writing in an unexpected direction–job-hunting articles–while still writing space-focused material, too.

Unfortunately, with the great exception of my small contributions to Clearancejobs.com, my unemployed status has not changed after nearly a year and four months.  So, I’ve had a lot of experiences in the job-hunting realm, and if you’re interested in reading about those experiences, then go to Clearancejobs.com, and look up my name, John Holst.

I don’t know what’s next, aside from the fact I’ll keep writing.  It’s something I should’ve done a long time ago, because it’s a creative activity I enjoy doing.  In case you’re wondering, I’m not making money off of this site, so a job, preferably one in which I’m writing, would still be wonderful.  I will also probably be changing up how much I write for themadspaceball.com.  I’ll still try to have something posted almost every day but Sunday.  But I do find myself struggling to find some topics some days, so don’t be alarmed if there are the occasional few days without posts.

That’s it for today, though!  I think I will have a beer to celebrate.  But, thank you again to all of you who read my stories.  I hope to have more for you in the next year, and I hope you’ll still hang around to enjoy them.

Space Geckos Saved and Space Surveillance Satellites Launched

GSSAP Gecko

These are two follow-ups, one closing out one of last week’s posts and one continuing a post I wrote in February.

First, the geckos.  I wrote last week about the Russian geckos that were sent into space on a satellite.  There was supposed to be some kind of “gecko orgy” that Russian scientists were interested in.  They were curious about how a a micro-gravity environment affects gecko sex habits.  But the problem was the satellite on which the geckos “love pad” is situated didn’t respond to any kind of commanding from the people on the ground.  So there was potential for the geckos, and other critters on the satellite, to die of starvation and then get fried during an uncontrolled satellite re-entry.

But that didn’t happen, and according to this AJC post, it looks like it’s not even likely anymore.  Commanding of the satellite has been established again, and the scientists are free to watch their gecko porn.  And “The Simpsons” have another unlikely and outlandish scenario for Homer to take a lead in.  Mark my words.

Just as important, the United States Air Force launched three satellites into orbit yesterday.  Two, the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites, were supposed to be Top Secret Ultra Triple 3 Hush. But good old General Shelton, who retired just yesterday, decided the public needed to know about them and just dropped information about the satellites last February.

I wrote about the GSSAP satellites in February for Clearancejobs.com, and also speculated a bit about the reasons why the USAF might be the wrong organization to be running the mission.  The USAF is labeling the mission of the two satellites as being a “watch-dog.”  This is the basis for my argument about why the mission needs to be moved to a civil space authority.  If the USAF noted objects in space with GSSAP, that are a hazard to other space-faring nations, but kept them secret for military advantages, then their mission is not that of a “watch-dog.”  It would be more NSA-like, which isn’t a good reputation for my former military service to adopt.

The other satellite launched yesterday?  It’s an experimental satellite operated by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL).  It’s part of Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS) program and according to this AF.mil post, it will “… test new space situational awareness techniques and technologies while performing safe, automated spacecraft operations to support and enhance future U.S. missions.”  This seems to be in line with the GSSAP satellite mission, so it might be an experimental satellite which has test sensors to be used eventually on future GSSAP satellites.  As near as I can tell, some of the research from not only ANGELS, but MidSTEP programs may have helped form GSSAP from past experiments.  But, ANGELS will be the experimental satellite for the AFRL to play around with for now.

Just how good will these satellites be at space surveillance?  The USAF seems to think they’ll be great.  But maybe the USAF is missing an opportunity.  Maybe they can also use them to bridge the current diplomatic kerfuffle with the Russians.  Maybe, just maybe, the GSSAP satellites could check in on the geckos.  Peek in the window, if you know what I mean.

Satellites Track the Re-floating of a Cruise Ship

This should float your boat ;-). Image hosted on astrium-geo.com.

Yes, the European Union types are using satellites to monitor the re-floating of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.  This Airbus Defence & Space post notes that the satellites are involved as part of the Copernicus Emergency Management System (CEMS).  They are:  TerraSAR-X and Pleiades satellites.  TerraSAR-X is a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite that is very accurate in its “image” taking.

The Pleiades satellites are just imagery satellites tasked this time by the EU through CEMS to take some overhead images of the progress occurring as the ship gets re-floated.  Why were the satellites tasked?  Worker safety?  Making sure no reefs suddenly appear?  Monitoring for wayward ship traffic?  No, silly, the satellites are being used for pollution detection.  Yup, protecting the Mediterranean from pollution, because, you know, all those kids peeing and playing in the surf along the Italian beaches aren’t polluting the water at all.

My guess is the satellites are probably looking for oil slicks and things like that–although UAVs could do the same job for less money in this case.  More interesting is the fact that the CEMS exists.  It’s new information to me and seems to duplicate, in a few ways, the United Nations Satellite Disaster Charter, which I’ve talked about here.  Except that only European Union Members can activate the CEMS for their purposes.

If you’d like to see a before and after picture, then Astrium has this nifty little tool that allows you to drag the line left or right, on this page.

Top Secret Satellites Involved in International Justice?

Clearancejobs.com posted my article about this last Friday.  I note that a lot of different space assets seem to have been brought to bear to clarify how the MH17 passengers were murdered.  If you want to read more, please read:  Can Top Secret Satellites Aid in International Justice?

DIY Space: Build A LEGO ISS

The LEGO ISS. Image from the LEGO Ideas site.

Okay, okay!  Really this is about voting for the ability to build the International Space Station out of LEGOs.  Found on the LEGO Ideas website, this particular LEGO model of the ISS stands out because of the details the designer, XCLD, put into it.  There are over 1000 LEGO pieces that have gone into the design and it looks pretty neat.

The thing is, if you like the idea of an ISS kit like this one, then it would be good for you to go vote on it, which you can do on the linked site provided.  Maybe your vote will be the one that pushes LEGO over the edge so that this kit goes from concept to reality.

The model will also include solar panels and Progress/Soyuz capsules.  There is no evidence of any SpaceX Dragon or Orbital Cygnus capsules included with the kit, so some Americans might be disappointed. No word on pricing, but LEGO kits with 1000+ pieces tend to approach the $100 price point.

Also, as a reminder since CollectSpace brought this oldie but goodie up again.  Remember the LEGO Hubble Telescope model I wrote about a while ago?  As you can see from the image below, it looks quite nifty.  Well, that’s still up for voting too.  If you would like to give that model a chance at going into production, then a vote from you might also help.  Go to this page to vote on it.

Image from LEGO Ideas website.