Tag Archives: Moon

DIY Space: Do You Have Room in Your Life for PocketSpacecraft?

First Earth, then the moon, and finally, the Universe! Are you thinking what I’m thinking Pinky? Image from PocketSpacecraft.com.

“If at first you don’t succeed…”–this is the spirit that is guiding the people conducting the activities at PocketSpacecraft.com.  They originally tried to get their “Mission to the Moon” project funded last year with Kickstarter, but didn’t get the funding level required there. The Mission to the Moon would’ve given lots of people the opportunity to send their very own spacecraft to the moon.  Exciting, right? Except that the money didn’t come in. Such a situation might have discouraged a few people.  And yet, here they are at PocketSpacecraft, still attempting to get more people to become crazy about space operations.

One of the lessons a person learns early in life is that while failures are unpleasant, the way someone reacts to that failure says a lot about the character and ethic driving that person. Instead of taking the easy way out by throwing up hands and walking away, huddling in the corner to cry, or just throwing a tantrum and then just sitting there blaming everyone else, there’s a lot to be said for that anguished shout, that hysterical laugh, or that resigned shrug which is then followed by tenaciously trying to keep a project and people moving towards success.

The latter seems to be the defining characteristic of the people behind PocketSpacecraft.com.  Not only are they carrying on their mission as if nothing kicked them in the guts with Kickstarter, they’re still pursuing the Mission to the Moon, and they’d like your help, moneywise. There are all sorts of funding levels they’ve listed on their site, here (near the bottom of the page). But the fun really begins at the 99 GBP (Pounds Sterling) funding level, where an “Earth Scout” spacecraft is launched into the Earth’s orbit, then attempts to land back on Earth.

The highest level of 5000 GBP is no longer available, but for a mere 1 GBP less, you could gain the title of “Rocket Scientist” with all the perks that entails.  Those would be delivered sometime in December 2014. Of course, an interested individual can start for as little as 9 GBP.  But you won’t get your very own spacecraft.  Any old how, at worst, you’ll just have “a universe” of fun.


More Rabbits on the Moon?

The big guy is Moonraker, the one following is Tetris. Image hosted on Space.com.

There are several teams competing for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE.  One team is going their own way, because instead of using just one robot, the team, Hakuto (which is Japanese for rabbit), is using two.  The following information comes from Space.com’s recent post about Hakuto and the robot duo they are prototyping.

The bigger robot, looking like a white breadbox with white paddle wheels, is named Moonraker, while the smaller one, looking like a metal mini-vacuum cleaner, is called Tetris (right, I don’t know how they paired the names either).  Tetris is designed to be towed by Moonraker across the moon’s surface.  A fancier Tetris, one made of carbon fiber, seems to be coming up, though.

The “tow-line” can be extended, so Tetris can wander off a bit and explore craters and caves, using the line, still attached to Moonraker, to keep it from falling into a hole.  This particular robotic duo doesn’t just explore the moon’s surface, but can also get a glimpse of what is under it.  To get an idea of how the whole system works, there’s a video, also on Space.com’s site, but Youtube also just so happens to have it, so the video is shown below.

Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles also feature prominently in the demonstration as part of a human interface to the rovers.  Not sure if the VR gogglemaker foresaw this particular application for their goggles.  I am also not too sure how practical VR goggles would be for controlling rovers on other planets, considering time delays and possible bandwidth constraints.

However, Tetris, Moonraker, and the virtual reality goggles conspire to make an interesting lunar explorer concept with flexibility, although it’s also a little more complicated.   Hopefully all of Hakuto’s work will be rewarded in some way.

A Chinese Direct Ascent GEO AntiSatellite Test in 2013?

China asat

Brian Weeden, from The Space Review, has written up a fairly well thought-out and long story about the May 2013 launch of a “sounding rocket” (according to the Chinese) from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.  The story, posted on 17 March 2014, gives some pretty good reasons to suspect that perhaps the Chinese were not telling the truth about their launch last year.  Perhaps it was the launch of a “new” kind of antisatellite (ASAT) weapon–one that might be able to target and destroy satellites in higher orbits, such as the geosynchronous and highly elliptically orbiting satellites.

The post isn’t all about the Chinese ASAT launch, though.  There’s a good history of ASAT technology, starting with the American programs, then going on to the Soviet ones.  Some of the Chinese Operationally Responsive Space has also been brought up, as well as how that might play out in a combat scenario.  There’s also the question of just how effective the Chinese ASAT threat is, and the author explores that question a bit.

The Chinese have been accomplishing some interesting things in space, including robotic grappling satellites that may be able to take out nearby satellites, training space operators for poorer countries, and their capstone of last year, the moon shot and activation of Jade Rabbit.  Brian Weeden’s post about China’s ASAT activities is a nice, thoughtful piece.  More of his asking the “whys” of the scenarios and not crying “space wolf” as others have done.  Worth a read, if only to learn some of the ASAT history.

“Frau Im Mond:” A SciFi Movie By Fritz Lang

It’s a long movie, but worth it.

This is a short movie review, but one concerning space.  I happened upon this silent film as I was researching the Mittelwerk series.  The English name of the film is “The Woman in the Moon.”  It’s available in the US on Netflix streaming, so the wife and I watched it.  The director’s last name, Lang, is appropriate since it means “long” in German.  At two hours and forty-six minutes, the movie could use some heavy editing.  My wife fell asleep a little bit during the first hour or so.  It does pick up, though.

If you are curious about a movie that fired up the imaginations of space geeks, particularly German ones, in 1929,  then there probably isn’t a better example of “realistic” space travel than “Frau Im Mond.”  The movie uses a launcher system mounted on rails to transport the rocket out to the launch area.  The rocket itself doesn’t look that different from the “real” classic rocket shape in the late 40’s, early 50’s.  The rocket has spring-mounted cots for passengers to use during lift-off.  There’s even multiple rocket stages, which might have never been heard of by the general public until the movie’s debut.

Some liberties have also been taken concerning the science in the movie, but that’s storytelling for you.  It’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of technologies in this story:  fountain pens for crew logbooks, on a spaceship;  dowsing rods; analog clocks and no mention of computers anywhere.  Weirdly, the “American” antagonist looks remarkably like a NAZI villain from Indiana Jones.

There’s a sense while watching the movie that someone advised Fritz Lang about what it would take to travel to the moon.  And it turns out a few someones did:  Hermann Oberth and Willy Ley.  Both were fundamental members of the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VFR=The Spaceflight Society) in Germany.  Wernher Von Braun was also a member of the VfR.

If you have nearly three hours of free time, it might be worth your while.  It is silent, but you get the gist of the story through the actors.  It does help if you can read German–but you don’t need to.  And the music soundtrack has been updated–it’s pretty good–I don’t think there were any synthesizers in 1929…

Daily Show Jade Rabbit Commentary

Here’s a little fun for you today.  Jon Stewart talked about China’s Jade Rabbit on 4 February 2014.  For those of you at work, this is definitely NSFW.  But it’s quite funny, and I always wondered about the name Jade Rabbit (yes, yes, i DO understand why the Chinese named it that).

Anyway, for your entertainment, the Daily Show clip: