“Astronaut needed for experimental flight to Titan…”

The Reliant Robin Space Shuttle from the BBC's Top Gear.
A better chance of making it to Saturn: The Reliant Robin Space Shuttle from the BBCs Top Gear.

An ad on Craigslist has just appeared: Astronaut Needed (Northern Alberta). Sign me up!

Oh, hold on…

Astronaut needed for experimental flight to Titan. I have been working on this project now for near 40 years and am afraid I’m no longer fit enough to go. My secret space craft is the result of my professional experience and imagination while serving the U.S. military in advanced aeronautics as a scientist. The craft harnesses a revolutionary propulsion system and its fuselage is fabricated with the most advanced material. While considerably safe, I am certain you will make it safely to Titan but there will not be enough fuel to get home. This is for someone unique that has always wanted to see the universe first-hand and has perhaps a terminal view on life here at home. Here’s your shot at romantic history.” —Mad Rocket Scientist from Canada (emphasis added by me).

I was almost convinced I had a stab at flying to the Saturnian moon. What put me off? The fact that there won’t be enough fuel to get me back to Earth? Or was it the fact that I’m not stark raving mad? Nope, it turns out I’m too tall. “[The applicant] must be no taller than 5’10 and relatively slim.” Curses.

Thank goodness the spaceship is “…is largely cpu controlled,” I was getting worried that this ad was sounding a little too reckless…

Wow.

Thanks to @absolutspacegrl for the heads up!

Oh No! Rocket Launches Are Bad for the Environment? We’d Better Stay at Home Then

A small environmental impact, Falcon 1 launches in September 2008 (SpaceX)
A small environmental impact, Falcon 1 launches in September 2008 (SpaceX)

For every article written about the amazing advances in space vehicle technology, there are two negative comments about the pointlessness of space exploration.What’s the point?“, “We have war, famine, poverty and human suffering around the world, why invest billions on space?“, “What’s space exploration ever done for me?“. However, today, after I wrote a pretty innocuous article about the awesome SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket being hoisted vertically on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, I get a comment (anonymous, naturally) starting off with, “This launch and others like it should be halted indefinitely until it’s carbon footprint and environmental impact can be accounted for.” The commenter then goes into something about making an environmental assessment, levying SpaceX’s taxes and setting up a board of environmental scientists. Oh please.

On the one hand, I’m impressed by this person’s spirited stand against environmental damage, carbon emissions and global warming, but on the other, this is probably one of the most misplaced environmentalism attacks I have seen to date. There are extremists on both sides of the “green” debate, but the last thing we need is an attack against the only answer we have to fight climate change. And that answer comes in the form of a cigar shaped polluter, blasting into Earth orbit; whether you like it or not, it is a necessary (yet small) evil…
Continue reading “Oh No! Rocket Launches Are Bad for the Environment? We’d Better Stay at Home Then”

SpaceX Falcon 9 Fully Integrated at Cape Canaveral

The Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral (SpaceX)
The Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral (SpaceX)

As the first post of 2009, I couldn’t think of a more worthy topic: SpaceX. Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company is accelerating its progress ever since the successful launch of the Falcon 1 (Flight 4) in September. Just last week, it was announced that NASA had signed a $1.6 billion contract for 12 SpaceX launches to resupply the International Space Station over the next decade. As if that wasn’t enough, we start the New Year with some more great news, the heavy-lift rocket, Falcon 9, has just been assembled at Cape Canaveral in preparation for it to be hoisted vertically so it can begin preparations for its first launch.

Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage (see below). This was the final step in the integration process—one day ahead of schedule.

With Falcon 9 integrated, our focus shifts to the big launch mount and erector. All the pieces have been delivered, and the coming days will see a tremendous amount of welding to join them all together.

The long hours put in by the SpaceX team over the last several weeks, particularly the folks on the ground at the Cape, are certainly paying off. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, we’ll transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009. Happy New Year!

SpaceX press release (Dec. 30th)

And just in case you wanted to see just how quickly this company ships and assembles their rockets, check out the image below. This is the same Falcon 9 first stage as the one above pre-paint-job, before being shipped from the Hawthorn facility in LA, during my visit in October. How time flies…

Falcon 9 1st stage in the SpaceX rocket-manufacturing facility in Hawthorn, CA (© Ian O'Neill)
Falcon 9 1st stage in the SpaceX rocket-manufacturing facility in Hawthorn, CA (© Ian O'Neill)

What an exciting year 2009 is shaping up to be. We are living in historic times for commercial spaceflight, with SpaceX spearheading a new age for space travel…