September 18, 2003

A couple of quickies

For the science inclined among us:

After eight years orbiting Jupiter, NASA's Galileo space probe will end its long mission on Sunday by plunging through the Jovian cloud tops and smashing into the giant planet -- collecting data as it goes.

I don't think our successes get nearly enough press. Pioneer, Galileo, Voyager, Hubble, and many more. Great programs all, but people don't remember them. This satellite lasted 6 years longer than expected. More from the article:

The end doesn't sound pretty.

"The spacecraft will reach the outermost layers of Jupiter's atmosphere, which is very dense," Lopes said. "There will be a lot of friction. (Galileo) will begin to burn and crush and disintegrate and then it will just vaporize and become part of Jupiter."

Unless of course, it hits something living in that thick soup of an atmosphere. Yeah, I read too much science fiction. However it happens, my thanks to the team of engineers and scientists who concieved, designed, managed and controlled this spectacular endevour.

It just struck me... nah, I need to think this one out a little (making a note)... this might become a separate post later.

Also on the home front:

New Apollo-Style Capsules Could Replace Shuttles

Some of the preliminary designs I've seen (artist renditions) make it look kinda like the old Soviet Soyuz craft, with pieces strung together like beads. Except whereas Soyuz was circular, Apollo is wedge shaped. Interesting ideas, there'll be more about this coming out, no doubt.

Betcha we hear something interesting come October 1st. The Chinese space program is modeled on the Soviet, so announcing a flight prior to it's actual success is somewhat rare. It's easier to deny a failure if nobody knows ahead of time that you're trying. Of course, they still hedge a little bit:

"As far as I know, all the preparatory work for the launching of Shenzhou V is going very smoothly," Science and Technology Minister Xu Guanhua told a news conference.

The Chinese have had four consecutive successful test flights with their booster and Shenzhou spacecraft, so this should be same-same, except that this time they'll have taikonauts aboard. The Shenzhou craft is an updated and improved version of the Soviet Soyuz.

Hey, I think we could use a little Space Race to spur things. Let's see (talking off the top of my head here), Russia couldn't afford to go it alone, but I'm not sure they would want to partner up with Uncle Sam. They might feel it less humiliating for them to team with China. In the other corner would be the U.S., Japan, Canada, Great Britain... Would Brazil join? Maybe. France? I'd expect them to say no, just to be French, and continue to concentrate on their little niche.

Update: Over at Scientific American Online (my favorite print magazine), they have a nice article about China's space program.

Posted by Ted at September 18, 2003 10:46 AM
Category: Space Program

I think you're wrong about France. They'd ride the coattails (interfering all the while--probably insist on English measurements or something), then claim all the credit.

Now that would be being French.

Posted by: Victor at September 18, 2003 03:27 PM
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