Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Moon


Tonight all the world can share a beautiful full Moon. December 24 Mars will be at opposition, spectacularly close to the Moon. Last year we celebrated Christmas with the Earthrise photo from Apollo 8. This year, thanks to Japan's Kaguya spacecraft, we have a new Earthrise in HD.

39 years ago Apollo 8 celebrated Christmas while rounding the Moon. Thanks to a permanent presence, humans will be celebrating Christmas in Space this year and hopefully long into the future. Tonight skywatchers can contemplate the Moon, Mars and Beyond. The Vision has a goal of extending our permanent presence outward. A time is in sight when humans will enjoy Christmas ON the Moon.

Thursday December 21 the Jim Benson-founded Spacedev successfully tested a prototype lunar lander. Spacedev's hybrid rocket technology is considered safer and more reliable. (The Lunar Lander challenge earlier this year went uncollected when the only entrant blew up.) While failure is an orphan, success has many fathers and mothers. Spacedev built the engines, key parts of Spaceship One. Since their divorce Scaled Composites has tried to build engines alone, with tragic results.

Quietly, Spacedev has been built into a profitable company. Their Dreamchaser spacecraft is a good design that may reach Space before Virgin Galactic. Spacedev has partnered with the International Lunar Observatory to land a telescope on the Moon. Cost for ILO would be about 30 million US, the same amount as Google's Lunar Lander Prize. That would be a nice way to pay back the cost! (Winning the 10 million dollar X-Prize cost Scaled Composites 25 million.)

Happy Christmas to Kea, Tommaso, nige, samh, Q9 and everyone!

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7 Comments:

Blogger nige said...

Happy Christmas to you too Louise!

I attended early evening Mass on Christmas Eve with my parents, and I think it was fun for all the kids who were all dressed up as inn keepers, shepherds, angels, etc. All the kids were given packets of chocolate buttons when they left the Church, which is a good idea, adding to their fun.

That's quite unusual in England in my experience, although uhen I was a kid, they gave everyone chocolate mini-eggs after attending Church on Easter Sunday at Exeter in Devon (we were there on a weekend break), which was very thoughtful!

I hope everyone has an excellent day. As Kea points out, if you're not religious you can always have a toast to Newton, who was born on 25 December. Or to Santa Claus.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Happy Christmas!! I enjoyed your posts all throughout the 007 year of physics. And Happy New Year.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article regarding SpaceDev. We are all very proud of what is being done here at the company. I have been working here a few years and feel the need to correct a major mistake that you made. Jim Benson has not been involved with the Company since 2005 which is when Mark Sirangelo took over as Chairman and CEO. The progress that you quoted over the last two years regarding the increase profits and progress of the Dream Chaser and the lander have all happened under his watch. Sorry to jump in but I feel that it is important that credit goes to where it belongs. It hasn't been Jim Benson's SpaceDev for a while.

Thanks for the recognition. It is great to see people noticing.

5:58 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

A pleasure hearing from you at SpaceDev. The new wording reflects that Jim Benson founded SpaceDev but is not involved today. (His new business is Benson Space Company.) Best wishes to the Dream Chaser and all your projects.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous a quantum diaries survivor said...

Merry christmas Louise, thank you and a big kiss!

Cheers,
T.

3:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy new year to all of you ! I was just wondering how come there's no stars in the background, in pictures from space ? I'm sure this is easy for you cosmologists. thank you in advance !

8:37 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thanks, Tommaso!

For anon: The answer lies in exposure. Since Earth and Moon appear many times brighter than the stars, a photo "stopped down" for Earth will not record the stars. Star photos must be separate exposures, with longer exposure times allowing faint stars to be recorded. Science fiction movies, even Kubrick's 2001, always add stars for looks.

10:37 AM  

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