1. Space Shuttle Crew Operation Manual

    The Space Shuttle Crew Operations Manual is available to anyone who wants to read. With the shuttle program retiring it you made need it if you are lucky to beat Space Center Houston, Seattle Museum, or numerous states vying for the Space Shuttle you might need this. Some of the pages are beautiful and you can download the PDF (41.2mb) or look at some samples below. It’s not the most interesting read at hundreds of pages, but some of the diagrams are beautiful.

    Space Shuttle Crew Operation Manual PDF

  2. Eating Dog in Microgravity

    What do you want to bet that when astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts and the rest get together and shoot the bull, the question comes up: “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten in space?”

    Chinese space pilot Yang Liwei has a pretty good trump card for that: the menu on the 2003 Shenzhou Five mission included dog.  Y’know, for stamina.

    The Telegraph reports:

    A local proverb in the south of China is that “Huajiang dog is better for you than ginseng”, referring to the medicinal root that plays a vital role in traditional Chinese medicine.

    He added that the diet had been specially drawn up for the astronauts by Chinese nutritionists and that the food had been purchased from special suppliers in Beijing. Dog is widely eaten in northern China, where it is believed to help battle the winter cold. The menu was still in use last year, when Chinese astronauts conducted their first ever spacewalk. China has plans to land a man on the moon by 2020.

    No word on whether that spacewalk was a foraging mission through the toasted remains of Sputnik 2 for some Laika jerky.

    Still, braised bits of Man’s Best Friend work better than some ill-advised food experiments.  While the early restriction of space food to tubes and dehydrated slabs was due to an excess of caution rather than actual conditions, foods eaten by astronauts have to meet certain criteria of nutrition, digestibility and environmental concerns.  For example, a contraband corned beef sandwich smuggled aboard a Gemini mission by astronaut John Young wrecked havoc when little crumbs of rye bread floated around the cabin in microgravity, not to mention filling the tiny, airtight cockpit with the smell of corned beef for the duration of the journey.

    For this reason, conventional sliced bread rarely makes it into space.  U.S. missions favor tortillas, potentially a future point of collaboration with the nascent Mexican space program.  (Yes, Mexico has a space program.  No, it doesn’t ferry orca-nauts.)

    Perhaps the most intense space food initiative in recent years was the development of space-worthy kimchi for Korean astronaut Ko San:

    Three top government research institutes spent millions of dollars and several years perfecting a version of kimchi that would not turn dangerous when exposed to cosmic rays or other forms of radiation and would not put off non-Korean astronauts with its pungency.

    We all sleep soundly knowing that the finest minds in food science have protected us for the consequences of allowing cosmic-ray mutated kimchi to unleash it’s wrath upon human civilization. (Pretty sure those consequences made it into a 70s issue of the Fantastic Four)

  3. Gambling on Space

    Last week Obama introduced the new United States budget– which notably kills the American space program. There is one way the zombie that is NASA can return from the dead: a lottery.

    NASA has been in the sick ward for some time. Few come to visit these days. The Shuttle is a flying Betamax of technolgy. NASA has been reduced to finding parts on eBay.

    Perhaps the only thing George W Bush did I concur with was give NASA a reboot. The proposed Constellation Program was Apollo on steroids. After all, we have computers, CAD, and iPods so let’s use that awesome technology to go to the moon. Using proven rocket technolgy from the design of Saturn V and Soyuz rockets, the Ares would take us back to the moon.

    It might have, but now the money and interest is gone. This has been the problem with manned spaceflight since it’s inception: money and interest.

    The money is obviously an issue in the credit crunch economy. Interest also as many see other things to worry about. Interest, in the traditional knee jerk short sighted reaction.

    Consider Sputnik in 1952: at that time there was no MLB Network, Internet, or cell phones. Sputnik had no clear benefit, no practical outcome. Soviet scientists were not sitting around saying “let’s put ball in space then it go beep beep. After, we will sell– how can you say– sports network to yankee blue jean American to watch on TV.” Nope, just a ball in space that went beep beep. Heck, most people didn’t even have a TV. Yet Sputnik’s development was absolutely critical in the world we live in today.

    All that anyone could promise at best was the ball went beep beep and didn’t explode. That’s it. Today satelite technology is an invaluable part of our way of life but then it was simply ball that go beep beep.

    Today where fortune and success come and go by the second space is a hard sell. The average person cannot afford a trip in space.

    There’s a way to make money off space: get the real average Joe and make people excited about space again. The answer is a lottery.

    At $100,000 Virgin Galactic isn’t cheap but it is cheap for space travel. If 100,000 people bought a $1 ticket (better odds than most lotteries) that would break even. Chances are though mote would buy– and outer space would start making money and interest.

    This is the kind of viral and word-of-mouth advertising marketing types have wet dreams about. Even a few minutes in space is a lifetime experience and at $1 the price is right. Anousheh Ansari spent time in space and left feeling depressed– as if she had seen a fantastic world just out of arms length. As a result she created the X-Prize, offering a prize for affordable space travel; which in turn led to Virgin Galactic. Imagine when not just some guy on TV but your neighbor, your friend, or you journey into space. What we could accomplish with renewed money and interest in space is unimaginable. It’s unimaginable because right now we can’t get there, yet.

    With a lottery, we could.

  4. Disney on Mars

    Disney cartoon from 1957 shortly after Sputnik orbited Earth. The cartoon speculates on life on Mars. You know, before NASA messed everything up and made Mars boring and full of useless rocks. I remember seeing this as a child, well after Mars was established boring and free from horny Mars princesses.

  5. Apollo Landing Module, Footprints, & Experiment Gear Spotted

    One of the often touted “the Moon landing was a hoax” statements is “how come the Hubble telescope can’t get a picture of the equipment?” When in reality that makes as much sense as using a microscope to take a photo of a friend. Hubble is designed to look deep into space, not on the moon or some chick’s apartment. Different lenses, different uses.

    Well, in honor of the 40th anniversary of when man was on the moon NASA released an image from LROC showing not only the hardware left behind from Apollo but experimental gear and even the footprints of astronauts.

    So there.