More good stuff on the open frontiers – 12-20-13

It is so exciting to look at the change taking place around us. There’s no better time to be alive and no better time to be engaged in living a full life. Here are a few articles that caught my eye to show the wide open new frontiers. A new space race? Amazon might get avian resistance to their new aerial delivery systems. China puts a rover on the moon.


12-8 – Bloomberg Businessweek – Let the Space Price War BeginA few tidbits on pricing.  The fee for SpaceX to lift that 6,918 pound SES-8 satellite to geosync orbit is reportedly $55M. Previously mentioned their reported list price is $60M.  Price for competitors would be from $100M up to $200M. 

Article says another successful lift should open the door to the military work handled by United Launch Alliance. Article also suggests there is a serious risk of crony capitalists fighting back:

You can also expect to see SpaceX tormented by politicians with ties to existing launch contractors and military suppliers. 

Competition is good.  Especially for cronies.

12-9 – PJ Media – The Dinosaurs of the Launch Industry; They were just hit by an asteroid, whether they realize it or not – Deep background explaining just how radical the successful SpaceX launch is to the industry. Their sticker price is around one-third their competitors. Article says the United Launch Alliance is seven or ten times more expensive. If (when?) SpaceX jumps to reusable booster the price will fall farther faster. Much of the article is over my head, but stretching is why I’m writing this blog.

12-14 – Wall Street Journal – China Lands Its First Unmanned Probe on the Moon – On Saturday, the unmanned probe “Chang’e” (named after a moon goddess of myth) on the moon. The rover, named “Yutu” (Jade Rabbit) will deploy shortly for a three-month journey.  The probe hovered twice as its radar verified the landing spot was clear of rocks.

Highlights of the Chinese space program, which is run by the Peoples Liberation Army:

  • 2003 – first astronaut into space; third country to make launch their own
  • 2006 – first probe to the moon
  • 2012 – docking with their space lab
  • 2020 – target for long-term manned space station
  • Sometime later – manned landing on moon (during ’20s based on next article)

12-14 – BBC – China’s Jade Rabbit rover rolls on to Moon’s surface– The rover started roving on Saturday. Article says China is slowly building all the capacity for a fully developed, advanced, manned space program.

Other items on the agenda:

  • 2017 – return lunar rock to earth
  • Sometime in 2020s – manned lunar landing

12-16 – USA Today – Will China restart the space race? Glenn Reynolds hopes China stakes a territorial claim on the moon after its rover meanders around a while. Why hope for such a claim? It would reignite a space race. Only this time it would involve lots of private companies looking for ways to mine stuff on the moon. Cool. Here’s hoping.

That would really open up the space frontier.

12-19 -Google Lunar XPRIZE –  As 2013 Comes To An End, Competition Intensifies In Private Race To The Moon – Did you even know there was a $30 million Xprize competition for the first privately funded soft landing on the moon? I guess that escaped my notice. Very cool. Only 18 teams left that are trying to hit the 12-31-15 deadline. Get a soft landing on the moon by that date and win a $30M prize. Half the teams have launch plans and many are ready to close a launch contract.


Bird attacks – something Amazon might not be considering:

12-16- Slate – Birds Will Attack Amazon’s Delivery Drones – Amazon is exploring the idea of using drones to deliver small packages.  The linked post explains they might want to keep in mind that a variety of birds consider a small flying thing to be a threat. Birds will try to drive off Amazon’s octocopters. For a few minutes entertainment, watch any one of 8 linked videos in the article, count ‘em 8, of birds trying to drive off an RC plane or helicopter. The best one is the hooded crow who spends about three minutes attacking a plane. The rear facing camera shows repeated claw attacks on the tail assembly and there are multiple strikes on the wings out of view. At one point the crow or magpie grabs the elevators and holds for a moment. Hat tip: John Bredehoft.

12-16 – MIT Technology Review – World’s Smallest Pacemaker Can Be Implanted without Surgery Placing a pacemaker currently requires digging down to the heart, opening a space large enough for the pacemaker, and running wires to the shoulder. Two efforts underway to put a mini pacemaker inside the heart with insertion through an artery in the groin.  One of them is 24 millimeters long with total size 0.75 cubic centimeter. The other is longer at 41 mm with total size one cubic centimeter.


12-16 – Carpe Diem – Fossil fuels will continue to supply > 80% of US energy through 2040, while renewables will play only a minor role – The headline tells the main point. Even with heavy subsidies, solar, wind, and biomass will only grow from 5.5% of our energy consumption today to 8.0% in 2040 according to the Energy Information Administration.  Check out the article for a superb graph giving the full picture. Fossil fuels will be the overwhelmingly dominant energy source for another 25 years.


12-10 – Via Meadia – The Culling Continues – Links to several other articles as it makes point that private colleges are seeing declines in enrollment and tuition. Reducing staff, cutting programs, and considering mergers are common strategies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *