By Dawn StoverPosted 02.02.2004 at 1:00 pm 0 Comments
“To understand and protect our home planet. To explore the universe and search for life. To inspire the next generation of explorers...as only NASA can.” That’s the avowed mission of the U.S. space agency. But to understand what NASA actually does on a day-to-day basis, you need to look at the agency’s organization and budget.
Good news/bad news: The Columbia disaster has brought renewed attention to spaceflight, but so far, much of that attention lacks any real clarity of understanding. Rather than train the spotlight on our space program’s fairly desperate need for both funding and vision, Columbia seems to have ushered in open season on NASA. Congressional hearings rehash hoary old debates about the value of our space program, chastizing the agency and calling for hastily conceived reforms.
Meet the homeland security blimp, flying high by 2006.
By Matthew StibbePosted 02.01.2004 at 6:00 pm 0 Comments
Being oversize has its advantages. Just ask researchers at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which recently dished out $40 million to arms maker Lockheed Martin to design what could soon be the world's largest pilotless airship. Measuring 500 feet long, with a volume of 5.2 million cubic feet, the prototype high-altitude airship, or HAA, will be 25 times larger than the Goodyear blimp.
In a bid to become the first teen in space, 18-year-old Justin Houchin has booked a berth on the Solaris X. Interorbital Systems (IOS) is building the rocket to compete for the X Prize, the $10 million jackpot for the first civilian team to put humans into space on a reusable vehicle. Even though IOS has yet to launch a rocket -- let alone a human -- higher than 10,000 feet, they're already selling tickets for 25-minute suborbital rides.
Cory Bird, an engineer at Burt Rutan’s remarkable aviation design shop, builds a composite-fiber airplane of Swiss-watch precision.
By Stephan WilkinsonPosted 01.24.2004 at 2:00 pm 0 Comments
When a yellow two-seater called Symmetry flew for the first time in California last April, a machine that is very likely the most finely crafted handmade artifact of its type took to the air. Certainly I’d wager that Symmetry comes closer to perfection than any other homebuilt airplane in the world, and it deserves equal measures of admiration and incredulity. Admiration for the precision of the machine, incredulity for the obsession that produced it. This is technology as aviation art, from the hands of one man.
Anomaly = Disaster, and other handy
By Dawn StoverPosted 01.23.2004 at 4:16 pm 0 Comments
The U.S. space agency has a language all its own. NASA uses so many acronyms that the agency issues a book to its employees to keep track of them. And even when NASA uses ordinary words, they're often imbued with special meaning, generally designed to take the edge off graphic situations. "When you're inside," says one NASA spokesman, "it's not a problem understanding what we're talking about." It's the rest of us who need some help. Here are our translations of NASA's favorite lingo.
NASA: Space-plane bidder puts winglets on vintage capsule design.
By Bill SweetmanPosted 01.08.2004 at 3:53 pm 0 Comments
Retro tech is in fashion at NASA. As Congress and the White House debate the agency's future, NASA is pushing its big contractors to build a new "space taxi" as soon as possible, to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station more safely than the shuttle does.
Robert Gannon, who passed away on Nov. 3, wrote more than 117 major articles for Popular Science. While reporting his last piece, "Jump! Jump!" (Jan. '03), a profile of high-altitude skydiver Cheryl Stearns, Rob experienced the feeling of falling through space firsthand. Because of space constraints, we didn't run the piece in the magazine, but here it is below, a fitting example of Rob's enormous skill as a writer and reporter.
Three steps forward, two bruises back -- the most basic form of human flight proves painfully difficult to master.
By Steven FeatherstonePosted 10.29.2003 at 7:45 pm 0 Comments
A funny thing happened at New York's Belleayre ski resort in September 1965: A man launched himself into the sky with a parachute. The man was David Barish, a NASA aeronautical engineer who, a year earlier, had conceived a parachute for bringing Apollo spacecraft back to Earth. By adjusting a few key elements in its design to make it suitable for human flight, and then testing it himself, Barish unwittingly became the grandfather of a sport that thousands of flat-footed, gravity-challenged, slightly crazed humans now call paragliding.