Saturday, September 29, 2007

Congress Opposes Human Missions To Mars?

While NASA prepares itself to once again visit the Moon, it looks as if the US House of Representatives is proposing a bill that would ban all human missions towards Mars.

(New Scientist Space) Is there life on Mars? Who knows, but if the US House of Representatives gets its way, no human will be making the trip to find out. Its proposed yearly budget for NASA contains a provision banning the funding of anything related to the human exploration of Mars.

NASA is seeking to send humans towards Mars around 2037, although if Congress displays enough apathy, we may end up never funding anything other than hi-tech golf carts to roam its surface.

Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society (which is currently down as of this post) is seeking to overturn this measure, although he may be fighting an uphill battle as Mars is quite literally being out shined by Earth's "lunar brother."

Update: Changed Martian photo.

Will Ion Engines Replace Chemical Rockets?

(Image: Ion Propulsion System Hot Fire Test for Deep Space 1, Credit: NASA / JPL)

Probably not, as chemical rockets are the undisputed champions when it comes to launching anything from Earth's surface to beyond the sky. However when it comes to general interplanetary travel, chemical rockets may find themselves taking a back seat towards their "star trek" cousins.

( An ion engine prototype developed at NASA's Glenn Research Center has now accumulated more than 12,000 hours of operation and processed over 245 kilograms of xenon, setting a record for most propellant throughput ever demonstrated by an ion engine.

The engine is the critical component of NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) system, which uses xenon gas and solar electric power to drive future robotic science spacecraft to distant asteroids, comets, planets and their moons. [...]

Today's chemical propulsion systems get their big boost and then coast at constant speed until the next boost. An ion engine can produce its small thrust continually and thereby provide near constant acceleration and shorter travel times. Ion propulsion is also ten times more fuel efficient than chemical onboard propulsion systems. This greater efficiency means less propellant is needed for a mission. Spacecraft can then be smaller and lighter, with lower launch costs.

For human missions, future space craft may have to employ both chemical and ion rockets, the former to get off world and the latter to travel in between the planets.

Note: The ion engine is currently being used by the Dawn Spacecraft which was recently launched in order to provide more information about the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.

India To Put Humans Into Space By 2015

After previously committing to send its own citizens to orbit above the heavens, India has finally laid out a date for when it will join the space power club.

(MSNBC) India plans a manned space mission by 2015, using indigenous systems and technology, a top scientist said Thursday. [...]

"We are trying to develop the technologies which are required for sending a man to space ... If everything goes all right we will be able to have a manned mission wherein an astronaut will be orbiting the earth within eight years," he said.

India still has not laid out any plans on whether or not it will send astronauts to inhabit the Moon. The worlds largest democracy may be hesitant about committing towards lunar colonies in the future until they have proven themselves floating among the stars.

Hopefully India will consider revisiting the moon along with the other major space powers, as it would be sad to see such a great nation miss out on owning a piece of the sky.

Monday, September 24, 2007

NASA To Put Humans On Mars In 2037

(Image: Humans working on Mars. Credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center)

NASA is adding the red planet to its "celestial road map" by planning on landing a man on Mars by the year 2037.

(Earth Times) 'We are planning many missions. Our long-term game-plan is to put man on Mars by 2037, so that by 2057, when the International Aeronautical Congress (IAC) holds its centenary, we should be celebrating the 20th year of putting man on the red planet,' NASA administrator Michael Griffin told the delegates at the first plenary of the 58th IAC on the inaugural day. [...]

'We are looking beyond moon and mars into the inter-planetary system, how to make best use of the ISS and how to use solar power to reduce its operational costs. With manned mission to moon from 2020 onwards and Mars a decade later, we want to build a space civilisation for tomorrow and beyond that,' Griffin pointed out.

Griffin's road map to Mars is about seven years later than what Buzz Aldrin would have liked, although it is definitely more reasonable than Zubrin's previous outline.

This date is probably not set in stone as NASA first needs to demonstrate its ability to conquer the Moon to Congress before moving on to the red planet, not to mention figuring out a way to actually land on Mars in one piece.

Good News: Micro Gravity Great For Dangerous Bacteria

(Hat Tip:

Even though building micro gravity space stations may be cheaper in the long run, it may not be the healthiest choice for future colonists.

In a cruel twist of fate, it seems that micro gravity not only weakens our immune system, but ironically strengthens the defenses of dangerous bacteria.

( Bacteria express different sets of genes in different environments to ensure their survival. Inhospitable conditions, for example, can turn on a "master switch" in some bacteria and allow the microbes to form tough spores that can survive the extreme conditions of space.

Prior to Nickerson and her team's study, the genetic behavior of Salmonella typhimurium--the main culprit in cases of food poisoning and typhoid fever--was unknown. The microbe poses a significant threat to astronauts during spaceflight, especially because it is resistant to many antibiotic treatments.

The researchers' experiment revealed that a genetic switch called "Hfq," which may control more than 160 genes in S. typhimurium, turns on in space and causes S. typhimurium to become three times more virulent than on the Earth's surface.

Researchers are currently working on ways to thwart this gene, as it could benefit humanity here down on Earth. In space however, colonists may have to consider sending along a "space janitor," who can help keep the craft squeaky clean as star ships are already excellent when it comes to growing mold upon the rocket ships walls.

Video: Direct Launcher A Better Alternative To Ares?

(Hat Tip: Hobby Space, Video below post)

It looks like a new rocket is in town, which may not only be able to lift cargo into orbit sooner than Ares I and Ares V rockets (which have yet to be built), but may be much more affordable as well.

(Direct Launcher) DIRECT is an alternative approach to launching missions planned under NASA's new mandate: The Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). DIRECT would replace the separate Ares-I Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) and Ares-V Cargo Launch Vehicle (CaLV) with one single "Jupiter" launcher, capable of performing both roles.

This change to NASA's architecture completely removes the costs & risks associated with developing and operating a second launcher system, saving NASA $19 Billion in development costs, and a further $16 Billion in operational costs over the next 20 years.

DIRECT's single launcher system would use existing Space Transportation System (AKA the Space Shuttle) facilities and hardware to lift over 45 tons (in basic configuration) up to more than 100 tons (with an Upper Stage).

Direct's Jupiter rocket may be a Godsend to NASA, as it would enable the agency to reduce its "gap" (the period of time after the shuttle is grounded and when NASA builds a new rocket) by about two years.

Hopefully NASA takes a serious look at this as the Jupiter rockets could enable them to build their lunar beachheads much sooner.

Video: A demonstration of the launch of a Jupiter-120 headed for the ISS. Credit: Direct Launcher)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Turns 21)

The Carnival of Space was held by Henry Cate over at Why Homeschooling (the founder of this whole project) and most of the posts focused on the Google X-Prize Lunar Lander Challenge.

Some interesting posts include:

This week's Carnival of Space will be hosted over at Wandering Space.

Note: Those desiring to submit a post to the upcoming carnival can visit this link for details.

NASA: Lunar Beachheads And Fancy Rovers A Must

(Image Credit: NASA)

With NASA preparing itself for a second encounter with the lunar surface, some scientists are attempting to lessen the load by landing lunar bases on the Moon ahead of the men (as well as women).

(MSNBC) Doug Cooke, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems, said that the space agency's revised lunar plan calls for the launching of larger habitats to the moon on unmanned cargo flights. That way, the first new lunar astronauts could begin to reap science rewards faster than if they had to haul smaller habitat sections and hardware to the moon on each flight, then combine them into a larger base to support long-duration expeditions.

According to the article, NASA intends upon landing up to "three large habitats" upon the Moon's surface, although time will only tell if Congress will be favorable to the idea (as they are in charge of NASA's "pot of gold").

Landing the bases first is probably a great idea, as that would free up space on future human launches for more food, scientific equipment, and water (which is probably very scarce on the Moon).

But lunar bases are lately not the only thing on NASA's mind, as they are dreaming up a new type of rover to roam the moon's surface.

(MSNBC) "They're basically habitats on wheels," Gernhardt said, adding that the new vehicles would be about the same size as the unpressurized rovers driven by astronauts during NASA's Apollo moon landings. "If you can picture this thing, it's kind of a combination between a spacesuit and a sports car."

This new type of rover (if it will ever get developed) will be able to take longer excursions around the lunar surface, not to mention probably be a bit more comfortable on humans. Future colonists would be able to make trips ranging from a few days to two weeks, giving them a bit more mobility away from their lunar camp.

Cardiovascular System: We Hate Micro Gravity

It looks as if astronauts will have another side effect to worry about while floating around our blue planet. While drifting in micro gravity may be fun, our thumping red organ (as well as its many vein friends) may not enjoy the experience as much as we do.

(Space Daily) In space, there's a much different result. There's no gravity to pull blood into the lower part of the body. Instead, blood goes to the chest and head, causing astronauts to have puffy faces and bulging blood vessels in their necks.

And appearance isn't the only ugly side effect. The lack of blood flowing to and from the brain can cause astronauts to feel dizzy and sometimes even faint when they return to Earth's gravity.

That's why a new experiment on board the International Space Station -- called Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from ISS (CCISS) -- is examining how long-duration exposure to microgravity affects crew members' heart functions, blood pressure and blood vessels that supply the brain.

Unless a person is committing to a one way journey off world, then scientists are going to have to figure out ways to strengthen our fragile hearts while floating in orbit.

Micro gravity seems to have a way of "relaxing" our organs too much, and if not resolved we could find ourselves with a weakened heart, not to mention a few other things.

Human beings seem to be designed for Earth gravity, and may ultimately have to build orbiting space stations in order to live above the clouds.

Video: Can Google Really Take Us To The Moon?

(Hat Tip: Official Google Blog)

Google has recently teamed up with the X-Prize Foundation in order to launch the Google Lunar X-Prize challenge.

In order to help motivate the private sector, Google is offering a $20 million purse to anyone who soft lands a rover on the Moon, with five million dollars to any team coming in second place.

The X-Prize foundation has also provided a video to help inspire future engineers to join in the second great race towards the moon.

What makes this competition really worthwhile is the fact that the Google X-Prize Lunar challenge will be awarding an extra $5 million to the team that is able to find either ice water, a previous lunar landing or survive a "lunar night" (which is approximately 14.5 Earth days long).

Whether or not teams will actually be able to accomplish a soft landing for under $20 million is subject to debate (as launching rockets can be quite expensive).

However, if a team is able to actually land a rover upon the Moon's surface and locate valuable resources, they may be able to not only secure future profits, but their place in history as well.

Martian South Pole Abundant In Water Ice

(Hat Tip: Universe Today)

(Image: Martian South Pole, Credit: NASA / MOLA Science Team, via MIT)

When it comes to life giving water, Earth reigns supreme. But outside our home world, it seems as if Earth's red neighbor Mars may also have an abundance of water frozen at its southern pole.

(MIT News Office) The experiment reveals that the southern Martian polar region is the largest body of frozen water on the planet and the largest, outside of Earth, in the inner solar system, which includes Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Until now, scientists were puzzled by the observation that a large percentage of the southern polar region surface does not reflect much light, as it would if there were ice on the surface. This study shows that much of the ice is covered in a layer of dust, but it remains unknown why the dust only covers certain areas, Zuber said.

Maria Zuber's team also discovered that the southern polar cap contains "about 15 percent silicate dust" that is mixed within the ice. In order to survive on Mars, future colonists will have to develop powerful water filters in order to drink melted Martian water.

Note: perhaps Israel could help us out with this.

Update: Adjusted image position, moved credits below image.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Colony Worlds Undergoing A Celestial Look

Note: I am updating this website to give it a more "celestial" look.

For the next 30-45 minuets (or less) this weblog will look rather funky.

Stay tuned...

Update: Most of the changes to the site (99%) are done. Come check out the new look and let me know if anything looks funny or is broken. (page tested in Firefox, and is working for the most part in IE7)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (20th Edition)

Belated Note: Last week's Carnival of Space was held over at Music of the Spheres which featured several interesting posts including:

  • Paul of Centauri Dreams updating everyone on the progress of solar sails (a must read).

  • Louise (aka A Babe in the Universe) talks about Saturn as well as her latest theory on mini-black holes having a role in planet formation.

  • Amanda over at Astropixie blogs about star patterns and their affect upon human culture.

  • "Space Blog Father" Clark via Hobby Space helps break the news about NASA terminating their contract with Rocketplane Kistler, which is sad news indeed.

Tomorrow, Henry over at WhyHomeschooling will be hosting the Space Carnival on his site.

Note: Blogging here will be light for a while, as I catch up on other web related activities, as well as a site redesign. I'll be back in a few days!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Which Worlds Should Humanity Skip?

With our species blessed with 83 worlds that orbit our home star, why would we choose to settle some and skip the rest? After all, would it not be in humanities best interest to spread our glory over every celestial moon, planet and dwarf planet?

While covering every centimeter of every orbiting sphere may sound glorious, it may not be practical (or even desired) by our future descendants. Just as the human race chooses to (mainly) live within fertile valley's and hills over deserts and mountains, so to our children may opt to skip worlds with "too much hassle" involved in settling them.

A prime example of this would be Mercury. Although humanity may posses the capability of colonizing this sphere, its close orbit towards the Sun may make it uninhabitable, at least during the day time (thanks to solar radiation).

Even though Mercury may contain many precious metals beneath its baked crust, it will probably never boast large metropolis's upon its surface, unless Earth decides to turn it into a planetary penal colony.

Moving outward to Venus, one could easily realize why humanity would never ever want to set foot on the planet, let alone through its thick atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure on Venus is about 90 times that of Earth, strong enough to crush a human unprotected.

Hosting sulfuric acid within its upper clouds, Venus may be more valuable as an interplanetary garbage dump than a viable colony (even for science).

Over in the Jovian system, Jupiter's moon Io shares a similar fate to Venus. Although lacking an atmosphere, Io does house numerous volcanoes upon its surface, some of which spew hot sulfur hundreds of kilometers from its surface.

Even if scientists were able to withstand the deadly radiation that engulfs this world, they would probably not enjoy swimming in one of Io's numerous lava lakes.

Despite the fact that Io's lunar sister is known to harbor an abundance of water ice, Europa may only gather a mournful glance from a few scientists observing from Ganymede. Even though many scientists suspect that Europa may have oceans beneath its surface, the world is jealously guarded by its father Jupiter, who bathes its lunar daughter in deadly radiation.

While some have suggested digging a hole beneath the icy surface, doing so may only guarantee ones fate within the icy walls, as Europa has a fairly active surface, which could result in one getting crushed by its icy "tectonic plates."

When it comes to radiation, Saturn's ring worlds do not seem to fare any better than Europa. While the icy moons of Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea may find their surfaces scoured by robots (in search of water ice), these lunar bodies unfortunately orbit within Saturn's radiation belts.

Even though engineers will probably find a way to shield themselves with artificial magnetic fields (or even create enormous planetary versions), the added cost of doing so may make living on these worlds too expensive for the "average space colonist."

The moons of Uranus and Neptune who dance around their green and blue parents, respectively may share a similar fate to their Saturian cousins.

Although its quite possible that these moons may eventually be settled by humanity, they may find themselves harboring space pirates (to the delight of solar governments everywhere) as their distance from Earth and lack of nearby resources may make them unattractive for the masses.

Heading out towards the Kuiper belt, one wonders whether humanity will have the attention span of settling any of these frozen objects at the edge of our solar system.

Although colonizing both Pluto and Charon could provide a few engineering delights, one wonders if humanity may simply decide to ignore these historical relics as they head out to other promising star systems.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (19th Edition)

Last week's Carnival of Space was hosted by Fraser Cain from Universe Today.

Although the submissions were few and far between as people were probably getting caught up with work, school or returning from glorious vacations "away from it all".

For the few who are committed to the cause of enlightening us all, here are a sample of the few posts that were submitted:

  • Brian Wang from Advanced Nanotechnology has an interesting post about the Orion spacecraft refueling itself in mid-flight (note: if only Brian ran NASA).

  • Emily Lakdawalla via The Planetary Society Blog enlightens everyone on how you can take the various "puzzle pieces" of Rhea and put them together.

  • Louise Riofrio of A Babe in the Universe reports on some interesting news regarding Buzz Aldrin at the Mars Society conference (note: Fraser and I both wish we were able to attend).

  • Fraser Cain, the one who hosted this entire event discusses submarines for Europa (an idea Seaquest explored many moons ago).

For those of you interested in submitting articles for the next Carnival of Space, Henry Cate has the details.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Note: Updating Weblog...

Editor's note: Colony Worlds will be going through a brief update (a few minor changes, most of them in the background).

Try not to laugh as this sight may appear to be ugly for about 30-60 minuets.

Update: Will have to beta test the code before going live here. I'll save the update for tonight.

Belated Update (9/10): Not much "cosmetic" changes that you can see, although the site is back to normal.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Which Worlds Should We Colonize First?

Our race is indeed blessed to inhabit a fertile world that orbits our favorite star, Sol. With 83 colony worlds dancing around our yellow sun, one can only imagine all the possibilities of our brave race inhabiting them all.

Of course, reality has a way of correcting our fantasies, and just as humanity refuses to dwell near or upon certain mountains, canyons and islands, so our young species may opt to skip over certain worlds in order to inhabit others.

So which worlds hold the promise of housing tomorrows children?

The first (and probably most obvious) world earth's kids may call home is the moon (aka Luna). The moon will be humanities first stepping stone way from Earth, and will most like jump start our journey into space, as its soil may contain valuable resources that can pay for all the fancy equipment needed to survive off world.

Skipping Earth's nearest neighbor would probably be disastrous, as our sensitive public is barely able to handle any "boo boo's" that happen in the solar abyss, much less a fatality. If terraforming ever became a reality, the moon would be a prime candidate for another Earth, as it already inhabits the "Goldilocks zone."

Journeying outward, our dusty neighbor Mars would come into play. Despite lacking resources of its own to attract businesses upon its crimson soil, Mars does hold an abundance of water which would make a human settlement somewhat possible upon its rusty surface.

(Video: A visual of what Mars would look like if a large portion of its ice water melted and flooded the planet. Credit: NASA)

Mars is also conveniently located near the asteroid belt, which could help turn this barren world into an industrial paradise. Although other worlds (such as Earth) could always mine the asteroid belt with their own ships, it may be easier (and cheaper) to outsource that task to the Martians, the way many American business outsource their "sneaker and jacket making" to China.

Expanding further throughout the solar system, dwarf world Ceres would come into play. Thought to hold an abundance of water beneath its surface, Ceres could easily serve as a way station, supplying crews with water and fuel in the middle of the asteroid belt.

Entering the realm of the Jovian giant Jupiter, humanity would probably end up settling on Callisto. Not only does this heavily cratered moon harbor life necessities (such as CO2 and water), but it could also serve as a gateway towards the other gas giants.

Although Callisto may play a crucial role in our quest to colonize our star system, its bigger brother Ganymede may end up becoming the Jovian favorite, and perhaps even the prime world of the gas giants.

Entering our last stop would be Saturn's Titan, a world believed to contain multitude of methane lakes. Although Titan's methane weather cycle may be worth billions, its unique environment may become the attraction of the solar system, as its air pressure may make life very interesting for sports enthusiasts, artists and even musicians.

Of all the worlds that orbit our star system, these six worlds will probably be illuminated by the lights of future cities upon its surface.

But what about the other 76 worlds that grace our star system? Are not they worthy of being called home by future residents?

Unfortunately many of these other worlds will probably not be settled due to various reasons (at least voluntarily), although you will have to wait until next week to find out why most of these worlds will probably be skipped by our human race in our quest to colonize the stars.

Note: Due to lack of time images (and video) will be added later.

Update: Added video and images, as well as broke up last paragraph.

Star Trek Surgery Via Ultrasound?

(Image: Star Trek Tricorder, Credit: Paramount, via SpaceRef)

If someone is sick and in need of surgery, all they would need to do is call the nearest doctor or check into the emergency room.

In space, future colonists may not be as fortunate, as having open surgery may be the last thing anyone wants done as the risk for infection may be high, especially with a weakened immune system (thanks to micro gravity).

Fortunately it seems a new device by scientists may allow doctors to perform surgery on the human body without ever "cutting anyone open."

(SpaceRef) Engineers at the University of Washington are working with Harborview doctors to create new emergency treatments right out of Star Trek: a tricorder type device using high-intensity focused ultrasound rays. This summer, researchers published the first experiment using ultrasound to seal punctured lungs. [...]

High-intensity focused ultrasound is now being investigated for a number of different treatments. It promises "bloodless surgery" with no scalpels or sutures in sight. Doctors would pass a sensor over the patient and use invisible rays to heal the wound. Researchers are exploring the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound - with beams tens of thousands of times more powerful than used in imaging - for applications ranging from numbing pain to destroying cancerous tissue.

Future colonists on the moon and Mars would probably enjoy this technology, as it would enable doctors to operate on individuals without the need for metallic cutting tools, or expensive lasers.

Although yet untested on humans, the results are promising to open up a whole new field of treating wounds, which would benefit not only those on Earth, but astronauts orbiting above it as well.

Is Micro-Gravity Dangerous On Our Immune System?

(Image: Red and white blood cell via electron microscope. Credit: NCI-Frederick, via

It looks like we may have yet another problem to worry about while attempting to conquer the final frontier.

Despite the fact that it was common knowledge (at least among scientists) that micro gravity tends to have a nasty side effect upon bones and muscles, now it seems that researchers have discovered that our immune system can suffer as well.

(MSNBC) Scientists conducted an experiment with mice that simulated zero-gravity on the ground and showed that a protein called osteopontin, a stress hormone connected with bone loss in space, may also be connected with the dangerous wasting of the spleen and thymus organs.

These immune system organs create white bloods cells that battle infections — without them, the body would be open season for disease. [...]

Although Denhardt isn't uncertain how the process works, his team found that lifting up mice's hind legs--a stressful simulation of weightlessness — for three days caused about a 70 percent reduction in spleen and thymus tissue, compared to normal mice. The breaking down of organ tissue, called atrophy, also occurred in mice that were stressed out due to isolation.

What makes this news even more alarming is the fact that some bacteria seem to be more resistant to antibiotics while exposed to micro gravity.

Scientists will hopefully develop new drugs to encourage our immune system to thrive in weightlessness, otherwise we may have to construct orbital space stations in order to survive among the heavens above.

New Mexico's Spaceport Will Be Environmentally Friendly

(Image: An artist's drawing of Spaceport America's terminal building, with White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo vehicles. Credit: Virgin Galactic / Foster + Partners)

While finding new ways to reach the heavens (and beyond) is important for the human race, taking care of our homeworld is a much higher priority. When it comes to space, the same principles apply, as it would be foolish for humanity to reach the stars by trashing our birth planet.

While spaceports seem to be sprouting all across the globe, it looks as if one is taking our planet to heart, by designing their spaceport to be environmentally friendly.

(MSNBC) The design chosen is a low-lying, striking bit of construction that uses natural earth as a berm, and relies on passive energy for heating and cooling, with photovoltaic panels for electricity and water recycling capabilities. A rolling concrete shell acts as a roof with massive windows opening to a view of the runway and spacecraft. [...]

The founder of Foster + Partners, Lord Norman Foster, said in an earlier press comment that the world's first space terminal would be a technically complex building. The facility not only will provide a dramatic experience for the astronauts and visitors, "but will set an ecologically sound model for future spaceport facilities," he added.

Spaceport America, located 30 miles east of Truth and Consequences in New Mexico will hopefully set the standard for future spaceports not only in the US, but around the world as well.

Note: Wouldn't it be great if spaceport designs led to more environmentally friendly buildings across our planet?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Video: NASA Shows Affection For Dragons In Space

(Image: Engineering Model of Dragon in SpaceX's El Segundo facilities. Credit: C. Thompson / SpaceX)

(Hat Tip: Spaceports)

It looks as if SpaceX, a company whose mission is to revolutionize the rocket industry has cleared its first hurdle in becoming NASA's "transport taxi" to the International Space Station (or ISS).

(SpaceX Press Release) SpaceX has successfully completed the first of three phases of review required by NASA's Safety Review Panel (SRP) to send its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). Over a series of meetings spanning four days at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the team of SpaceX engineers developing the Dragon spacecraft presented their Phase I plans for sending the cargo version of Dragon to the $100 billion dollar orbiting space laboratory. [...]

"To date, no other group has passed the Hazard of Collision report the first time through or completed the overall review in such a short time," said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. "The fact that we passed in under a week speaks well of our team's capabilities."

As part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition, SpaceX intends to demonstrate its launch, maneuvering and docking abilities by 2009 - a year before NASA has scheduled the conclusion of Space Shuttle operations.

With NASA seeking to retire its space shuttle by 2010, the space agency will need a way to temporarily transport goods to the ISS.

With a few members of Congress uneasy about outsourcing that job to foreigners (such as Russia or China), SpaceX could enable America to not only end its shuttle program, but allow the US to save face internationally by using an American company.

(Video: Simulation of SpaceX's Dragon approaching and docking with ISS. Credit: Odyssey Space Research)

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (18th Count)

The Carnival of Space is being hosted by Ken over at Out of the Cradle, with a variety of posts ranging from Cislunar space to the far reaches of our known universe.

A few interesting posts include:

  • "Shubber" (from Space Cynic) mocks comments on NASA's attempt to reach out to pop culture.

  • Stuart (from Cumbrian Sky) recommends NASA should bring along an artist to capture the essence of Martian beauty.

  • Louise (from A Babe in the Universe) highlights about a hole in the universe that is baffling many scientists.

This week's round will be hosted by Fraser from Universe Today, and if you would like to enter the carnival with a space related post, be sure to visit Why Homeschooling for details.