Archive for Space

Exoplanet Mesh: Scratching The Surface

Launched just this past March, the Kepler Telescope is already producing useful results:

NASA scientists who put the telescope through a 10-day test after its March 6 launch said this week that Kepler is working well. Its ability to detect minute changes in light has enabled scientists to determine that a planet orbiting a distant star has an atmosphere, shows only one side to its sun and is so hot it glows.

Kepler’s ability to take measurements that precise at such a great distance “proves we can find Earth-size planets,” William Borucki, Kepler’s principal science investigator told reporters at a recent briefing.

The powerful scope is looking at thousands of stars in its vision field in the Milky Way on a 3½-year mission to find planets the size of Earth and to determine how common these planets are.

For folks interested the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, Kepler helps put some things into context – mainly that we’re just scratching the surface since the Kepler Mission is only looking at a 100,000 stars. Click the image below to see just how small a slice of the Milky Way(let alone the universe) this is)



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Moon Mesh

This past Thursday, July 16th was the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 which journeyed to the moon enabling humans to set foot there for the first time. Although few people get to go, many benefit from the spinoffs. Regardless of one’s philosophic or political perspective, landing on the moon was quite a unique accomplishment in human history – only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. This is a very tiny fraction of a tenth of 1 percent of the people living today  and an imperceptible slice of the 10’s of billions of humans who have ever lived on Earth.

Many people have already seen the commercials with excerpts from the “We choose to go to the moon” speech by President Kennedy (video here) or news accounts. If you haven’t done so  already, you may enjoy an interesting cybertrip over to We Choose The Moon(best seen over a really high speed connection) where there’s a real-time simulation of the Apollo 11 mission.  At the We Choose The Moon site you can follow precisely the activities of the Apollo 11 mission. When you go there you will see a continuously updated map of the flight path and a 3-D simulation of the actual spacecraft. At the same time you will hear the actual conversation between the astronauts and mission control. When I first looked, the mission was half-way through Stage 6 – nearly 115,000 miles from Earth and I could hear Buzz Aldrin singing and talking to folks from mission control. Today as I write, Apollo 11 is approaching Stage 7, over 200,000 miles away and there’s only static in the background although a transcript of conversation shows that the flight crew just went to sleep.

Although I’m talking about the Apollo 11 being in orbit today that’s obviously not true – we know where Apollo 11 is. The command module is at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. – not 200,000 miles from Earth. And we know the crew is not on board. The rest of Apollo 11 has just recently been photographed on the moon. Still, people all over the world are experiencing Apollo 11 all over again – as though they’ve travelled back in time. Or perhaps as though folks from 1969 had travelled forward in time. Now it’s just a simulation but previously discussed here on the MJ, detailed simulations can be very  persuasive – even to the point of becoming indistinguishable from reality. If that seems a bit far-fetched consider how much detail will be captured for the next moon landing a decade from now. Quite a bit of data, audio and video will be streamed live over the interplanetary internet just recently deployed on the International Space Station. What isn’t streamed live will be digitized and accessible for future browsing and use. By 2050, people observing a 40-year anniversary will likely have radically advanced, bionic interfaces which allow for compelling ways to relive the experience. That’s a very long way from the simple “lunar lander” simulations we ran on calculators when I was an engineering student or even the more sophisticated orbital lander programs we ran when I was an engineer at Hughes Space and Communications. However, with Second Life and an HP41-C X running on my iPhone, it’s not quite as far from where we are today 🙂

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Satellite Mesh

Taking a step beyond previously mentioned live coverage of events in space, in a little over a year from now, the Department of Defense plans to actually extend the internet into space by deploying an internet router on-board a satellite:

Cisco will provide the software for an on-board router in a space project it is conducting for the U.S. Department of Defense. The Internet routing in space (IRIS) project “allows direct IP routing over satellite,” said Intelsat General Vice President Don Brown in a statement, “eliminating the need for routing via a ground-based teleport, thereby dramatically increasing the efficiency and flexibility of the satellite communications link.”Like ARPANET”IRIS is to the future of satellite-based communications what ARPANET was to the creation of the Internet in the 1960s,” he added. ARPANET was the military’s predecessor to the current Internet.

The project may lead to a completely space-based Internet. Internet traffic between satellites or space vehicles is currently routed through a remote terminal on Earth. IRIS will allow space-to-space Internet traffic to avoid traveling back to Earth, unless it needs to be finally delivered here. It’s possible the project could lead to a faster global IP network, since traffic could travel in space and only come back for delivery.

Intelsat said that, while IRIS is initially being developed for the military, it is expected that the technology will eventually be available for commercial use.

Wireless Security – Cisco Busy with Router for Space and Wireless Fixes

IRIS is a potentially very disruptive development for the broad spectrum of industries which depend on satellite interconnections. It has the makings of a transforming Erie Canal type of impact(for a fascinating, detailed account of this network effect see Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation).

What follows are a few links that provide slightly different takes on this. A good bit of info is repeated but if you are really interested in the topic it’s worthwhile. On a different day I’d take the time to synthesize them into a single post but as they say “so many links, so little time” 🙂


Several very excellent resources exist from Cisco’s successful effort to put an off-the-shelf router on the UK-DMC (Disaster Monitoring Consortium) Low Earth Orbit satellite. IRIS is a follow-on to this effort.

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Space Mesh

Though we don’t yet have an interplanetary internet, NASA TV provides some very nice coverage of live events such as the Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with the International Space Station. Some pictures I took of the people, places and things associated with this event follow. Also, if you’re fortunate, you may be able to catch a short glimpse of the Space Station & Shuttle in the evenings.

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