Aerospace

The prospective launch of the ambitious and successful Copenhagen Suborbitals rocket received a lot of press. The subsequent launch-abort and delay to spring may not seem an upbeat thing.  In a broad sense, though, it is.
"MAIN LOX VALVE FAILURE
Micro air vehicles (MAVs) under development by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research are  on track to evolve into robotic, insect-scale devices for monitoring and exploration of hazardous environments, like collapsed structures, caves and chemical spills.
If Big Science complains about U.S. budget skepticism in the future, they are going to have to answer questions about the James Webb telescope.  It is currently 3 years and $1.5 billion over budget with no end in sight.   The latest projection, 2014 and $5 billion, has been greeted with so much derision that even the people behind the project in government have demanded an outside panel to oversee the boondoggle.
Autonomous Satellites

How smart does a satellite have to be to function? I'm working on the design of the Project Calliope satellite, and near as I can tell, it doesn't need a brain. All it needs is energy, sensors, the ability to yell or shut up, and a small stuffed animal.

Let's back up a bit. My picosatellite kid has a computer core and a Radiometrix transmitter. I unpacked it and then discussed how the pieces went together. But how minimal can I go?
Time for a little space business by a citizen scientist-- an ordinary scienc-y person who just happens to be building a personal satellite in his basement.  I'm at the Space Weather Enterprise Forum today, where scientists and policy makers try to tackle space weather awareness from a real world 'money&lives' stance. On Friday I'll write it up in my main column, but for now I'm going to connect these issues with some 'Project Calliope' concerns.

When launching a personal satellite, who will be at fault if there is trouble with the satellite?
The Phoenix Mars Lander is dead, says NASA.  Last week, the Mars Odyssey orbiter flew over the Phoenix landing site in final attempts to communicate with the lander but no transmission was detected and since Phoenix also did not communicate during 150 flights earlier this year, NASA declared its mission over.

The latest image transmitted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed what appears to be ice damage to the lander's solar panels.
So yes, I'm launching a satellite.  And an $8K Personal Satellite needs a brain. But which brain? IOS' kits includes the BasicX processor; for Christmas I received the Arduino kit so beloved by DIY folks. Both are potentially flyable.  Let's compare.

BasicX-24 (http://www.basicx.com/): 32K memory, requires 20mA plus up to 40mA I/O loads, operates at -40C to +85C. Programmed in BASIC (ugh) via serial cable.
Hip, hip, hooray. The Hubble has reached its twentieth anniversary* and is  still alive and kicking. Congratulations go to NASA and ESA. And to the Hubble itself. Long live the Hubble!

Chances are, that by now you will be able to read more than a few blogs hailing the two decades of the Hubble as mankind's supreme window to the universe. And indeed, the Hubble has provided us with some spectacular pictures of the universe.

After a decade of development, the Air Force has launched the the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on an Atlas V expendable launch vehicle, and the Internet is abuzz with speculation about what it means because it is the first craft to have autonomous space re-entry.  Star Wars 2010?   
Have you ever seen a galaxy ?

I mean, not a picture of one. The real thing. A picture is a representation of reality, and as such it conveys to our senses only a pale suggestion of the stimulation that experiencing the real thing provides. In a world where images, still and in motion, have a dominant role in our lives, we tend to forget how different are some things when we experience them directly.