SDO launches on February 9

By Phil Plait | February 7, 2010 9:17 am

sdoThe Solar Dynamics Observatory, due for launch on February 9 at 10:30 Eastern time (15:30 GMT), is a revolution in solar observing: equipped with state-of-the art detectors, it’ll stare at the Sun and teach us far more about our closest star than we’ve ever had a chance to before. It’s like SOHO on steroids.

I was going to write up a lengthy post about it, but then I found out my friend Nicole Gravitationaliotta, aka The Noisy Astronomer, already put together a great post about it. That saves me time.

Something I want to point out: SDO will have a continuous science data streamrate of a whopping 16 megabytes per second. You might want to read that again. That’s 1.4 terabytes per day, or half a petabyte per year. Given that a Blu-Ray disk holds 50 gigabytes at most, that means SDO would fill 28 disks a day just to store that data. Cripes. That’s a vast amount of data to sift through. If the Sun is hiding anything, it has about a week to figure out what to do. After that we’ll be watching everything it does.

barbara_thompsonAlso, a fun thing about this for me is that the project scientist for SDO is Barbara Thompson, a woman I’ve known a long, long time: her office was across from mine when I was working on Hubble, and I would often drop by to swap stories with her and generally mix it up. It’s very cool to know that an old friend will be helping run such a fantastic astronomical instrument.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy

Comments (54)

  1. Pieter Kok

    Thank you, Ms. Gravitationaliotta, if that is your real name… :)

  2. Jack Mitcham

    In related news, the folks behind Galaxy Zoo now have a citizen science project called Solar Stormwatch:

    http://solarstormwatch.com/

    It’s still in Beta, but I was fooling around with it last night. It’s kinda cool.

    Here’s their line on the front page:

    “Solar scientists need you!

    Help them spot explosions on the Sun and track them across space to Earth. Your work will give astronauts an early warning if dangerous solar radiation is headed their way. And you could make a new scientific discovery.”

  3. Ben

    Actually, SDO was pushed back a day by the STS-130 scrub. Its now scheduled for the 10th, with a window of 10:26 AM to 11:26 AM EST.

  4. Yes, you should all bookmark Nicole Googamooga’s blog!
    She’s down at the cape now, waiting for the Shuttle launch & SDO too. I have to walk 200 yards through knee-deep snow lugging my camera & tripod to see the launch, so I slept in instead. Now the launch is scrubbed till the wee hours of Monday morning, so if my driveway gets plowed out, I can trudge over to my neighbor’s field and see the Eastern horizon and the launch.

  5. That’s the best last name you’ve made up for me yet! Thanks for the link love, Phil.

    Ditto on the SDO delay. It has to be at least 48 hours after STS-130. It’s set for Wednesday now. If the shuttle gets scrubbed again tonight, then it goes Thursday, and the shuttle tries again next week.

    In related news, I’m suddenly glad all my work is ground-based. Not that we don’t have delays as well…

    Thanks Richard :-) Stay awake with us tonight, it’s fun fun fun!

  6. If the power doesn’t go out I will. The intertoobz do require 120VAC to work… I would have to hot-foot it to my viewing spot right after launch to get to see it. I’ve done this once before, a couple years ago. It wasn’t SnowpocalypseII then, though, it was much warmer. Now if I could only boost the heck out of my WiFi, I could use the iPodTouch to track the launch from my viewing spot…

  7. Mammma Mia.. thatz some spacey meatballz!

  8. SLC

    Gee, another satellite that does not include humans. Here’s a link to an op ed by Steven Weinberg applauding the administrations’ retrenchment of manned space flight. But of course, there are those on this blog who claim that Prof. Weinberg and Prof. Bob Park don’t know what they are talking about.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704259304575042920971568684.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

    By STEVEN WEINBERG

    In the federal budget released this week, President Barack Obama calls for increasing NASA’s funding by 2% while cutting its manned space flight program. If enacted by Congress, the cuts will likely end plans to return astronauts to the moon. Some claim these cuts will damage America’s capabilities in science and technology, but the president’s spending plan will likely boost both.

    The manned space flight program masquerades as science, but it actually crowds out real science at NASA, which is all done on unmanned missions. In 2004 President George W. Bush announced a new vision for the space agency: a return of astronauts to the moon followed by a manned expedition to Mars. A few days later NASA’s office of Space Science announced major cutbacks in its important Beyond Einstein and Explorer programs of unmanned research in astronomy. The explanation was that they “do not clearly support the goals of the President’s vision for space exploration.”

    Soon after Mr. Bush’s announcement I predicted that sending astronauts to the moon and Mars would be so expensive that future administrations would abandon the plan. This prediction seems to have come true.

    All of the brilliant past discoveries in astronomy for which NASA can take credit have been made by unmanned satellite-borne observatories, and there is much more to be done. By studying the polarization of cosmic microwave radiation, we may find evidence of gravitational waves emitted in the first fraction of a second of the big bang. By sending laser beams between teams of satellites, we should be able to detect gravitational waves directly from collisions between neutron stars and black holes. By correlating the distances and velocities of many galaxies, we should be able to explore the mysterious dark energy that makes up most of the energy of the universe.

    None of this involves astronauts. The cost of all these projects would be a few billion dollars—not cheap, but nothing like the hundred or so billion dollars for a manned return to the moon, or the many hundreds of billions of dollars for a manned mission to Mars.

    It is true that astronauts made a large contribution to astronomy by servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. But if Hubble had been put into orbit by unmanned rockets instead of the Space Shuttle, so much money would have been saved that instead of servicing a single Hubble we could have had half a dozen Hubbles in orbit, making servicing unnecessary.

    In any case, the argument for using astronauts to service satellite observatories is now out of date. Current unmanned observatories like the brilliantly successful Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the European Space Agency’s new Planck satellite, which study an era of the universe’s expansion before the origin of matter, are not in low Earth orbits like Hubble, but at L2. This is a quiet point in space that always remains on the other side of the Earth from the Sun and is a million miles from our planet, beyond the reach of astronauts. The successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope, will also be at L2.

    Giving up on manned space flight doesn’t mean we have to give up on the exploration of the solar system. The president’s budget calls for spending $19 billion on NASA, and for much less than the cost of sending a few astronauts once to a single location on Mars we could send hundreds of robots like Spirit and Opportunity to sites all over the planet.

    It is difficult to get reliable estimates of the cost of sending astronauts to Mars, but I have heard no estimate that is less than many hundreds of billions of dollars. The cost of sending Spirit and Opportunity to Mars was less than $1 billion. Unmanned exploration of Mars would not only be more useful scientifically; it would also yield more valuable spin-offs in technologies that are useful on Earth, like robotics and computer programs that can deal independently with unexpected obstacles.

    The only technology for which the manned space flight program is well suited is the technology of keeping people alive in space. And the only demand for that technology is in the manned space flight program itself.

    Mr. Weinberg received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 and the National Medal of Science in 1991. He teaches in the physics and astronomy departments of the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of “Lake Views—This World and the Universe,” just out from Harvard University Press.

  9. Gary Ansorge

    8. SLC

    My Son has stated on several occasions that the most likely reason we haven’t been visited by aliens is that they’re all living in perfect, virtual realities and have no reason to leave to visit other solar systems.

    He may well be right.

    I, on the other hand, am adverse to staying on one small, easily targeted ball of dirt. Diversification and distribution of life into the cosmos seems to me to be survival oriented. Reality keeps throwing us hard balls and unexpected curves. Restricting ourselves to a “perfect” world, whether virtual or mundane, leaves us in the position of being unable to escape total annihilation when the unforeseen occurs. Spread the risk. Colonize every rock and cubic centimeter we can access. Learn to live in space and love it. It’s what the first life forms washed ashore did. How can we do less?

    Half a petabyte/yr? I look forward to some amazing discoveries.

    GAry 7

  10. @gary7 (great star trek ref)

    This is the thing I think (obssssesssss) about…. will Homo Sapiens live long enough to leave mother earth? and make it somewhere else? Do we become a species that is generational on spaceships…? I don’t believe we have that technology at this time. How much will we change in the NEXT million years?

    Time will only tell.

  11. MadScientist

    Wow – that’ll be one power-hungry satellite. I wonder if it has its own network of downlinks. To think that when I suggested measuring the sun’s extreme UV 20 years ago the only response I ever got was “why would anyone want to do that?” so I lost interest in staring at the sun. I hope it gets into orbit without any problems.

  12. Rift

    Great, can’t wait to see what the 2012 planet x people and Hoagland are going to do with the images from this like they did with SOHO :P

    There was a book written by James Gunn in the late 70s, early 80 (way before the idea of Virtual Reality) i believe it was called the mind master. It was a collection of short stories all based in the same universe where in the future we figured out how to use protiens and chemicals to make people dream very specific dreams, virtually a VR fantasy world (pardon me for that lol).

    The last story was a guy that unplugged himself from the life support and dream systems and he noticed that there were hardly anybody around, weeds everywhere and no children. Everybody were in the dream machines living out their perfect little fantasies. He mused that mankind was slowly going extinct.

    Gary- we need to get off this rock. I don’t know why so many people interested in spaceflight are opposed to manned space flight and colonization. Right now we literally have all our eggs in one basket. I read a chilling article by some scientists who think the answer to the fermi paradox is every alien race has a ‘get them before they get us’ mentality and as soon as an advanced civilization is made aware of us they send rocks at us at near light speeds. They calculated that a rock the size of a volkswagon going that fast hitting the earth would turn the surface molten. Although I’m not nearly that paranoid (and doing such a feat would be very complicated) we do need to get off this rock asap, if only because we are destroying it and it’s other inhabitants.

    And it’s our damn nature to explore and move on, dammitt.

  13. Michael Kingsford Gray

    And it’s our damn nature to explore and move on, dammitt.

    And it is also in our nature to want to kill outsiders or those who are ‘not like us’.
    But we have the capacity to suppress our natural urges.
    Just because it is ‘our nature’, in no way makes it either desirable, nor ethical.

    Submitting to the urge to explore and move on has been a disaster for indigenous cultures around the globe, a demonstrated example of why giving in to natural urges in an untempered fashion is destructive.

  14. Don Gisselbeck

    The 100 richest people in the world could probably fund a manned Mars mission and not notice their decrease in wealth. If we funded our War Department at just what was needed to deter invasion and keep the seas safe, we could do the same and still drastically reduce our deficit.

  15. Radwaste

    Every time I surf space program-related Web content, I find some idiot wanting to stay home and just send probes everywhere.

    OK. Stay home. Do not be surprised when the audience yawns in your face when you announce you landed the first probe on {name of celestial body here}. Non-geeks are already doing that to Carolyn Porco, and politicians are busy gutting space dollars so they can use the money for a much more effective program called Buying Votes.

    Yes, I know probes are cheap. That’s why they and their people are disposable, too.

  16. gss_000

    Because of launch range issues SDO launch is delayed. It won’t launch until two days after the shuttle launches, so now it’s launching on the 1oth.

  17. T.E.L.

    Radwaste Said:

    “Yes, I know probes are cheap. That’s why they and their people are disposable, too.”

    But you’re saying astronauts aren’t disposable? The more people you get into a state of flight-readiness the less critical any individual astronaut will be. They’ll be just as redundant as anyone who flies robots from the ground. It’ll become like airline pilots. So who’s the last airline pilot you ever heard of by name? They’re so abundant that they’ve become nameless to the public at-large. If one pilot can’t fly another can take its place in short order. So that’s what you want the Human Element of exploration to become?

  18. At least one thing is different between SDO and other solar probes. SDO will be in Earth geosynchronous orbit (inclined 28 degrees IIRC). That allows those whopping data links with only one antenna, but will provide a relatively unique event for a solar probe…an eclipse. Each year, the satellite will undergo two eclipse ‘seasons’, with the longest eclipse being about 72 minutes.

    And on the other discussion going on in this link, I hope humans colonize space before our robots do…

  19. SLC– yup, and I’m one of them. I think both Weinberg and Parks take too short a view of this. Manned exploration is very important. It’s expensive now, but it won’t always be. But it’s also in a VERY large way what keeps Congress paying for NASA at all.

  20. T.E.L.

    Phil Plait Said:

    “But it’s also in a VERY large way what keeps Congress paying for NASA at all.”

    Got evidence? Where’s your control group?

  21. Flying sardines

    @ 17. T.E.L. Says:

    So who’s the last airline pilot you ever heard of by name?

    Rayford Steele the fictional and very horrible to mere mortals airline pilot of the truly dreadful – but sadly best selling Christian apocalyspe Left Behind series which is debunked neatly on my other fave blog.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayford_Steele

    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/01/tf-pancon-one.html

    Left behind? Hmm ..sounds familiar. Left behind in space, left behind on Earth, missing out on the rapture. (The other good sort of rapture I mean here – that of scientific and human discovery not L&J’s robo-Terminator-Jesus Christian “disaster-porn” sadist variety!)

    Hey, you did ask! ;-)

    Seriously, how many modern astronauts can you name? Not many, maybe just the one in that love triangle kidnapping who drove from one city to another in a diaper. Myabe not even her.

    But then can you name the first men on the Moon or the furts into space for Amercia and Russia? Most folks can!

    Without looking it up can you name the first spaceprobe on the Moon?

    How much more impact did the first humans to set foot on the Moon have for the world than the first robots?

    I think that says something about how important people rather than just probes ae in space exploration & for other people – and is one reason why Weinberg and Parks are wrong.

  22. Matt

    SOHO on steroids? Would those be a-steroids?

  23. T.E.L.

    Flying sardines Says:

    “Without looking it up can you name the first spaceprobe on the Moon?

    How much more impact did the first humans to set foot on the Moon have for the world than the first robots?

    I think that says something about how important people rather than just probes ae in space exploration & for other people – and is one reason why Weinberg and Parks are wrong.”

    I know all sorts of things about the history of space travel, having lived through practically its entirety and having spent a good portion of my childhood infatuated with it. My point was that people are very knee-jerkishly-territorial about this pet issue of theirs, warm bodies in space. When Radwaste says that the people on the ground are a throwaway commodity, it’s as if to say that those people, who have dedicated their lives to exploring space every bit as much as any astronaut who ever lived, are somehow less human, less important, than if only they’d travel bodily some arbitrarily great distance above Earth’s atmosphere. There are a number of posters here who say that without warm bodies in space it’s just not a human endeavor. Hah! Tell that to all the people on the ground who’ve been exploring the Planets all along. Tell the people on the ground how lacking they are in human ingenuity and resourcefulness when some snag crops up some tens of millions of kilometers from their Machines. The Human Element is present in all space exploration. Don’t bother me with your misplaced vanity. You all sound like the Underpants Gnomes and their business plan. What’s Step-2? All you people know is some vague, smoky sense that, for some reason, walking on things is the one true way to explore the Universe. Hawking has done more exploring from his chair than all of us on this blog have ever done collectively. If you want people in space above all else, then you need a killer app, a thing for people to do in space that’s more than just makework. What’s the killer app?

    P.S.: Take a lesson from history. The Apollo landings did so much to heighten public interest that NASA was served a prompt budget cut without causing panic in the streets. How’s that for stirring the collective imagination?

  24. MaDeR

    @SLC
    “Gee, another satellite that does not include humans.”
    How exactly in this particular case human presence in space would make this mission better? Why they would be needed for this purpose? Human in space costs rather large (what an understatement) sum of money, so you better have GOOD excuse. Like in “really, really goddamn good”.

    Or you are just “manned space” troll.

    @Radwaste Says:
    “Every time I surf space program-related Web content, I find some idiot wanting to stay home and just send probes everywhere.”
    Every time I surf space program-related Web content, I find some idiot wanting to fly humans in space for lulz and without any reason whastsoever (other that “humans in space!!!oneone because i say so”), ignoring any technological, financial or economical problems, not to mention common sense. Ah well.

  25. Bertrum

    Gotta say – Dr Barbara, you are a babe!

  26. The task you want to accomplish sets your requirements.

    If scientific papers and sentry duty are your goals, the robots are your ‘man.’ Planetary surveys and answering a group of focused questions (which, admittedly, expands each year as robotics advances) are where robots are at their strength. Facing one thing that a robot isn’t ready for (Spirit sand trap?) and your mission is likely over or degraded.

    If your goals are broader, for example planetary backup and human expansion, then humans are your ‘man.’ We can’t do those things right now, but our efforts today are the first halting steps in that direction. In the short term, a focused, vibrant space program (Apollo) coincided with (many people say it caused) an explosion of Americans getting engineering and science degrees. This contributed to the technological revolution that took place in the 1990s.

    Besides, humans on the scene could do science a lot faster. I can’t find the quote, but Steve Squyres (Mars Rover dude) said that a human crew could have made the discoveries that one of the rovers did in a couple days, and they’d still have 495 days left on Mars to discover more and write up the results!

  27. SLC

    RE MaDeR @ #24

    I am hardly a manned space troll. Read the article by Prof. Weinberg and visit Prof. Parks’ web site to see the arguments against human space expeditions. The fact is that the costs of those missions far exceeds the value of the meager scientific findings they generate. By the way, I strongly support NASAs’ and the EUSAs’ robotic missions and reject the agrument that such missions detract from addressing terrestrial issues.

    Re Phil Plait @ #19

    So Dr. Plait is admitting that the justification for human space flight is political, not scientific.

    Re Tim Hill

    I would have no problem with human space missions if the budget for NASA was infinite. However, given the budget limitations, choices have to be made and the history of space flight strongly suggests that robot missions deliver a far greater scientific bang for the scientific buck then do human missions.

  28. gss_000

    This manned vs unmanned debate is really silly. Both have their uses and both provide great benefits to people. It’s another variation of the “We can’t fund all science so let’s just fund one area” argument. By arguing for one side over the other, people take a very myopic view of what science is.

    And I do think a lot of scientists are extremely narrow minded and biased about what constitutes science. Manned spaceflight is much more of a technology driver than unmanned science (not that it doesn’t drive technology, just there is not as great an impetus to advance tech as much). Plus unmanned proponents discount that knowledge and tech from manned spaceflight gets applied much more rapidly and has direct benefits today. I’m totally stoked by pics from Mars and Cassini, and I know they are valuable, but if I set my knowledge filter to practical spinoffs, then they are useless.

    As for the economy argument, one could say the same thing with unmanned missions hypothetically. “We can’t afford any new space telescopes or missions to Mars or the outer planets. I’d support them if the budget was infinite, but they cost too much. “

  29. SLC

    Re

    And I do think a lot of scientists are extremely narrow minded and biased about what constitutes science. Manned spaceflight is much more of a technology driver than unmanned science (not that it doesn’t drive technology, just there is not as great an impetus to advance tech as much). Plus unmanned proponents discount that knowledge and tech from manned spaceflight gets applied much more rapidly and has direct benefits today. I’m totally stoked by pics from Mars and Cassini, and I know they are valuable, but if I set my knowledge filter to practical spinoffs, then they are useless.

    This argument is balderdash. The technology that has to go into robotic space probes is far more sophisticated then that that has to go into human space probes. Most of the cost invested in human space probes is for the purpose of keeping the astronauts alive, an expenditure which adds nothing to the accumulation of scientific or technical knowledge. I challenge Mr. gss_000 to provide us with even one technical advance from human space flight that could not have been developed from robotic missions, other then the affects of prolonged weightlessness on human bodies.

  30. Pi-needles

    [The SDO] is a revolution in solar observing: equipped with state-of-the art detectors, it’ll stare at the Sun and teach us far more about our closest star than we’ve ever had a chance to before.

    Staring at the Sun? Won’t that enable it to put to rest those Irish hallucinations showing that nothing odd happened to the shape of the Sun at the time when those watering-eyed nutters staring into the Sun at the Knock shrine* said it was happening?

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/10/29/when-self-fulfilling-prophecies-knock/

    Oh wait, shouldn’t SOHO have already done that? ;-)

    Or does the Sun change somewhere between Earth & a small area of the sky over Ireland? ;-)

    It’s like SOHO on steroids.

    What – so its angry, mis-shapen, freakish & illegal? I’m not sure I like the sound of that! ;-)

    * Knock shrine? Knock the shrine? Okay I’ll *try* “knocking” (aussie slang for criticising or denigrating!) it if that’s the idea .. ;-)

  31. Cheyenne

    @Phil #19 – “But it’s also in a VERY large way what keeps Congress paying for NASA at all.”. I think that is pretty much the only cogent argument left for people that support manned spaceflight (with the direct result being a reduction in the real science and exploration missions). No offense but that’s an utterly embarrassing statement for the agency if it’s true.

    This SDO mission sounds brilliant. Why didn’t we do something like this much earlier? Why don’t we have triple the number of space telescopes in orbit right now? Why aren’t we already investigating our solar system much more thoroughly? Everybody knows the answer is because we’re still supporting this ridiculous manned effort that has produced virtually nothing worthy.

    Cheers to Obama’s latest effort.

  32. Tim

    I had to do a double take on ’16 megabytes’! I thought, surely you mean megabits? But no, SDO’s bit rate is 130Mb/s (16.25MB/s) – that’s staggering! It made me wonder, which satellite/probe has the highest data bandwidth/speed?

  33. Gary Ansorge

    17. T.E.L.

    “They’re so abundant that they’ve become nameless to the public at-large. If one pilot can’t fly another can take its place in short order. So that’s what you want the Human Element of exploration to become?”

    Precisely!

    When astronauts no longer need be super human, THAT’S when we’ll have a true human space presence.

    As far as science in space is concerned, humans may not be the most cost effective but the whole point of MY argument is not about science. It’s about people. Everyone from plumbers to welders to hookers to lawyers(Yeah. We’ll even need them.). It’s about LIVING in space, reproducing and building, laughing and loving. For the next ten million years or so.

    Something to do in space that’s cost effective? Building solar power sats, food production facilities(24/365), resource acquisition/refinement/return to earth. In other words, doing the same things in space we do right here on earth. It’s just a much bigger playing field.

    13. Michael Kingsford Gray

    “Submitting to the urge to explore and move on has been a disaster for indigenous cultures around the globe, a demonstrated example of why giving in to natural urges in an untempered fashion is destructive.”

    Granted, it has been very hard on a number of tribes. But YOU are the descendant of those who WEREN’T wiped out. Would you rather it were otherwise? We have no idea what environmental changes impelled our ancestors to move out of Africa. I expect it was more than just curiosity(though that would be a prime driver for individuals). Note that, in the early days, there were no indigenous people to be displaced. The same is currently true of our solar system. No indigenous people and as far as we know, no other life to supplant. Talk about guilt free exploitation.

    We really don’t have all that far to go to develop truly cost effective access to space( maybe another decade or so. I’m thinking nuclear powered rockets, space tethers, mag lev launchers, etc.). What we lack is sufficient economic interest. I expect we won’t really drive ourselves to exploit space until our environmental problems become so exacerbated that we have no choice. It will be go or die. Bummer! I prefer to plan ahead and jump the gun. We could maintain a comfortable, environmentally friendly techno culture indefinitely on this old earth, if the vast majority of our energy and material production was in space. Just shipping finished products “down hill” to earth.

    Exploration is essential to enable colonization. We have the first. Now we really need to plan and implement the second.

    GAry 7

  34. DCB

    If the Sun is hiding anything, it has about a week to figure out what to do.

    Coolest sentence EVAR.

  35. AS

    One factor that hasn’t come up here is the fact that the US is not the only player in the game. There are half a dozen nations and organizations that are more than willing to continue (or begin) human space flight. They have their own philosophies and priorities when it comes to exploration and they may not agree with our (American in this case) interests. At the risk of sounding protectionist, xenophobic, or even down-right racist, there is a certain nagging thought in the back of all of our minds that we need to be Number 1. This is not a scientific argument; it is a clearly political and psychological one. But we have to remember that NASA is not the only pony in the race…

  36. T.E.L.

    Tom Hill Said:

    “Besides, humans on the scene could do science a lot faster.”

    Got evidence? How about just some handy examples?

    “I can’t find the quote, but Steve Squyres (Mars Rover dude) said that a human crew could have made the discoveries that one of the rovers did in a couple days, and they’d still have 495 days left on Mars to discover more and write up the results!”

    Yes, yes, the famous quote. It’s a very hackneyed quote. It leaves out a subtle but important fact: the robots did it decades before any warm body ever will. That’s how able modern technology has gotten. Looks like the robots did it way faster than warm bodies did.

    You also seem to suggest that a human crew will spend all day, every day, out in the field, discovering stuff. Did you factor in days off, suit repairs, spacecraft repairs, days off for illness, and so on, when you came up with that number, 495 days? A crew absolutely will NOT make major discovery after major discovery non-stop for nearly 500 days.

  37. T.E.L.

    gss_000 Said:

    “As for the economy argument, one could say the same thing with unmanned missions hypothetically. “We can’t afford any new space telescopes or missions to Mars or the outer planets. I’d support them if the budget was infinite, but they cost too much. “”

    You could use that sort of argument to rationalize any pet project before it’s time to pay the Piper. We’re in the middle of a major recession because lots of people rationalized spending many billions of dollars they neither had nor were likely to pay back. Fact is there’s a certain finite amount of money. It must be prioritized.

  38. T.E.L.

    Gary Ansorge Said:

    “When astronauts no longer need be super human, THAT’S when we’ll have a true human space presence.”

    That does nothing more than to define “presence in space”. It doesn’t explain what’s so important about have a presence.

    “As far as science in space is concerned, humans may not be the most cost effective but the whole point of MY argument is not about science. It’s about people. Everyone from plumbers to welders to hookers to lawyers(Yeah. We’ll even need them.). It’s about LIVING in space, reproducing and building, laughing and loving. For the next ten million years or so.”

    Millions of years? A minor fraction of Humanity have had the technical ability to launch payloads off Earth for about half a century, and suddenly you think you can plan our destiny further into the future than we’ve even existed to date. That’s what I call naive.

    “Something to do in space that’s cost effective? Building solar power sats, food production facilities(24/365), resource acquisition/refinement/return to earth. In other words, doing the same things in space we do right here on earth. It’s just a much bigger playing field.”

    That all sounds like makework to me. There’s absolutely nothing about “space” that makes solar power, farming, materials better there than right here. Sunlight falls on Earth’s surface, which there’s more of than any fleet of power satellites is ever going to have. There’s more farmable land on Earth than elsewhere. And we’ve barely touched the mineral wealth of this planet. We have all this on the ground in abundance. The only thing we need here is population control.

    “I prefer to plan ahead and jump the gun. We could maintain a comfortable, environmentally friendly techno culture indefinitely on this old earth, if the vast majority of our energy and material production was in space. Just shipping finished products “down hill” to earth.”

    There’s a lot more to shipping things to Earth than “downhill”. Do the calculations. It costs energy to transfer between any two orbits, whether you’re going up or down. We also can’t have enormous amounts of stuff falling freely to Earth. It needs to come down in a controlled way. How are you gonna do that? It’ll have to be ferried to the ground in a spacecraft. Surely it’s not economical to build each ferry on the Moon and use it exactly once. The ferries will need to be launched back off Earth. That costs more energy.

    And there’s more than one way to plan ahead. With population control we can have that comfy lifestyle you talk about using only what’s on Earth (by the way, you do realize, don’t you, that for all practical purposes there’s as much mineral wealth on Earth now as there ever was? Chemical matter tends to be a conserved quantity). Since the Population cannot be allowed to grow absolutely without limit, we may as well learn how to manage ourselves.

  39. Bryan Feir

    So, 128 megabits per second data.

    About fifteen years ago, we were doing that in radio astronomy for VLBI purposes, building ganged tape recorders to record that data rate for over eight hours at a time. Granted, dealing with noisy radio astronomy sources, we didn’t require bit-for-bit accuracy in recording; there was a high enough error rate that it wouldn’t deal with compressed data well.

    Look up the S2 VLBI recorder. Fun times, those were.

  40. Markle

    T.E.L. You want evidence of manned spaceflight providing science that could not have been done by robots? About 40 years ago 12 men in six separate missions landed on another body. They returned about a ton of material to laboratories on Earth. This material is still being studied. Two of them went out and retrieved parts from one of your precious robots whose main contribution to human knowledge was to show that the surface was firm enough to land on. It also caused a minor kerfluffle when microbes were found stowed away on it. It turned out to be terrestrial contamination, but if they hadn’t brought it back that would never have occurred to anybody to think seriously about hitchhikers…. At least not so soon.

    You pooh, pooh manned missions by complaining about them actually getting time off as if there isn’t time wasted in robot missions. Besides cruise phases in transit, look at Opportunity. Right now it’s on a long drive to Endeavour Crater doing basically no novel science except stopping once in a while to check that yep, the soil’s pretty much the same. And what’s happened? Twice in the last year the Oppy team turned it around after they noticed that the rover had blithely driven right past an asteroid. Lost several days doing so too. Not something that would have happened with a human. And humans aren’t limited to ’100 meters on a good day’. With both of them it would have been “document it, take some soil samples, and pop a chunk into a sample container for later study”. All before lunch. And there’s no saying that the humans couldn’t have a few robot friends along for the ride scouting out what’s over the next hill.

    All you seem to have the capability to say is we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we can’t. Step aside and let somebody who thinks they have something to contribute try to do so instead of standing in their way.

  41. T.E.L.: (adding a bit to Markle’s answer) Never meant to insinuate that 100% of their time would be devoted to EVA Science. Nor can I give you an example of human spaceflight that focused on science. Apollo was so time-constrained on the surface the biggest advantage was the number and diversity of rocks that were brought back. While that in itself was good, the science itself didn’t justify the cost of the mission.

    Pick a percentage of time YOU think could be devoted to it EVA science on Mars (20%?), multiply it by 500 days (the time most scenarios have a team on the surface), assume that 2 astronauts in a rover could cover the ground in one day that a MER has covered in its lifetime, figure they could use their in-capsule analysis ability to find the best sites to re-visit, and by my reckoning, you’ve got a pretty good scientific argument for people on the surface of Mars. This glosses over the flexibility people would have to overcome the unexpected.

    Of course, in comment #26, I said that if scientific papers were your ONLY goals, robots were your ‘man’.

  42. BigBob

    Just entered planned 10 minute hold, with 4 minute count-down when they resume …

  43. BigBob

    Hold may be extended due to weather concerns …

  44. BigBob

    Wind still too high so holding until 16:26 zulu – end end of the window.

  45. BigBob
  46. BigBob

    Computer cut-off. One’s nails all gone. No launch today.

  47. DaveS

    Putting humans in space is about social value, as least as much as technical value. It’s worthwhile *socially*, and when it comes down to it, even scientific knowledge is only useful when it has social value, when it says something that fires the imagination.

    It’s a rare satellite or probe that fires human imagination like putting humans in new places. (Except ones like Sputnik, which symbolized a threat to people, again social impact.)

    The other HUGE value that humans have is in flexibility. Someone else mentioned this, but I’d point out that during Gemini and Apollo, there were plenty of times when human involvement at the scene saved the day, often including the scientific day.

    There’s the sticky maneuvering thruster on Gemini 8,which could not have been saved by remote control–an unmanned probe with the problem would have been a total loss.
    There’s Apollo 11 and the pen-core-breaker, again a total loss if not for human impovisation. There’s Apollo 13 with the LEM lifeboat. And the Apollo 17 lunar rover fender fixes.

    Those are off the top of my head.

  48. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ ^ 49. DaveS : I agree. :-)

    Looking at this from another angle, I also think that the Mars Polar lander and Beagle wouldn’t have been lost with humans controlling the descent to override the imperial / metric computer mix-up. ;-)

    I think there was also an episode where a planetary mission lander (Venus? / Mars?) lens cap was stuck on a camera blocking it from working ..

    & when the first Russian space probe to Mars automatically landed in the middle of a raging planet-wide dust storm and was lost whereas a human piloted ship would have waited before landing in such conditions ..

    Oh & the Galileo mission to Jupiter could have been even better if a human had been aboard to go EVA and properly unfurl the jammed radio antennae.

    I’m sure more examples can be found – think I even recall reading an SF short story making exactly that point on the limitations of robots vs flexibility of humans somewhere! ;-)

    The Solar Dynamics Observatory has good wikipedia page :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Dynamics_Observatory

    & a great NASA homepage too : http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    the countdown timer from there ticking away now says launch will be in ten hours, zero minutes & eight seconds! :-)

  49. Plutonium being from Pluto

    T-minus three minutes and counting … & watching live on NASA TV! :-)

  50. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Launched! The SDO is flying high & has been launched sucessfully so far – all nominal so far. Still attached to the Centaur last I saw.

    Over fifteen minutes into elapsed times & NADSA TV showing lots of replays incl. one from a “Patrick (the?) DOMASS” camera which has me :

    a) laughing
    b) wondering what the blazes it stands for! &
    c) wondering if NASA realise what that acronymn sounds like? ;-)

    Great to see though! Not quite as good as the shuttle but always love seeing a spacecraft launch. :-)

    *** Celebratory doggrel ***

    We have an new artificial star
    Sent to study our Sun
    The Atlas five has cast it far
    It’s mission just begun. :-)

    *****
    Seen via NASA TV live online : http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    End of replays now .. awaiting further news.

    … & back to the animation with yellow data figures – second main engibne start & SDO separartaion now .. Coverage resumes 11.45 am EST.

    (Now interviewing people on the ISS – Endeavour.)

    Now 2.40 a.m. Adelaide (Aussie) time.

    Is it just me or is anyone else wondering about why they seem to jettison the covers / shroud (right term?) at the time they do – seemingly so early and then spend so long with the Solar Dynamic Observatory exposed to open air-space on top the rocket unprotected?

  51. Bryan Scherrer

    Watched the launch earlier today. It was fantastic and went off without a hitch. In fact, something spectacular happened. It broke the sound barrier just as it was passing a rainbow and while going through clouds. Certain HD videos will show RIPPLES IN THE AIR that this created. It was fantastic. And SDO is happily fully deployed now! :)

    Cheers!

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 53. Bryan Scherrer :

    Yes indeed. That’s something I missed when I saw the SDO launch live & that the BA has just posted about which is just stunning – a sundog (or parhelia) gets sonic boomed into oblivion by the Atlas V’s passage :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/02/17/rocket-launch-blows-away-the-sky/

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