Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Wired Science: From Elon to Space Junk
Wired Magazine is a favorite of mine, and although I don't watch much TV, I have managed to catch a couple of episodes of their spin-off show Wired Science on PBS, and it's quite good. But usually I hear something about a segment I want to watch and then forget to watch it. The good news is that they put a lot of their video segments on line after each broadcast.
Case in point: the video segment from last week on "space junk" (above). The "space junk" in this case is not hazardous debris in Earth orbit, it's actually space hardware that has been abandoned or sold to private dealers. The hosts in this segment visit a company in North Hollywood, California that has a huge inventory of spacecraft parts dating back to the Apollo era. Their customers have often been movie studios and private collectors, but now they also have NASA and other engineers visiting to salvage parts to be studied and perhaps reverse engineered for the new Constellation moon program! They have also removed internal parts from the old Saturn V boosters that are on display in Huntsville, AL and at KSC in Florida. Interesting and ironic - it seems that in the rush to meet JFK's promise to land on the moon by 1970 that many of the devices and systems that were designed and built were not especially well documented (or perhaps documents were thrown away like the remaining Saturn V's). By measuring and testing various valves, pumps, and other specialized parts from Apollo-era hardware, they may save time and cost on designing and building a similar part for the Constellation program.
There's also a great interview with Elon Musk from the first episode of Wired Science back in January 2007.