As Philae approached touchdown on Comet 67P on 12 November last year, one of the tiny lander's camera systems took a sequence of 7 still images between 67 m and 9 m altitude. These images have now been blended into the continue video sequence shown below. At 9 m altitude the image resolution is just less than 1 cm per pixel. As you may recall, this was the primary landing site but all the anchoring systems failed on touchdown. As a consequence, Philae 'bounced' and ultimately came to rest in an inhospitable location which curtailed surface operations (due to lack of solar illumination and low temperature) to a short 3 days or so.
I was amazed to read recently of the 'new schedule', announced by NASA, for the first manned flight of the Orion system. Now they are proposing a first flight in 2023 - 8 years from now!
Recently I've been reading a great (old) book called 'Flight' that I recently discovered by Chris Kraft about the early days of the US manned space program. I couldn't help contrasting what was happening then, and what's going on now. Chris's account was full of pace, urgency and excitement as it recounted his experiences of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras. I know there was political incentives then to beat the Soviet Union to the first footsteps on the lunar surface. But despite this, I still find the slow pace of the current efforts incredible.
Of course, it's not all down to the US, as the new vehicle's development now involves the Europeans. Europe role is to adapt the ATV system so that it can operate as the 'service module' - see above image. However, to deny that there are not similar political pressures these days is a mistake. I think it's likely that Chinese astronauts (taikonauts?) will already be on the lunar surface when Orion undertakes it's first manned test!
And is the fact that US astronauts are reliant on Russian launchers for access to the ISS, and orbit in general, an acceptable state of affairs?
You're kidding - right ...? Time for the US administration to wake up and inject a little impetus, and the necessary funding, into the manned program to recapture national pride, and leadership in the arena of manned space exploration!
Graham Swinerd - I hope to use this page to highlight current major events in space and spacececraft.