Sci Station Canada

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Will Feeney Shoot Or Not?

As hopes of actually winning the X Prize dwindled as SpaceShipOnes' second launch approached, Feeney has always been adamant that they will still go ahead with their own attempt. On September 30th a member on the X Prize message board sent Feeney an open letter that was posted on the board along with his reply. "Bad_Astra" laid it on the line ...
"...many ...feel, perhaps justifiably, that you have been misleading to the public, by using, among other things, imagery of a diving suit prototype model suggestively as a space suit, images of a rocket firing that was not developed by your team, a scale test of a balloon that is not even made of the same material as the one to be used at launch. I realize that a degree of secrecy is necessary in such a project, but it does begin to seem as if there isn’t a lot of evidence to support that Wildfire Mk VI is anything more then a ploy on behalf of Golden Palace. ...Was the Kindersly launch ever actually a serious concern?"

Feeney rose to to reply ...
"In general we are close to making a final commitment to a new launch date. The team had a lot of courage to go forward with a competitive bid with our funding from Golden having only been put into place the first week of August (the beginning of our 60 day notice)...I’ll make no apology for stepping out there. We knew we had an uphill battle and almost everything went as we needed it to. ...I was the last one to be convinced that a temporary hold had to be initiated. As long as a race is on I’ll give no ground and fight, inspire the team to overachieve, exceed there own limitations."

It is well worth reading the full reply as he goes into specific details that I haven't seen elesewhere. On October 2nd he goes into even more detail.

Wired News reported on october 1st that "Transport Canada's Launch Safety Office ...had granted a permit for the team, conduct two launches from a site in west-central Saskatchewan between Oct 2 and Nov 1 ...The main question surrounding da Vinci's volunteer-driven effort now is whether it can launch by Nov. 1 as the new permit requires."

On Oct 4, as SpaceShipOne was gearing up for its' winning flight, skeptical eyes were once again aimed at Feeney who shrugged them off "...if the skeptics really want to be that skeptical, they can start their own space program and see how difficult it is. There's nothing I can stay or do at this time that's going to satisfy the skeptics, so I'm not going waste my time trying to do so" Being under scrutiny hasn't stopped Feeney and the Da Vinci project from being mentioned as possible contenders for the new Americas Space Race

Unfortunately the people of Kindersley in Saskatchewan, where the launch is planned to take off from, seem to have lost faith in Feeney, for as reported in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix of October 21 they report ...
"The town of Kindersley has closed its planning office for the launch of a privately-funded rocket ship. Town organizers say the Cape Kindersley office will remain closed until organizers hear from the da Vinci project's team leader and pilot Brian Feeney about a specific launch date. David Grossman, leader of ground logistics for the Toronto-based team, was in Kindersley last week. He went over plans with local emergency personnel but would not say when the team would shoot for the stars."

My own view is that it will happen but not within the Nov 1st deadline of this launch window however ultimately it will only be a spot in the record books. Perhaps it is the excessive secrecy that Feeney has enforced, but there is no evidence that this project has any commercial plans to back it up. Now Canadian Arrow on the other hand ...

New Canadian Science Web Portal

The Government of Canada today launched a New Web Portal for Science.

"Science fans in Canada can now get the latest scientific news and information 24 hours a day through a new Canadian Internet source. The Honourable R. John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), launched the Web portal for science knowledge today on behalf of the Government of Canada. The portal, called, presents a variety of features on Canadian science and technology, as well as links to related Internet sources.
Minister Efford made the announcement at the Canadian Museum of Nature to 140 high school students visiting Ottawa as part of 'Encounters with Canada' - a one-week educational trip to the nation's capital. The launch of the Web portal is a highlight in a series of activities by the Government of Canada's science departments and agencies marking National Science and Technology Week, which runs from October 15 to 24. "

Check out the new web site at (both sites with links en français)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

CSI Montreal

Although it is not listed on the NSTW web site, this weekend also marks the opening in Montreal of Autopsy of a Murder or en français Autopsie d'un meurtre at the Montréal Science Centre.

A murder has been committed. Sarah Melville, an ordinary young woman, is found dead in her apartment: she has been shot. Three suspects are identified...
... and so it begins! Created in collaboration with Christyne Brouillet, a well-know Québec author, the Montréal Science Centre worked with specialists from the Laboratoire des sciences judiciaries et de médecine légale du Québec, the Sûreté du Québec, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The company Forensic Technology also developed, in partnership with the Science Centre, an interactive ballistics game. Produced by the Montréal Science Centre, in collaboration with the Musée de la civilisation in Québec City and the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa

The popularity of TV programmes such as CSI has spawned a genuine interest that educators are trying to convert into people in seats at university. This exhibition, which runs through to March 28th next year is set to be a real winner!

Canadian National Science and Technology Week

It came as a bit of a surprise to me, but it is National Science and Technology Week from October 15-24. Billed as "a week-long celebration of science and technology that affects your everyday life" it has two main events.

The Science Funfest! is a free event run by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at their Booth Street Complex at Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario between 11am and 4pm. "Enjoy exciting exhibits and free activities for the whole family. Bring your rocks and fossils for identification. Find out how science and technology affects your daily life. Explore energy efficient automobiles. Plan and go on a Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining expedition. Go on a Global Positioning System (GPS) treasure hunt."

Natural Resources Canada is offering free presentations to school groups again this year at its Booth Street complex from Monday to Friday. These include Introduction to Rocks & Minerals, Fossils, Movie Critiques, New innovative, alternative fuel vehicle technologies, Remote Sensing, Global Positioning System, The Many Faces of Mapping, Introduction to Geomatics, Natural Hazards, Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge.
In addition you can visit the CANMET Energy Technology Centre-Ottawa, at the CETC's Bells Corners Laboratories, where scientists are developing a wide range of leading-edge clean energy technologies.
Also open is the Geomagnetic Laboratory at Anderson Road where you could learn about the earth's magnetic field and how it affects life and technology. The Canadian Space Weather Forecast Centre is where they track and predict potentially damaging magnetic storms.

These sound like great activities which makes it such a pity that they have not been better advertised. Perhaps I missed it, but I haven't seen any advance notice of this, at least not on the net. I don't want to appear critical but shouldn't a National Science and Technology Week have events in more than one city?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Important outcomes of the IAC 2004

The International Astronautical Congress for 2004 is over and the news from it is starting to be digested by the Space industry around the world.

Dr. Marc Garneau, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) shared the podium with Paul Bush, Telesat Vice President to announce the operational debut of The world's largest commercial communications satellite, Telesat's Anik F2.

Later he joined with Mr. Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), as they highlighted "technological, scientific and industrial discovery, exploration and applications, the result of cooperation that has over the past 25 years delivered far reaching social and economic benefits."

Arianespace announced that fifty mini-satellites are to be sent into space to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the first such object, Sputnik 1. The "nanosats", each weighing 1kg, will blast into orbit on board an Ariane rocket in 2007

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) team was selected by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) to receive the 2004 Laurels for Team Achievement award. The team consists of scientists, engineers, managers, and NASA, European Space Agency and Space Telescope Science Institute support staff.

In other news from the IAC 2004 ...

Dr K. Kasturirangan, a former chairman of Indias extremely successful ISRO, was awarded the Allan D. Emil Memorial Award by the President of IAF, Marcio Barbose

The ESA, the Russians and most significantly the Chinese were active participants.

Debate ranged from the future of the International Space Station to interest in using solar power from space for terrestrial energy needs and humans on Mars by 2030: NASA expert