Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Comments from non members enabled (again?)

It looks like somehow comments from non-blog members wasn't enabled after all. My apologies if you really wanted to respond to something I wrote but couldn't!
Anyway I hope it works this time - just try it :)

Back again. This is what happened.

Previously I committed to putting up at least one new post every week. Here's why I fell down on that particular commitment (and over X Prize Cup week as well!):

Yep, I'm a (first time) Dad. The Koreans say young Joseph looks just like me but I'm not so sure. He was supposed to arrive on Oct 31, but came on the 11th instead at around 3.5kg (7.7lb). Mom is recovering extremely well but we are both on a steep learning curve when it comes to baby care :)

Fortunately I was able to follow much of what happened at the X-Prize Cup on the internet over the last few days. Personally I think the most important outcome is that the event was successful and people who visited really enjoyed seeing all the competitions, displays and demonstrations. The X Prize Cup should now be well on the way to being a yearly space extravaganza with every year being bigger and better than the last. This is important because every improvement will add greater momentum and encourage yet more innovation and improvement in various space related fields by the participants, and because it could be a key to helping the average person learn to feel comfortable with the idea that space is accessible and doesn't have to be out of bounds to him or her just because they are not a hand picked, highly trained government employee.
The event even made it onto Korean TV (I saw it at lunchtime a few days ago) with key attractions, such as Armadillo's Pixel vehicle and the space elevator climber competions being included in the footage.

Good Luck with next year's X Prize Cup. I hope I can be there next time!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

North Korea's nuclear test

People are probably wondering what the average Korean's attitude is to the news that North Korea now appears to have 'The Bomb'. It's a bit strange for someone who isn't familiar with Korea's history and outlook, but generally there seems to as much concern about how the news could affect the stockmarket as the fear that North Korea may actually in the future be capable of tossing a nuclear explosive device over the border. My understanding of the Korean reaction is this: First, they have lived with the North Korean threat for a very long time now. Since the Korean war Seoul has been within range of North Korean artillery. I suppose you could say they have become complacent. But then on the other hand, in the past they haven't really had much control or choice in the matter. Secondly, Korea is still smarting from the IMF era; the period of time after the Asian financial meltdown in the late 1990's when the IMF forced the country to open up the country to outside investment and sell off ownership of several large companies in exchange for much needed aid. This would have been extremely humiliating for them, given that Koreans are very nationalistic and quite sensitive to their image and status in the international arena. This mindset makes them sometimes see any peturbations in the market as impending economic disaster which many seem to dread more than the threats eminating from the North. I suspect also that some people here may even harbour some pride in any Koreans being able to master nuclear weapons while thumbing the nose at the international community.
Hopefully, as the news sinks in and the implications become clear people will start to become concerned for the right reasons and start thinking objectively about whether the South Korean government is really acting in the country's best interest.

I'm going to offer my two cents worth about what I think is going to happen.
First of all, at this time I'm not seriously afraid that the North Koreans will try to actually use a nuclear weapon on a neighboring country. They still value their own existence.
But I wonder how many people in the west are aware that China has been making noises suggesting that they might have a legitimate claim to Korean territory, including, so I'm told, claims that Korea has historically been part of China, and plans to claim the entire Mount Taebaeksan (a site on the border with China with great historic and spiritual significance to Koreans) as Chinese territory. I personally think the North Korean regime only has a couple of year left in it. Then they will really only have two choices: surrender their keys to the South, or be starved out and overrun by the Chinese military, bomb or no bomb.
Part of the problem is that this is not your parent's or grandparent's totalitarian regime. It has gradually morphed into something more like a religious cult with borrowed Christian references to indoctrinate the people, with Kim Il-Sung as the eternally revered father, Kim Jong-Il the son, and the Spirit of the people all working together. (or something like that) Even the Chinese government probably doesn't like being associated with them too closely. For a rationalist like Hu Jintao the North Korean leadership must enough to make him cringe at times.
Clearly a regime like that is not going to behave rationally as the South Korean president, Roh Moo-Hyun has hopefully learned by now. The best we can hope for is that an internal coup will replace deranged leadership with a more pragmatic mindset.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Forget copyright - GX from the horses mouth.

Here's the link (pdf) to the presentation on the GX project's own website. Got all the same pics.

Galaxy Express!

Recently there was an article in SpaceDaily about a new Japanese rocket called the GX, with a kerosene fueled first stage and methane second stage. It is being developed by an industry consortium. I now have a fairly detailed article which a colleague obtained from a Korean website about the GX (or Galaxy Express). I understand the article was translated into Korean from Japanese. The article contains some nice pictures and diagrams but unfortunately I can't publish them until I'm sure there are no copyright issues.
My Korean is not that good, so it would have taken me all day to read it. Fortunately my colleague gave me two key points about the article:
-The rocket first stage will be an RD-180 (not, as the Space Daily website stated, a US engine unless they meant an Atlas V first stage.)
-The current design doesn't include a turbopump for the second stage methane engine(!).

There was also some hint of problems with the methane engine development. We could probably help them there:)

Since we have Korean thanksgiving (Chuseok) this week combined with another holiday to make a weeklong break, I might just have time to RTA. I'll also try to find out if it's possible to view the article online. The website seems to require login access.