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Ideas for a spaceship: Flight of the Phoenix? Or should that be the spaceship Freedom? Or Destiny, Serenity or Enterprise? In response to our call for nominations, hundreds of Cosmic Log readers sent in plenty of flashy names for NASA’s proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle, the yet to be designed craft that would sail a new course beyond Earth orbit, to the moon and beyond.

As you might expect, “Star Trek” inspired names like Enterprise led the suggestion list, closely followed by “Firefly” inspired names like Serenity. Of course, Enterprise is also a time hallowed name for sailing ships, which is one reason why “Star Trek” went with that name in the first place. But “Phoenix” would have to be the leader among names that didn’t already have strong TV or naval connotations. (Update: Kevin Grazier of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who also knows his way around the sci fi world, points out that Phoenix was a “Star Trek” spaceship name as well. “That has to explain at least part of the popularity, apart from the obvious Columbia reference,” he says.)

“Freedom” was also a strong contender and after all, if President Reagan had his way, the current international space station would have been called Space Station Freedom.

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At the risk of inviting some serious ballot box stuffing, we’re offering a thoroughly unscientific Live Vote that lists some of the top picks. To my mind, it’s far more interesting to read some of the rationales for unconventional suggestions. So you’ll definitely want to check out the latest feedback file for a selection of the e mail letters.

Who ultimately decides what space projects are named? That’s generally up to the project managers or the politicians. A NASA online book titled “Chariots for Apollo” describes how Abe Silverstein came up with the name Apollo in 1960 while he was director of NASA’s Office of Space Flight Programs:

“Silverstein, one of those leading the charge toward more far ranging flights than Mercury, had been looking for a suitable name for a payload for the Saturn rockets. None suggested by his associates seemed appropriate. One day, while consulting a book on mythology, Silverstein found what he wanted. He later said, ‘I thought the image of the god Apollo riding his chariot across the sun gave the best representation of the grand scale of the proposed program.'”

NASA is a long way from deciding what the Crew Exploration Vehicle will look like, let alone what it will be called. But that hasn’t stopped the Boeing Co., one of the certain bidders on the CEV project, from putting up a selection of artist’s renditions showing what components of the space transportation system might look like. (Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings and NASA Watch for providing the Boeing links.)

Judging from the selection, it looks as if NASA will have plenty of doodads to name.

Jan. ET

E voting experiments: Should we tinker with voting technology? In a way, that’s what the Pentagon is doing with its controversial experiment on Internet voting for Americans overseas and in a newly published book, two experts on election reform vote in favor of such step by step testing.

“Point, Click and Vote” is written by Michael Alvarez, a political science professor at the California Institute of Technology; and Thad Hall, a program officer with the Century Foundation. Alvarez and Hall are among the experts monitoring the Pentagon’s Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, and both men disagree with the view, advanced by four computer experts this week, that the SERVE project should be canceled.

Check out the Caltech news release on the book, then read the book itself for their side of the e voting story. The aforementioned feedback file provides a selection of the e mail.

Jan. ET

New views of Blue Planets: The Spirit rover’s communications gap has shut off the spigot for Red Planet pictures temporarily, but in the meantime, newly released pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope are highlighting planets of a different color.

Today’s images of Uranus and Neptune were taken last August by Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and what could be the last instrument ever installed on the orbiting observatory, the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

In visible light, the two gas giants look like nearly identical twins in robin’s egg blue. But by fiddling with Hubble’s color filters, scientists can bring out details that reveal much about atmospheric composition and even weather.

Erich Karkoschka / Univ. of Arizona NASA

Methane storms, thin rings and moons are visible in this enhanced color image of Uranus.

“The enhanced color images show how an instrument with different spectral sensitivity than that of the human eye can change the view,” Erich Karkoschka, a researcher at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory who processed the imagery, said in a university news release. “There is more to everything than what the eye can see.”

For starters, it becomes much clearer that Uranus rolls on its side in its orbit, and that it has a set of faint rings composed of dust and pebbles.
womens timberland nellie ii boots Ideas for a spaceship