Wednesday, October 22, 2008

LZP: Chinese Say They're Building 'Impossible' Space Drive

Chinese Say They're Building 'Impossible' Space Drive
By David Hambling EmailSeptember 24, 2008 | 10:29:00 AMCategories: Bizarro, Science!, Space


Chinese researchers claim they've confirmed the theory behind an "impossible" space drive, and are proceeding to build a demonstration version. If they're right, this might transform the economics of satellites, open up new possibilities for space exploration –- and give the Chinese a decisive military advantage in space.

To say that the "Emdrive" (short for "electromagnetic drive") concept is controversial would be an understatement. According to Roger Shawyer, the British scientist who developed the concept, the drive converts electrical energy into thrust via microwaves, without violating any laws of physics. Many researchers believe otherwise. An article about the Emdrive in New Scientist magazine drew a massive volley of criticism. Scientists not only argued that Shawyer's work was blatantly impossible, and that his reasoning was flawed. They also said the article should never have been published.

"It is well known that Roger Shawyer's 'electromagnetic relativity drive' violates the law of conservation of momentum, making it simply the latest in a long line of 'perpetuum mobiles' that have been proposed and disproved for centuries," wrote John Costella, an Australian physicist. "His analysis is rubbish and his 'drive' impossible."

Shawyer stands by his theoretical work. His company, Satellite Propulsion Research (SPR), has constructed demonstration engines, which he says produce thrust using a tapering resonant cavity filled with microwaves. He is adamant that this is not a perpetual motion machine, and does not violate the law of conservation of momentum because different reference frames apply to the drive and the waves within it. Shawyer's big challenge, he says, has been getting people who will actually look into his claims rather than simply dismissing them.

Such extravagant claims are usually associated with self-taught, backyard inventors claiming Einstein got it all wrong. But Shawyer is a scientist who has worked with radar and communication systems and was a program manager at European space company EADS Astrium; his work rests entirely on Einstein being right. The thrust is the result of a relativistic effect and would not occur under simple Newtonian physics. Many have dismissed his work out of hand, and British government funding has ceased. He has had some interest from both the United States and China. Now the Chinese connection with the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi'an seems to have paid off.

"NPU started their research program in June 2007, under the supervision of Professor Yang Juan. They have independently developed a mathematical simulation which shows unequivocally that a net force can be produced from a simple resonant tapered cavity," Shawyer tells Danger Room. "The thrust levels predicted by this simulation are similar to those resulting from the SPR design software, and the SPR test results."

What's more, Shawyer says, NPU is "currently manufacturing" a "thruster" based on this theoretical work.

The NPU have confirmed that they have reproduced the theoretical work, and are building a demosntration version of the Emdrive.

Needless to say, independent confirmation is a big deal -- though many will want to see it published in a peer-reviewed journal. Even when it is, I doubt the controversy will subside. Prof. Yang has plenty of experience in this type of area, having previously done work on microwave plasma thrusters, which use a resonant cavity to accelerate a plasma jet for propulsion. While the theory behind the Emdrive is very different, the engineering principles of building the hardware are similar. The Chinese should be capable of determining whether the thruster really works or whether the apparent forces are caused by experimental errors.

The thrust produced is small, but significant. Shawyer compares a C-Band Emdrive with the existing NSTAR ion thruster used by NASA. The Emdrive produces 85 mN of thrust compared to 92 for the NSTAR (that's about one-third of an ounce), but the Emdrive only consumes a quarter of the amount of power and weighs less than 7 kilos, compared to over 30 kilos. The biggest difference is in propellant: NSTAR uses 10 grams per hour; the Emdrive uses none. As long as it has an electricity supply, the Emdrive will keep going.

The possibilities are phenomenal: Instead of going out of service when they run out of fuel, satellites would have greatly extended endurance and be able to move around at will. (We wouldn't have to shoot them down because of the risk from toxic fuel either.) Deep space probes could go further, faster –- and stop when they arrive. Shawyer calculates that a solar-powered Emdrive could take a manned mission to Mars in 41 days. Provided it works, of course.

What will China do with the technology? It may be relevant that professor Yang is not unknown in military circles, having published a paper called "Plasma Attack Against Low-Orbit Spy Satellites."

Meanwhile, what about the American interest? Shawyer told me that "the flight thruster program is on hold for the present. [O]nce the U.K. government had provided an export license for a U.S. military application, the major U.S. aerospace company we had been dealing with stopped talking to us. "

The company may have decided that the Emdrive could not work. If they're wrong, China has at least a year's head start in a technology that will dominate space and make previous satellites as obsolete as sailing ships in the age of steam.

(Picture: SPR Ltd)

It's about Space!

Why this space ride won’t be so rough

Russians resolve electrical problem with Soyuz craft, NASA official says

Image: spacewalk
Russian spacewalker Oleg Kononenko approaches a Soyuz spacecraft to remove an explosive bolt during a July spacewalk at the international space station. Kononenko and two other space travelers are to ride the Soyuz back down to Earth this week.

Take a virtual VIP tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, powered by Photosynth

Mission accomplished
July 10: Russian spacewalker Oleg Kononenko provides a helmet-cam view as an explosive bolt is inserted safely into a canister.


News analysis by James Oberg NBC News space analyst
updated 5:49 a.m. PT, Tues., Oct. 21, 2008

NBC News space analyst

HOUSTON - Coming back to Earth from space is never routine, but this week's descent of a Soyuz spacecraft with two Russian cosmonauts and a private space traveler from America will be more closely watched than usual — because of two rough rides that came before.

During the previous two Soyuz descents from the international space station, in October 2007 and April 2008, the spacecraft suffered the same type of major anomaly when explosive bolts failed to separate the crew cabin cleanly from other no-longer-needed sections of the vehicle. As a result, in each case, the ship’s landing guidance system switched to a steering mode that dropped the crews far short of their aim points, and far higher accelerations.

With a little added bad luck, such a landing could have killed everybody on board. But for the past few months, Russian space officials have been assuring NASA and the public — as well as the three men who will be inside the descending Soyuz this week — that everything is now under control.

Russian space officials say they solved the problem going forward by making modifications in the spacecraft, starting with the one that was launched this month and will remain attached to the space station until next spring. As for the Soyuz due to come back this week, the Russians say the problem was fixed when an explosive bolt was removed during an emergency spacewalk in July.

Of course, all this assumes that the problem has been correctly identified. And there's the rub.

The supposedly faulty bolt assembly has not yet even been returned to Earth for disassembly and inspection. It will be coming home on the current return mission, and could provide the first real evidence that the theory behind the previous failures (and the justification for the workarounds and repairs) is correct.

The opposing theory — that the proposed failure mode is wrong and that the cause is something else — could be proved as soon as Thursday night if a similar anomaly occurs. Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, along with American video-game millionaire Richard Garriott, are due to land at 11:36 p.m. ET Thursday (which is midmorning on the following day in the Kazakh landing zone). NASA TV will carry the entire landing sequence live on the Internet.

It’s not hard to imagine scenarios even worse than the previous two hard landings. In some, the falling spacecraft becomes wrapped in flames before it has correctly aligned its heat shield frontward, leading to fiery penetration of its hull. In other scenarios, critical landing systems such as the parachutes are disabled by thermal stresses and fail to slow the ship for its final touchdown. Such possibilities should be answered with the kinds of solid reassurances that have been lacking. Until now.

A theory you can believe in
A more complete explanation behind the Russian theory came out this week from a NASA space official in Houston. The official requested that his name not be used because he was not authorized to divulge the information. His expertise is well-known, however, and he is highly trustworthy.

The explanation made more sense to me — and relieved a lot more anxiety — than all the public reassurances that have come out over the past six months.

According to this source, the anomalies were caused by a combination of electrical phenomena in space and some hardware features of the Soyuz. It is well-documented that the space station plows through a field of charged particles on the edge of the upper atmosphere as well as Earth’s own magnetic field.

Slide show
Month in Space
Click through the highlights from September’s outer-space imagery, including glittering galaxies as well as Earth’s hurricanes viewed from on high.

more photos

The space station is equipped with an ion gun to neutralize any charge buildup, but the metallic insulation blanket over this particular bolt, and the nearby hardware designed to hold the craft’s aerodynamic protective shroud during launch, were not grounded.

The source said this “allowed a low-level current to flow through the pyro bolts over a long period of time.” The electrical current induced heating. Even in zero gravity, the bolt’s powder fused and shriveled away from the "flash wire" that is supposed to ignite it when commanded. As a result, when the command was issued, the powder did not ignite.

Under terrestrial conditions, he said, “the Russians did reproduce this phenomenon with a simulated environment and a ‘training bolt,’” but not with a flight-qualified bolt. That probably was close enough.

Coincidentally, the bolt that was susceptible to the electrical effect was the only one that spacewalking cosmonauts could access last summer using existing transfer equipment. By removing the bolt at that time, they guaranteed that it would not "hang up" even if it failed to fire this time. This hangup had twice jerked the modules into a brief uncontrolled tumble before they tore loose in the rising flames of re-entry and then, just in time, properly turned the heat shield into those flames.

Adding a flurry of fixes
There was not enough timely insight to add any sensors to the returning Soyuz, to tell the crew that the bolts have indeed fired correctly. However, the expected velocity changes from a nominal separation have been calculated, and the crew will be monitoring their own navigation system to report these changes — or their absence — within several seconds of the required time of separation, the source said. All subsequent Soyuz vehicles, including the one just launched, have thermal sensors on the bolts that will tell ground controllers whether or not the bolts have fired properly.

In addition, the Soyuz will have a software patch, not further described, “that will help the vehicle separate due to atmospheric heating if the pyro lock fails to open,” the source said. But as with any such fast fixes for complex applications, there is always some anxiety that the fix itself may introduce new failure modes.

From here on out, the Soyuz craft will have better electrical grounding, sturdier explosive bolts and rerouted circuitry for the bolt-firing mechanism.

And just to make sure, a task has been added to a scheduled spacewalk in December to install instrumentation near the Soyuz parking ports, in order to measure the electrical environment more precisely. By then, the returned bolt will have been inspected and compared to the test bolt that was subjected to similar electrical effects in the laboratory.

If the theory is actually verified, this anomaly can be retired, joining a long list of "spaceflight funnies" that have bedeviled space missions for decades. And the Russian space teams can clear the decks for the next "funny" waiting out there. That these continue to occur is no surprise. The only really scary outcome is if they stop being solved.

Thursday night, we’ll get a new data point.

NBC News space analyst James Oberg spent 22 years at NASA's Johnson Space Center as a Mission Control operator and an orbital designer.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive




Chandrayaan-1 (Present Configuration)
Organization Indian Space Research Organisation
Mission type Orbiter
Satellite of Moon
Launch date 22 October, 2008 from Sriharikota, India
Launch vehicle PSLV-XL / PSLV-C11) (modified version of PSLV)
Mission duration 2 years
Home page Chandrayaan-1
Mass 523 kilograms (1,153 lb)
Power Solar (750 W)
Orbital elements
Eccentricity near circular
Inclination polar
Apoapsis initial 7,500 km (4,660 mi), final 100 km (62 mi)
Periapsis initial 500 km (311 mi), final 100 km (62 mi)

Chandrayaan-1 (Sanskrit: चंद्रयान-1, lit: Lunar Craft-1), is an unmanned lunar exploration mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India's national space agency. The mission includes a lunar orbiter as well as an impactor. The spacecraft was launched by a modified version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on 22 October 2008.

The remote sensing satellite weighs 1,308 kilograms (2,884 lb) (590 kilograms (1,301 lb) initial orbit mass and 504 kilograms (1,111 lb) dry mass) and carries high resolution remote sensing equipment for visible, near infrared, soft and hard X-ray frequencies. Over a two-year period, it is intended to survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and 3-dimensional topography. The polar regions are of special interest, as they might contain water ice.[1]

The spacecraft was successfully launched on 22 October 2008 at 6:22 am Indian Standard Time (00:52 UTC).[2] After the spacecraft reaches its lunar transfer orbit, it will take 5.5 days to reach the Moon.[3] They estimate the cost to be Rs. 3.86 billion (US$ 80 million).

The mission includes five ISRO payloads and six payloads from other international space agencies such as NASA and ESA, and the Bulgarian Aerospace Agency, which is being carried free of cost.[4]

Mission objectives

  • To launch and orbit a spacecraft in lunar polar orbit and conduct scientific studies.
  • To carry out high resolution mapping of topographic features in 3D, distribution of various minerals and elemental chemical species including radioactive nuclides covering the entire lunar surface using a set of remote sensing payloads. The new set of data would help in unraveling mysteries about the origin and evolution of the Solar System in general and that of the Moon in particular, including its composition and mineralogy.
  • Realise the mission goal of harnessing the science payloads, lunar craft and the launch vehicle with suitable ground support system including DSN station, integration and testing, launching and achieving lunar orbit of ~100 km, in-orbit operation of experiments, communication/telecommand, telemetry data reception, quick look data and archival for scientific utilisation by identified group of scientists.


After full integration, the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft (left) is seen being loaded into the Thermovac Chamber (right)
After full integration, the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft (left) is seen being loaded into the Thermovac Chamber (right)
1380 kg at launch, 675 kg at lunar orbit,[5] and 523 kg after releasing the impactor.
Cuboid in shape of approximately 1.5 m
X band, 0.7 m diameter parabolic antenna for payload data transmission. The Telemetry, Tracking & Command (TTC) communication operates in S band frequency.
The spacecraft is mainly powered by its solar array, which includes one solar panel covering a total area of 2.15 x 1.8 m2 generating 700W of power, which is stored in a 36 Ah Lithium-ion battery.[6] The spacecraft uses a bipropellant integrated propulsion system to reach lunar orbit as well as orbit and attitude maintenance while orbiting the Moon.[5]

Specific areas of study

  • High-resolution mineralogical and chemical imaging of permanently shadowed north and south polar regions.
  • Search for surface or sub-surface water-ice on the Moon, specially at lunar poles.
  • Identification of chemical end members of lunar high land rocks.
  • Chemical stratigraphy of lunar crust by remote sensing of central upland of large lunar craters, South Pole Aitken Region (SPAR) etc., where interior material may be expected.
  • To map the height variation of the lunar surface features along the satellite track.
  • Observation of X-ray spectrum greater than 10 keV and stereographic coverage of most of the Moon's surface with 5m resolution
  • To provide new insights in understanding the Moon's origin and evolution.
Chandrayaan 1
Chandrayaan 1

The scientific payload has a total mass of 90 kg and contains six Indian instruments and six foreign instruments.

  • The Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) has 5 m resolution and a 40 km swath in the panchromatic band and will be used to produce a high-resolution map of the Moon.[7]
  • The Hyper Spectral Imager (HySI) will perform mineralogical mapping in the 400-900 nm band with a spectral resolution of 15 nm and a spatial resolution of 80 m.
  • The Lunar Laser Ranging Instrument (LLRI) will determine the surface topography.
  • An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (C1XS) covering 1- 10 keV with a ground resolution of 25 km and a Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM) to detect solar flux in the 1–10 keV range.[8] C1XS will be used to map the abundance of Mg, Al, Si, Ca, Ti, and Fe at the surface, and will monitor the solar flux. This payload is a collaboration between Rutherford Appleton laboratory, U.K, ESA and ISRO.
  • A High Energy X-ray/gamma ray spectrometer (HEX) for 30- 200 keV measurements with ground resolution of 40 km, the HEX will measure U, Th, 210Pb, 222Rn degassing, and other radioactive elements
  • Moon Impact probe (MIP) developed by the ISRO, is a small satellite that will be carried by Chandrayaan-1 and will be ejected once it reaches 100 km orbit around Moon, to impact on the Moon. MIP carries three more instruments, namely, a high resolution mass spectrometer, an S-Band altimeter and a video camera. The MIP also carries with it a picture of the Indian flag, its presence marking as only the fourth nation to place a flag on the Moon after Russia (however, Luna 2 carried the Soviet flag and coat of arms), United States and Japan.[9]
  • Among foreign payloads, The Sub-keV Atom Reflecting Analyser (SARA) from the ESA will map composition using low energy neutral atoms sputtered from the surface.[10]
  • S-band miniSAR, designed, built and tested for NASA by a large team that includes the Naval Air Warfare Center, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman; it is the active SAR system to search for lunar polar ice. The instrument will transmit right polarized radiation with a frequency of 2.5 GHz and will monitor the scattered left and right polarised radiation. The Fresnel reflectivity and the circular polarisation ratio (CPR) are the key parameters deduced from these measurements. Ice shows the Coherent Backscatter Opposition Effect which results in an enhancement of reflections and CPR, so that water content of the Moon polar region can be estimated.[12]
  • Radiation Dose Monitor (RADOM-7) from Bulgaria is to map the radiation environment around the Moon.

Space flight

Launch took place 22 October 2008 at 6.22 am IST from Satish Dhawan Space Centre using ISRO's PSLV launch rocket. The rocket 44.4 metre tall four-stage rocket is supposed to launch the spacecraft into orbit. Chandrayaan will take 15 days to reach the lunar orbit. ISRO's telemetry, tracking and command network (ISTRAC) at Peenya in Bangalore, will be tracking and controlling Chandrayaan-1 over the next two years of its life span.[13]

Since its perfect launch, Chandrayaan has performed several engine burns, moving it into the designated Geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) around earth and has successfully communicated with base center.

Once in GTO, Chandrayaan's on-board motor will be fired to take it to the lunar orbit with 1,019 km perigee and 386,194 km apogee from the Earth around November 8. This orbit will take the spacecraft to the vicinity of the moon.

The spacecraft will rotate for about five-and-a-half days before firing the engine to slow its velocity for moon's gravity to capture it.[14] As the spacecraft approaches the moon, its speed will be reduced to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit.[15] A series of engine burns will then lower its orbit to its intended 100 km circular polar orbit. Following this, the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) will be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 and all the scientific instruments/payloads are commissioned.[14]

Chandrayaan II

Chandrayaan II
Organization Indian Space Research Organization
Mission type Orbiter, Rover
Satellite of Moon
Launch date 2010/2011
Launch vehicle PSLV
Mission duration 1 month (rover)
Mass 30 to 100 kg (rover)

The ISRO is also planning a second version of Chandrayaan named: Chandrayaan II. According to ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, "The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) hopes to land a motorised rover on the Moon in 2010 or 2011, as a part of its second Chandrayaan mission. The rover will be designed to move on wheels on the lunar surface, pick up samples of soil or rocks, do in situ chemical analysis and send the data to the mother-spacecraft Chandrayaan II, which will be orbiting above. Chandrayaan II will transmit the data to Earth."

On November 12, 2007, representatives of the Russian Federal Space Agency and ISRO signed an agreement for the two agencies to work together on the Chandrayaan II project.[16]

Chandrayaan II will consist of the spacecraft itself and a landing platform with the Moon rover. The platform with the rover will detach from the orbiter after the spacecraft reaches its orbit above the Moon, and land on lunar soil. Then the rover will roll out of the platform. Mylswamy Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan I, said: "Chandrayaan II will carry a semi-hard or soft-landing system. A motorised rover will be released on the Moon's surface from the lander. The location for the lander will be identified using Chandrayaan I data."

The rover will weigh between 30 kg and 100 kg, depending on whether it is to do a semi-hard landing or soft landing. The rover will have an operating life-span of one month. It will run predominantly on solar power.

NASA Lunar Outpost

According to Ben Bussey, senior staff scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Chandrayaan's imagery will be used to decide the future Lunar outpost that NASA has recently announced. Bussey told, "India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter has a good shot at further identifying possible water ice-laden spots with a US-provided low-power imaging radar." Bussey advised - one of two US experiments on the Indian Moon probe. "The idea is that we find regions of interest with Chandrayaan-1 radar. We would investigate those using all the capabilities of the radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter", Bussey added, "a Moon probe to be launched late in 2008."[17] (The LRO is now scheduled for launch 24 April 2009).

See also


Robot for India's Moon mission

  1. ^ Bhandari N. (2005). "Title: Chandrayaan-1: Science goals" (PDF). Journal of Earth System Science 114: 699. doi:10.1007/BF02715953.
  2. ^ "Chandrayaan-1 launch on Oct 22".
  3. ^ "Chandrayaan-I Launch was Nominal".
  4. ^ [BBC
  5. ^ a b "Speifications of Chandrayaan 1". Indian Space Research Organisation (October 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  6. ^ "FAQ on Chandrayaan 1". Indian Space Research Organisation (October 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  7. ^ A. S. Kiran Kumar, A. Roy Chowdhury (2005). "Terrain mapping camera for Chandrayaan-1" (PDF). J. Earth Syst. Sci. 114 (6): 717–720. doi:10.1007/BF02715955.
  8. ^ "The Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer: C1XS". Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Retrieved on 2008-10-21.
  9. ^ "Indian flag to be only fourth on Moon".
  10. ^ Bhardwaj, A., S. Barabash, Y. Futaana, Y. Kazama, K. Asamura, D. McCann, R. Sridharan, M. Holmström, P. Wurz, R. Lundin (2005). "Low energy neutral atom imaging on the Moon with the SARA instrument aboard Chandrayaan-1 Mission" (PDF). J. Earth System Sci 114 (6): 749–760. doi:10.1007/BF02715960.
  11. ^ Basilevsky A. T., Keller H. U., Nathues A., Mall J., Hiesinger H., Rosiek M. (2004). "Scientific objectives and selection of targets for the SMART-1 Infrared Spectrometer (SIR)". Planetary and Space Science 52: 1261–1285. doi:10.1016/j.pss.2004.09.002.
  12. ^ P. D. Spudis, B. Bussey, C. Lichtenberg, B. Marinelli, S. Nozette (2005). "mini-SAR: An Imaging Radar for the Chandrayaan 1 Mission to the Moon". Lunar and Planetary Science 26.
  13. ^ "Chandrayaan-I successfully put into earth's orbit", Indian express (Oct 22, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  14. ^ a b "India launches first Moon mission", BBC (22 October 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  15. ^ "Chandrayaan-1 launched", Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, IBN Live (Oct 22, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  16. ^ "India, Russia to expand n-cooperation, defer Kudankulam deal".
  17. ^ Moonbase: In the Dark On Lunar Ice | | 26 December 2006

B. H. Foing (2004). "The case for the first Indian robotic mission to the Moon". Current Science 87: 1061–1065.

External links

Technology & science: Space

Cosmic Log:
Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: The current round of financial uncertainty is coming at just the wrong time for America's largest and smallest fusion research programs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


SpaceX Logo

A week spent reviewing data has confirmed that the flight went really well, including the coast and restart. The mood here at SpaceX is just ecstatic! This is the culmination of six years of hard work by a very talented team. It is also a great relief for me, who led the overall design of the rocket (not a role I expected to have when starting the company). I felt a little sheepish receiving the AIAA award for the most outstanding contribution to the field of space transportation two weeks before this flight.

Orbit was achieved with the first burn terminating at 330.5 km altitude and 8.99 degree inclination. The goal for initial insertion was a 330 km altitude and a 9.0 degree inclination, so this was right on target! Accuracy far exceeded our expectations, particularly given that this was the first time Falcon 1 reached orbit.

The primary purpose of the second burn was to test the restart capability and then burn as long as possible. The upper stage coasted for 43.5 minutes and then burned for 6.8 seconds, which is 4 seconds longer than needed to circularize. Most of the burn was actually done sideways to avoid creating a highly elliptical orbit, hence a change in inclination to 9.3 degrees. The final orbit, confirmed by US Space Command, was 621 km by 643 km.

As an added bonus, we picked up several minutes of video and data from the upper stage when it passed over Kwajalein one orbit later, which showed the stage to be in good condition. You will see some eerie footage of the upper stage drifting in zero g at the end of the video clip below.

After one complete orbit, the SpaceX Falcon 1 Flight 4 vehicle passes over its launch site at the Kwajalein Atoll, and returns a view of the Earth.

While Falcon 1 was the world’s first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach orbit, I would like to acknowledge and express appreciation for the role of DARPA, the Air Force and the ORS Office of the Department of Defense. They played an important role as early “beta” customers of Falcon 1. There are many individuals in those organizations, as well as in NASA, NRL, FAA, USAKA/RTS, other departments of the US government and the private sector to whom we owe gratitude for their support and advice. You didn’t have to help, but you did, often at risk of career and credibility, so you have my deepest thanks.

The next flight of Falcon 1 is tentatively scheduled for March next year and will carry a Malaysian primary satellite, as well as US government secondary satellites, to near equatorial orbit. Flight 6 will probably be a Defense Department satellite in the summer and Flight 7 a commercial satellite mission in the fall. In 2010, I expect the launch cadence for Falcon 1 to step up to a mission every two to three months.

Below is a highlight reel of the Falcon 1 flight, including the restart and video footage from the upper stage when it does its first orbit back over Kwajalein. Some of this has not been show before, so there is something new even if you watched the live webcast.


Click the image below to view the highlight reel from the SpaceX Video Gallery:

Liftoff of Falcon 1, Flight 4 from the Kwajalein Atoll on September 28, 2008 (UTC).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

repost from PPGP

LZP: The Cheap Camera Mystery Solved!

Whitechapel poster:
“Ok, so they handed out disposable cameras obviously, it's just tacky to see people shoving cheap plastic cameras at the candidates.

Presidential debate: minute by minute

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images | Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain appear in Nashville for the second presidential debate.

By Kate Linthicum and Don Frederick, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
7:33 PM PDT, October 7, 2008
7:25 p.m. As the discussion turns to the Russia's recent assertiveness in central Europe, Obama gives an answer that might have attracted little interest a month ago but may have sounded a wrong note now.

McCain had said America has to "show moral support" for Georgia, Ukraine and other nations feeling threatened by Russia. Obama says more than that is needed – he calls for "financial assistance" from the U.S. to help such countries build their economies.

Given the state of America's finances, public support for increasing the foreign aid budget probably is not very high.

7:19 p.m. The two, with Brokaw's assent, throw the debate guidelines by the board and engage directly and aggressively on U.S. policy toward Pakistan.

It begins with McCain asserting Obama was foolish to, he charges, threaten to "invade" Pakistan to fight terrorists.

Obama, in turn, charges McCain with misrepresenting his position. "Nobody called for the invasion of Pakistan," Obama says. He repeat the policy he first laid out in a speech more than a year ago, when he was one of many candidates in a crowded Democratic primary field – that if Pakistan is "unable or unwilling" to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his terrorist allies, he would do so.

McCain repeats his assertion that Obama displayed his inexperience by threatening to "invade" Pakistan.

Obama takes this as an opportunity to bring up one of McCain's worst gaffes to date: The time McCain joked that America should "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."

7:14 p.m. We now bring you an update from our mole who is watching the debate over at NBC studios in Burbank, where Jay Leno just finished taping the "Tonight Show."

Our spy reports that Leno will deliver this line about the debate on his show: "It's a Town-Hall format, which is John McCain's favorite way to speak to crowds. As opposed to Barack Obama's favorite way, a sermon on a mount."

7:08 p.m. As the debate hits its hour mark, the subject turns to what would have dominated the discussion a year ago – foreign affairs.

McCain repeats what was in mantra in the first debate – Obama "does not understand" the nation's national security responsibilities.

Obama, who some thought too often allowed that assertion to go unchallenged in the first debate, focuses on Iraq and seeks to turn the charge on its head. Recalling his opposition – as an

Illinois state senator – to the congressional resolution authorizing force in

Iraq , he says yes, he dies not "understand how we invaded a country that had nothing to do with" the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"And it's been costly to us," he adds, focusing on the "enormous strain" the war has out on the federal budget – a point that may carry more force against the backdrop of the economic turmoil.

6:59 p.m. The debate is approaching its hour mark and as yet, one notable name has yet to be uttered – Bill Ayers, the Vietnam-era radical terrorist who ultimately became a college professor and played a role in the start of Obama's political career. He has dominated much of the campaign dialogue since the weekend, and some McCain supporters were hoping he would broach Obama's link to him as a way to question the Democrat's judgment.

Nor, for that matter, has Iraq or Afghanistan figured in the debate.

Instead, the debate has centered around domestic issues.

On a deceptively simple question – is health care a privilege, a right or a responsibility – a key difference between the two men emerges, completely in line with their differing political philosophies.

McCain terms it a responsibility; Obama a right.

This divergence almost assuredly will get vigorous dissected in the day to come.

6:57 p.m. In answer after answer, the two men can't resist arguing over their prospective records and how they voted on this bill or that bill, despite the general perception that both the questioners in the hall and the audience in general would prefer forward-looking responses.

This may, in part, be one of the wages of having two senators squaring off against off another – they simply can't resist lapsing into the tried-and-true debating habits of legislators.

6:53 p.m. Asked how swiftly his administration would address environmental issues, especially global warming, McCain seizes he opportunity to distance himself from the man he is seeking to replace as leader of the Republican Party (as well as president). "I have disagreed strongly with the Bush admin on this issue," he says, touting his credentials as one who has called for a more aggressive government policy on global warming.

He then mentions nuclear power as something he would aggressively promote as president, and criticizes Obama as an opponent of such efforts.

Obama charges McCain with misrepresenting his record, saying, "I favor nuclear power as one component of out overall energy mix."

6:47 p.m. Asked about offering a long-term plan to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, Obama briefly pledges to try to do that during a first term. He declines Brokaw's invitation that he commit to doing so within his first two years in office.

But what he really wants to do is dispute McCain's characterization of him an unvarnished tax hiker. "The straight talk express lost a wheel on that one," Obama says. He then lays out his call for repealing tax cuts enacted under Bush for the affluent – those families with incomes exceeding $250,000 a year – and cutting taxes for others.

Obama has referred several times to the truthlessness of some of McCain's claims about him. McCain, meanwhile has been swinging at Obama hard, leaving Obama largely on the defensive. But that doesn't mean that McCain is winning. Several times McCain has turned to Obama to pose sarcastic questions -- that could appear mean to voters watching at home.

6:45 p.m. Two quick things about body language. First, McCain is moving around the stage quite a bit -- he is sitting and writing instead of looking at the audience, then standing up when Obama is talking. Obama seems more relaxed.

And, as the always observant Andy Malcolm notes: Both these candidates are left handed!

6:43 p.m. Brokaw is trying hard to get the candidates to limit their responses to two minutes. If the candidates don't mind the time limit, "We're going to have larger deficits that the federal government does," he threatens.

6:41 p.m. An Internet question comes from "a child of the depression," asking each candidate what sacrifices, as president, they would demand of citizens who – despite a raft of crises in recent decades -- has not been asked to make any meaningful one.

McCain says he would ask Americans there will be some government programs "that we may have to eliminate." He then reiterates his previous call for a spending freeze on all programs but defense, veteran benefits and a selected, unnamed few others.

Obama does not identity a specific government program that he would cut or abolish. Instead, he talks about the need for citizens to start making sacrifices in the way they live their daily lives. He also disagrees with the call for an across-the-board spending freeze, saying that would be unfair.

6:34 p.m. McCain takes a pass when Brokaw asks him to rank what he would deal with first -- healthcare, the cost of entitlement programs (such as Social Security) or energy. The Republican says all three can be dealt with at the same time.

Obama says energy is most important.

6:31 p.m. A questioner cuts to the chase – how can either party be trusted to grapple with the daunting problems facing the nation?

Obama says he understands "both your frustration and your cynicism." He then, again, lays much of the blame on President Bush. But then, perhaps realizing that the blame-game is exactly what voters don't want to hear, he talks about his plans. A priority, he says, will be dealing with health care costs. Another will be energy costs and its supply.

McCain also spends much of his answer on criticism – labeling Obama a liberal who has no track record of dealing with problems in a bipartisan way. Only at the tail end of his answer does he discuss his goals, mentioning his focus on increasing domestic energy production.

6:14 p.m. Brokaw begins the proceedings on an ominous note, saying that "We still don't know where the bottom is at this time" with the economy. And the first audience question concerns the candidate plans to deal with the economic crisis, especially as it is affecting the elderly.

Obama, answering first, gets off his chair and, approaches the questioner and reiterates his belief that the country is paying the price for the failed policies of a Republican regime. He also stresses that his belief that he is well-suited to grapple with the nation's economic woes. McCain, when it's his turn, outlines the high points of his economic plan, including providing mortgage relief to some homeowners. Neither directly address the particular problems of older citizens.

McCain does take a veiled shot at Obama, telling his rivals "it's good to be with you at a town hall meeting." That's reference to Obama avoiding McCain's standing invitation throughout the summer to join him at such forums.

He takes another shot at Obama while answering the second question, "How will the fiscal recovery package help people?" He slams Obama for his ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama, when it's his turn to speak, lashes back, reminding McCain that one of McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis lobbied for Fannie Mae in the past.

It's a nonsensical thing to argue over: Both Obama and McCain have advisers and who have connections with the companies.

6:06 p.m. It's showtime! The candidates are on stage, and the debate is about to begin.

There was a coin toss to determine who would answer each question first, and Obama won that privilege. He also won the coin toss that determined who answered first in the first debate. And his running mate Joe Biden won the coin toss to answer first during the vice presidential debate.

The New York Times recently wrote about McCain's propensity to gamble, but it looks like the Democrats may be luckier when it comes to tossing coins.

5:56 p.m. Moderator Tom Brokaw is on stage, prepping the audience. His main point: This encounter is about the candidates and their responses, not audience reaction. So he rather sternly warned the crowd to curb their enthusiasm.

As for the structure of the debate, the candidates will answer questions from the audience (made up of about 80 likely voters from the Nashville area) and from the Internet (more than 6 million questions were submitted online). Each candidate will have two minutes to answer each question, and then there will be a short period for rebuttal.

Although Brokaw had a hand in picking the questions, he will not be allowed to ask follow-ups or make comments. The person who asks the question also will not be allowed to ask follow-ups. Too bad.

5:42 p.m. Hello! And welcome to the second presidential debate. In just a few moments, Barack Obama and John McCain will take the stage at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., to answer questions from voters.

As our Peter Wallsten notes, the campaign has taken a dirty turn since the two candidates met last. Both campaigns have unleashed a barrage of attack ads, and the candidates have toughened up on the stump. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, said it best at a recent campaign rally in California: "The gloves are off," she told the cheering crowd.

We will be live blogging the debate. If you'd like to watch along with us, we will be streaming it live here.

Stay tuned.

Presidential Debate: Video, Highlights, Analysis

Live streaming video of the Presidential debate here.

10:45 - Sam Stein: Barack Obama takes the (err...) all important Frank Luntz focus group on Fox News, though the undecideds were, well, undecided when it came to which candidate handled the economic part of the debate better.

"Obama did better overall and the key point among viewers was health care," said Luntz. Prompted by Brit Hume to go over, again, who scored better on economic matters, the crowd is split.

"Half of them though John McCain did better on the economy," said a somewhat flummoxed Luntz.

Jason Linkins: I couldn't agree more with the focus group's health care point. Obama, talking health care, that was a moment where the cat finally jumped.

10:41 - Nico Pitney: The pro-Obama group Progressive Accountability puts out this video - McCain vs. McCain:

10:35 - Seth Colter Walls: Wolf Blitzer goes there: "It's apparent to say that Sen. McCain has some disdain, I think it's fair to say, for Sen. Obama. That was very apparent throughout the course of this debate."

10:33 - Sam Stein: The debate ends with a relatively bizarre and too-easily-dismissible "zen-like" question (as Brokaw explains): "What don't you know and how will you know it"

Obama sidesteps actually answering what was asked by saying: "My wife Michelle is there and she can give you a much longer list..."

He goes on to talk about how the obstacles one faces as president are "never the challenges you expect, it is the challenges that you don't which consume most of your time."

McCain is far more serious and dire. "What I don't know is what we all don't know," he says. "What is going to happen both here at home and abroad, the challenges we face are unprecedented."

Then he offers this head-scratcher: "What I don't know is what the unexpected will be."

Not his fault. Weird question.

The two candidates, as the debate end, stand together and firmly in the way of Brokaw's teleprompter, prompting the NBC host to complain that he can't read his script.

Obama and McCain then split from each other. Brokaw, thankfully, is saved from humiliation.

10:29 - Sam Stein: The question turns to Israel and what should happen if Iran had a nuclear weapon pointed its way. And while McCain and Obama disagree sharply on whether to talk to Iran and what to do about the broader tensions between the two countries, they have one thing in common: they aren't going to let the United Nations get in the way.

"We obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council," says McCain. "I think the realities are that both Russia and china would probably propose significant obstacles."

Adds Obama: "We will never take the threat of force off the table... It is important that we don't provide veto power to the United Nations or anyone else in acting in our interests."

10:25 - Jason Linkins: Why McCain continually implies that Russia is poised to take down the Ukraine is beyond me. Also: apparently the rules of the debate allow the participants to touch any or all Chief Petty Officers. And once again, McCain clarifies: he is against second Holocausts.

Something else that no one, including Obama, ever points out. George W. Bush took his policy of non-engagement right to the well of the Israelie Knesset. He made his opinion very clear. And Israel heard it, and immediately rejected it, opening talks with hostile nations. Months later, Bush followed suit. So, why refuse to engage Iran for Israel's sake, when Israel doesn't support that policy itself?

10:21 - Seth Colter Walls: Is the GOP already spinning what they see as a loss for McCain? Twenty minutes before the debate closes -- a debate in which McCain has rarely taken the offensive -- a Republican spokesperson emails out short Ben Smith post noting that this isn't "really a town hall." Is the emerging meme that if McCain thought to have lost tonight's debate, it will have been due to its insufficient town-hall-iness?

10:20 - Seth Colter Walls: McCain repeatedly says, "I know how to get him," when talking about Osama bin Laden. No specifics follow.

"I know" may be the McCain mantra of the night, but it's unclear how claiming he knows how to achieve something the entire country wants but has yet to see happen makes any sense. If he knows, why hasn't he told President Bush?

10:16 - Seth Colter Walls: Darren Davis, a professor at Notre Dame who specializes in role of race in politics, writes about McCain's "that one" line. "It speaks volumes about how McCain feels personally about Obama. Whomever said the town hall format helps McCain is dead wrong."

10:13 - Sam Stein: If, before the debate, you were told one candidate would make the following proclamation -- "We will kill bin laden we will crush al Qaeda, that has to be our biggest national security priority" -- who do you think it would be?

It was Obama, talking about his desire to launch strikes in Pakistan even without that government's permission.

He sounds tough. And McCain, in his response, decides to recount the history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the dangers of military operations in Waziristan. It is a remarkable, ironic, and unexpected flip to have the Democrat seem more forceful on national security matters.

10:12 - Jason Linkins: McCain is now talking about how announcing that you are going to announce an attack against another country is a tactic that will make the population of that country less amenable to your position. Hey! That's a good point, maybe! So, what, exactly does John McCain want to BOMB BOMB BOMB, BOMB BOMB Iran with? His delicious dry rub recipes? (Update: Obama just used my line!)

10:10 - Jason Linkins: Obama hasn't gotten the memo from every right-wing blog in the universe that pronouncing the word "Pakistan" PAHK-ee-STAHN is the dialectical equivalent of spreading arugula on your body and marching in the Folsom Street Fair.

Seth Colter Walls: "They are plotting to kill Americans right now," Obama says about Al-Qaeda in a response to the Pakistan sovereignty question.

"We will crush Al-Qaeda" he adds for good measure.

Overall, Obama sounds more authoritative on the question of military strength than lots of other Democrats on the national stage.

Here's Obama on national security:

10:08 - Sam Stein: Brokaw asks Barack Obama to define his foreign policy doctrine - when do we use military forces to engage - he talks more about moral issues than national security interests.

"We may not always have national security at stake but we have moral issues at stake. If we could have intervened effectively in the holocaust who among us would not have said that we had the moral authority to step in?" he asks. "When genocide or ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us."

McCain, somewhat ironically, talks about the dangers of getting muddled into a foreign policy quagmire that would result in a loss of resources and troops (seriously?!?!).

"You have to temper your decisions with the ability to beneficially affect the situation," he says.

10:02 - Seth Colter Walls: Obama spokesman Bill Burton puts his foot on the pedal ever so slightly, re: McCain's "that one" remark. In an email blast to reporters, he asks: "Did John McCain just refer to Obama as 'that one'?" Expect the post-debate analysis to get a little race-focused.

10:01 - Sam Stein: New Huffpost staffer Marcus Baram points out that McCain's plan to buy mortgages makes absolutely no sense when contrasted with his record.

"McCain failed to vote on bill to overhaul mortgage lending practices of FHA. In 2007, McCain failed to vote on passage of a bill that would overhaul the mortgage lending practices of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The bill would reduce the required minimum down payment for an FHA-insured loan and simplify its calculation, requiring a flat 1.5 percent of the appraised value of the home. [S. 2338, 12/14/07]"

10:00 - Seth Colter Walls: For almost the entire span of Obama's answer about health insurance companies "cheating their customers," the uncommitted women voters holding dials for CNN couldn't turn them up high enough.

Men, somewhat less enamored, but still positively impressed.

9:58 - Sam Stein: McCain hits Obama on proposing a "big-government" health care system that would burden individuals and employers.

"If you are a small business person and you don't insure your employees Sen. Obama will fine you, will fine you, that is remarkable," he says.

Then he starts promoting the idea of reducing state boundaries on health care coverage because, as he argues, the more choice the better. "Don't you go across state lines to purchase other things in America?"

Somehow, I don't think voters in the middle of Pennsylvania are thinking to themselves: "you know he's write, I shop in New York, and if I'm suffering from a near catastrophic illness I might go to the Empire State as well."

Obama responds by noting that "small businesses may not even have a mandate" to provide coverage under his plan. Moreover, he adds, many "will have a tax credit to provide the coverage they need."

The only health care mandate in his proposal is for the coverage of children.

9:56 - Jason Linkins: Obama makes his "McCain will tax your healthcare" charge. Expecting a firm response. Instead he talks up his $5K pittance -- when the average family health costs in 2007 was $12K. And then tells people that they can "go across state lines" to purchase health care. OH, CAN I? CAN I PLEASE? That's exactly what I want - to shop for allergists in Utah! How does an intractable inconvenience become a selling point?

Let's put health records online? Uhm...thanks, but no.

9:54 - Jason Linkins: Brokaw asks a weird question. Should energy be dealt with like the Manhattan Project or like Silicon Valley? What is this, the Stanford-Binet? Is the talent portion coming soon?

McCain doesn't answer that question, and honestly, I'm glad he didn't.

9:52 - Sam Stein: Aides to Obama are feeling good about the debate performance so far, saying that Obama is coming off as "warm and commanding." They like what the CNN dial of uncommitted Ohio voter portends and argue that McCain isn't exactly on his best game. Then McCain calls Obama "that one" in reference to his vote on the 2005 energy bill and the IM's from the Obama camp get a bit more heated.

9:52 - Jason Linkins: Would it kill the McCain campaign to assign somebody to keep McCain from breaking out in that creepy smile? I mean, when the Onion makes a joke about it, you have to figure that it's a worry.

9:50 - Seth Colter Walls: "That one" is how McCain refers to Obama during a discussion about energy, while once again not looking in his direction (merely jabbing a finger across his chest). That's not going to win McCain any Miss Congeniality points. Nor will it reassure any voters who believe McCain is improperly trying to capitalize on Obama's "otherness."

This goes beyond refusing to look at Obama in the first debate. With this slightly dehumanizing phrase, McCain may have just played into the emerging narrative of Obama-hate that has been sprouting at McCain-Palin rallies.

9:46 - Nico Pitney: "My friends..." McCain has used that phrase 11 times so far tonight, by my count. Yes, it's getting grating.

9:45 - Sam Stein: McCain goes where many politicians have before, suggesting a COMMISSION to handle the problems of Medicare.

"What we have to do with Medicare is have a commission," he says, "have the smartest people in America come together... Then have Congress vote up or down."

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that McCain's economic adviser, Douglas Holtz Eakin said that his candidate's Medicare policy would result in a $1.3 trillion cut over ten years. Hard to see how that passes through either a commission or an up-or-down vote.

9:43 - Jason Linkins: McCain: "It's not hard to fix Social Security." Uhm...o-kay, John! I mean, it's not hard to kick that can down the road, year after year! It's not hard to avoid the issue! It's not hard to demagogue on the issue! But fixing it? See, both parties have done a lot of can kicking, avoiding and demagoguing. And yet FIXING IT IS EASIER? Get on with it then!

9:37 - Sam Stein: Ben Smith makes a solid point. In this debate, McCain has called both for a "spending freeze" for the federal government and for that same government to buy up mortgages that homeowners can't afford and renegotiate them at new, likely more favorable, values.

He even acknowledged that it would be "expensive."

9:36 - Jason Linkins: The problem with McCain insisting that Obama's tax proposals are like "nailing jello to the wall," is that Obama's figured out how to put them in a succinct sentence: "95% of Americans will get no tax increase." As you might expect, the dial line bespeaks a lack of approval. McCain's assertion that Obama would raise taxes on 50% of small businesses...that's a new figure! Palin said it was 95%! So already, the McCain camp is polishing Obama's record!

9:35 - Seth Colter Walls: Obama talks about doubling the Peace Corps and strengthening community groups "so that military families are not the only ones bearing the burden of renewing America." That's a smart way to frame his "community organizing" past that is sometimes viewed with skepticism.

9:30 - Jason Linkins: Yeah, so, where are all the questions about Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright? Could it be that these are the obsessions of the punditocracy? That maybe engaged voters just don't give a toss about that stuff? Time will tell, I guess.

Also: John McCain is playing against expectation, not lobbing the sorts of vicious attacks that we were trained to expect. That's good for McCain. Speaking of playing against expectation: first "noun-verb-9/11" of the night goes to Obama!

Sam Stein: Obama pulls a Rudy Giuliani and raises 9/11. Only this time not evoking the specter of terror or imploring voters to stick on the offense against "Islamo-fascism" (Giuliani's second favorite word). But to bemoan missed opportunity.

"All of the country was ready to come together and make enormous changes to make us not only safer but a better, more unified country," he says. "President Bush did some smart things on the onset, but he missed an opportunity when he told people to go out a shop. That wasn't the call to service that the American people were hungry for."

9:29 - Nico Pitney: Marc Ambinder writes, "Ooh. Just caught McCain looking at Obama. Caught you, JSM!"

9:28 - Sam Stein: Brokaw complains about the candidates talking beyond their time allotments.

"We are going to have a larger deficit than the federal government does," he says, the day after the famous deficit clock broke because it couldn't chart where the country's budget was heading.

Too soon, Brokaw. Too soon.

9:26 - Sam Stein: A reader writes in to say that McCain, early in the debate mixed up a questioners name. At around the 9:03 mark he fielded a question from Alan Schaeffer about bailing out retired citizens. At 9:11pm Oliver Clark asks a question about the bailout helping Americans. Two minutes later, McCain is saying he wants to keep people in their homes like "Alan." Obama, the reader write, addresses his answer to Oliver.

9:25 - Seth Colter Walls: "I know how to do that" is shaping up to be this debate's "what Senator Obama does not understand." So far, McCain has used it on the issue of bipartisanship, earmark reform, energy independence.

9:25 - Nico Pitney: McCain claims he warned about the coming economic crisis. But as ThinkProgress notes, in 2007, he admitted he was "surprised" by the crisis. "So, I'd like to tell you that I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not," he said.

Obama: Now I've got to correct a little bit of Senator McCain's history, not surprisingly, but let's first of all understand that the biggest problem in this whole process was the deregulation of the financial system. Senator McCain as recently as March bragged about the fact that he is a deregulator. On the other hand two years ago I said we've got a subprime lending crisis that has to be dealt with, I wrote to Secretary Paulson, I wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and told them this is something we have to deal with and nobody did anything about it. A year ago I went to Wall Street and told them we have to re-regulate, and nothing happened.

9:22 - Sam Stein: Uncommitted Ohio voters are very much in love with Obama's take on reforming helath care to reduce home costs and generating energy independence so we stop sending money over seas. It's an affirmation that the pocket book issues are preeminent in this campaign and on the minds of most, if not all voters.

When McCain speaks of bipartisanship and criticizes Obama for not "taking on his party on a single issue" the line hover around the middle. It gets even lower when he criticizes Obama spending priorities, his take on earmarks, and his overall budgetary prescription. Finally, when he talks about getting middle income families working again, voters start responding.

Here's Obama on energy:

9:18 - Sam Stein: McCain demonizes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as being the "catalysts who started this forest fire," known as the financial crisis. It is an incredibly simplistic way of explaining the situation but one that allows McCain to say he was yelling at the gates of reform while Obama was accepting campaign contributions from the two housing giants. Obama responds by saying, "I've got to correct a little bit of Sen. McCain's history, not surprisingly... With respect to Fannie Mae, what Sen. McCain didn't mention is that the bill he is talking about wasn't his own bill... and I never promoted Fannie Mae, in fact Sen. McCain's campaign chairman's firm was a lobbyists for Fannie Mae. Not mine."

9:18 - Jason Linkins: Now, suddenly, the Dial Line spikes in Obama's favor. Because he's not pointing fingers! Also: he seems to have realized that there aren't people seated in the back of the room, so there's no need to play there.

9:16 - Jason Linkins: Obama's not scoring that well with his current jag, painting McCain as a fan of deregulation. "You're not interested in politicians pointing fingers," Obama says. He's right! And yet, there he is, pointing fingers!

9:15 - Seth Colter Walls: McCain blames Obama and "his cronies" for enabling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be the catalyst of this forest fire. "There were some who stood against it, and others who took a hike," McCain adds, extending his metaphor. The Obama campaign anticipated this line of attacks, emailing out to reporters three different articles showing how McCain "exaggerated his own role" in efforts to prevent abuse at the housing giants.

9:13 - Jason Linkins: McCain came armed with his version of the Fannie/Freddie argument. But it's not playing well! He really needs to drop a Drill Baby in there! Or wink!

9:12 - Jason Linkins: McCain insists that he suspended his campaign. We remind you: this actually did not happen, but it's October, and words have lost all meaning!

9:11 - Sam Stein: McCain touts the economic prowess of, and suggests as a future Treasury Secretary, Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and someone who he has turned to for economic advise in the past. Normally, this is a solid point for McCain to press; highlighting entrepreneurship and the growth of female business leaders. The problem is eBay just announced that it was firing 10 percent of its work force.

9:11 - Jason Linkins: Obama's first "Senator McCain is right" of the evening! Somewhere, in some dark Satanic mill, an RNC ad is being cut.

9:10 - Seth Colter Walls: McCain wraps up his opening remarks by pledging to "[take] care of working Americans." After getting hit for not mentioning the words "middle class" in the first debate, it appears McCain may have learned his lesson.

9:10 - Sam Stein: A Democrat points out that John McCain isn't wearing a flag pin tonight, implying that Obama is being held to a double standard for being criticized when his lapel isn't adorned. The truth is, Obama has worn a pin far more frequently in these formats than McCain. The Arizona Republican didn't wear a flag pin during his convention speech.

9:08 - Seth Colter Walls: Senator McCain starts with a dig: "Senator Obama, it's good to be with you at a town hall meeting." But since the crowd isn't packed exclusively with his supporters, there isn't even a muffled laugh -- the kind that can spontaneously happen even in a debate where the audience is supposed to stay mum.

9:06 - Jason Linkins: Obama takes his sweet time getting to specifics. No one wants to hear "failed Bush policies" and like platitudes. BUT! Once he gets to enumerating specifics, the dial line (yes, watching that again) goes up. Mainly on the strength of promising that CEOs would not get bonuses. America wants to punch Fuld in the mouth at the Lehman Brothers gym.

McCain leads with energy independence. During the Veep debate, this proved to be his best issue, and the dial line tops out for McCain. Slightly less responsive when McCain talks about housing. Hate to say it, but "Drill, baby, drill" resonates.

9:05 - Sam Stein: Accountability is a winner when talking about the current financial crisis, for all the jokes over McCain calling for SEC Chairman Chris Cox's firing. Obama picks up on that right away, taking umbrage with AIG hosting a $400,000 junket a week after they received a $80 billion bailout.

"The treasury should demand that money back and those executives should be fired," he says.

9:03 - Jason Linkins: The candidates will have demarcated areas of the stage that they may walk around in. Each candidate has had their territory marked by urinating wolves, who were later shot by Sarah Palin, with helicopters.

As the two were introduced, it was official: John McCain and Barack Obama's eyes met.

8:54 - Jason Linkins: The big question of tonight's debate is: who will go negative first, harder, faster. Obama needs to resist pointlessly escalating the tension or raising the temperature of the room. What's he prepped for? What if McCain plays the pussycat, goes high-minded and positive? Will that throw Obama for a (OODA) loop?

McCain's challenge: lay off the stunts. Everyone knows he LOVES to win some newscycles. But he's starting to resemble Gob Bluth from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. I WILL MAKE THE BOAT DISAPPEAR! I WILL BREAK OUT OF A VIETNAMESE PRISON! Where does it end, John? Don't eat the Skip's Scramble!

Meanwhile, CNN has all these useless high-def teevee bells and whistles. You can, once again, rate the members of CNN's panel, based on "who's scoring points...who's missing opportunities." Whatever that means. Anyway, America: This is your chance to really STICK IT to Gloria Borger, or something!

8:52 - Nico Pitney: Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells us: "FYI - as the debate starts, the Keating- McCain documentary just hit 1 million views."


WATCH: McCain Excels At Town Halls:

Ahead of tonight's town hall-style Presidential debate, the Democratic National Committee released a new web ad highlighting John McCain's strength in town halls. The video, called "Town Hall McCain," includes clips of analysts praising John McCain's performance in town halls and shows McCain himself bragging about how much he enjoys them. As one Republican who called town halls "one of the hardest thing to do in politics" said, John McCain does town halls "better than any other politician."

Tuesday's Debate "All About McCain": WaPo's Dan Balz outlines the challenge McCain faces tonight as his campaign flounders:

What are his options? Even his running mate, offering encouragement from her perch, says it's time to take off the gloves and go after Obama. Through advertising and in campaign trail rhetoric, that's the direction McCain has charted. But the other piece of wisdom that must be rolling around in McCain's head is the warning that town hall audiences don't like confrontation, attacks or anything particularly nasty.

So calibrating his performance Tuesday becomes especially difficult. In the first debate, McCain wouldn't even look at his younger rival. That's not really possible when the two will be less tethered to specific spots on the stage at Belmont. Can he be engaging and still engage?

For what it's worth, advisers to both candidates say that given the format, it would be a mistake to go on the attack.

Poll: McCain Needs A Game Changer: An NBC/WSJ poll shows just how much McCain has riding on tonight's debate:

[T]he latest NBC/WSJ poll has Obama up six points, 49%-43%, which equals his biggest lead over McCain in the survey; two weeks ago, Obama was up two in the poll, 48%-46%. As NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D) put it: "John McCain finds himself in a hole no candidate wants to be in" -- behind with less than a month to go. Remember, while six points might seem like a small lead, it can translate into an Electoral College landslide if this is what the margin is on Election Day. What's more, while pundits (including us) couldn't agree who won the first two debates, the poll makes it crystal clear who won: Obama-Biden. By a 50%-29% margin, voters said that the Dems bested their GOP counterparts at the first two debates.

There Will Be Followups: Ben Smith reports that while McCain and Obama agreed not to include follow-up questions in tonight's debate, moderator Tom Brokaw wasn't party to the deal, and hasn't agreed to it.

At least six million questions have been submitted online, the New York Times finds. There will only be time for 15 to 20.

Obama Raises Expectations, Questions McCain's Temper: National Press Secretary Bill Burton releases a memo touting John McCain's experience with the town hall format, while also wondering if McCain will "continue his refusal to even look at Obama on stage -- like in their first debate." The memo also suggests that McCain will "launch his nastiest attacks" yet at tonight's debate.

Slate: The Risks Of Town-Hall Debates John Dickerson warns that town-hall debates can go very wrong for candidates:

"Ponytail Guy" is the term some in political circles use to refer to Denton Walthall, who asked a question in the second presidential debate in 1992. A domestic mediator who worked with children, Walthall scolded President George H.W. Bush for running a mudslinging, character-based campaign against Bill Clinton in 1992. Referring to voters as "symbolically the children of the future president," he asked how voters could expect the candidates "to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it, as opposed to the wants of your political spin doctors and your political parties. ... Could we cross our hearts? It sounds silly here but could we make a commitment? You know, we're not under oath at this point, but could you make a commitment to the citizens of the U.S. to meet our needs--and we have many--and not yours again?"

It did sound silly: a father-president dandling a nation of children voters on his knee. But instead of challenging the paterfamilias premise, the candidates took his pain seriously. Walthall didn't scold Bush by name, but as the camera shot over his shoulder (showing us his ponytail), Bush could be seen growing annoyed. The question was addressed to all the candidates, but Bush was the candidate running the character-based campaign. He had answered a previous questioner by making the case for why Bill Clinton's character should be an issue. So it was obvious Bush was the target of the Ponytail Guy's criticism.

On Tuesday night, we'll get to hear from some of this campaign's swing voters--the rules of the debate guarantee their participation--as undecided voters pose questions to the candidates in the town-hall debate.

AP: Stakes Higher For McCain As Insults Mount: Strategists tell the Associated Press that economic crisis and polls showing Obama up mean McCain seriously needs a win:

"Generally, the stakes in this are higher for McCain," said Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. "It's probably one of the last and most important opportunities for him to lay out an economic vision that resonates with middle America in a format that lends itself to doing just that."

But Republicans and Democrats alike say even a strong McCain performance may not be enough.

"McCain can win the debate, but the trajectory of this election would not be fundamentally altered unless Obama also made a pretty dramatic and serious mistake," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist in Vice President Al Gore's 2000 campaign.

Debate Format Favors McCain -- Tuesday night's debate will be held in town hall format, with undecided voters in the audience asking questions. However, moderator Tom Brokaw will select the queries, submitted in writing, before the debate. Audience members will not be allowed to change their questions, and neither the questioner nor Brokaw can ask follow-up questions.

The Wall Street Journal explains how this format puts pressure on McCain to perform:

The Republican's performance in the second of three presidential debates -- the only one held in the format he tends to favor -- could help determine his ability to stay competitive in a race that seems to have moved against the Arizona senator over the past week. ...

The spontaneous, unpredictable conversational style of the events and the informal interaction with voters seem to bring out the best in Sen. McCain, more than canned, oft-repeated stump speeches do. The group interaction brings out his quick wit and self-proclaimed bent for "straight talk" -- he often will engage in extended debate with a voter who disagrees with him, even saying directly that the person is wrong.

McCain, Obama Prepare For Second Debate -- The Republican candidate is getting ready for the debate at a his family's resort in Sedona, Arizona. The Washington Post reports that he is "doing more formal preparation than he did before last month's debate in Mississippi."

Obama is preparing in Asheville, N.C. A campaign aide tells the Post that Obama will, as in the last debate, seek to present himself as a "very pragmatic, non-ideological and very even-keeled" politician.

"That One," McCain Calls Obama In Debate (VIDEO)

During a discussion about energy, McCain punctuates a contrast with Obama by referring to him as "that one," while once again not looking in his opponent's direction (merely jabbing a finger across his chest). That's not going to win McCain any Miss Congeniality points. Nor will it reassure any voters who believe McCain is improperly trying to capitalize on Obama's "otherness."

This goes beyond refusing to look at Obama in the first debate. With this slightly dehumanizing phrase, McCain may have just played into the emerging narrative of Obama-hate that has been sprouting at McCain-Palin rallies.

Darren Davis, a professor at Notre Dame who specializes in role of race in politics, writes about McCain's "that one" line. "It speaks volumes about how McCain feels personally about Obama. Whomever said the town hall format helps McCain is dead wrong."

A few minutes later, Obama spokesman Bill Burton placed his foot on the pedal ever so slightly. In an email blast to reporters, he asks: "Did John McCain just refer to Obama as 'that one'?" No other commentary followed, nor did any mention of race. But expect the post-debate analysis to get a little focused on whether McCain just made a regrettable faux pas.

Obama Corrects McCain's History On Regulation (VIDEO)

McCain claims he warned about the coming economic crisis. But as ThinkProgress notes, in 2007, he admitted he was "surprised" by the crisis. "So, I'd like to tell you that I did anticipate it, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not," he said.

Obama: Now I've got to correct a little bit of Senator McCain's history, not surprisingly, but let's first of all understand that the biggest problem in this whole process was the deregulation of the financial system. Senator McCain as recently as March bragged about the fact that he is a deregulator. On the other hand two years ago I said we've got a subprime lending crisis that has to be dealt with, I wrote to Secretary Paulson, I wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and told them this is something we have to deal with and nobody did anything about it. A year ago I went to Wall Street and told them we have to re-regulate, and nothing happened

McCain Touts Former Ebay CEO As Company Makes Drastic Cuts

McCain touts the economic prowess of, and suggests as a future Treasury Secretary Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and someone who he has turned to for economic advice in the past. Normally, this is a solid point for McCain to press, highlighting entrepreneurship and the growth of female business leaders. The problem: eBay just announced that it was firing 10 percent of its work force.

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