It turns out that NASA's meteorite hunting blimp isn't a blimp at all, it's a Zeppelin! Never before in history has a zeppelin been used to hunt meteorites. The Sacramento Bee today published a "treasure map" of what has been found up to and including Tuesday's finds. I hope they'll do likewise once the zeppelin hunt wraps up.
|Sacramento Bee Graphic|
On Thursday's 6 O'clock News I watched LIVE as they "landed" the zeppelin at McClellan Park. It looked pretty dicey with the winds kicked up by the passing weather system. At the time I didn't think Hindenberg, because I was still thinking blimp.
Airships are having a renaissance in our modern world. When I was a kid, the Goodyear Blimps were the whole airship flotilla here in America. Now there's a bunch of differently branded blimps floating over sporting events from coast to coast. I remember a newspaper story a few years ago about "stealth blimps" being developed for surveillance work. KirkVallus and I had many belly laughs at the thought of giant airships sneaking up on bad guys. This was before 9/11 I'm sure, today the idea would rate a FacePalm...
I've always had a passing interest in airships, but I don't "follow" them the way I do spaceflight. Thursday the SF Giants played an afternoon game, and waddya know, the telecast had a blimp feeding aerial shots. Needless to say, with the clouds and afternoon sun the views of action on the field paled in comparison to the myriad "beauty shots" of AT&T Park on McCovey Cove, the Bay's Bridges, San Francisco's hills and San Francisco Bay itself.
All the pretty blimp shots didn't help the Giants win however...
The NASA zeppelin Eureka, which NASA actually chartered from Airship Ventures who share space with NASA at Moffett Federal Airfield near Sunnyvale, CA. is the only zeppelin flying in the States today.
Though both are airships, blimps and zeppelins are different solutions to the same puzzle. Blimps are pressurized airships with only the envelope giving them their signature shape. Zeppelins are rigid airships with a metal structure giving the airship it's shape. Post-Hindenberg, all airships use helium instead of the highly explosive hydrogen.
I watched another chartered flight this morning on the web, when a United Launch Alliance Atlas V sent an Air Force Advanced AEHF communications satellite. ULA is a joint venture between Lockeed and Boeing. This was the launch delayed from Thursday for a balky purge valve. ULA rolled the Atlas V back to the assembly building and changed the valve in time to launch 24 hours later...even Florida's weather cooperated.
After the launch I caught up with the zeppelin story. Yesterday I likened the hunt to a glass bottom boat trip, it turns out the glass bottom boat has moved into the 21st Century. The zeppelin Eureka carries a gyro-stabilized, high-resolution video camera that can pick out a golf ball in the dirt from 1,500 feet.
I'm keeping an eye peeled to see if the zeppelinauts find anything.