Showing posts with label space. Show all posts
Showing posts with label space. Show all posts

Friday, April 05, 2019

Destination . . . suffocate, bake or freeze as your blood boils

If 1950s album-cover artists had been in charge of the Space Race (not to mention science education in the Space Age) . . . things would not have ended well.

At all.

This Ames Brothers LP would have driven Dr. Sheldon Cooper mad.

On the other hand, this being a post-factual world, we can say with Trumpian confidence that Ed Ames is the only surviving Ames brother because the sound of lunar windmills gave all his siblings cancer, and they died upon their return to earth.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Now that's what I call a Rocket 88

Thanks, Elon Musk. We needed this.
Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster, which launched on top of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy earlier today, is going farther out into the Solar System than originally planned. The car was supposed to be put on a path around the Sun that would take the vehicle out to the distance of Mars’ orbit. But the rocket carrying the car seems to have overshot that trajectory and has put the Tesla in an orbit that extends out into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Godspeed, John Glenn

John Glenn is dead.

And with the great astronaut's passing at age 95, so dies a part of every star-struck child of the 1960s. There's not much more a man can say -- the life of an American hero speaks for itself. And what a life Glenn had.

In an age so devoid of greatness -- in an America now so impoverished -- this is what greatness looks like. And below, as broadcast Feb. 20, 1962 on KFAB radio in Omaha, is what greatness sounded like.

Sit back and enjoy this NBC Radio special report reviewing the flight of Friendship 7.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

'And may God's love be with you . . .'

Canadian astronauts rock! No, really.

The Canadian Space Agency collaborated on this high-flying remake of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" last month, but I only just now got around to watching the music video, which needed absolutely no special effects to take your breath away. And Chris Hadfield can hold his own as a musician.

Reliable sources tell me NASA wanted to beat Canada to the punch in extraterrestrial music videos, but the project was $6 billion over budget when the sequester hit, and the coup de grace for the space-station version of "God Bless the USA" was when Lee Greenwood balked, saying there wasn't "no way in hell" he was "gettin' in no damn pinko-commie spaceship."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Everything I need to know about science . . .

. . . I learned from Star Trek.

If you like, I can share it with you via my Surface. And you can read it on your iPad.

UNLESS, of course, you'd rather that I just contacted you via your communicator -- uh . . . cell phone.

BUT DON'T go totally booger-eater on me here, OK?

I SHOULD have told you the booger-eater thing earlier, shouldn't I? Siri?


OH, SIRI . . . while I'm thinking about it, could you give me an update on how that warp drive is coming?
In the "Star Trek" TV shows and films, the U.S.S. Enterprise's warp engine allows the ship to move faster than light, an ability that is, as Spock would say, "highly illogical." 
However, there's a loophole in Einstein's general theory of relativity that could allow a ship to traverse vast distances in less time than it would take light. The trick? It's not the starship that's moving — it's the space around it. 
In fact, scientists at NASA are right now working on the first practical field test toward proving the possibility of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. Maybe the warp drive on "Star Trek" is possible after all. 
According to Einstein's theory, an object with mass cannot go as fast or faster than the speed of light. The original "Star Trek" series ignored this "universal speed limit" in favor of a ship that could zip around the galaxy in a matter of days instead of decades. They tried to explain the ship's faster-than-light capabilities by powering the warp engine with a "matter-antimatter" engine. Antimatter was a popular field of study in the 1960s, when creator Gene Roddenberry was first writing the series. When matter and antimatter collide, their mass is converted to kinetic energy in keeping with Einstein's mass-energy equivalence formula, E=mc2.In other words, matter-antimatter collision is a potentially powerful source of energy and fuel, but even that wouldn't be enough to propel a starship faster-than-light speeds. 
Nevertheless, it's thanks to "Star Trek" that the word "warp" is now practically synonymous with faster-than-light travel. 
Is warp drive possible? 
Decades after the original "Star Trek" show had gone off the air, pioneering physicist and avowed Trek fan Miguel Alcubierre argued that maybe a warp drive is possible after all. It just wouldn't work quite the way "Star Trek" thought it did. 
Things with mass can't move faster than the speed of light. But what if, instead of the ship moving through space, the space was moving around the ship? 
Space doesn't have mass. And we know that it's flexible: space has been expanding at a measurable rate ever since the Big Bang. We know this from observing the light of distant stars — over time, the wavelength of the stars' light as it reaches Earth is lengthened in a process called "redshifting." According to the Doppler effect, this means that the source of the wavelength is moving farther away from the observer — i.e. Earth. 
So we know from observing redshifted light that the fabric of space is movable. [See also: What to Wear on a 100-Year Starship Voyage] 
Alcubierre used this knowledge to exploit a loophole in the "universal speed limit." In his theory, the ship never goes faster than the speed of light — instead, space in front of the ship is contracted while space behind it is expanded, allowing the ship to travel distances in less time than light would take. The ship itself remains in what Alcubierre termed a "warp bubble" and, within that bubble, never goes faster than the speed of light. 
Since Alcubierre published his paper "The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast travel within general relativity" in 1994, many physicists and science fiction writers have played with his theory —including "Star Trek" itself. [See also: Top 10 Star Trek Technologies] 
Alcubierre's warp drive theory was retroactively incorporated into the "Star Trek" mythos by the 1990s TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation." 
In a way, then, "Star Trek" created its own little grandfather paradox: Though ultimately its theory of faster-than-light travel was heavily flawed, the series established a vocabulary of light-speed travel that Alcubierre eventually formalized in his own warp drive theories.

Monday, September 17, 2012

To infinity . . . and beyond!

At halftime of Saturday's Nebraska football game, you got the marching band and stuff, sure . . . but you also got to watch some teenagers commit science.

With a little help from a homegrown astronaut.

And they launched some experiment-carrying weather balloons to infinity . . . and beyond! Or just shy of 100,000 feet, whichever came first.

SUNDAY, the Omaha World-Herald got the scoop:
It takes a lot of work to gain the privilege of standing on the field at Memorial Stadium on game day in front of 85,000 fans.

It takes dedication, hours of practice, weeks of preparation.

But the cheers Saturday weren't just for touchdowns, and a football wasn't the only flying object.

A group of students and teachers led one of the biggest science experiments Husker Nation has ever seen.

During halftime, the group released three high-altitude balloons, also known as weather balloons.

The balloons, 8 feet in diameter and typically filled with helium, floated to heights of up to 20 miles into “near space” to collect data. Astronaut Clayton Anderson of Ashland, Neb., assisted with the launch.

One balloon carried specimens of E. coli, red and white blood cells, oranges, motor oil and experimental planting seeds.

A second carried special devices to collect environmental data so students could measure such things as air pressure and cosmic rays. The third carried an identification banner of the different groups.

The data were expected to fall to Earth a couple hours after liftoff.

Michael Sibbernsen, science and technology coordinator at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, said near space is an area in the atmosphere where conditions are very cold and relatively similar to those of outer space.

Many of the experiments measured how near space and high altitudes affect the specimens. Thanks to a NASA grant, such research is now accessible to students and teachers in Nebraska.
WATCH the video (above) from the university. Cool stuff from the very edge of space.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tranquility base here. Neil Armstrong has landed.

I was blessed to gave grown up during an age of American giants, though we didn't always realize it at the time.

As Joni Mitchell sang, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?" Now in this land of small minds, smaller men and great discontent, we may be getting some idea of what we had.

Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, is dead. He was 82.

Above is what I -- and hundreds of millions -- saw that July day in 1969, a time of trouble, yes, but also a time when giants walked the earth. And when astronaut giants flew to the moon --
and back.

One of the last of those giants now is gone, God bless his soul, leaving this postmodern world to its pygmy overlords.

UPON HIS LEAVING, it's almost as if Neil Armstrong: Giant has left us his final commentary about the kind of hands now holding our collective fate as Americans. Look at this screenshot of the front page.

Says it all, doesn't it?

Goodbye, Mr. Armstrong. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your dignity.

Thank you for our dreams.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today's picture from Mars

The NASA rover Curiosity continues to send back breathtaking panoramas of the Martian surface -- this latest one from just a day ago. You'd think, if you didn't know better, that the spacecraft was in the Arizona desert, or maybe the Nevada desert near Las Vegas.

Yeah . . . Las Vegas for sure.

I don't know why; it just looks that way to me.

Monday, August 06, 2012

I love it when a plan comes together

How it was supposed to work -- and the NASA scientists themselves admit it's sheer craziness -- is exactly how it did work.

And the Mars rover Curiosity just phoned home this morning. It even texted a picture of itself on the Martian surface.
Kids today.

Meantime, CBS News and The Associated Press fill in the details:

Dutifully executing its complex flight control software, the Mars Science Laboratory silently raced toward its target Sunday, picking up speed as it closed in for a 13,200-mph plunge into the Red Planet's atmosphere and an action-packed seven-minute descent required a rocket-powered "sky crane" to lower the one-ton nuclear-powered rover to the surface. It seems to have gone off without a hitch.

"We are wheels down on Mars," came the news from JPL as engineers saw the first grainy image beamed directly back from the rover - showing one of its wheels on the Martian surface.

CBS News space consultant William Harwood reports from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California that the rover's target was Gale Crater and the goal was a pinpoint landing near the base of a three-mile-high mound of layered rock that represents hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of years of Martian history, a frozen record of the planet's changing environment and evolution.

Exploring the crater floor and climbing Mount Sharp over the next two years, the Curiosity rover will look for signs of past or present habitability and search for carbon compounds, the building blocks of life as it is known on Earth.

But first, the rover had to get there and its entry, descent, and landing represented the most challenging robotic descent to the surface of another world ever attempted, a tightly choreographed sequence of autonomously executed events with little margin for error.

"We're about to land a rover that is 10 times heavier than (earlier rovers) with 15 times the payload," Doug McCuistion, director of Mars exploration at NASA Headquarters, told reporters. "Tonight's the Super Bowl of planetary exploration, one yard line, one play left. We score and win, or we don't score and we don't win.
TOUCHDOWN! In every sense of the word.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

1962 + 50: Live via satellite

Fifty years ago day before yesterday, the only way to get a TV picture from one side of the ocean to the other -- barring freak occurrences with the ionosphere -- was to put a videotape on a fast jet plane.

Fifty years ago yesterday, that changed when Telstar 1 relayed its first television signal from Maine to France, an act so revolutionary that the little satellite was memorialized with a Top-40 hit record.

And 50 years ago today came the first official transatlantic satellite broadcast.The
Los Angeles Times remembers:
"With Telstar and its successors, the world was made a smaller place, as billions of people around the world had instant access to news, sports and entertainment," said Jeong Kim, president of Bell Labs, which designed and manufactured Telstar. "The phrase 'live via satellite' became part of the common vernacular."

Researchers had been working for nearly a decade trying to develop some technique for space-based communications. One outgrowth of those attempts was the Echo series of satellites -- large, metal-coated balloons that served as passive reflectors for electronic signals. The balloons were used for transmitting microwave signals and as marker beacons in the sky that helped improve navigation for intercontinental ballistic missiles. But they were not large enough to handle the information required for a television signal.

Telstar could. The 72-sided satellite was about 34 inches in diameter. Solar panels on each of the faces powered 19 rechargeable batteries not unlike those used in flashlights. The amplifier could boost a signal 10 billion times before relaying it to Earth. The satellite was originally designed to handle two black-and-white television channels and 600 simultaneous telephone calls, but weight restrictions on the Delta launch vehicle made it necessary to lose one of the television boosters.

The satellite was launched two days earlier, on July 10, and some preliminary tests were conducted before the first official transmission on the 12th.

HERE'S A COUPLE of fascinating looks at yet another of the 1960s age of miracles,- the launch of Telstar 1. The first, above, is a Bell System documentary about the little satellite that could -- and did -- which was its baby.

THE SECOND is from the other side of the Atlantic -- a British look at Telstar 1, as part of a fascinating look at the history of what the English television types call "outside broadcasts."

Get your geek on and enjoy.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Perspective from low Earth orbit

I heard the trailing garments of the Night
Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
From the celestial walls!

I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
Stoop o'er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
As of the one I love.

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,—
From those deep cisterns flows.

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care
And they complain no more.

Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
The best-beloved Night!

Hymn to the Night,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, February 20, 2012

John Glenn and the way we were

Who were we?

Who were we Americans, who could absorb the psychological body blow of Soviet Russia putting Sputnik into orbit while we still were blowing our satellites up on the launch pad . . . and then four years later, Yuri Gagarin into orbit before we could get a man into suborbital space at all?

Who was this people who sat by radio and television sets this day 50 years ago, waiting for John Glenn, strapped inside his tiny Mercury capsule, to rocket into orbit atop an Atlas rocket and even the spaceflight score with the communists?

What manner of people -- once Glenn had gone up, gone around three times and come down alive and well -- would celebrate his achievement, this affirmation of American greatness, without irony, self-consciousness or reservation? Indeed, what sort of nation would have the audacity to set its sights on placing a man on the moon and returning him to Earth safely in less than a decade's time?

were we? Who were these people of supreme faith -- in themselves, in God and in their way of life?

Who were the people who listened to radio like this on
KCBS in San Francisco as early birds on the West Coast awaited history in the late winter's predawn?

Who were the people heard in this bit of radio history later that night, along the
NBC radio net and over the airwaves of KFAB radio in Omaha as a winter storm roared across the northern Plains?

these people?

Who were we? What sort folks could maintain such hope and confidence amid the threat of the Cold War going hot and the world being engulfed by a mushroom cloud?

Who was this people, the one able to look at the racial horrors of Mississippi, Alabama and across the Deep South, yet keep faith with the better angels of its nature? What sort of man . . . or woman . . . still believed in God, country and heroes?

And who in the world listened to sweet music on the airwaves in the chilly predawn? Who still allowed grown-ups and other assorted squares to have a say in the popular culture?

I remember these people.
I do.

I scarcely recognize them anymore, though. I scarcely recognize the nation that gave us Friendship 7 -- and visions of a bright future -- a mere half-century ago. But on the television today, there's an old man, some 90 years of age, a man clearly of a different age -- an anachronism still in this world, yet not of it.

Not anymore.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Somebody thought they'd never find him there

Uh . . . rocks aren't the only thing the surviving Mars rover found at the edge of that big crater after a three-year drive.

Don't NASA and The Associated Press even bother to look at the pictures the little feller's taking?

NASA's surviving Mars rover Opportunity has reached the rim of a 14-mile-wide crater where the robot geologist will examine rocks older than any it has seen in its seven years on the surface of the red planet, scientists said Wednesday.

The solar-powered, six-wheel rover arrived at Endeavour crater after driving 13 miles from a smaller crater named Victoria.

The drive, which took nearly three years, culminated Tuesday, when Opportunity signaled it had arrived at the location dubbed Spirit Point in honor of the rover's twin, which fell silent last year.

"We're there," said project manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Opportunity and Spirit landed on opposite sides of Mars in 2004 and used their instruments to discover geologic evidence that the cold and dusty planet was once wet.

Craters can provide windows into the planet's past because layers of material from long-ago eras are exposed. Endeavour crater is more than 25 times wider than Victoria.

MAYBE WE should just turn over the space program to the Mafia.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Picture of the day

If you knock on the door, and you're in a vacuum, does it make a sound?

Well, inside the space station, it does. Unless, of course, the airlock has been bled of air. Then . . . no.

Assuming the vibration doesn't travel past the airlock. If it did . . . probably.

Unless, of course, nobody was in a position to hear it. In that case, does it still make a sound?

Audio at 11. Or not.

Reporting from space . . . well, not actually from space . . . more like the voiceover booth at the end of the hall . . . well, not exactly at the end of the hall, more like just before you get to the end of the hall . . . Hank Kimball, Eyewitness News.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Hail Atlantis!

Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.
On board were the Twelve:
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician,
And the other so-called Gods of our legends,
Though Gods they were.
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new . . .
Hail Atlantis!

Way up above the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .

Way up above the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .
-- Apologies to Donovan

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Before 'onward and upward' became a cliché

A half century ago today, man first hurled himself at the stars.

On April 12, 1961, we called this sort of thing "the space race." Well, I didn't. I was only three weeks old, but I am reliably informed this was the case.

For all the angst and nuclear anxieties of the Cold War, for all the trauma of a developing quagmire in Vietnam -- or Viet Nam, as a lot of folks spelled it before we knew where it was -- for all the hope and horror of this nation's civil-rights struggle, "onward and upward" still meant something back then.

Man was reaching for the heavens. The first was a Russian by the name of Yuri Gagarin.

We are in his debt.

Because of Gagarin, my childhood that took flight 50 years ago was one of assumptions that tomorrow would be brighter than today -- despite the troubles and tragedies of the day.

Back then, it was a race for the stars between us and the Reds. Now, we "go where no man has gone before" together . . . more or less.

IT'S A CASE, I suppose, of more enlightenment and friendship and less ability to go it on our own as we slog through this present age of small men and stunted dreams in our respective capitals.

I'd like to think, on this milestone day, that Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard -- America's first man in space -- are somewhere taking in the heavenly view, telling good-natured lies and tall space tales, trading notes on the vanguard of human spaceflight and wondering. Wondering when those of us who lag behind, stumbling through their giant footsteps, will hit our stride.

Wondering when the small minds of our present squabbling factions will remember that humanity once saw farther than the end of its pointing fingers.

Wondering whether mankind will once again look toward heaven and aspire to great things.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday, July 16, 2010

Calling Marvin the Martian. . . .

It's useful to remember that we don't know what we don't know.

And that some of the things we think we know --
or that we try to do, because we want to find out what we don't know -- just might look pretty darned silly in 70 years or so.

In 1924, for example, when Mars was at one of its closest approaches to Earth, some radio engineers thought they heard something . . . unearthly, let's say. According to a 1939 article in
Radex magazine, some thought the signals originated on Mars.

(Note that the 1938
War of the Worlds scare didn't come out of nowhere.)

So, in 1939, astronomers and engineers thought they might try to communicate with the red planet -- or at least see whether they could bounce a radio signal off of it. As the writer for
Radex, a radio enthusiast periodical, put it:
It appears that most scientists believe now that life is hardly possible on Mars, but some, particularly the late Dr. Lowell, have believed that life exists there. If true, the Martians are living on a dying world, where most of the oxygen has entered the rocks, oxidizing the iron present and rusting it, giving Mars its typical reddish color. Martians would be seeking a new world on which to live, and July 27 would be the obvious time for them to make an attempt at communications.
OF COURSE, the little green men coming to Earth would be most impractical. Orson Welles' interplanetary invaders of the previous year were ultimately done in by something as simple as . . . Earth germs.

They'd all have to be little green versions of the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. If germ-free plastic bubbles had been invented yet.

The attempt to "reach out" to Marvin the Martian also got notice from Time magazine, albeit in a bit more nuanced form:

Nobody knows whether or not there is animal life on the planet Mars; nobody knows whether or not it is possible to reach Mars with a radio signal. In 1924 a group of radio engineers trying to tune in Mars heard signals which they claimed they could not identify with an Earthly source. Last week, with Mars closer to the Earth than at any time since 1924, another group of radio engineers tried a more daring experiment: sending a signal Marsward in the hope that it would be reflected back, picked up again on Earth. They thought they might succeed if: 1) the signal could penetrate the ionosphere, the ionized layer in the Earth's atmosphere whose influence on radio waves is not thoroughly understood; 2) it was not dissipated or destroyed on the way; 3) it hit Mars; 4) it was reflected toward Earth, and strong enough to be detected.

At the headquarters of Press Wireless, surrounded by the barren salt marshes off Baldwin, Long Island, gathered engineers of Newark's publicity-wise Station WOR, good-natured Curator Clyde Fisher of Manhattan's Hayden Planetarium, newshawks, photographers, announcers standing by to tell all. Before sending their signal, the engineers spent forty-five minutes twirling the knobs of 40 short-wave receivers, trying to catch a signal from Mars, where the highest form of life is generally believed to be some low form of vegetation, possibly resembling moss. Result: a potpourri of short-wave noises, most of them promptly identified.

BUMMER. That crafty Marvin probably was maintaining radio silence as he plotted his sneak attack on Earth.

Oh, wait. That was the Japanese. Target in two years: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Then again, we didn't know what we didn't know.
And more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reeling in the years. . . .

I've saved this old copy of the Baton Rouge State-Times -- carefully wrapped by my 8-year-old self in a garbage bag labeled "20th century" -- for 40 years now.

THE NEWS of July 22, 1969 reflects an undertaking of historic, transcendent wonder amid a world in chaos. At least people then had enough perspective to recognize wonder when they encountered it.

This probably was because the Internet -- and right-wing talk radio -- did not yet exist. If it did, the moon landing probably would have been roundly condemned as a budget-buster conceived by a member of the evil Kennedy clan, the youngest of which had just driven Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge and into a watery grave near Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

THE LOUDEST dissenting voices probably would have been the parents of these yahoos in Delaware.

Of course, it's important to remember that the stupidity we find ourselves awash in these days is not the exclusive domain of the red-meat right. The left has its nuts, cranks and flakes, too, and they likewise have access to the Internet and other forms of mass media.

Like the ABC Television Network.

Verily, Whoopi Goldberg is proof positive that one can fall out of the stupid tree, hit every branch on the way down and still manage to cobble together a successful career in "entertainment."

I HOPE Walter Cronkite -- somehow, somewhere in the Great Beyond -- has some idea of how much he will be missed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Man on the moon

If you don't hear this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth, there's a good reason for that. There isn't one . . . but just for this week.

Instead of doing the Big Show, I'm on the moon. It's July 1969, and once again I am 8 1/2 years old. Walter Cronkite is delivering the big news on CBS -- if you have to ask what the big news is, something's wrong with you -- and I'm sitting in front of the big Magnavox console TV watching history.

Some say 1969 was a time of turmoil. It was.

BUT THANKS to men like Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins -- the crew of Apollo 11 -- it is easier for us children of the Space Age to remember the '60s as a time of wonder. Greatness is strapping an entire planet onto your Saturn V rocket and carrying it with you to another world, allowing us to transcend our baser instincts, overcome our petty squabbles and fears -- even if only for a week or so.

Compared to such magic, all the ugliness that is our earthly stock and trade couldn't stand a chance.

People say America's best days are behind her. That might be so; it probably is so. I was blessed, however, to live when they weren't. When Americans reached for the stars, and men made it to the moon.

We as a nation once did these things, and my generation always will hold the memory of them close to our hearts.