I’ve been gripped by the livestream of Jessica Meir and Christina Koch conducting the first-ever all-woman spacewalk. The historic event generated such interest that NASA made a host of details publicly available. More than it would do for another such mission. It contains information about this walk and explains what went wrong last time NASA tried to conduct an all-woman spacewalk. It also gives details of how to follow online.
Southern Stars Group, LLC has released the following:
On the 50thanniversary of Apollo 11’s first manned moon landing, a new iOS app – Orbitrack – lets you explore the universe of spacecraft in orbit around our home planet today, using cutting-edge augmented and virtual reality technology.
Better yet: for just one day, July 20th, 2019, Orbitrack will be offered for free on the iTunes Store.
Mission control at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX was the central hub for mission operations in the Apollo era. NBC has a nice video news piece on how it’s been perfectly restored, now a museum, just as it was 50 years ago. Right down to the ash trays and slide rules. Image and source credit: NBC News.
iPhones have over 100,000 times more processing power than the Apollo 11 computer; with 4GB of RAM they have over a million times more memory, and with 512GB of storage they have over seven million times more storage.
Despite the rapid technological advances since then, astronauts haven’t actually been back to the moon since 1972. This seems surprising. After all, when we reflect on this historic event, it is often said that we now have more computing power in our pocket than the computer aboard Apollo 11 did. But is that true? And, if so, how much more powerful are our phones?
It’s amazing to see how far technology has advanced since then.
Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions. He also conducted astronaut training and had the honor of working onboard every Space Shuttle orbiter except Challenger. In late 1998, he left NASA to become an author.
The result was the Anghazi series of novels, Casimir Bridge, released in 2016 to rave reviews thanks largely to his commitment to putting the science back in science fiction. The second installment, Pathogen Protocol was released in October, 2018. In this second show with Darren, we continue our previous discussion: Back to the Moon first or off to Mars first? With robot companions? Industrializing the Moon. Plus: Darren’s approach to the third novel in the Anghazi series and an explanation of how his characters achieve interstellar travel.
Highly rated, Orbitrack, from Southern Stars, lets you explore the universe of spacecraft in orbit around our home planet and is available in the Apple App Store now for US$4.99 (free on 7/20) and for Android in the second half of 2019.
Dr. George Sowers holds an undergraduate degree in physics from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado in Quantum Field theory. He has worked for Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) where he was the chief scientist and vice president. Currently, he’s a professor of Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines.
We chatted about George’s evolving career, from geologic engineering to physics to rocket launches with Lockheed Martin to General Relativity (GR) and Quantum Mechanics (QM), life at the ULA and finally to lunar mining. We pondered the philosophical differences between GR and QM, and then we turned to the benefits of mining water ice at the poles of our own Moon. We finished with some great advice for young engineering and physics students.
There have been a number of remarkable space-based developments recently. Today brought another. The Verge reported on papers in the journal Nature that discussed fast radio bursts (FRBs) – repeated pulses of radio waves that came from outside our own galaxy. In July and August 2018, some of these came from the same location. It gives scientist a chance to pinpoint where they actually came from and what is sending them towards Earth. The pules could also help scientists find out what is in the regions between galaxies.
Most FRBs have been momentary blips in the sky — at least as far as we know. These explosions of radio waves will last for just milliseconds and then disappear, never to be seen again. They seem to come from some incredibly distant spot in the Universe — sometimes billions of light-years away. The first FRB was discovered in 2007, and since then, we’ve confirmed 52 sources of these transient bursts. But in 2015, a special FRB discovery was made when multiple flashes were found that came from the same location. That provided an opportunity to help locate its source, and today’s FRB gives scientists another shot at that goal.
Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. He also conducted astronaut training and had the honor of working onboard every Space Shuttle orbiter except Challenger. In late 1998, he left NASA to become an entrepreneur, and, lately, an author.
The first result was the Anghazi series of novels, Casimir Bridge, released in 2016 to rave reviews thanks largely to his commitment to putting the science back in science fiction. The second installment, Pathogen Protocol was released in October, 2018. We chatted about Darren’s early life inspirations, his NASA career, an interesting experience with an astronaut, his scientific approach to SciFi writing, and how private industry may well send manned missions to Mars before NASA.
This is Part II. Dr. Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist with the SETI Institute. He’s also Chairman of the Mars Institute, and Director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center. His research includes the history of water on Mars and planning future human exploration of Mars. Pascal has a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Space Sciences from Cornell University.
In Part I, we chatted about his background and how he became a planetary scientist. We had just started discussing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), when an internet outage stopped us cold. So I invited Pascal to return for Part II and discuss his analysis of the Drake Equation and its implications for the existence of other advanced, intelligent life in our galaxy.
The Star Trek TV shows and movies have had a pervasive effect on our culture, language and space technologies. This extensive article at Space.com looks at the history of the franchise and its real-life impact on space exploration. From the article: “Star Trek also has generated a diverse fan base, some of whom create limited episode productions for themselves. Conventions continue to attract thousands of fans who are eager to rub elbows with actors, writers and other people who worked on the various series and movies. The franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and continues to live long and prosper.”
Kurt Hughes, in Seattle, has used his boat design experience to construct a 250 square foot (23 square meter) tiny house in the style of the lunar lander used in the U.S. Apollo program. It features a kitchenette, breakfast alcove (with a view), bathroom and sleeping quarters. The home will be used for “weekend trips and creative respites.” The photos are great, so take a look.
Because of they way they’re photographed, we don’t often get a good perspective on how big modern rockets are. For example, the SpaceX Falcon 9 is 230 ft (70 meters) tall. The SpaceX BFR rocket is 348 ft. (106 meters) tall. What does that really mean in everyday terms? In this video, a VFX artist, with great style, puts the size of these rockets into perspective for us. (Those who’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida will understand.)
Here’s a nice collection, “The Week’s Coolest Space Images.” From spectacular dunes on Mars to the Guatemala volcano eruption. photos like these help us visualize and tell a story that can’t be appreciated with just words. And they also punctuate the importance of satellites that can observe the surface of planets. Not to mention the science. Check it out.
Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute. He’s also the co-founder and chief scientist of World View, working with high altitude balloon research. He is perhaps most famous as the principle investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Way back in grade school, Alan was interested in space exploration and wanted to be a part of the Star Trek future. He received his Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Colorado, and that launched his life-long interest in Kuiper Belt Objects and the Oort Cloud. He’s a licensed pilot, was selected by NASA as a Payload Specialist, and has flown research missions in high performance jet aircraft. We talked about his career, the New Horizons mission design, Pluto discoveries (and planetary classification) and his latest research.
Let’s say you could travel 50 light years from Earth, or maybe 100. What would you hear? That’s exactly what Lightyear.fm shows us, and it’s eerily awesome. The site’s developers used more than 120 years of data from Billboard to simulate the radio transmissions we’d hear—assuming the inverse square law of propagation didn’t exist, of course. What they came up with is akin to taking an FM radio on the Starship Enterprise and warping away from Earth. Listening to more recent songs is cool, but I loved the surreal sensation of feeling like I’m 100 light years from Earth catching hollow sounding early radio transmissions.
Elon Musk isn’t the only CEO who has his eyes on reusable, commercial space vehicles. Recently, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos floated a white paper to NASA management that outlines a plan to send as much as 10,000 pounds of cargo, in a lunar lander, to the moon in a single trip. It’s called Blue Origin. The target would be near the Moon’s south pole, the Shackleton Crater, where there are sections of permanent sunlight that may also harbor ice, key to a permanent human base. It all sounds very Robert Heinlein-esque, these billionaires setting out on new commercial missions. Very cool.
Dr. Phil Plait is an astronomer and a very popular science communicator. His blog, Bad Astronomy, “covers the entire universe, from subatomic particles to the Big Bang itself, astronomy, space exploration, and the effect of politics on science.” Like many young astronomers, Phil’s interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don’t believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.