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“Spaceship Earth” Faulty Concept

September 1, 2015
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A concept that has become known as “Spaceship Earth” pervades a lot of people’s thinking today.  According to it, planet Earth is the only location in the solar system that is friendly to life as we know it, and we are surrounded by a benevolent nature without which we couldn’t exist.  But actually, there is little benevolent about nature and we survive here only through our own efforts to provide food, clothing, shelter, and anything else that man considers essential to a comfortable life.  We’ve adapted biologically a long time ago to nature’s air and that’s about it.  The rest is struggle..  The point of this is that it would be no different on a foreign planet such as Mars.  We would survive there through our own efforts.  We know how to make air, grow food, provide warmth, manufacture clothing, protect ourselves from radiation.  It’s just a little more difficult to do it there than it is here.  And even that difficulty would decrease as a colony expanded. And locating humans on two or more planets would raise the odds that we would never be wiped out by some natural or man-made disaster.Earth fr space

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SLS is the Way to Deep Space

May 24, 2015
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Destination: MarsI have been discouraged lately by what seems like almost no movement in our ability to send humans further into space than the moon, and the last visit to there was in the early 70’s. But an article in the June, 2015 Scientific American gives me renewed hope.
When President Barack Obama cancelled the Constellation program, which was supposed to get astronauts to Mars eventually, it looked like the NASA space program had lost all direction, and the Space Launch System (SLS) program which is designed to take its place was criticized as welfare for states and corporations that are home to large NASA contractors.
But the SLS will be able to carry out the President’s asteroid missions as well as giving us Mars capability, and the means to get to Europa in 2.5 years instead of the six it took smaller robot rockets to do it. And it is on time and on budget so far.
I am convinced we need a heavy lifter, not only because using smaller rockets to assemble an interplanetary vehicle in orbit would be awkward, expensive, and highly dangerous. but also because cutting transit time to any planet will allow astronauts to avoid some radiation exposure.
Anyhow, the article in SA lays out other convincing reasons for producing the SLS, not the least of which is that it will be less expensive than the Constellation program would have been, relying as it does on some off-the-shelf hardware (like shuttle main engines), with built-in improvements as they are developed. I can only add to the article that increasing NASA’s budget by a measly one-half per cent of GDP could kick the program into high gear and get us to Mars quicker than the 2030’s. Then I might even live to see it happen.


Christmas eve, 1968

December 5, 2014
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Nothing was more amazing to me than when we actually launched a rocket that made it all the way to the moon with a human payload.  It was even more thrilling than when we landed on the moon because it was the first time humans had really ventured away from their earthly cocoon.

Sound on – watch on full screen

 


“Interstellar”!

October 23, 2014
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m16-herschel-xmm-newton

A new movie due out soon, Interstellar, is supposed to present space travel in a way that will make people sit up and take notice.  Well, we’ll see.

It has to be better than the nauseatingly frequent run of Zombie Apocalypse movies and TV shows, which seem to be mostly just excuses to show people blowing other people away in hundreds of different gruesome ways.IMG_0344  We can look at zombies in the same way that soldiers have to look at the enemy so he can be killed without remorse.

 

 


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Extinction Event

October 9, 2014
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“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program.”–Larry Niven
Does any more need to be said?


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Olympic Money Could Be Spent Better

February 10, 2014
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One source says $51 billion will be spent on the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. If NASA were given an infusion of $51 billion, we would have a viable space program again. We could probably go to Mars several times for that amount–maybe even establish a permanent colony there. The long term advances in science and technology that this would provide would far outweigh any good that comes from Olympic competition.
Actually, we’re a rich enough world to have both, but neither Russia nor the United States seems to have the vision to do the more important thing.


New Private Mars Venture Announced

February 23, 2013
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In 2001, millionaire Dennis Tito became the first private person to fly into space.  Now he wants to become the first person responsible for flying to Mars and back.

His project, called “Mission for America” is scheduled to launch in January, 2018 and is a product of the Inspiration Mars Foundation.

“It is intended to encourage all Americans to believe again, in doing hard things that make our nation great, while inspiring youth through science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and motivation,” his announcement reads.

The planned trip to Mars and back would take 501 days.  All the details of the mission will be announced at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Feb. 27.

Every two years or so the orbital alignments of Earth and Mars are such that a spaceship would use less fuel to make the 350 million mile journey.  January, 2018 will see the two planets in that situation.

The mission is actually only a fly-by of the red planet apparently using a modified SpaceX Dragon capsule, which is a bit disappointing, but at least it is far more ambitious than anything NASA can plan given its budgetary restraints.  The main challenge faced by the two astronauts who will make the trip, aside from spending almost two and a half years in confined quarters, will be cosmic and solar radiation. How their bodies will respond to experiencing zero gravity for that length of time will also be a consideration.

A fly-by of Mars is much less complicated and doable than landing on the planet.  It was a major feat of engineering skill just to get the big Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. Astronauts would require a much larger capsule.  Mars’ thin atmosphere makes aerobraking  more hazardous and might require a technique not yet invented.


Donate to Space Research–Go Uwingu

August 18, 2012
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A new for-profit start-up company called Uwingu is in operation with its primary goal being to raise funding for space research.  Uwingu means “sky” in Swahili.  By first accepting donations to get started, the company plans to make items that can be sold with the profits being donated to various worthy space programs.  It’s organizers, made up mostly of working scientists, are hoping to reduce the impact of the reductions in funding that NASA has experienced in the last few years.  A more complete description of this new venture is available at: http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/15/13299431-whats-uwingu-space-funding-venture-isnt-just-for-space-fans?lite

If you might donate, go to:

http://www.indiegogo.com/p/180221


NASA’s Greatest Achievement?

August 12, 2012
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The very complicated and successful placement of the car-sized rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars within a crater that probably contains liquid water and possibly signs of past Martian life may  actually be NASA’s greatest achievement to date.  There were no redundencies built into the Curiosity mission.  Everything had to work, from the heat shield to the huge parachute deployment to the aero-braking unit to the sky crane, for the landing to come off at all.  Critics of the $2.5 billion cost need to realize that the money came from a number of years of NASA funding, and that the difficulties that had to be overcome in the design and execution of this mission were  greater than any other space mission undertaken by any nation so far.  A thin Martian atmosphere (about like Earth’s at 100,000 feet) made the combination aero-braking, parachute, sky crane landing necessary and underscores the difficulties NASA will face in getting human habitation modules to the surface.

But along with the repairs of the Hubble space telescope, this may be NASA’s biggest achievement so far.  Finding any signs of past Martian life, no matter how small, will give scientists a good indication of how prevalent life might be in the cosmos.


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New Economic Bill of Rights Needed

August 12, 2012
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I will briefly depart from this blog’s mission of promoting space exploration and instead promote more immediate human well being with a nod to space science at the end.

A book by John DeCraal and David K. Balker entitled What’s the Economy for Anyway?  provides a blueprint for national happiness which we shouldn’t ignore.  Nor should any nation.  As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

The authors present an economic “Bill of Rights” that the country should consider.  Among them are: Provide at least three weeks of vacation each year for all workers prorated for part-timers, and the use of work sharing systems to reduce unemployment without increasing working hours. Provide prenatal and other care for all parents-to-be.  Provide single-payer health care to all Americans with private insurance for additional coverage.  Offer tax incentives for healthy behavior and raise taxes on unhealthy foods and activities.  Ban TV advertising aimed at children under 12. Create a more progressive tax structure with fewer loopholes for the wealthy and big corporations, increasing the marginal tax rate to 45% and setting the capital gains rate to the same as earnings from actual work.  End the income limit for social security taxation and tax breaks for private pensions.

Adopt physical sustainability rules to inform decision making for air, water, land, and climate resources. Remove taxes on “goods” with positive social benefits and place more taxes on “bads” that put costs on individuals, communities, and the environment.  Cancel subsidies on nonrenewable resources and move them to renewable resources that don’t change climate. Break up the largest banks and investment firms. Promote energy efficiency with low-interest financing to improve infrastructure.

Ban corporate campaign contributions by amending the U.S. constitution. Put taxes on sprawl and excessive home sizes, but provide incentives for green building, smaller homes, public transportation etc.

What the authors significantly leave out is any direct statement of funding for future research and development.  Funding and incentives for space exploration in particular would end up providing advances in many of the areas mentioned as well as providing a major source of the jobs that the authors say every American is entitled to.

A complete list of the authors’ ideas for achieving prosperity and happiness can be found at: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680286/a-new-economic-bill-of-rights-to-create-national-happiness

 

 

 


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