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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

 

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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.


Elon Musk Clears up Misunderstanding about Mars Proposal

November 28, 2012
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Founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, recently proposed a Martian colony which eventually would contain 80,000 people brought there from Earth on the reusable rockets he intends to develop.  Musk cleared up misunderstandings about his proposal by stating on Twitter that he meant to send 80,000 people a year to the red planet once colonization begins.  His goal is for a total of millions of settlers to make permanent residence on our second nearest neighbor.

Reusable rockets would create “massive reductions in cost”, he says, using his Falcon 9 as an example.  If it could be reused 1000 times then the cost of sending a human to Mars would plummet from $60 million a flight to just $60,000.  He envisions spacecraft much bigger than the Falcon 9 for the job and it would need to be even bigger than his Falcon Heavy (two Falcon 9’s combined) now being developed.  With bigger rockets, the cost would approach $500.000 per person.

Massive amounts of cargo, along with the people, would be needed to establish permanent colonies.  For anybody interested in a realistic view of what living on Mars might be like, I recommend reading any or all of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series novels:  Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars.


Human Future Needs to be In Space

November 23, 2012
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Humans have always been a species not satisfied with the way things are.  At least certain members of the species want to move on, move up, make a name for themselves doing things that nobody else has done.  But we have reached the point where individuals can no longer conquer the greatest challenges we face.  Now it takes groups–whole governments in fact.

The question is up in the air whether the United States will continue its intellectual spiritual, and financial domination of the world.  We seem at this point to be a country too self-satisfied and comfortable with our two car garages, and extreme shopping trips on Black Friday.  We worry more about whether our kids will have the latest power ranger than about where we are headed as a nation.  In order to avoid laziness and stagnation as a people, we need new fields to conquer.  Space exploration provides that field, and it is the ultimate field, offering a literally infinite series of new worlds to conquer (literally).

But it is an area that will take more ongoing systematic, carefully planned effort than anything man has ever attempted.  It will take the combined resources of both government and private industry, perhaps of several nations to get very far with this undertaking.  It would be foolish to devote so many resources to this effort than other areas of need–military, health care, education, welfare were seriously neglected.  Yet, a reasonable part of our GNP could be devoted to space without endangering any of these programs.  We did it in the 1960’s to put men on the moon and nobody starved as a result.

What has seemed to be lacking in the last 25 years or so is the will.  There is a mistaken notion that putting people in space is really expensive, yet NASA is run on only one-half of one per cent of the government’s total budget.  Increasing that to one penny as Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson and others are advocating would allow NASA to begin an effective manned program with goals that could be reached in a reasonable future.  NASA should be out in front, doing the hard research and development in space exploration with private enterprise following up taking over projects that stand a reasonable chance of eventually producing a profit–like mining asteroids for the precious metals that are used more and more in our electronic devices or taking tourists to the moon.

Columbus had no idea of the eventual riches that would come from exploring and colonizing North and South America, and neither do we have much of an inkling of what riches will be made available for this world through the exploration of the solar system, and eventually, the stars.  Just the industry and skills needed to carry out the job would put thousands of people to work in all kinds of industries.  And the new items that would  be invented would further enhance our lives.


Getting Robots to Mars

September 2, 2012
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http://www.youtube.com/embed/XRCIzZHpFtY?rel=0

Above is a Youtube video depicting the flights of Spirit and Opportunity, two earlier Mars rovers which have landed on the red planet and sent back oceans of data.  One of these little devils is still operating almost 9 years later.  Curiosity, the latest craft to be sent to Mars, used a slightly more sophisticated (and complicated) landing technique since it is quite a bit larger than the other two (about the size of a small car).  The only problem with the video is that it depicts the boosters making noise in space.  But, of course, sound doesn’t propagate where there is no atmosphere.


Z-Pinch Engine–Mars in 6 Weeks, Not 7 Months

June 27, 2012
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Researchers working for NASA are putting together plans for an entirely new type of propulsion system that promises to cut travel time to Mars, for example, from 7 months to about 6 to 8 weeks.  Accomplishing this would make getting humans to Mars much more feasible because of the savings in life support supplies like food and oxygen, among other items.

By using 2-inch wide pellets of lithium deuteride, fusing the lithium and hydrogen atoms inside, which produces a high-velocity plasma energy. Enough force would be released to propel a spacecraft to very high speeds.  The effect is called “Z-pinch.”  since the energy released would be controlled via an electromagnetic field nozzle.

This kind of powerplant could not be used to get the rocket off the surface of Earth, but would be very efficient once high orbit was achieved.  Conventional rockets in earlier stages would do this. Essentially, the system works just like a conventional rocket only much better.


Most Popular Museum

April 8, 2012
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The most popular museum in the world is not The Louvre in Paris.  It’s the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. with 9 million visitors a year.  What does that tell you about people’s imaginations?