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[LINK] “Bill Nye’s Lightsail solar sailing spacecraft wins on Kickstarter”

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The Kickstarter campaign described by the Planetary Society’s Richard Chute for a solar sail craft was a huge success. CBC reports.

A campaign to launch a small spacecraft propelled through space by ultra-thin solar sails has crowdfunded enough in just one day to build the spacecraft.

The private, non-profit Planetary Society and its CEO Bill Nye had raised $200,000 on Kickstarter by Wednesday afternoon, just a day after they launched their campaign to help fund their LightSail spacecraft.

The bread loaf-sized spacecraft is powered by solar sails, designed to capture the momentum from solar energy photons using large, mirrored surfaces. The small, continuous acceleration allows a spacecraft propelled by solar sails to reach high speeds over time without carrying or burning any fuel.

The money raised on Kickstarter will cover construction of the spacecraft used in the primary mission, which will launch in 2016. A low-altitude test flight is scheduled to launch May 20.

Altogether, the project is expected to cost $5.46 million. The Planetary Society says it has $1.2 million left to raise.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 15, 2015 at 11:31 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of some Neanderthal skeletons showing signs of having had the flesh carved off of them.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the messages carried by the New Horizon probe.
  • Crooked Timber makes the case for the continued relevance of Bob Marley.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at recurrent streams on Mars carved by perchlorate-laced water.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh argues that Spain is still digging out of the long crisis.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the story of a Louisiana trans man fired from his job for not detransitioning.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that China is not really a revisionist power.
  • Justin Petrone looks at ways in which young Estonian children are demonstrating and developing a fear of Russia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the failure of the Dragon rocket.
  • Towleroad notes that the Russian-language version of Siri is quite homophobic.
  • Understanding Society looks at the criticial realist social theory of Frédéric Vandenberghe.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at trends in violence in the North Caucasus and warns of Central Asian alienation from Russia.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO examines the nature of Toronto’s abundant consumption of electricity.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a study of the atmosphere of Wasp 80b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Russian rocket manufacturer Energomash may go out of business as a result not of sanctions but of threatened sanctions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money does not approve of Kenya’s plan to deport Somali refugees.
  • Mark MacKinnon shares an old 2003 article of his from Iraq.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the new Vulcan rocket.
  • pollotenchegg maps, by province, the proportion of Ukrainians claiming Russian as their mother language.
  • Registan argues that NATO and Russia might be misinterpreting
  • Spacing Toronto shares a screed on cyclists.
  • Towleroad notes that Chile now has same-sex civil unions.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC has hired an external corporation to manage the problematic Spadina subway extension.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that libertarians do exist as a distinguishable political demographic.
  • Window on Eurasia examines turmoil in Karelia and terrorism in Dagestan.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • At Acts of Minor Treason, Andrew Barton is very unhappy with the misuse of the Hugo Award.
  • Anthropology.net notes that DNA has been retrieved from an ancient and mostly fossilized Neanderthal fossil.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the early history of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the controversies over religious liberty.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze considers how extraterrestrial life can be detected through disequilibria in exoplanet atmosphere and notes the recent Alpha Centauri B study.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that by 2018 a laser will be deployed on a drone.
  • Geocurrents shares slides from a recent lecture on Yemen.
  • Language Hat examines the Yiddish word “khnyok”.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the Republican race.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the unpopularity of political jobs among young Americans.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes SpaceX’s problem with retrieving the first stages of its rockets.
  • Torontoist looks at beekeeping in Toronto.
  • Towleroad notes a Kickstarter fundraiser for Emil Cohen’s photos of queer life in Providence.
  • Transit Toronto notes the expansion of free WiFi throughout the subway system.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that divorce papers can be served via Facebook if it is the most practical alternative.
  • Window on Eurasia fears a summertime Russian attack on Ukraine, notes Russian fears of rebellion at home, and looks at Russian Internet censorship.
  • The World’s Gideon Rachman wonders if the Greek demand for Second World War reparations will bring the Eurozone crisis to a head.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes the essential lack of difference on government spending between Labour and the Tories and looks at flawed computer databases.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares some wacky and unusual maps of the Toronto subway system.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly describes her reason why she did not want to have children.
  • Gerry Canavan has another post of links.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Earth-like planets with circumbinary orbits and considers a new model of gas giant formation that explains Jupiter.
  • Crooked Timber examines the ongoing controversy over the Hugo awards for science fiction, as captured by American right-wing authors.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the habitability of water worlds.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the delay of China’s Mars exploration program.
  • Far Outliers looks at different systems for representing vowels with consonant symbols in the languages of the Pacific Islands.
  • Geocurrents has some posts–1, 2, 3–looking at ways in which the state system does not reflect the reality of the Middle East.
  • Language Hat looks at the revival of Manx.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the United States’ Endangered Species Act is important for saving not just individual species but entire ecosystems.
  • Marginal Revolution tells readers how to find good Iranian food.
  • Steve Munro is dubious about the economics of the Union-Pearson Express.
  • pollotenchegg looks at changing industrial production in Ukraine in 2013, finding that the east was doing poorly.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at the military situation in eastern Ukraine.
  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands shares beautiful pictures of Bermuda.
  • Peter Rukavina continues mapping airplanes flying above Prince Edward Island.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports on the results of the famine in 1930s Ukraine.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Belarusian language is still endangered, quotes a Putin confidant on eastern Ukraine’s separation, looks at the impact of the Internet on Karelia, and looks at ethnogenesis as two small nations of the North Caucasus merge.

[LINK] “Dawn Journal: Preparing to Photograph Ceres”

Writing for the Planetary Society Blog, Marc Rayman describes how the Dawn probe is carefully maneuvering into an orbit around Ceres suitable for photography.

Even after it entered orbit, its momentum carried it to a higher altitude, from which it is now descending. From March 2 to April 9, so much of the ground beneath it is cloaked in darkness that the spacecraft is not even peering at it. Instead, it is steadfastly looking ahead to the rewards of the view it will have when its long, leisurely, elliptical orbit loops far enough around to glimpse the sunlit surface again.

Among the many sights we eagerly anticipate are those captivating bright spots. Hinted at more than a decade ago by Hubble Space Telescope, Dawn started to bring them into sharper focus after an extraordinary journey of more than seven years and three billion miles (nearly five billion kilometers). Although the spots are reflections of sunlight, they seem almost to radiate from Ceres as cosmic beacons, drawing us forth, spellbound. Like interplanetary lighthouses, their brilliant glow illuminates the way for a bold ship from Earth sailing on the celestial seas to a mysterious, uncharted port. The entrancing lights fire our imagination and remind us of the irresistible lure of exploration and the powerful anticipation of an adventure into the unknown.

As we describe below, Dawn’s extensive photographic coverage of the sunlit terrain in early May will include these bright spots. They will not be in view, however, when Dawn spies the thin crescent of Ceres in its next optical navigation session, scheduled for April 10 (as always, all dates here are in the Pacific time zone).

As the table here shows, on April 14 (and extending into April 15), Dawn will obtain its last navigational fix before it finishes maneuvering. Should we look forward to catching sight of the bright spots then? In truth, we do not yet know. The spots surely will be there, but the uncertainty is exactly where “there” is. We still have much to learn about a dwarf planet that, until recently, was little more than a fuzzy patch of light among the glowing jewels of the night sky. (For example, only last month did we determine where Ceres’ north and south poles point.) Astronomers had clocked the length of its day, the time it takes to turn once on its axis, at a few minutes more than nine hours. But the last time the spots were in view of Dawn’s camera was on Feb. 19. From then until April 14, while Earth rotates more than 54 times (at 24 hours per turn), Ceres will rotate more than 140 times, which provides plenty of time for a small discrepancy in the exact rate to build up. To illustrate this, if our knowledge of the length of a Cerean day were off by one minute (or less than 0.2 percent), that would translate into more than a quarter of a turn during this period, drastically shifting the location of the spots from Dawn’s point of view. So we are not certain exactly what range of longitudes will be within view in the scheduled OpNav 7 window. Regardless, the pictures will serve their intended purpose of helping navigators establish the probe’s location in relation to its gravitational captor.

Dawn’s gradual, graceful arc down to its first mapping orbit will take the craft from the night side to the day side over the north pole, and then it will travel south. It will conclude its powered flight over the sunlit terrain at about 60 degrees south latitude. The spacecraft will finish reshaping its orbit on April 23, and when it stops its ion engine on that date, it will be in its new circular orbit, designated RC3. (We will return to the confusing names of the different orbits at Ceres below.) Then it will coast, just as the moon coasts in orbit around Earth and Earth coasts around the sun. It will take Dawn just over 15 days to complete one revolution around Ceres at this height. We had a preview of RC3 last year, and now we can take an updated look at the plans.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes the opening of a Detroit-style pizzeria in Toronto’s Leslieville.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper claiming that circumbinary Earth-like worlds can exist.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the American military’s mysterious X-37b space plane.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the opposition of Walmart to an anti-gay bill in Arkansas.
  • Language Hat argues that, at least in the recent past, English has displaced local languages in India. This may be changing.
  • Marginal Revolution seems to warn that too many Chinese are getting into stock speculation.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the overly-close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state and observes the closing of Crimean Tatar news media.
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