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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘space travel

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • Bad Astronomy notes that a NASA probe has photographed the site on Mars where the ESA’s Schiaparelli lander crashed.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about being an immigrant, of sorts, in the United States.
  • C.J. Cherry announces that work on her history of the Alliance-Union universe is continuing.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper looking at the ionization of protoplanetary disks by cosmic radiations.
  • The Dragon’s Tales finds evidence for Planet Nine in the orbits of Kuiper Belt objects and the inner Oort cloud.
  • Far Outliers looks at the culture of addiction in Appalachia.
  • Joe. My. God. notes how a Russian embassy has mocked the European Union for defending GLBT rights.
  • Language Log looks at the sounds made by speakers of English, native and Chinese-language mother tongue both.
  • The Map Room Blog links to a map of the river basins of the United States.
  • Torontoist looks at the history of clowns in Toronto.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at how Central Asia is non-Muslim, reports a call for a historical reorientation of Azerbaijan, reports on a Tatar dramatist’s fear that Russia is trying to assimilate non-Russians, and looks at how a court in Sakha has defended the constitutional rights of the republic and its titular people.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • The Boston Globe‘s Big Picture shares photos of Massachusetts’ Mattapan trolley.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Planet Nine’s effects and examines the weather of Titan.
  • Both The Dragon’s Tales and the Planetary Society Weblog react to the loss of the Schiaparelli lander.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks for brown dwarf exoplanets.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reports on the sheer scale of the Australian real estate boom.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the beginning of an antiwar movement among Russian Orthodox faithful.
  • Arnold Zwicky shares a photo of a flowering tree in a Kyoto garden.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Beyond the Beyond quotes a Vladimir Putin statement on geopolitics.
  • blogTO shares photos from Yorkdale’s expansion.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at more evidence for Planet Nine.
  • Dead Things notes evidence that right-handedness has been predominant among hominins for some time.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on the discovery of three hot Jupiters.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the Philippines’ shift towards China.
  • The Planetary Society Weblog looks at ExoMars’ mission and the failure of the Schiaparelli lander.
  • Torontoist notes that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has bought Constellation Wineries, making some Canadian wineries Canadian-owned again.
  • Towleroad reports on a Europe-wide census of LGBT identities.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi notes that Hillary Clinton is winning because she puts work into it.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Putin’s changing style of governance.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Beyond the Beyond notes that electronic newspapers just don’t work.
  • blogTO notes that the Eaton Centre’s HMV is closing.
  • Crooked Timber notes that it will be shifting to moderated commenting.
  • D-Brief notes a new sharp image of Eta Carinae.
  • Dead Things notes that some monkeys are apparently making stone tools.
  • Joe. My. God. shares Le Tigre’s new pro-Clinton song, “I’m With Her”.
  • The LRB Blog is critical of Britain’s hostility towards refugee children.
  • The Map Room Blog links to a new historical atlas of Tibet.
  • The NYRB Daily examines Assange’s reasons for using Wikileaks to help Trump.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that New Horizons target 2007 OR10 has a moon.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes the reasons for Ecuador’s clamping down on Assange.

[LINK] On the case for going to Venus before Mars

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In his Washington Post article “Why Obama may have picked the wrong planet”, Brian Fung makes the case for Venus to be visited before Mars.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a visit to Mars for years. But Obama may be overlooking an easier target, if the arguments of one NASA researcher (and numerous supporters) are to be believed. While Mars may seem to be an attractive destination, we should consider sending people to Venus instead, these people argue.

Obama’s essay conjures images of NASA habitats on the Red Planet like we saw in the film “The Martian.” But that future is a long way off: As the actual author of “The Martian” has said, it’s far more likely that NASA’s first manned Mars mission will involve humans orbiting a few times and coming back. Even Elon Musk says he’ll be creating a “cargo route” to Mars long before he sends actual people to land there.

You see, Mars is a challenging destination. It’s far away, the gravity is a fraction of Earth’s — posing additional health hazards beyond the lack of atmospheric radiation shielding — and you have to be suited up just to breathe outside.

By contrast, Venus is a lot closer to Earth than Mars is. At their closest points, Venus is only 25 million miles away, compared with Mars’s 34 million miles. The shorter distance means you’d need less time and fuel to get there, reducing the cost. And although Venus’s surface temperature is hot enough to melt metal, and the crushing pressure will squish you like a bug, the upper atmosphere is actually rather habitable.

“At about 50 kilometers above the surface the atmosphere of Venus is the most earthlike environment (other than Earth itself) in the solar system,” wrote Geoffrey Landis, a NASA scientist, in a 2003 paper. Landis has spent much of his career dreaming up ways to make a human trip to Mars actually feasible, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 19, 2016 at 10:00 pm

[LINK] “China wants the Moon. But first, it has to spend a month in space”

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Emma Grey Ellis’ Wired article takes a look at how China’s space program is progressing.

On Monday, at a launch center in the middle of the Gobi desert, two taikonauts boarded a spacecraft and rocketed into space. Yesterday their ship, Shenzou-11, docked with China’s experimental space lab, Tiangong-2. For the next 30 days—China’s longest crewed space mission—they will conduct experiments, test equipment, practice repairs, try to grow plants, and keep track of how the space environment affects their bodies. Sound familiar, space fans?

It should. Tiangong-2 is like a baby International Space Station. Sure, it doesn’t have the ISS’s scale, technological sophistication, or multi-national backing. But it’s the technical testing ground for the grown up space station China plans to launch in the next couple of years. Which will more permanent, and about the size of Mir, the Soviet Union’s space station in the 80s and 90s. But mostly, Tiangong-2 an important part of China’s long term plan to build a Moon base. And from there, it’ll be hard to deny China a seat at the space superpower table.

Like everything China does, people consistently underestimate the nation’s space program. Common snubs include: It’s miles behind the curve; their gear is all Russian knockoffs; their launch schedules are hopelessly slapdash. Yeah, those have all been true at one point, but not an honest assessment of the program as it currently stand.

China did not launch its first satellite until the 1970s, and didn’t really invest heavily in their space program until the early ’90s (the Cultural Revolution was a bigger priority) but they’ve been gaining ground on the US and Europe ever since. Early on, the nation’s program relied on Russia, both for components and training for their would-be taikonauts.

And the Shenzhou spacecraft do resemble Soviet (now Russian) Soyuz. But don’t hate: “The Shenzhou is the same idea, but not a copy,” says Jonathan McDowel, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “In its present form, it’s very much a Chinese vehicle.” The Chinese spacecraft is bigger, more powerful, and its forward habitation module has solar panels that can provide power for a separate mission—even after the astronauts climb aboard Tiangong-2.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 19, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Posted in Politics, Science

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[LINK] “ESA Mars lander feared lost in final minutes of descent”

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The Guardian‘s Ian Sample notes that the news of the Schiaparelli lander, part of the ExoMars project, is not good.

After a journey of seven months and half a billion kilometres across the solar system, the fate of the European Schiaparelli Mars lander was uncertain on Wednesday night amid fears that a last-minute glitch had scuppered hopes for a historic touchdown on the red planet.

Earlier in the day, the half-tonne spacecraft was on target to become the first from the European Space Agency to perform science on the Martian surface. But despite a seemingly perfect approach to the planet, the lander appeared to run into difficulty as it neared, or reached, the ground.

At the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, grim-faced mission controllers peered at their monitors as the moment they expected the probe to call home came and went in silence. Hours later, the veteran Mars Express orbiter relayed data back to Earth that the lander had gathered on the way down.

“Those signals stopped at a certain point which we reckon was before the landing,” said Paolo Ferri, head of mission operations at ESOC. “It’s clear this is not a good sign.”

The high-speed descent called for the Schiaparelli lander to slow from 21,000 km (13,039 miles) per hour to a standstill on the Martian surface in the space of six minutes. In that time, the spacecraft was programmed to release a parachute and fire nine thrusters to slow its fall through the tenuous, dust-filled atmosphere, before belly-flopping the final two metres to the ground, a crushable underside cushioning the blow.

Signals broadcast from the probe and picked up by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India showed that the descent was going well until the final moments when the telescope lost contact.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 19, 2016 at 9:15 pm