Category Archives: Space Science

Space And Religion

A brief history of their relationship. I infer that she thinks evangelicals not supporting spaceflight is a problem, because of concern that it could reduce public support for it. Apparently she doesn’t realize that public support is irrelevant to a space future that is funded not by the government, but by private interests, which is what our space future now is.

[Update a while later]

Related, sort of. Laura Seward Forczyk describes her eclipse experience.

The Eclipse In Southern California

Would have liked to see totality (guess it remains on the bucket list, maybe 2024 or somewhere else sooner), but we got about sixty percent coverage here. There was a thick marine layer when we awoke, but the clouds broke up in time for us to watch the whole thing. As I saw the moon slice along the left side of the sun, it was easy to imagine it projecting the full shadow a thousand miles north. I took a picture of a natural pinhole camera with hundreds of crescents in our driveway.

A few of my eclipse jokes on Twitter:

Eclipses

feel weird.

I wonder if the breaking down in tears is a current phenomenon, or if it’s traditional from when most people didn’t know what was going on, and thought it was the end times?

I disagree with this, though:

…for an eclipse with specific properties (such as total versus partial, long versus short, and tropical versus arctic) to make a repeat appearance in any particular region, one has to wait while eclipses work their way around the world like a set of gears, which requires three Saroses—a length of time equal to fifty-four years and around one month, or, more precisely, thirty-three days. Because this surpasses human life expectancy in that era four thousand years ago, it’s astonishing that the cycle was noticed at all.

Only if you don’t understand that life expectancy is an average, with a high standard deviation. Many, and particularly ancient astronomers, would have likely lived much longer than average.

We were in Denver over the weekend, and went up to Wondervu Saturday might for a meeting of the Sky Watchers club (invited by Leonard and Barbara David, who have a place up there in the mountains above Boulder). One of the lecturers (retired from the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden) gave a talk on NREL’s analysis of probability of not having clouds along the entire path. He had seen the one in Aruba in the ’90s, and he and most of the people there planned to go up to Casper to see it. I’d like to, but I can’t justify time/money right now.

Private Space Exploration

There was an interesting conference in New York last week (that I would have liked to attend if it had been in my budget). It’s still hard to raise money for it, because modern philanthropists don’t know the history, and can’t conceive of anyone but NASA doing such things, but I think that this is the future.

[Update a while later]

Sorry, added missing link.

Mars

Another demonstration of how fundamentally unserious we are about it, and what a fraud NASA’s #JourneyToMars is:

“Right now we are unconsciously setting ourselves up for a very difficult Mars program in the 2020s, because of all these immediate needs,” Casey Dreier, director of space policy at the Planetary Society, tells The Verge. “We don’t want to have a problem where we’ve prepared these samples and then they just rot on the ground because we’re unable to commit to bringing them back.”

Dreier argues that, above all, the most immediate need is the development of a new Mars telecommunications orbiter. Any future spacecraft we send to the Red Planet is going to need a way to communicate with mission teams on Earth. Right now, NASA has three operational satellites orbiting Mars, but only two — the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey — are primarily used for telecommunications. And these vehicles are getting old. Both orbiters have been at Mars for more than a decade and have lasted much longer than the span of their primary missions. By the time spacecraft are sent to retrieve samples from Mars, these satellites may have broken down and have stopped functioning. There are other orbiters circling Mars, operated by NASA and other space agencies, but these satellites are primarily aimed at doing science, and their orbits make them ill-suited for telecommunications, according to the Planetary Society.

But we have a giant rocket and a capsule in development that we don’t need to get to Mars, so we have that going for us.

China And Asteroids

This sounds sort of hinky to me (as is usually the case with Chinese space announcements). They’re going to bring an asteroid into cislunar space within a decade, but don’t think they’ll have the technology to process it until four decades from now? And how does getting artificial gravity from a spinning asteroid work, exactly? Also, pretty sure there will be some intense discussions about what kind of liability China will assume under the Liability Convention if they attempt this.

Red Dragon

2018 isn’t happening, but they may send two Dragons to Mars in 2020.

[Update a while later]

Meanwhile, in Michoud…

It’s almost metaphorical.

[Update a few minutes later]