Archive for the ‘space’ Category

Boeing on Starliner Failure: Oops.

March 4, 2020

Boeing on Starliner Failure: Oops.

As part of the Trump administration’s “privatize everything” policy, NASA contracted Boeing, maker of the brilliant  737 MAX, to build the CST-100 Starliner space capsule to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station under the multi-billion-dollar Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The Trump administration wants to replace NASA’s government bloat with the efficiency and precision of private industry. NASA launched the Starliner in December:

“The Starliner spacecraft encountered problems almost immediately after reaching space when its onboard computer, with its time miscalibrated by 11 hours, failed to fire the thrusters that would send the craft on a path to the space station. While aloft, the spacecraft struggled to communicate with the ground. By the time controllers could figure out what went wrong, the spacecraft had burned too much fuel, preventing it from docking with the station, one of its primary objectives.”

— “Boeing admits it failed to test the Starliner spacecraft adequately before its maiden flight,” Christian Davenport, Washington Post

Onward to Mars!

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Spaceport America!

February 13, 2020

Spaceport America!

The State of New Mexico gave a needy Brit named Sir Richard Branson $250 million to set up Spaceport America, a facility where rich people can launch into space pleasure jaunts. You know, your typical Public-Private Partnership.

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Ted Cruz and the Space Pirates!

May 17, 2019

Ted Cruz and the Space Pirates!

Shiver me timbers, matey! Senator Ted Cruz says we need a Space Force to protect us from space pirates:

“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors. Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”

The CBO says the initial bill to launch the Trump Space Force is $2 billion of your tax dollars, but independent estimates rocket start-up costs closer to $5 billion. Maybe we could defray the expense by licencing the film rights to Netflix. After all, the Cruz space pirate plot treatment is sure getting lots of buzz on Twitter.

More:

“Cruz warns ‘Space Force’ needed to prevent space pirates,” Owen Daugherty, The Hill

“Space Genius Ted Cruz Is Super Worried About Space Pirates Stealing our Space Booty,”
Jason Torchinsky, Foxtrot Alpha

“US Senator Ted Cruz irked by ‘space pirate’ ridicule,” BBC News

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Image: (“Ted Cruz & the Space Pirates, after Louis S. Glanzman”) by Mike Licht.  Download copies here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.

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NASA: Up in Space, But Nothing to Wear

March 28, 2019

NASA: Up in Space, But Nothing to Wear

NASA’s much-publicized all-female spacewalk has been cancelled due to a wardrobe malfunction. The U.S. space agency has only one spacesuit in size “Medium.” Houston, we have a gender-specific problem.

More:

“NASA: All-Women Space Walk Is ‘Inevitable,’ but Sorry, Not the Right Spacesuits This Time,” George Dvorsky, Gizmodo

“First All-Female Spacewalk Canceled Because NASA Doesn’t Have Two Suits That Fit,” Jacey Fortin and Karen Zraick, New York Times

“Not enough spacesuits in women’s sizes?! Twitter reacts to NASA canceling all-female spacewalk,” Jennifer Sangalang, USA Today

“NASA has an awkward history with the whole women-in-space thing,” Gillian Brockell, Washington Post

“In NASA’s spacesuit saga, women see their own stories,” Jena McGregor, New York Times

“If space is the future, that future needs to include everyone,” Mary Robinette Kowal, Washington Post

Update:

“NASA Says It Hopes to Accommodate Smaller Sizes in a New Space Suit Planned for the 2020s,” Emily Moon, Pacific Standard

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Jade Rabbit on the Dark Side of the Moon

January 3, 2019

Jade Rabbit on the Dark Side of the Moon

The landing and rover phases of China’s Chang’e-4 unmanned spacecraft have landed on the dark side of the moon, in a crater named for a Hungarian-American JPL director. The Queqiao radio relay satellite orbiting above the moon enables the space robots on the moon’s far side to communicate with mission control in China. The mission’s rover, exploring the surface of the moon’s far side, is called Yutu-2, “Jade Rabbit.”

In Chinese myth, Chang’e is the Moon Goddess, and the Jade Rabbit (Yu Tu) is her pet. The China National Space Administration plans to land non-mythical personalities – astronauts – on the Moon by 2020, and set up a moon base in 2030.

More:

“Chang’e-4: China space mission lands on Moon’s far side,” BBC News

“Chang’e 4 landing: China probe makes historic touchdown on far side of the moon,” Kate Lyons, The Guardian

“‘New Chapter’ in Space Exploration as China Reaches Far Side of the Moon,” Steven Lee Myers and Zoe Mou, New York Times

“China’s lunar probe sends first photo of dark side of the moon after historic soft landing,” Catherine Wong, South China Morning Post

“China just made history by landing on the far side of the Moon,” Echo Huang, Quartz

“China lunar probe sheds light on the ‘dark’ side of the moon,” Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press

“China just landed on the far side of the moon: What comes next?” Michael Greshko, National Geographic

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Million-Mile-High Club

May 1, 2018

“Space Sex is Serious Business,” produced for fivethirtyeight.com.

Research and Narration: Maggie Koerth-Baker; Writer and Producer: Christine Laskowski;  Design and Animation: Tom McCarten.

More:

“Space Sex Is Serious Business,” Maggie Koerth-Baker, FiveThirtyEight

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Water. Not Just For Earthlings Anymore.

February 9, 2018

Water. Not Just For Earthlings Anymore.

With the help of HiRISE, a powerful camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have found vast quantities subsurface ice reserves that astronauts could mine for drinking, growing crops, or converting into hydrogen for fuel.

“The deposits begin at depths as shallow as one meter and extend upwards of 100 meters into the planet. The researchers don’t estimate the quantity of ice present, but they do note that the amount of ice near the surface is likely more extensive than the few locations where it’s exposed. And what’s more, the ice looks pretty damn pure.”

— “Scientists Discover Clean Water Ice Just Below Mars’ Surface,” Robbie Gonzalez, Wired

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SpaceX to Launch World’s Most Powerful Rocket

February 6, 2018

Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation is scheduled to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket today. The 200 foot tall, 1500 ton space vehicle will be powered entirely by loud electric guitars, if the SpaceX video (above) is any guide.

More:

“Can Elon Musk disrupt deep space with the world’s most powerful rocket?” Tim Fernholz, Quartz

Updates:

“SpaceX successfully launches the world’s most powerful rocket, in a spectacle that sends a Tesla on its way to Mars,” Christian Davenport, Washington Post

“The middle booster of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket failed to land on its drone ship,” Loren Grush, The Verge

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Home Sweet Supercluster

October 30, 2017

Superclusters, the biggest structures in the Universe, are regions of space densely packed with galaxies.  A team based in Hawaii redrew the boundaries of the cosmic map and redefined Earth’s home supercluster. They named it Laniakea, Hawaiian for “immeasurable heaven.”

More:

“Earth’s new address: ‘Solar System, Milky Way, Laniakea,'” Elizabeth Gibney, Nature

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Voyager Space Probe Survives From the Age of Disco

September 14, 2017

Voyager Space Probe Survives From the Age of Disco

The NASA Voyager space probes were launched in 1977, the Age of Disco. They’ve been staying alive for 40 years, and are now 13 billion miles from Earth, traveling through deep interstellar space. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is celebrating the anniversary with free commemorative posters.

See the  Voyager film, The Farthest, on PBS.

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