Category Archives: Space

Russia tells US astronauts to use trampoline if they want to go into space

Photo: Peter Werkman
Photo: Peter Werkman

In a case of ‘did he really say that???’ the Russia – Ukraine conflict has gone into space…or has started to involve exactly who gets into space and how.

The Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin recently lashed out against the US over its stance on Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia because of the on-going conflict.

“The U.S. introduced sanctions against our space industry. God knows, we warned them: we respond to declarations w/ declarations, to actions w/ actions,” Rogozin tweeted, before adding:

“After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS [international space station] with a trampoline.”

While more serious media have discussed whether or not this is an actual threat or not (Russian space shuttles are the only way of reaching the ISS at the moment, but any sort of swordplay would likely send the US into the arms of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, meaning no more money for the already cash strapped Russian aerospace industry) I have only one thing on my mind right now:

I would truly love to see a trampoline capable of sending a man into outer space (of course, the impact and speeds reached would push an astro-jumper’s leg bones up past his ears before he or she reached the stratosphere…but I still want to see the trampoline!).

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Japan draws up plans for solar power stations in space

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To fans of science fiction, the idea of having solar power stations in space sending down energy to Earth is far from new.

News is, however, the fact that Japan have drawn up plans for exactly such a power station.

The idea, which is still just an idea, goes as follows:

Take an island, fill it witl billions of tiny rectifying antennas able of converting microwave energy into DC electricity. Run a cable from the island, where no-one is going to want to live, because of the radiation, to the mainland. Now take a handfull (or two) of solar collectors, shoot them into space and have them set up in a geosynchronous orbit and beam down microwaves onto the island from 36 000 km above Earth.

Sounds great, and as long as the whole thing worked according to plan. If the solar collectors missed their target, or someone decided to tinker with the whole setup, things could be very, very different.

Imagine a giant microwave oven, and then stuff the population of Tokyo into it…..

Should you be scared of asteroids? Nuclear test monitoring group says yes

Foto: Howard Dickins
Foto: Howard Dickins

I’m old enough to (sort of) remember the old Asteroids computer game. Altough life on Earth is not quite as dogged by pieces of comets and interstellar debris hunting you around as was the case for the hero of the game, it turns out we have more to fear from asteroids than previously thought – or, as the BBC so charmingly put it, we ‘underappreciate’ the risk.

The news comes from the B612 foundation who usually monitor nuclear tests.

“Between 2000 and 2013, a network of sensors that monitors Earth around the clock listening for the infrasound signature of nuclear detonations detected 26 explosions on Earth ranging in energy from 1 to 600 kilotons – all caused not by nuclear explosions, but rather by asteroid impacts. These findings were recently released from the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, which operates the network,” the group says on its website, adding that:

“To put this data in perspective, the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 exploded with an energy impact of 15 kilotons. While most of these asteroids exploded too high in the atmosphere to do serious damage on the ground, the evidence is important in estimating the frequency of a potential “city-killer-size” asteroid.”

NASA forgets how to talk to their own satellite

Photo by:  pamelainob
Photo by: pamelainob

In a case that painfully illustrates the way that accelerating technology can some times seem to move too fast, NASA has lost the ability to talk to one of its satellites.

ISEE-3/ICE, as the satellite in question is called, was launched in 1978, and became the first satellite to successfully flying through a comet’s tail.

Now, more than 30 years later, it is finally coming close to Earth again. On board the ISEE-3/ICE is equipment that would allow us to contact it. Sadly, there is a problem. The ISEE-3/ICE uses old-style transmitters, and NASA got rid of their last ones in 1999.

Want to mine the Moon? NASA now accepting applications

Photo by: Dave Young
Photo by: Dave Young

Anyone who thought the Klondike gold rush was a bit far afield is not going to be interested in the latest news from NASA.

The american space organisation is finished the first stage of a bidding round for private companies who are interested in working with them on the project which aim is mining the Moon.

The Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program – a name that can, with a bit of heavy-handed manipulation, be turned into the acronym CATALYST – will use robot to mine the Moon for valuable resources like helium 3 and rare earth metals.

Of course, mining is something that usually takes place on the territory of sovereign states, and exploration of areas that don’t legally belong to anyone usually causes a lot of consternation – just think of Antarctica.

Mining the Moon is definitely going to take some new legal langauge….and we journalists are going to be left wondering is you can call mining on the Moon without proper laws for a Wild West-like scenario…or whether a mining station on the Moon can be a boom town without any Oxygen present at all….

To boldly grow – NASA plans plantgrowing on the Moon

NASA is nothing if not ambitious. And that definitely goes for their latest idea: growing plants on the Moon.

Now this is an idea that catches the imagination – just think how high a sunflower could grown at the Moon’s low gravity. And for the more illegally minded horticulturists – imagine how far from the authorities your crops would be 🙂

“They will try to grow arabidopsis (a word my spell checker wanted to change to archbishops..admittedly a more Monty Pythonesque idea, but probably not what NASA are looking to do), basil, sunflowers, and turnips in coffee-can-sized aluminium cylinders that will serve as plant habitats,” according to this piece in Forbes.

The idea is to test the viability of growing food on another planetary body, as well as conducting valuable research that might in future make it easier to grow produce in inhospitable parts of our own planet.

Richard Branson’s rocketship goes supersonic – again

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo recently completed its second succesful supersonic test flight, which also saw the spacecraft test its ‘feathered’ tail system.

Virgin boss Richard Branson must have been over the moon (pun intended) with the recent flight. He described the test flight as:

“The highest commercial winged vehicle [flight] in history.”

According to Universe today, SpaceShipTwo was airlifted by a carrier aircraft to 46,000 feet, where it was released. It then “lit its rocket motor for a 20-second burn. They climbed as high as 69,000 feet at a maximum speed of Mach 1.43.”

This was followed by the test of the craft’s feathered tail system.

“The main progress with this test is that we deployed the full expansion (up and down) of the feather mechanism at a high altitude, alongside testing the rocket motor performance. This feather mechanism was the key innovation that enabled us to get into the space program in the first place. It acts like a giant shuttlecock and slows the spaceship up as it comes back into the earth’s atmosphere,” Richard Branson explained.

Right, so basically anyone travelling on SpaceShipTwo will sort of be taking part in a rocket powered, super-sonic game of badminton in outer space……

Apart from the dadaistic (look it up) aspect, the flight looks very, very cool.

See for yourself:

And here:

India accuse Jupiter and Mars of invading its territory

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A story that would be a good candidate for the funniest thing to happen for a long time, if it wasn’t for the fact that it involves two countries who both have nuclear weapons.

That’s the quick way of summing up the recent sate of affairs between India and China, which can best be summed up as ‘tense’.

The reason is the disputed Himalayan border area between the two countries, and India has been especially miffed with the fact that China has been sending unidentified objects, possibly drone airplanes, flying into a region that India believes to be its territory.

A total of 329 nocturnal sightings had been reported, before astronomers recently helped the Indian military figure out that what they had sighted was actually the planets Jupiter and Mars.

Sometimes you wish you could just make this stuff up….

NASA crashes something and gets to cheer about it

NASA scientists recently had the novel experience of getting to crash a piece of multi-million dollar equipment – and then cheer about the fact that they had just crashes a multi-million dollar piece of equipment.

The precious piece of equipment was a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, and the purpose of the crash was to test the helicopter’s crashworthiness – a word that I would guess usually leaves NASA scientists with nervous ticks.

Pluto’s new moons named – no Vulcan in sight

Planet Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons have been officially christened by the International Astronomical Union.

The two planetoids were named Kerberos and Styx. Kerberos is the name of the mythological three-headed hound that guards the entrance to the underworld. Styx is the name of the river that separated the underworld from the real world.

Interestingly enough, the names were only second and third on the popularity list in a popular vote. First choice Vulcan was snubbed by the Union because of the campaign by Star Trek fans, instigated by actor William Shatner, who played Captain James Kirk in the original series, to get it elected.

All very interesting in its own right. Oh, and it brought us this headline.