Tag 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!).

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.”

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:

Slow tablet sales send Microsoft skyhigh

Microsoft CEO threatens to punch anyone who says his tablet is inferior to an iPad.
Microsoft CEO threatens to punch anyone who says his tablet is inferior to an iPad.

Microsoft’s surface tablets have performed a lot worse than expected. This sentence is definitely true in regards to sales, and probably true when it comes to the user experience for people who bought one.

However, that’s not the main point here. The main point is that the company have already built way more of them that they look likely to sell any time soon. Six million too many of the little beggars, to be precise.

Figures like these always have journalists talking about companies ‘stockpiling’ and ‘sitting on a massive surplus’ of the thing in question.

It works – it’s good, active language, where Microsoft is doing something to the object in question.

Analysing the sentences with a little bit of maths can make for a bit of fun.

Take the idea of Microsoft sitting on the tablets, for example.

The tablets come in two types that are 0.53 and 0.37 inches thick, respectively. Assuming we’ve got the exact same number of each, you have six million tablets that are 0,45 inches thick, giving you 2.7 million inches of tablet. Let’s convert that to metric units (because inches and feet are stupid): 1 inch = 0.0254 metres means that Microsoft are sitting on 68580 metres of tablets, placing it solidly in the middle of Earth’s Mesosphere.

The air temperature in the Mesosphere can drop below -100 Celsius, but hey, at least the view is good – and they got there before Apple….

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.

New Voyager readings shows edge of Solar System is ‘wrinkly’

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Photo by: FlyingSinger

The spacecraft Voyager 1’s latest measurements of conditions on the edge of our solar system are causing frowns in the scientific community.

Voyager 1 is currently more than 11 billion miles from Earth – a distance that puts it right on the edge of our solar system…another way of thinking of if is that it’s about as far away from us now as Whitney Houston should have tried to get from Bobby Brown back in the 80s-90s.

Sidestep over, the interesting thing about the latest measurements is that they seem to disprove not one, not two, but three theories that scientists have had about the conditions in the border regions between our system and interstellar space.

it was previously thought that there was a clearly defined border between the two regions of space. Once the Voyager spacecraft crossed that border, three things were going to happen: The sun’s solar winds would become still; galactic cosmic rays would bombard Voyager from every angle; and the direction of the dominant magnetic field would change significantly because it would be coming from interstellar space, not the sun.

Except that hasn’t happened.

Instead the readings seem to show that conditions have changed back and forth, with magnetic field and solar wind readings soaring and falling several times, as Voyager 1 has traversed several zones, or ‘wrinkles’ in the border.

“The jumps indicate multiple crossings of a boundary unlike anything observed previously,” a team of scientists working on the data said to the magazine Science

Crowdsourced project lets you send ‘message in a bottle’ to aliens

A new crowd-funded METI, or Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence, project is set to begin this week.

The project uses a refurbished radio telescope in California to broadcast signals to space, hoping that extraterrestrial intelligences might listen in.

And the project, named Lone Signal, is looking for you. If you have an internet connection, that is. If so, you’ll be able to pen your own message, or even send a photo, to the Universe and Lone Signal will beam it into space.

To bein with all messages sent through Lone Star’s network will be transmitted to a star system called Gliese 526, which is located about 17.6 light-years from Earth.

The reason is that Gliese 526 is a good candidate for harboring life, having been identified in the Catalog of Nearby Habitable Systems, according to Lone Signal chief science officer Jacob Haqq-Misra.

To find out more, visit Lone Signal’s website here.

3D printed food to end world hunger?

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy there’s a scene where Arthur Dent almost gets everybody blown to piece by asking the spaceship he’s on to make him a cup of tea, using the on-board food synthesizer.

And it would seem that it’s an idea that isn’t so far-fetched after all. The synthesizer, that is, not the getting blown up in space. Although, you could probably try that in the near future as well – just imagine one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Spaceships straying over North Korea…

And it’s not only in outer space that the synthesized food could prove a hit and provide sustenance. Actually, if the science and technology currently being tested by Systems & Materials Research Corporation proves successful, it could become a weapon in the fight against world hunger.

Systems & Materials Research Corporation recently won a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a universal food synthesizer.

The grant has been given to test if the system would be able to feed astronauts on long flights to other planets, including a mission to Mars.

“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life. The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years,” Anjan Contractor from Systems & Materials Research Corporation says.

His long-term goal is to see the system in every kitchen, feeding people by printing out customized, nutritionally sound meals on what is essentially a 3D printer.

So far his team has released a few details about the project, including a video showing what must be the coolest way ever to make a chocolate biscuit:

NASA trailer crowdfunded for new Star Trek movie

NASA is taking a jump from science fact into the realm of science fiction through a trailer which will be shown in theatres across the US in connection with the new Star Trek film, Star Trek: Into the Darkness.

NASA’s trailer is called ‘We are the Explorers’ and it showcases the space agency’s history and the latest developments in spacecraft technology.

The trailer is going to be 30 seconds long – it’s based on a video NASA released last year.

Although the footage comes from NASA, the trailer is actually the brainchild of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) of America, and the money for it has come through crowdfunding. It took AIA just five days to raise the $33,000 needed.

So now there’s even more reason to be excited about the new Star Trek movie!

Here’s the clip released by NASA last year: