Movies set in space, take a bow

Tuesday, 16 December, 2014

Set to the music from the Interstellar soundtrack, “Mountains” by Hans Zimmer, and the words of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”, recited by Anthony Hopkins, Max Shishkin has produced an impressive tribute to movies set in space.

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And beyond this world, the worlds of the solar system

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014

Wanderers, a short film by Erik Wernquist, depicting humanity’s future possible exploration of the solar system, featuring narration by Carl Sagan. Some of the sequences, especially on the moons of Jupiter, and what looks to be Neptune, are incredible.

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Would you believe Kickstarter might put a probe on the Moon?

Wednesday, 26 November, 2014

Is there anything that Kickstarter doesn’t do? The idea behind Lunar Mission One is to send a probe to the Moon that will bury a time capsule, containing a record of life on Earth.

It’s not entirely about preserving memories though, in drilling below the Lunar surface to place the capsule, the probe will also extract rock, offering scientists access to materials they’ve not previously had an opportunity to study.

We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.

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How many satellites are in Earth orbit? Short answer, a lot

Tuesday, 25 November, 2014

We all know that there are any number of satellites circling overhead, going about their trek around the Earth, as we go spinning our way through the cosmos. Some are active, some stopped functioning decades ago. Some are small, while others, such as the International Space Station, are larger.

But did you have any idea just how crowded that space above our heads is? Here’s hoping the laws of celestial mechanics continue to keep on doing what they’ve been doing so far…

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Photos from the surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet

Friday, 21 November, 2014

Landing a probe, or a craft with a human crew, on another planet or moon, is hard enough, so imagine the know-how required to set down on a comet. Still, that’s what the European Space Agency succeeded in doing last week, when its Rosetta mission landed a probe on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Needless to say, the photos collected by the probes concerned, during the approach to the comet, and then the landing, are spectacular. To say the least.

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Do you really want to live on Mars? Then read this first…

Friday, 21 November, 2014

If you’re a regular visitor here, then the Mars One project will require no introduction. In short, the idea is to send people to Mars, on a way ticket, to establish a human colony there.

Make no mistake, living on, or more to the point, under Mars, as conditions on the surface are far from hospitable, won’t be easy though. In fact anyone considering signing up ought to have a read of this blunt assessment of the prospect

“They’re going to be living like moles,” Willson says. “I don’t think that the people who volunteered really appreciate that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives living in a submarine.” The first colonists would likely spend most of their time repairing the equipment that is keeping them alive. “Replacing parts and replacing a toothbrush, having toilet paper – there are some things that modern society expects and does and there would be significant degrading of your lifestyle on Mars,” says Willson.

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An “Interstellar” Earth, can it be averted?

Tuesday, 18 November, 2014

The world in which Interstellar, US director Christopher Nolan’s latest feature, is set, is not one many of us would wish to live in, on account of an abundance of pestilence and dust storms. In fact, humanity is looking into finding another planet to move to, so bad are conditions on Earth.

But can we avoid such a bleak future in reality? Quite possibly, yes. Would we, however, want to give up on the search for another planet to migrate to, should, for whatever reason, the need arise? No, quite possibly not (warning, “Interstellar” spoilers):

Even with our efforts to keep Earth pumping out enough food to feed the billions of people who live here, there is some chance that the planet will not forever be a safe home for humanity. In that light, we should be looking for other places to live, a backup plan in case of global failure.

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It’s just another day in the planetary neighbourhood

Monday, 17 November, 2014

Photo by Chinese National Space Administration

The Moon and Earth from a perspective that we don’t see too often, taken by the Chang’e 5-T1, a China National Space Administration (CNSA) space probe, on a recent test flight to the Moon.

Via The Universe™.

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Aborting the launch of the Space Shuttle, easy… in theory anyway

Monday, 20 October, 2014

There was a procedure in place to abort a Space Shuttle flight if a problem became apparent on, or immediately, after launch, but it certainly wasn’t a simple matter of switching off the engines, and heading towards a nearby landing strip…

About two minutes into the flight, the SRBs [Solid Rocket Boosters] would burn out and then be jettisoned. The SSMEs [Space Shuttle Main Engines] would continue to burn fuel from the ET [External Tank] until about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. For missions with a particularly heavy payload, the two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engines could be fired during ascent to help the shuttle aloft. The OMS engines were also used later to adjust the shuttle’s orbit, including the deorbit burn that brought it home at the end of the mission. After Main Engine Cutoff (MECO), the shuttle would jettison the empty ET, which would disintegrate as it tumbled back to Earth. That’s all there was to it. What could possibly go wrong?

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Establishing a human colony on Mars, not so straightforward?

Friday, 17 October, 2014

I was quite excited about the Mars One idea, when I first heard of it a couple of years ago. Both pioneering and audacious, the project founders proposed sending four people at a time to Mars in 2024, followed by another group every two years thereafter, gradually establishing a human colony on the red planet in the process.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, analysis of the concept, based on what is currently known publicly, however finds the plan, to be unsustainable. In short they conclude that Mars One is trying to achieve too much, too soon:

The lead author, Sydney Do, a Ph.D. candidate in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said via email that in his view “the Mars One Concept is unsustainable” because of the current state of technology and its “aggressive expansion approach” of quickly adding more and more people rather than keeping the settlement at a fixed size for a period of time.

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