We set forth for the stars in search of a massive diamond

Friday, 4 July, 2014

The discovery of a diamond the size of a white dwarf star, simply drifting through space, some nine hundred light years away from Earth, might just be enough to motivate some to solve the problems of interstellar travel…

The biggest diamond ever found in the universe, whose discovery was announced this week, has no name, will never be cut, and weighs approximately a million trillion trillion pounds. This makes it as massive as the sun, and no wonder: it’s the corpse of a star that once looked very much like the sun, lying nine hundred or so light-years from Earth.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

A model of NASA’s faster than light ship… and it is the Enterprise

Thursday, 19 June, 2014

What you can go and see here is a model of an actual faster-than-the-speed-of-light space ship that NASA is said to be designing. I’m not sure if an actual, workable, way to travel faster than light speed has been found, but I guess there’s no harm in giving thought to the sort of vessel that will, eventually perhaps, be used.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

How many people might it take to to colonise another star system?

Tuesday, 15 April, 2014

Because I enjoy this type of conjecture and know you do as well. You’re sending humans on a multi-generational, two thousand year long, voyage to colonise a habitable planet in a distant star system. How many people do you place on the vessel?

It had been suggested, a little over ten years ago, that a crew of one hundred and fifty might be sufficient, but a more recent analysis of the question puts the figure at closer to forty thousand.

That would make for a pretty big ship, unless you sent a fleet (fewer eggs in the same basket as it were), but whatever way it is looked at, setting up a human colony outside the solar system would be, or is going to be, a huge undertaking.

The nearest star systems – such as our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light-years from home – are so far that reaching them would require a generational starship. Entire generations of people would be born, live, and die before the ship reached its destination. This brings up the question of how many people you need to send on a hypothetical interstellar mission to sustain sufficient genetic diversity.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Was a Space Shuttle Columbia rescue mission possible?

Thursday, 6 March, 2014

While mission controllers knew that the Space Shuttle Columbia would probably break up on its return to Earth in February 2003, they decided not to tell the crew of the danger, reasoning that there was little they could do to save them.

It seems though a rescue mission, using the Space Shuttle Atlantis, was “considered challenging but feasible”, though it depended on preparing Atlantis in enough time to reach Columbia, before the spaceborne craft’s life support systems failed.

One problem confronting mission controllers trying to plan a rescue was not a shortage of oxygen or water as such, but rather the build-up of carbon dioxide that would ensue, in the keeping of Columbia in a low powered orbit until Atlantis could reach it:

How long those 69 canisters would last proved difficult to estimate, though, because there isn’t a lot of hard data on how much carbon dioxide the human body can tolerate in microgravity. Standard mission operation rules dictate that the mission be aborted if CO2 levels rise above a partial pressure of 15 mmHg (about two percent of the cabin air’s volume), and mission planners believed they could stretch Columbia‘s LiOH canister supply to cover a total of 30 days of mission time without breaking that CO2 threshold. However, doing so would require the crew to spend 12 hours of each day doing as little as possible – sleeping, resting, and doing everything they could to keep their metabolic rates low.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Animating the Apollo 8 “Earthrise” photo

Thursday, 9 January, 2014

Earthrise by William Anders

There couldn’t be too many people unfamiliar with “Earthrise”, above, the photo taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, while he was orbiting the Moon in 1968.

Now Reddit member Notbrit has stitched together a series of photos to create an animation depicting the scene Anders, and his crew mates, would have witnessed as their craft came around the Moon, and into view of Earth.

Read more posts on related topics

, , ,

Deep fry your potato chips in high gravity for fast, crispy, results

Monday, 6 January, 2014

Cooking meals off planet Earth has its challenges… varying atmospheric pressure, the presence, or otherwise, of oxygen, plus who knows how many other factors, all combine to make the job of a chef difficult in other part of the solar system.

Depending on how your like your deep fried potato chips, or french fries though, Jupiter, with its higher gravitational attraction, renders a fried potato slice with a “thick, crispy crust”, but best of all, does so with a relatively short cooking time:

Higher gravity levels significantly increased the heat transfer between the hot oil and the potato, shortening frying time and resulting in thick, crispy crusts, the team reports next month in Food Research International. In fact, the scientists may have discovered the ideal gravitational condition for creating crunchy fries: The crust reached its maximum thickness when the potato was fried at three times Earth’s gravity; any further increase in gravity levels did not improve the fry’s crispiness.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

No wonder they don’t have money in the twenty-third century

Monday, 4 November, 2013

Forget using time travel to bet on sports matches whose outcomes you’d already know. You could instead invest money today at a certain rate and then travel forward through time, several hundred years maybe, to retrieve your greatly appreciated nest egg.

It might be the only option many of us have in these times of relatively low interest rates. All you need access to, a mere detail for sure, is a time machine.

Tyler Cowen, of George Mason University, in Virginia, makes another point. Relativity means that on a starship travelling near the speed of light, a handful of years might pass for the crew while hundreds passed on a planet it was travelling from or to. That makes calculating interest rates hard, since savers could pay starship captains to carry them forward in time, to reap the benefits of centuries of accumulated interest. In a Star Trek-style world, then, Dr Cowen thinks the chief determinant of interest rates would be the price of starship fuel.

Otherwise, I’m of the feeling that speed-of-light travel, and money, may not co-exist all that harmoniously in the future.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Balloons, an entirely different way of travelling into space

Friday, 1 November, 2013

People have been sending all sorts of objects into space via weather balloons in recent times, so it seems entirely logical they would eventually send people into space, or the upper part of the atmosphere, by way of a balloon, hopefully something bigger than a weather balloon though.

World View’s “Experience” voyage promises a “gentle” 90-minute ride to an altitude of approximately 19 miles (30km), where passengers in the “luxuriously appointed space-qualified capsule” will be able to gaze upon “the curvature of the Earth with their own eyes,” according to the company. Passengers will remain at that height for two to six hours before floating back to solid ground, which is said to take between 20 and 40 minutes.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

We’ll race down infinite corridors of light, until we outrace light itself

Thursday, 6 June, 2013

Could NASA be developing a means of moving through space at speeds greater than light? Apparently so. The trick though to travel at speeds faster than light is to generate a space, rather than a craft, that exceeds light speed, and then slot a vessel into that space. As if you were going down a water slide, or something.

Traveling faster than light has always been attributed to science fiction, but that all changed when Harold White and his team at NASA started to work on and tweak the Alcubierre Drive. Special relativity may hold true, but to travel faster or at the speed of light we might not need a craft that can travel at that speed. The solution might be to place a craft within a space that is moving faster than the speed of light! Therefore the craft itself does not have to travel at the speed of light from it’s own type of propulsion system.

Intriguing, if nothing else.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Copyright is most definitely not lost in space

Friday, 31 May, 2013

I’m guessing we’ve all seen former International Space Station (ISS) commander Chris Hadfield’s rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” by now.

Despite what you may think though, the performance was no spur of the moment thought however, both Hadfield and his son, Evan, had obtained prior permission from Bowie’s management, a process that took months.

Before you consider emulating Hadfield’s feat though (anyone up for a jaunt to the ISS this weekend to record some Daft Punk covers?), it would be an idea to swot up on the workings of Earthly copyright laws as applied off the planet… a field that looks to be a whole other frontier unto itself, to say the least:

In this particular case the matter is straightforward because Commander Hadfield had obtained permission to record and distribute the song, and production and distribution was entirely terrestrial. Commander Hadfield and his son Evan spent several months hammering out details with Mr Bowie’s representatives, and with NASA, Russia’s space agency ROSCOSMOS and the CSA. The copyright issue may seem trivial, but the emergence of privately funded rocket launches, space tourism and space exploration hold the potential for more substantive disputes. If an astronaut were to travel to the Moon, an asteroid or Mars on a privately funded spacecraft, the situation would become knottier still, because the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967 applies to countries, not companies or private individuals.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,