Current Event Friday #104

3…2…1… Blastoff? Here’s to hoping

Give me some space! Now to many of us that may sound like an encouragement to promote social distancing, but for thousands of science-minded folks, it’s a hopeful statement for today’s #CurrentEventFriday set to happen this weekend.

NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Astronauts to Space Station from ...
Launch America, a joint mission was scheduled for May 27, 2020 from Kennedy Space Center but was rescheduled due to weather

For the first time in over a decade, NASA will be launching a space vehicle to the ISS crewed by astronauts. The journey is a joint effort between the space agency and SpaceX, a company connected to Elon Musk and the Tesla company.

The mission nicknamed Dragon will be led by astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Given the hiatus of launching astronauts to the ISS from Florida, many gathered Wednesday for the scheduled launch near Cape Canaveral and online, including Pres. Trump. Anticipating a new era, NASA & SpaceX were excited for the acclaim they were receiving for the launch. Yet, the weather in Florida was less than cooperative and the launch was scrubbed and rescheduled for Saturday at 3:22 P.M. EDT.

The NOAA Hurricane Center shows a tropical system forming SE of Bermuda that may reach Florida later this weekend 

Saturday’s launch is still questionable as there is a tropical depression just off the coast of Florida that will linger for the next few days. If the launch on Saturday is scrubbed, the mission will launch 24 hours later on Sunday.

Most astrophiles are excited and hopeful that this launch will happen and that it may lead to further missions that include manned missions to Mars or a possible return to the Moon. As the Space Age unfolded in the 1960’s, we were already expected to have established several colonies on the Moon, and yet we have only conducted studies and research on the lunar orb as well as Mars. Much of the same anticipation and excitement for the Apollo missions seem to have surrounded the Launch America mission between NASA & SpaceX. Added to this is Pres. Trump’s newly created military branch, Space Force we’re likely to see a new Space Age. I for one, look forward to what this might include. If SpaceX can do better at innovating their space vehicles, affordable public travel to space will be a goal for many. Elon Musk has already shown that through his funding and encouragement, the electric car market has made Tesla vehicles comparable to hybrid and conventional petrochemical cars.

Are you excited for a Second Space Age?

Is There Anybody Out There?

Space—the final frontier, are there others already living out there?

One of the promises included in last week’s State of the Union was the announcement about the Space Force and a commitment to put a man on Mars. While many have mocked Pres. Trump about the Space Force, it’s not exactly that different than ideas promoted by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Since the earliest days of man, we have been interested in outer space, and as we discovered more about it, we have wondered if there is life out there. Tales of alien or extraterrestrial encounters have been along the same timelines of astronomy.

Today is Extraterrestrial Culture/Extraterrestrial Visitor Day, so discussing whether there is life in outer space seems appropriate. I’m almost sure that there is some sort of life on other planets in our solar system, and even more likely in other galaxies. We seem to have an innate sense that we are not alone in the universe. Of course, as a religious person I will admit that the most important higher power or other-worldly being is God, but I think that extraterrestrials also exist.

I don’t know if these extraterrestrials have the same appearance as presented in Science Fiction stories or they are much closer to our own appearances but have a chemical makeup connected to a different element different than our own carbon-based existence. The same could also be true of the extraterrestrial spacecraft as well.

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Ancient Aliens meme 

Admittedly, many more are fascinated with extraterrestrials and aliens as we see memes featuring an expert from the History Channel program Ancient Aliens. These memes often feature some unexplained phenomenon and simply include the word ‘Aliens’ as a simple explanation.

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Storm Area 51 posted to Facebook Events

Even this last fall, several folks on Facebook seemingly planned to storm Area 51 to find the hidden aliens that the United States Air Force and military had been secretly keeping there for years. In the lead-up to the date, everyone shared images celebrating what they might do with the aliens they planned to liberate. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the viral effect of the event and the hype were much more than the event as only a few dozen showed up outside Area 51 and didn’t even attempt to cross onto the military installation. Yet, I’m sure that people will still continue to believe Area 51 houses secret extraterrestrials and those same people would like to free the aliens. I’m also sure that if anyone does liberate one of these aliens, many more that would call themselves skeptics will also want to see the alien.

Do you believe in extraterrestrials/aliens?  

History Monday #88

Limiting the use of outer space for military use is overshadowed on this day by tragedy in Florida.

Another week begins and it’s time for #HistoryMonday again. That of course means I choose a historical event that occurred on this day and offer my thoughts about that event. Today provides an opportunity for a double-header both dealing with outer space.

Apollo 1 Prime Crew
The Apollo 1 crew. From left to right: Edward H. White II, Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and Roger B. Chaffee.

On this day in 1967, the AS-204 command module catches on fire at the launch pad while program tests were being conducted at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The fire resulted in deaths of astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. Investigators believed a faulty wire sparked in the oxygen-rich environment of the

Astronauts Grissom and White had already flown space missions during Project Gemini, while Chaffee was expecting to make his first spaceflight with the launch of the AS-204 spacecraft. North American Aviation was responsible for the construction of the spacecraft. Shortly before the spacecraft was delivered to Florida, the crew expressed concern of the plentiful use of flammables such as nylon netting and Velcro that were usually used to secure tools and equipment. Skepticism about the timeline of the program led the crew to jokingly remind the construction manager for the spacecraft that maybe divine intervention was necessary.

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Signing of the Outer Space Treaty by representatives of the U.S.S.R., U.K., & U.S.

Also happening subsequently around locations in London, Moscow, and Washington D.C. the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) is signed by a plethora of UN members. The Outer Space Treaty provides the framework for international space law. Signatories to the treaty agreed that weaponizing space is not permissible according to the terms of the contract. By signing this contract and including the moon as safe zone from weaponization, the three major nations of the United States, United Kingdom, and the United Soviet Socialist Republics foresaw that reaching the moon by space travel would be soon accomplished.

fast forward

Shortly after the AS-204 failure, an investigation was launched by NASA pursuant to their established procedures after the Gemini 8 failure. The investigation determined that a pure oxygen atmosphere, flammable materials, faulty wiring, and restrictive hatch design ultimately contribute to a perfect storm of issues leading to the disaster. Congressional investigations were also launched which included reports from a previous investigation into construction delays and costs of the spacecraft. Based on the investigation of the failures, insulated wiring, fireproof coating of the nylon netting, a 60/40 mix of oxygen to nitrogen under pressure, and an outward opening hatch were to be installed on the next spacecrafts.

The widows of the astronauts asked NASA to officially designate the mission Apollo 1 which the crew had hoped to name the mission before their untimely deaths. NASA complied with this request in honor of the crew’s wishes. Although, three unmanned missions had launched before the new Apollo 1 mission they were left nameless. Of these three flights, only 2 included spacecraft and were connected to the new number sequencing. This resulted in Apollo 4 being the next launch while Apollo 2 & 3 were left unused. The mission and the crew have been memorialized in various locations around the U.S. Of course, as a Hoosier, I’ve visited Gus Grissom’s hometown Mitchell many times and seen a memorial dedicated to his memory in Spring Mill State Park. Grissom’s work at NASA likely inspired a handful of others in Lawrence County, Indiana to become astronauts as well.

The Outer Space Treaty would eventually go into effect on 10 October 1967. It has since been signed by 109 signatories the last being France in September of 1967. Many others have deposited their accession to the treaty at one of the three locations even as recently as February of last year. Follow-up agreements include: The Rescue Agreement of 1968, The Space Liability Convention of 1972, and The Registration Convention of 1976. These treaties are coordinated by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to answer relevant questions of space jurisdiction. It’s worth noting these treaties are only agreed upon by Earth parties and it isn’t known whether extraterrestrial parties will sign these treaties. More likely, the United Federation of Planets will combine elements of these treaties with treaties from other planets in order to form their government and law into founding documents next century sometime in 2161.

What do you remember about Gus Grissom and the other astronauts on Apollo 1?

Current Event Friday #37

There might be a little dust on the earth’s orbit.

Well, we’ve all survived the 2018 Midterm elections, and much of the transition and volatile nature of D.C. is particularly on everybody’s mind, but it’s possible outer space might need to clean house near earth. A newly discovered dirty secret is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

Pattern of the angle of polarization of the sky around the L5 Lagrange point of the Earth-Moon system, measured by imaging polarimetry in the green (550 nm) spectral range at 01:14:15 UT on 19 August 2017. The position of the L5 point is shown by a white dot. In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites. (Credit: J. Slíz-Balogh)
The central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud visible in the L5 Lagrange point of earth’s orbit.| Photo by Judit Slíz-Balogh of Royal Astronomical Society 

Yes, we have spring cleaning, but there may need to be winter cleaning within our orbit of e. Astronomers have speculated for five decades about the existence of so-called dust ‘moons’ within our orbit. Kazimierz Kordylewski, a Polish astronomer observed two bright spots in our orbit in 1961, but it is only within the last month thanks to technological advances that scientists have been able to prove the existence of these moons.

The classification as a moon is a bit of a misnomer, the objects in our orbital path are about the same distance as our natural satellite, but these objects are made entirely of dust. These dust clouds are nine times the diameter of earth, but their composition of microscopic particles makes the clouds indistinguishable to the human eye. The clouds also lack the stony composition of the moon, so it doesn’t create the same gravitational effect on our ocean tides.

These clouds exist at locations within the earth’s orbital path that create neutralized gravity points. These points are forecasted to be midway points between the earth and Mars as expansion and possible of the Red Planet may be realized in the near future.

Also, before anybody points out about the cleaning of these dust clouds, it’s likely improbable. Outer space is already a vacuum and hasn’t been able to clean up the dust surrounding our planet.

While much of this is also based on special filming devices and untapped future potential, it does serve as a Current Event as a near-Earth asteroid is rumored to pass by our planet in the next few days. The dust clouds will likely be affected to this drive-by since their composition is often altered by localized meteor showers. Any debris created from the asteroid’s path could alter their composition as well.

New discoveries are expected as part of current events as well. NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory are retiring the Kepler Space Telescope and its K2 missions. The telescope has been tasked with observing much of outer space for nearly a decade. With the expansion of the International Space Station (ISS) and Elon Musk’s private SpaceX program, much more besides these dust clouds will be realized. Russia has indicated that they are also hoping to build a lunar colony in the near future as well. For me, it’s exciting to see more of the discoveries that will be reported in the next few years.

Are you excited about the prospect of outer space exploration and discovery in the next several decades?