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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

High Flight

By John Gillespie Magee, Jr:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth 
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; 
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth 
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things 
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung 
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there, 
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung 
My eager craft through footless halls of air. 
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue 
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace 
Where never lark, or even eagle flew - 
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod 
The high untrespassed sanctity of space, 
Put out my hand and touched the face of God. 

Another day, another NASA disaster anniversary...


January 28, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

One More Throwback

Geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt addresses Congress as his crewmates look on, January 22, 1973 (same day that LBJ died). Wish I could find a good copy of the Congressional Record from then.


January 22, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

When It's Dark Enough, You Can See The Medicean Stars

Galileo Galilei:

On the 7th day of January in the present year, 1610, in the first hour of the following night, when I was viewing the con­ stellations of the heavens through a telescope, the planet Jupiter presented itself to my view, and as I had prepared for myself a very excellent instrument, I noticed a circumstance which I had never been able to notice before, owing to want of power in my other telescope, namely, that three little stars, small but very bright, were near the planet; and although I believed them to belong to the number of the fixed stars, yet they made me somewhat wonder, because they seemed to be arranged exactly in a straight line, parallel to the ecliptic and to be brighter than the rest of the stars equal to them in magnitude.

The position of them with reference to one another and to Jupiter was as fol­lows. On the east side there were two stars, and a single one towards the west. The star which was furthest towards the east, and the western star, appeared rather larger than the third.

I scarcely troubled at all about the distance between them and Jupiter, for, as I have already said, at first I believed them to be fixed stars; but when on January 8th, led by some fate, I turned again to look at the same part of the heavens, I found a very different state of things, for there were three little stars all west of Jupiter, and nearer together than on the previous night, and they were separated from one another by equal intervals...

At this point, although I had not turned my thoughts at all upon the proximity of the stars to one another, yet my surprise began to be excited, how Jupiter could one day be found to the east of all the aforesaid fixed stars when the day before it had been west of two of them; and forthwith I became afraid lest the planet might have moved differently from the calculation of astronomers, and so had passed those stars by its own proper motion. 
I therefore concluded, and decided unhesitatingly, that there are three stars in the heavens moving about Jupiter, as Venus and Mercury round the Sun; which at length was estab­ lished as clear as daylight by numerous other subsequent obser­ vations. These observations also established that there are not only three, but four, erratic sidereal bodies performing their rev­ olutions round Jupiter, observations of whose changes of position made with more exactness on succeeding nights the fol­lowing account will supply.

My photo above from 2006 isn't quite the arrangement Galileo first saw--Ganymede, Io and Callisto with Europa lost in planetary glare, as compared to Ganymede being hidden initially from the astronomer, plus it's actually reversed because of how the optics of his telescope worked.  But you get a flavor of the scene.  

These days a decent, inexpensive set of binocs will let you pick out the Medicean Stars and casually watch the clockwork of the solar system mark time in the night.  I wonder if Galileo ever imagined that the heavens would become so widely accessible...


January 7, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jovian SPF

Pretty cool hypothesis:

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter — the persistent high-pressure ‘anticyclone’ that was first observed by Gian Domenico Cassini in 1665 — is likely only red because of what scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are calling a “sunburn.”

There have been competing theories as to why the Great Red Spot has its color. NASA scientist Kevin Baines said that one theory is that “the spot’s red color is due to upwelling chemicals formed deep beneath the visible cloud layers.”

But, he added, “[i]f red material were being transported from below, it should be present at other altitudes as well, which would make the red spot redder still.”

The models that Baines and his team constructed at the JPL, however, “suggest most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material.”

His team believes that the storm’s altitude makes the ammonia and acetylene present throughout the atmosphere more vulnerable to UV light.

So we have sunburn to thank for one of the most gorgeous jewels in our solar system.


December 28, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, December 26, 2014

"We've looked and looked, but after all where are we?"

The Star-splitter:

"You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
After the ground is frozen, I should have done
Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
To make fun of my way of doing things,
Or else fun of Orion's having caught me.
Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
These forces are obliged to pay respect to?"
So Brad McLaughlin mingled reckless talk
Of heavenly stars with hugger-mugger farming,
Till having failed at hugger-mugger farming,
He burned his house down for the fire insurance
And spent the proceeds on a telescope
To satisfy a lifelong curiosity
About our place among the infinities.

Robert Frost.


December 26, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Star And Santa Sightings

Jim Lovell learned a bunch about optical navigation on Apollo 8, which held him in good stead for 13.  Anyway, they headed home on Christmas:

095:10:47 Carr: Roger, Frank. I have some feature page and sports page news if you'd like it.

095:10:54 Borman: Roger.
095:14:43 Carr: In Reno, Nevada, because there is no fireplace in his home, (garble) a little boy wrote Santa Claus in care of the local newspaper and suggested, "Would you please use the front door. You will have to kick the bottom a little bit because it sticks."...

Here is one in ecumenical cooperation. In Indio, California, the Chief of Police was armed, Christmas Day, with a prayer book. Rabbi Phillip H. Wienburg has taken over as Chief for a day so the real Police Chief, Homer Hunt, a Methodist, could spend the holiday with his family. This is the third straight Christmas the Rabbi has filled in for Hunt, The previous 6 years, Rabbi Weinburg did the same for the Roman Catholic Police Chief of Reno, Nevada.
095:17:46 Carr:
 Here is a feature by Harry Rosenthal of Associated Press. It says: from Houston. Two Santas brighten the Christmas Eve for 2-year-old Jeffrey Lovell. The first one knocked on his front door and brought presents. The second started his daddy home from the Moon. The first wore a red suit and a white beard and ho, ho'd loud enough to be heard down the block. The second was a huge engine spitting flame behind the Moon, and thousands of people were awaiting word that it had fired. 

"Please be informed that there is a Santa Claus." were the first words from Apollo 8 as it emerged from radio silence to inform an anxious world 15 minutes after the fact that the engine had performed its critical burn. "None of us ever expect to have a better Christmas present than this one." said Ken Mattingly of Mission Control. "Thank everyone on the ground for us. You know we couldn't have done it without you," came the reply from Col, Frank Borman, spacecraft commander.

At this point, a Christmas the tree came aglow in front of the consoles in Mission Control, and Astronaut Harrison Schmitt read a space version of "A visit from Saint Nicholas" to the crew. "'Twas the night before Christmas, and way out in space, the Apollo 8 crew had just won the Moon race," it began. The Mission Control crew had delayed the celebration until Jeffrey's daddy, Navy Captain James Lovell, along with Air Force Major William A. Anders and Col. Borman were safely on their way home.

No fireplaces on spacecraft, so while they saw Santa on Christmas Eve, they didn't get any presents.  Plus they needed to watch the Yule Log on TV.


December 25, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Space Is 3D

This is extremely cool:

[H]ow do you email a socket wrench into space?

The story starts back in November, when Wilmore put together the ISS's very first 3D printer, a collaboration between NASA and company Made In Space. About a month later, Wilmore noted to mission control that a socket wrench would be helpful to have. Instead of putting it on the supply, however, Made In Space mocked up a quick model on CAD on Earth and emailed the design to Wilmore, who ran the designs through the printer and assembled the 20 separate parts into the exact socket wrench he had requested.

What would be cooler is teleportation, but this is a nice application of current technology. 


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another NASA Coverup

There's clearly life on Mars.  They're doing it to us again.


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Sunday, December 14, 2014

What I Believe History Will Record

We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. "Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."


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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Kuiper? I Hardly...

A lot of work just to check out a dwarf planet named for a dog:

After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation today for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system. 

New Horizons flight controllers Sarah Bucior, Katie Bechtold and George Lawrence monitor data confirming that the Pluto-bound spacecraft had exited hibernation.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., confirmed at 9:53 p.m. (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to “active” mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. 

“This is a watershed event that signals the end of New Horizons crossing of a vast ocean of space to the very frontier of our solar system, and the beginning of the mission’s primary objective: the exploration of Pluto and its many moons in 2015,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. 

Since launching on January 19, 2006, New Horizons has spent 1,873 days — about two-thirds of its flight time — in hibernation. Its 18 separate hibernation periods, from mid-2007 to late 2014, ranged from 36 days to 202 days in length. The team used hibernation to save wear and tear on spacecraft components and reduce the risk of system failures.

I could use a couple thousand hibernation days.


December 7, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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The Last Time We Went High Before Orion

Pretty neat footage of the activity before and during Apollo 17's launch.


December 7, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Friday, December 05, 2014

"It's a groovy trip, but there are more important things to do first."

Just thinking of Orion and injustice.  Here's a snip from the Apollo 11 post-flight press conference after the astronauts got out of quarantine in August:

REPORTER  Some people have criticized the space program as a "Misplaced item on a list of national priorities." I'd like to ask any of the astronauts how do you view space exploration as a relative priority compared with the present needs of the domestic society and the world community at large.

ARMSTRONG  Well, of course we all recognize that the world is continually faced with large number of varying kinds of problems, and that it's our view that all those problems have to be faced simultaneously. It's not possible to neglect any of those areas, and we certainly don't feel that it's our place to neglect space exploration.

It ain't a zero-sum game.  We can multitask our outrage about the bad things, and our pursuit of solutions and progress.


December 5, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Get Your Ass Out Of LEO

3600 miles high is a nice step back out of the shallow waters:

Orion blazed into the morning sky at 7:05 a.m. EST, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. The Orion crew module splashed down approximately 4.5 hours later in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

During the uncrewed test, Orion traveled twice through the Van Allen belt where it experienced high periods of radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth. Orion also hit speeds of 20,000 mph and weathered temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Orion will open the space between Earth and Mars for exploration by astronauts. This proving ground will be invaluable for testing capabilities future human Mars missions will need. The spacecraft was tested in space to allow engineers to collect critical data to evaluate its performance and improve its design. The flight tested Orion’s heat shield, avionics, parachutes, computers and key spacecraft separation events, exercising many of the systems critical to the safety of astronauts who will travel in Orion.

On future missions, Orion will launch on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket currently being developed at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. A 70 metric-ton (77 ton) SLS will send Orion to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon on Exploration Mission-1 in the first test of the fully integrated Orion and SLS system.

The 2yos and I watched the vehicle sit on the pad until it was finally scrubbed yesterday morning.  Though we missed the launch today, we did catch the NASA channel during 2nd stage burn, which was actually pretty cool (although Sam asked, "why isn't it moving?").  Not quite the same as the heady days leading up to Apollo 11, but it's still exciting to be making some visible progress toward becoming more than just a bunch of space-hitchhikers and robot drivers.  


December 5, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Heavens Declare The Glory Of God

Night unto night sheweth knowledge.

 - Psalm 19:2


On this date in 1904, the largest irregular moon of Jupiter, Himalia, was discovered by Charles Dillon Perrine at the Lick Observatory:

Himalia is the fifth largest moon orbiting Jupiter. With a mean radius of 85 km assuming an albedo of 0.04), it's only about 5% the size of the fourth largest moon, Europa. But it's by far the largest member of the Himalia group, a family of Jovian satellites which have similar orbits and appearance, and are therefore thought to have a common origin.

Himalia may be the largest remaining chunk of an asteroid (a C- or D-class asteroid, judging by the fact that it reflects only about 4% of the light it receives), which had several pieces broken off in a collision either before or after being captured by Jupiter's gravity. In this scenario, those pieces became the other moons in the Himalia group...

Himalia was named for a nymph of the island of Rhodes in Greek mythology who was one of the lovers of Zeus (the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Jupiter). She bore him three sons: Spartaeus, Cronios and Cytus.

And in 1973, Pioneer 10 made its closest approach to Jupiter, taking awesome pictures like the one above (taken about 1.5M miles away).  The sequence below taken on December 4 is pretty cool, too:

NASA's Pioneer 10 spacecraft sent back images of Jupiter of ever-increasing size. The most dramatic moment was after closest approach and after the spacecraft was hidden behind Jupiter. Here, images gradually build up into a very distorted crescent-shaped Jupiter. "Sunrise on Jupiter," a team member said. The giant planet crescent gradually decreased in size as the spacecraft sped away out of the Jovian system.

I might have mentioned before that Jupiter is my favorite planet (second to, you know, ours), and I would love to take a spaceship into the heart of the Red Spot to see what it's all about.  About as realistic as my dream of peace on Earth and goodwill toward humankind.


December 3, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Faith In Science

Via a monastic friend on FB:

Michigan-bred Vatican astronomer and Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno will become the first clergyman awarded one of planetary science's most prestigious awards, when on Thursday in Arizona he receives the Carl Sagan Medal.
Consolmagno, 62, a member of the Catholic Jesuit order of priests and brothers, is being recognized for his witty, wise and engaging explanations of the heavens. He has authored or co-authored several books, such as "Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?" and "Turn Left at Orion," has lectured around the world and even has an asteroid named after him.

The American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences annually honors individuals whose work has made scientific learning understandable and accessible to the public. The medal is named after astronomer Carl Sagan, who explained the heavens via the popular 1980s public TV series "Cosmos."

Consolmagno "occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief," read the announcement of his selection in July.

There's just so much awesome in this.


November 30, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Engineers On Mars


The rocks on Mars have become something of a Rorschach test: Those who believe the planet once held some form of life see signs of it everywhere; others, not so much.

The image below either shows a humanoid skull partially buried in the sands of Mars... or just another rock.

Although the photo was taken several years ago by the panoramic camera on the Spiritrover, the Paranormal Crucible website recently posted a video of the image on YouTube with digital alterations to make it look even more like a skull.

The photo above, however, is part of the original image from NASA (with a circle added by The Huffington Post).

UFO Sightings Daily claims there's an 80 percent chance it's a real skull...

Clearly it's a Ringworld Engineer:

Must've been looking for prospective solar systems to start a Ringworld project and was killed by a thoat.  Or maybe, you know, not.


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Ground Control To Major Sharon

Yup, I think PZ's right: men are just too emotional and weak to send on an expedition to Mars.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fly Me To Another World

Fitting that Philae lands on a comet on the same date that Voyager I began its historic flyby of Saturn in 1980.  Nice pictures from both spacecraft (Voyager II, too).


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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained."

Why does Rice play Texas?

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred.

Why will Rosetta land on a comet?  This could be an interesting date in history...


November 11, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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How Do You Walk In Space?

Even after Leonov, White and several other Gemini flights, we still hadn't figured it out, so XII was launched on 11/11 with a well-trained Buzz Aldrin on board.


November 11, 2014 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack