space

Is Reality Imitating Fiction? Sure Seems Like It.

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Back in April 2019, which seems like such a long time ago with all of the pandemic problems, I wrote about space junk and the problems that can arise from it falling back to Earth. The title of the article was “I Shot An Arrow Into The Air, It Fell To Earth, I Know Not Where.”

Space Debris
Destructive Space Debris, Movie Gravity | Image by wallerjoel.typepad.com

In that column I referenced a particular motion picture. A fairly recent fictional movie plot showed how the Russians blew up one of their satellites and the debris started destroying other satellites and eventually the International Space Station, a Russian space platform, and a Chinese space platform. There were some scientific miscues in the plot of “Gravity”, but a recent event caused a lot of concern particularly for the future. Just what repercussions could result in a disaster in space or even in the skies over our cities. The debris could possibly damage or destroy an airplane in flight.

Missile Launch
Indian DefenseDepartment Ballistic Missile Launch | Photo by Ministry of Defense, Government of India

A Forbes.com article titled “India’s Anti-Satellite Missile Test Left A Cloud Of Debris And Tension In Its Wake” written by Kiona N. Smith highlights this specific and increasingly dangerous practice. Apparently the rule is if you own a satellite you have the right to destroy it. It happened on March 27, 2019. India, not the country I would have expected, completed a test in which they launched a ballistic missile to intercept and destroy one of their own dead satellites that was orbiting at about 300 km (186 mi) above the earth. It sounds simple enough, but it became quite complicated. The project was called “Mission Shakti.” Nearly one week after the satellite was blown up, quoting the article, “U.S. Strategic Command was tracking 400 fragments of the destroyed satellite. Immediately after the test, U.S. Strategic Command was tracking 250 pieces of debris in orbit, most of which have since fallen into Earth’s atmosphere. The destructive test has raised new concerns about anti-satellite warfare and the risk that floating debris from such destruction could pose to civilian spacecraft.”

070904-N-4965F-002.PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (Sept. 4, 2007) – The crew of guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) mans the rails as the ship returns home following a four-month deployment to the Western Pacific. While deployed, the ship took part in Operation Talisman Saber 2007 and escorted aircraft carriers USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James E. Foehl (RELEASED).

In 2008, the U.S. fired a missile from a guided missile cruiser, USS Lake Erie, to destroy a malfunctioning reconnaissance satellite, USA-193, 230 km above the planet’s surface. The impact pushed a dozen pieces of the satellite into orbits that reached 500 km to 90 km, and it took 18 months for the last of those to fall back to earth.

The Chinese destroyed one of their satellites back in 2007 producing “the largest debris cloud in the history of human spaceflight.” It took six years, but in 2013 a Russian satellite was struck by a piece debris from the Chinese satellite. The impact was strong enough to change the orbit of the Russian satellite. There is still plenty of debris from those destroyed satellites that is being tracked to this day.

Photo Of ISS Robot Arm and Close-up Of Debris Caused Damage | Photos From ISS Through NBC News

Now back to more recent times with an event that sounds like it actually came from the script of the movie “Gravity” that I referenced earlier. This isn’t fiction. The International Space Station (ISS) took a serious hit from space debris and paid the price with a gaping hole punched through its robotic arm. Just imagine what could have happened if that debris struck one of the pressurized compartments containing the astronauts when they were not wearing pressurized suits. That is unthinkable, but with increasing amounts of uncontrolled space debris out there it’s not a stretch of the imagination to have debris strike and destroy an orbiting satellite or even worse a vehicle ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS, or the ISS itself. There are plans to collect the loose debris, but that will take years at best.

If you have an idea for a future topic let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Meteor Shower May 23rd

0_61_leonid_meteor_showerEUGENE, Ore. – With partly cloudy skies expected Friday night, Oregonians may be able to see the Linear meteor shower.

From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, the Earth will pass through the debris trail left behind by comet 209P LINEAR.

There’s a chance to see 100-400 meteors per hour and possibly even the occasional fireball. However, the debris stream may be thin and we won’t see much of anything.

For the best viewing, find a place without any lights at all.

That Pioneer Spirit Still Lives Within Us. Where to next?

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When did it all start? Was it when a caveman decided the cave was too crowded, so he moved his family to another cave? Was it when Christopher Columbus set sail for what was supposed to be a new route to the Orient? Was was it when a group of people sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to begin a new life and form a new country called America? Was it when Daniel Boone said that it was time for him to move when he could see the smoke from his neighbor’s chimney?

Neil Armstrong On The Moon | Image enjoy.penshow.cn
Neil Armstrong On The Moon | Image enjoy.penshow.cn

Or was it when astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first human to touch his foot down in the dust of the moon and uttered those eloquent words “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” for all of us to witness? I’d say the answer is yes to all of the above. Each time we have encountered a challenge that involved extending our reach we stood up and met that challenge head-on.

Let’s go back to when Columbus sought the help of Spain to fund his westward trek to India. One of the prevailing beliefs was that the earth was flat and if you went too far into uncharted waters your ship would fall off the edge. Just think what must have been going around in his head. Is it worth the risk, if it were true, to go where “no man has gone before” (to borrow the line from Star Trek) just to find a faster route to India? Columbus thought so and we know that Queen Isabella also had faith in his excursion into the unknown. Christopher Columbus was a smart sailor and knew the sea. One example of that is a story about him that I read some years ago.

Christopher Columbus & The Nina | Image en.wikipedia.org
Christopher Columbus & The Nina | Image en.wikipedia.org

On his return from the “New World” for the 4th and last time Columbus was within a small fleet led by a Spaniard. As the fleet was passing by the islands they could tell a hurricane was approaching. They asked the harbor master if they could come into the shelter of the harbor. Their request was denied and the fleet moved on except for Christopher Columbus. Sailing his own ship “Nina” he found a cove to shelter his caravelle (ships that could not withstand the strength of a hurricane out to sea). The fleet was destroyed and an estimated 500 people perished. Columbus survived due to his weather knowledge and his refusal to stay out on the ocean when the shallow waters of a cove would keep him and his crew safe.

In past columns I spoke of the Montgolfier Brothers who pioneered hot air ballooning, and the Wright Brothers who took the first motorized airplane flights. If you have seen the movie “The Right Stuff” you were shown the brave men who were test pilots trying to break the “Sound Barrier” who were then followed by our Mercury-7 Astronauts, the ones who were to become the first Americans to “push the envelope” as they would say and venture into space. Then and now space is still a relatively unfamiliar place that can’t be visited by just anybody.

We have sent “rovers” to the planet Mars which in itself is quite an amazing feat, but many believe that we must send humans to explore and potentially colonize Mars. What will it take to accomplish that? You do realize that it will take a long time to get to Mars and the same amount of time for the return trip.

Saturn V Rocket Launch | Image deviantart.com
Saturn V Rocket Launch
| Image deviantart.com

The first known detailed technical study of a Mars mission project was proposed by Wernher von Braun in his 1952 book Das Marsprojekt. You might remember that von Braun was instrumental in developing the German V-2 rockets during WWII and then brought that technology with him to the United States where he eventually became the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center and the chief architect of the Saturn V rocket which powered our Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

Now we are in the year 2013 and there is an ongoing debate over whether we should be spending vast amounts of money to explore space when we have so many seemingly insurmountable problems back here on earth. The Space Shuttle program has been scrapped and we don’t have any replacement vehicles ready to be built to take over their job. Now we depend on the Russians to ferry our astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station. Mny have come to the conclusion that Government can’t do it all and that private enterprise will be a more competitive and economical way to get to Mars.

More than 165,000 people over the age of 18 have already signed up for  the “Mars One” colony mission that would include a six-month one-way trip to Mars to start the first human colony for four lucky people.

Mars One Colony Concept | Image franceTVinfo.fr
Mars One Colony Concept | Image franceTVinfo.fr

The plan is for others to follow at regular intervals. The main reason for the one-way trip is to conserve fuel. It would take a much bigger and heavier spacecraft to hold enough fuel for a return trip. It is also a good way to guarantee that the “colonists” will keep their promise to stay on Mars rather than to decide to come back home to Earth. What kind of people will it take to make this historic journey? Some of the traits they will have to exhibit would be: to be brave, innovative, emotionally stable, in excellent physical condition, to be able to leave all relatives and friends behind possibly forever, and to have certain abilities and skills that would benefit themselves and the community. A quote from the famous poet Robert Browning says it best:“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Are you interested in making the trip to Mars, one-way or round-trip? I’m too old and not in particularly good physical condition so that knocks me out of the running. When I was younger I might have given it a try. What would you tell your family and friends? Could you really give up all of the comforts of home to be one of the first four colonists on Mars?

I’d like to know if you are interested in going or not and why and I’m sure our readers would like to hear what you have to say. You can post your answer at the bottom of this column or email me at the address that follows and we can share in the discussion.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].

 

 

NASA Probe Curiosity Makes Planetfall

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by Kelly Asay, Eugene Daily News

About the size of a Mini-Cooper and with more gadgets than a James Bond film, Curiosity is about to land after it’s 35 million mile journey.

It wasn’t launched from Eugene, and it’s not landing in Eugene, but on this occasion we’re going to break protocol and write about something decidedly not local: The NASA probe Curiosity.

Eight months ago NASA launched the mini-cooper sized probe on a mission to land on, and explore Mars.  To put things into perspective, that’s the planet that is 35,000,000 miles from here. The landing is the risky part. During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slows its descent with a parachute, then uses retro rockets mounted around the rim of an upper stage. In the final seconds, the upper stage acts as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to the surface. If the landing is successful, the probe will spend the next 23 months analyzing dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover.

With accomplishments in space exploration having to compete with the likes of The Olympics, Facebook, Jersey Shore, The Google Nexus 7 Tablet, and anything Apple happens to be releasing, NASA has decided to step up the game. Would you like to meet Curiosity? In this age of pervasive social networking, NASA probes haven’t been left out. Curiosity has a twitter account.

Curiosity doesn’t just have a twitter account, it also has a facebook account› Curiosity on Facebook and it’s own webpage at NASA › NASA CURIOSITY, complete with image galleries and a video channel.

Curiosity could be the beginning of big changes in space planning and exploration, not just for the world’s space agencies, but for private space companies like Elon Musk’s Space X. In an interview with the LA Times, Musk said

“That’s always been a goal of SpaceX [to go to Mars]. We’re hoping to develop the technology to do that in probably 12 to 15 years.”

If the landing and the mission fail, it would signal the loss of a $2.5 billion investment, and a setback for every space cowboy watching in the wings. Either way, it is worth watching. After all, this is history.

At the time this is being published, there are six hours, fifty three minutes and some change until planetfall. 6:53:13.

You can watch the landing live here: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl

December 21 – Morning Headlines

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Looks like the feeling is mutual - Camp Occupy to leave W-J Park.

Headlines

  • Coburg mayor survives recall election
    The mayor of Coburg won’t be leaving elective office any time soon. Judy Volta, the city’s top elected leader for the past seven years, survived a recall vote on Tuesday, based on unofficial returns from the Lane County Elections Office….
  • City Revokes Occupy Eugene’s Camping Exemption
    The Eugene City Council voted Tuesday to revoke the exemption that allowed the Occupy Eugene demonstrators to camp out under the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge.   The council voted five to two in favor of revoking the camping ban exempti…
  • Customer frightens would-be robber from Killion’s Market
    The arrival of a customer is being credited with foiling an attempted armed robbery at Killion’s Market just south of Cottage Grove Sunday. On Monday, G Toor, who works at the Market owned by his father, Harry Toor, said a man came into
  • Eugene man pleads guilty to causing fatal wreck
    A Eugene man has admitted to killing a University of Oregon student and injuring seven others in a January 2010 traffic crash on Highway 101 north of Heceta Head. Brandon James Schooley, 21, pleaded guilty on Monday afternoon to one count of first-degr…
  • Work Crew Escapee Arrested in Springfield
    A work crew escapee is back behind bars.   Springfield Police arrested 42-year-old Delbert Lee Shelton who walked away from a work crew at the Columbia River Correctional Institution earlier this month.   Officers were called to …
  • UO to continue some hiring 

    State universities will continue to hire people for teaching and research jobs while the state is in a three-month hiring freeze but will suspend hiring for some administrative and support jobs. The directions from Oregon University System Chancellor G…
  • New Driving Laws Take Effect Jan. 1 

    For most drivers, it’s already against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Oregon.  However, that law has a loophole that will soon be changed, and will leave drivers with fewer excuses to get out of a ticket.   Starting …

Tim Chuey Weather:

Look for fog this morning, then maybe freezing fog late night and early Thursday morning. We’ll be back to a chance of getting wet by Thursday night.

High: 45
Low: 25
Rain: fog

cold front moving through the Pacific Northwest brings a chance of rain with it. Still not enough snow for Willamette Pass or Hoodoo to open for skiing, but Mt. Ashland has opened. A high pressure ridge (“Arch” shape on the jet stream) will move toward us Wednesday bringing the fog with possible freezing fog around again. Low pressure follows, bringing back the chance of rain again. It looks like we will fall into a wetter weather pattern starting the day after Christmas.

Forecast for the Southern and lower Mid Willamette Valley including Eugene-Springfield and Albany-Corvallis: Mostly cloudy with patchy fog this AM, partly cloudy with some lingering fog this afternoon and evening, colder with areas of fog and freezing fog late tonight and Thursday AM, mostly cloudy in the afternoon, mostly cloudy with a (40%) chance of rain late Thursday night and Friday, then a slight (20%) chance of rain Friday night highs 42-45 lows 25-34. A mix of clouds and sun Saturday, mostly cloudy at night, a mix of clouds and sun with a slight (20%) chance of rain Sunday (Christmas Day), mostly cloudy with a (40%) chance of rain Sunday night, a good (50%) chance of rain Monday, a (40%) chance of rain Monday night, then mostly cloudy with a good (50%) chance of rain Tuesday highs 42-46 lows 33-37. (seasonal averages high 45 low 33)

Because weather forecasting is a combination of science, intuition, and timing there can be no absolute guarantees that individual forecasts will be 100% accurate. Nature is in a constant state of flux and sudden unexpected weather events can happen.

Keep Current on the Weather: timchueyweather4u.com