Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The death of the Challenger and the birth of commercial space

On January 28, 1986, at 11:39 EST, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center. Her crew consisted of six NASA astronauts, Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, mission specialists Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik and Gregory Jarvis, and teacher Christa McAuliffe, who had been chosen to become the first American civilian to go into space. No one cheering when the Challenger cleared the tower knew, but both shuttle and her gallant company were doomed.

NASA’s Lucy spacecraft could unravel the mystery of how the solar system formed
NASA selects Axiom Space to build commercial space station segment
What's the Difference Between Belief in Dark Matter and Belief in God?
Does Information Have Mass?
U.S. government urges Americans to reconsider travel to China because of coronavirus

Monday, January 27, 2020

House NASA Bill Cancelling Lunar Base Makes No Sense – Even To Go To Mars

On Jan. 24, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee released the draft of a NASA authorization bill that canceled the planned lunar base. Instead, the U.S. would mount a series of Apollo-style expeditions to the lunar surface solely to practice going to Mars. But the plan makes no sense — even to go to Mars.

Also House legislators want to hand NASA’s human spaceflight program over to Boeing

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has some thoughts, which is to say a devastating takedown of the House bill.

Homer Hickam has some marching orders for the committee.

CSF Statement on House Space Subcommittee NASA Authorization Bill
Is the Moon a Stepping Stone or a Cornerstone for Mars?
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship. Here's how they're preparing.
Coronavirus: 100,000 may already be infected, experts warn
How one woman became the exception to her family’s Alzheimer’s history
What your voice would sound like on other planets and moons
Population Control Isn't the Answer to Climate Change. Capitalism Is.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles

I notice that the incoming astronaut class is calling themselves "the Turtles." I wonder if any of them know the history behind that name, especially in regard to the early space program.

The custom was to ask a fellow member of the Turtles, "Are you a Turtle?" If the respondent did not answer, "You bet your sweet ass I am" he had to buy drinks for everyone in earshot. This caused some complications as we will see.
During the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission (part of the United States space program), astronaut Wally Schirra was asked by a ground controller whether he was a turtle. Not wanting to use vulgar language while his communications were being broadcast worldwide, he temporarily stopped transmitting while he gave the required response "YBYSAIA".
Deke Slayton, a mere three minutes into Sigma 7's flight, came on the radio, which was open for everyone to hear, and asked, "Hey, Wally, are you a turtle?" Schirra switched his mic from live to record and uttered the appropriate response. On the open line, he said, "Rog."
Later, on board the recovery ship USS Kearsarge, in front of Slayton, Walt Williams and the other astronauts, Walt Williams demanded to know how Schirra replied to Deke's question. Schirra played the recorder. "Hey, Wally, are you a turtle?" followed by the proper response, "YBYSAIA". This incident is also recounted in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff.
Wally Schirra's membership in the Ancient Order of Turtles came up again during Apollo 7, which was captured by the in-flight recorder:
CAPCOM radioed, "Just a minute, Wally. Let's see. Oh, it's a little message to Deke Slayton. A little bit closer Wally. Kind of looks like something about - 'Are you a, are you a—" Schirra acknowledged, "That's right." CAPCOM continued, "Looks like it says, 'Are you a turtle, Deke Slayton?"
Schirra confirmed, "That's right." Eisele added, "You get an A for reading today Jack." Swigert continued, "Here comes another one. Walt, oh, that-a-way, that's the way to turn it. It says, 'Paul Haney, are you a turtle?'" Cunningham radioed, "You'll get a gold star. Perfect score!" Swigert reported, "And there is no reply from Paul Haney there." Cunningham asked, "You mean he's speechless?"
A short while later, CAPCOM Cernan informed Schirra, "Wally, this is Gene. Deke just called in, and we've got your answer, and we've got it recorded for you return." Schirra acknowledged, "Roger. Real fine."
Shortly thereafter, Schirra asked CAPCOM Swigert, "Have you got Haney's answer yet?" Swigert replied, "No, Haney's isn't talking, Wally." Swigert then added, "Somebody tells me he isn't talking, but just buying." A pleased Schirra responded, "He is buying. Thank you very much. Very good."
This exchange about turtles was a reference to the notorious Turtle's Club drinking club of which Wally Schirra held the title of a Grand Potentate. During Schirra's Mercury flight Deke Slayton had radioed up to Schirra asking Schirra if he was a turtle.
A membership card for the "Interstellar Association of Turtles (Outer Shell Division)" signed by astronauts Scott CarpenterGordon Cooper and Wally Schirra sold at auction for $1,952 on May 5, 2011.
President Kennedy was allegedly asked if he was a Turtle at a press conference, to which he replied, "I'll buy you your drink later
Could Unseen Aliens Exist Among Us?
3D Printing and the Murky Ethics of Replicating Bones
'Flash' Radiation Therapy Could Deliver Cancer Treatment in Microseconds
Why America has less to fear from an oil shock
Planes Can Plant 1 Billion Trees A Year With Seed Bombs

Monday, January 06, 2020

For All Mankind s01e10 post-credits scene. The Sea Dragon launch

In the very last scene of the final episode of the first season of “For All Mankind,” the Apple TV Plus series about an alternate space race, an immense rocket emerges from the ocean, hurtling into space, carrying a cargo of plutonium nuclear fuel to the Jamestown moon base in 1983. It turns out that the rocket was a Sea Dragon, a real-world proposal of what would have been the mightiest launch vehicle ever built. The Sea Dragon never flew in real-life history. Had it been built, its capabilities would have inspired awe.
United Kingdom Teaming With United States in Space
I'm off for my surgery later this morning. Wish me luck.
Chang’e 4 Celebrates a Year on the Farside of the Moon
Why the quantum internet should be built in space
There May Be Active Volcanoes on Venus: New Evidence
This pitch-black exoplanet is spiraling toward its doom
Could We Just Build A 'Space Sunshade' To Counteract Global Warming?