Thursday, October 19, 2017

‘Heavenly Palace’ to Crash to Earth

Did you know Tiangong 1, China’s space lab, translates to ‘Heavenly Palace’? AND that Heavenly Palace will soon come raining down on Earth. Not like raining cats & dogs, more like raining like an 8 and ½ ton metal object. Still with about 71% of the Earth covered in water, even though the Chinese lost control of the space lab back in September of 2016, it’s not likely to be a major problem.


Think about it – an uncontrolled crash of a large spacecraft, sounds familiar. Well, back in 1991 The Soviet Salyut 7 space station crashed to Earth. And don’t forget that NASA's Skylab space station fell over Western Australia in 1979. 


China provided a general time table for the uncontrolled crash to the United Nations back in May. China said that the lab should reenter Earth sometime between October and April 2018.


While the space lab is rather large, 34 feet in length, much of it is expected to burn up during the reentry phase. An astrophysicist from Harvard University, Jonathan McDowell,  has explained that pieces weighing up to 220 pounds could still make it to the Earth's surface.


Chine’s space lab, the Tiangong 1, stopped being used back in March having completed its mission. The lab had served as a base for space experiments for 4 and ½ years having hosted two three-person crews, one of which was China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012. 


Since then China has gone on to the Tiangong-2 (yes, ‘Heavenly Palace’-2) and is currently conducting months of robotic demonstrations. From robotic docking, having the ship leave and then re-dock, refueling, all things meant to prepare them for the next step – launching an even larger space lab into space. Well, that and extending their reach.


But back to the Tiangong-1; the station has been slowly deorbiting since its service ended. However, it has increased its speed of its fall since reaching the denser layers of Earth's atmosphere. China won’t know where (or when) the space lab will crash until likely 6 or 7 hours before it happens.


Had China retained control of the Tiangong-1 it would have gone the way many other spacecraft (the ones that remain in control) as they are carefully guided to their final resting place -  a place on Earth called the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. It is a 2 and ½ mile-deep spot in the ocean known as the “spacecraft cemetery” (~ 3,000 miles off the coast of New Zealand & ~2,000 miles north of Antarctica.) [side note; this is probably where we dropped the Decepticons.] There are more than 263 spacecraft in this cemetery just since 1971.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017



The reason I titled this Mr. Roger’s neighborhood is the name of the gentleman that is propagating this doomsday theory (although theory might be too strong of a word, hoax?) is Mr. Rogers. He is responsible for the YouTube video entitled: “Real News 7th/8th October 2017 - How Much Time Do We Truly Have?”


In the “fake news” video, Mr. Rogers said: “This system is very real and is coming in and we are trying to get as much evince and as much information to gather the truth, as the powers that be, the shadow government, is hiding the truth. 


Are you familiar with planet ‘NIBIRU’? Yeah, me neither. I mean have I heard rumblings of something horrific, sure, do I believe them? First off, I have enough faith in NASA and/or the billions of citizen scientists across the globe to feel relatively confident. I understand that there may be a planet X and gravitationally there are effects on other planets that make one go, hmmmm, but none of that equals a planet hurling into the Earth. (That and the theory of gravitational pulls on other planets supposedly showing a large planet lurking were debunked by European scientists with more precise equipment.)


To put it plainly, when has anyone made a doomsday that even ‘almost’ came true? Of course there is a first time for everything, but I need to refer you back to my earlier statement regarding NASA. 


Some suggest that perhaps it is being quiet to prevent havoc. TO them I say, really? Do you think this president could refrain from tweeting? And suppose he did, do you honestly believe that everyone would be that good at keeping a secret? That secret would have to be kept by everyone from the government to the citizen astronomers!


The details of this particular ‘prophesy’ speak of an alignment that cannot happen. In actuality a partial alignment is going to occur, and does occur every year this time. It doesn’t seem to be odd in anyway. According to Colgate University emeritus professor Anthony Aveni, who is a specialist in the study of astronomical practices in the ancient world. And guess what, the prophesy speaks of the Virgo constellation - Virgo wasn’t incorporated into Hebrew astronomy until after the New Testament was written.


You see, a true alignment is not possible in our solar system due to the fact that all of the planets orbit at varying degrees. (If they were to line up on one access, they still wouldn’t on the other…) Now let me speak to the expected disaster – the out of control tides. Yes the pretend planetary alignment with the non-existent planet could theoretically cause such a thing but obviously if it doesn’t exist, it can’t. Could anything else? Well maybe; if the Sun or the Moon were broken, destroyed, or tossed out of orbit. Sure, if anything happened to the Sun, it would lead to a pretty awful death for all of us, there’s really not a lot we can do about that. The Moon could be affected in a number of ways, and depending on the severity we would experience different effects. In either event, neither is particularly likely this century, so it’s safe to assume that any life-ending event in the coming years probably won’t have anything to do with the planets.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Space Powers Unite! Russia & US collaborate on Deep Space Gateway!

However you may feel about the Russian issue currently being debated, the one area where Russia has been our friend, well, definitely more than an acquaintance, is when it comes to space and the ISS. Granted NASA has also done work with JAXA, the ESA and others, but as the Moon is in our crosshairs, we have once again linked up with Russia to together build the first lunar space station.


This is partly in planning for Mars, but as a new announcement from Elon Musk is due out shortly regarding his Mars plans that will involve additional work both in orbit & on the Moon, I predict we will be hearing lots over the next year, specific on our planned Moon Settlement.

Actualkly – the awesome part about this project that they refer to as “Deep Space Gateway” is that it involves the construction/deployment of a space-port in lunar orbit. This will be a multi-stage project and this “gateway” will be a gateway to deep space as well as to the Moon.


Although NASA is apparently taking the lead on this project it is quite apparent that they are indeed going to be partners, something which is odd in some ways. Not because of any political differences as space plans have somehow always managed to be kept separate from such things.


Russia a partner in the ISS has previously stated its plan to leave the ISS membership by, I believe, originally 2020. They apparently have a Multipurpose Laboratory Module that they intend to launch this year. (Ten years past its originally planned date.) This is/was to be followed by a node connector module in 2018 and then a science & power module called NEM-1 which is still in the early stages of development, by 2020. Now, after some thought they have reconsidered staying a part of the ISS until the end. (The end as there is plan to decommission it in 2024.)


It is likely that some parts from it will be used to form this new lunar station – gateway to space project. While a Moonbase was certainly thought to be the likely future observatory for monitoring Earth, in space makes so much more sense. Think of the extras that can be gleaned from it! A gateway to Mars, a gateway to deep space, an assistant in watching al on Earth and the mining expeditions that head to the Moon (which is in accordance with the space treaty.)


AND there already is a rather large amount of mutual concordance with items such as making ports to space capsules, or other similar doorways the same no matter which country handles it. Very logical, especially if you have seen the movie Gravity: What would Dr Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) have done if she were unable to gain entry to the Chinese spacecraft/ Chinese Tiangong station in order to return to Earth and survive. Having similar features on space-craft apparently saves lives!


Saturday, September 23, 2017

America’s Rocket man set to unveil his Mars plan v.2

Elon Musk will be unveiling version 2 of his Mars plan in Australia later this month.

I guess it is time for a version two. It has been about a year since Musk first released his ambitious plan to Mars.

The short animation released that rests on You Tube tells the basics of his plan, but under scrutiny it begs the question AND?

Yes, the transport portion is an ambitious & major accomplishment, but as he has spoken of a colony, most notably at the International ‘Astronautical Congress’ in Guadalajara, specifically he has spoken mostly of the portion of the plan where he drops off 100 people per trip, inquiring minds need more.

So, now he is ready to tweak his plan. He claims it has evolved a bit. And by evolved, he has stated that the size of the vehicles that may ferry Mars pioneers has been somewhat decreased so that he can, as promised, bring the costs down. 

And, apparently the ships will have dual abilities. Not only capable of Mars but also able to be used in Earth’s orbit. Likely, if Earth’s orbit has been added to the spacecraft’s ability, the architecture has changed somewhat.


So when & where will we here of this updated plan? At the Astronautical Congress gathering in Adelaide, Australia on the last day of the conference, Sept. 29. To say it is highly anticipated is an understatement. 

Space Geek Productions, llc is currently working on a documentary of SpaceX, Elon Musk & the Mars plan but suggests a twist – linking up with NASA. Obviously SpaceX has the flying down, NASA has some great toys that will help a colony settle in & live. Remember, sometimes success lies in the details.


Monday, September 11, 2017


NASA has a cool new plan being developed by Aerospace Corporation. The Brane Craft. Currently in development by US based Aerospace Corporation, it is expected to be resilient, with a special built in back-up. If one component gets damaged, the others will continue to work.

I don’t need to spell out the problem with space debris. But I will.

5250 launches have taken place since Oct 4th 1957 (Sputnik 1 satellite launched)

Of missions launched since Sputnik, 23,000 still in orbit.

Of the above only 1200 are still operational.

Add in decommissioned satellites

Add in launch adaptors, len covers, spent upper stages…

Then toss in the many explosions, collisions of satellites or rocket bodies..

Then there are the objects that are not able to be tracked…

Apparently there are an estimated 166 million objects that range in size from 1 mm to 1 cm in diameter. Then there is the from 1 cm to 10cm – about 29,000 objects, the larger ones are estimated at 42,000.

Thanks to SpaceX, this number isn’t growing as fast as it could, but if it continues to grow at the current rate, heck even without growing but without dissipating, our pathway to space will be blocked in about 20 years. 

So back to NASA’s cool idea – the Brane Spacecraft.

So, what is the definition of brane? An extended object with any given number of dimensions, of which strings in string theory are examples with one dimension; Our universe is a 3-brane.

That didn’t help did it?

Basically the goal is the removal of debris from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) through rendezvous, conformal wrapping, and application of thrust.

There are lots of really cool ideas out there by all of the space faring nations but unfortunately they all are also rather costly. Suppose you were to Send conventional spacecraft, even 1-to-5 kg CubeSats, to each of the thousands of 10-cm or larger debris objects for active deorbiting. It quickly becomes prohibitively expensive. With current CubeSat launch costs of ~$250,000 for a 3U CubeSat with ~kilometer/s delta-V propulsion and 3-axis attitude control, the U.S. would spend close to billion dollars in launch costs alone to remove 4 thousand debris objects.

Brane Craft could significantly reduce that cost and enable removal of more objects.

Researchers have developed this ultrathin spacecraft capable of wrapping itself around debris in space. Then it will be directed back towards Earth, burning all the debris it collects up in reentry. 

It is a net-like device approximately a yard across and self-powered. Developer’s goal is to make its width less than half the width of a human hair. This can make other areas of more concern.  The Brane Spacecraft needs to be highly capable and withstand damage. And because a 5-micron diameter particle can penetrate the main structural sheet as if it were a bullet, it is being made so that if one component is damaged the rest will not be affected.

Because Brane is being designed so thin, it should be cheaper to launch. One also could launch several, like a swarm, to take down different sorts of debris.

As one who sees space as figuring in to the future in many cool ways, I understand the situation and hope for a solution. Identifying a problem is not much assistance if there is no follow through.

NASA, you have my blessing!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

ZIKA to the rescue? Virus used to treat aggressive brain cancer!


From a terribly destructive virus science has found a silver lining. While I normally am intrigued by science that occurs above the exosphere, I find this to be kinda awesome.


To understand the dichotomy, let’s review the effects of Zika.

                  Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and is associated with other pregnancy problems.

                  Several countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks recently have reported increases in people who have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

                  Current CDC research suggests that GBS is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS.

                  The birth defects are tremendous –

o   from Severe microcephaly where the skull has partially collapsed or Decreased brain tissue with a specific pattern of brain damage or Damage (i.e., scarring, pigment changes) to the back of the eye

o   Joints with limited range of motion, such as clubfoot

o   Too much muscle tone restricting body movement soon after birth


But research has shown a benefit. It shows that the virus is able to selectively kill previously hard to kill (or treat) cancer cells in adult brains.


With fully grown mice it was found that Zika injections were able to select and shrink the aggressive tumors, leaving the healthy brain cells alone. That is something we have had a problem with, killing the disease but not the host. 


A report in the Journal of experimental medicine goes into more detail; explaining that human trials are a bit off, but none the less, potentially it could be injected into the brain at the time of surgery to remove the tumors.


It actually has been tested on human cells using donated brain tissue and has shown great promise.


It is unfortunate that it is only in adult brains. Apparently the brain of a baby is very different with a different sort of stem cell present.


Basically, something so destructive may be able to save lives…ahhhh the ying and yang of things!


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The littlest Spaceship! – currently in LEO

You may have seen coverage on SPACE-TIME CONTINUES (my science show on You Tube) regarding Breakthrough Initiatives and Alpha Centuari but one thing the show couldn’t give you is the breakthrough that was launched on June 23rd – the chips pictured just above, yup, they are the probes

Granted it is a prototype of the tiny spacecraft they plan to send to Alpha Centuari, called Sprites.

Of course this was their first test, so instead of riding solo, they took a position on low Earth Orbit satellites. Four of the Sprites are on Max Valier as well as one riding shotgun and only one on Venta-1.


The plan was to release the freeloaders, but as of the second week of August the Sprites on Max Valier were not responsive although the one on Venta-1 is in Radio contact.


No big deal, this was the first in many 100’s of steps. Scientists expect that before sending a new batch up, they will equip them with cameras, actuators for steering and other tools.