2005 YU55 Arrives Today! Get Out The Tin Foil Helmets!

November 8, 2011 at 7:51 am | Posted in Miscellaneous, Regular Feature, Science News | Leave a comment
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It’s here, dear readers. The day I first told you about some seven months ago in an article entitled Giant Honkin’ Space Boulder To Just Miss Earth In November. Yes, today is the day that asteroid 2005 YU55 will skip inside the moon’s orbit and pass between the Earth and the moon. Asteroid 2005 YU55 is expected to miss both the planet and the moon, but out of mere happenstance. It could easily have impacted either but for the slightest of degree of change in trajectory at any point in its orbit around the sun.  Please enjoy the short video courtesy of Space.com.

So both the Arecibo radio telescope and the Goldstone scope in California will be bombarding this errant missile with radio waves to get us the clearest pictures, and most useful data to date on this particular asteroid, and asteroids in general.

This image of Comet Tempel 1 was taken by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft on July 4, 2005, 67 seconds after a probe crashed into the comet. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

After landing on the asteroid Vespa and the comet Tempel 1, our scientist have a pretty good understanding of the composition and behaviors of these leftovers from the dawn of our solar system. Asteroid 2005YU55 will not hit us but you have to admit, in spacial terms it is a pretty close shave.

So get out those tin foil helmets everyone. Who knows… it wouldn’t be the first time someone did the math wrong. At the very least, call your Mom just to be on the safe side. No?

by Revmacd For Roqoo Depot – Where Science Meets Science Fiction
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Black Holes Explained – Video

June 14, 2011 at 11:55 am | Posted in Regular Feature, Science News | Leave a comment
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This weeks Science Tuesday brings us this stunning animation from Space.com that explains how black holes form.  Enjoy the video.

by Revmacd For Roqoo Depot – All The Latest Star Wars News and real science too.

4 Non-Astronaut Professionals Needed In Space

May 10, 2011 at 9:13 am | Posted in Humor, Regular Feature, Science News | 4 Comments
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We have all heard of one famous astronaut or another in our lives. Whether it was Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon or when that famous astronaut Tom Hanks uttered the classic line, “Houston, we have a problem”, on the Apollo 13 moon mission.  We have all looked up to and admired these brave men and women at one time or another.

Very famous. Not really an astronaut.

Today however, with the “space race” largely a thing of the past and an emphasis on international cooperation (and shared expense) the volume of people who wind up in space tends to dilute the fame aspect of being a modern day space man. These days astronauts come in over fifty flavors of nationalities, are represented by both genders, and in the case of Cady Coleman (I love her) can play a mean flute duet with rock legend Ian Anderson and still be pretty as a picture with her hair standing straight up in zero gravity. The one thing these people all have in common is that they all still have “the right stuff”. They are all still well heeled, well educated men and women. Some of the finest examples of dedication and integrity their respective nations have to offer.

The thing is, every so often something happens in space that requires people of a little more “blue collar” kind of background. Folks who grew up with zero advantage but know how to make things work anyway. People who won’t tend to over think the problem. The following are 4  non-astronaut professions that should be represented in the crew of the space station.

4.  A Plumber

What’s that now, a plumber in space? Absolutely. It would have come in mighty handy to have one spinning in circles up there with the crew of the International Space Station back on July 19TH 2009, when one of two toilets aboard the facility stopped working while the crew was engaged in what mission control called “delicate robotic work”. It seems a pump separator got flooded. That was the official explanation. It sounds like a fancy way of saying that the toilet stopped up but I try not to criticize.

Just-a jiggle-a the handle. You be-a fine.

Mission Control instructed the astronauts to put an “out of service” sign on the toilet until it was repaired. In the meanwhile, the space station’s compliment of six crewmen got to all share the one remaining commode. The task of repairing the uncooperative hopper fell to Belgian Frank De Winne and American Michael Barratt. who had to work well into the night. Mission Control finally instructed them to call it a day and repairs were finally completed the following morning.

This wasn’t the only time the space station latrine failed. In 2008 it broke down and was the only working unit at the time. Luckily the Space Shuttle Endeavor was docked with the station at the time and everyone was able to use the bathroom on board until repairs were made.

I would like to think that if NASA and the other world space agencies weren’t all hung up on shmancy degrees, mental acuity and physical fitness, that someone like the fellow pictured on the left might not have only been able to solve the problem by “bending the rod” as it were, but could also pull double duty by ensuring the International Space Station remain a “Koopa Free Zone” at all times.

3. Crane Operator

They don’t have cranes on the station but they do have two robotic arms that do a lot of the heavy lifting in …. umm…. zero gravity. (Makes more sense the less you think about it.) The robotic arms are known as the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), or referred to by its primary component Canadarm2. Officially known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), it is self-relocatable and can move end-over-end to reach many parts of the Space Station in an inchworm-like movement. In this movement, it is limited only by the number of Power Data Grapple Fixtures (PDGFs) on the station. PDGFs located around the station provide power, data and video to the arm through its Latching End Effectors (LEEs). The arm can also travel the entire length of the space station truss using the Mobile Base System.

Probably not these guys though.

All that to say it’s a big fancy crane that moves stuff around outside the station. While this is an important and necessary function to the station, it seems like the sort of task they might be willing to let your average construction crane operator take a crack at. For that matter, most gamers these days would probably be as adept at moving large objects with a device they operate with a hand controller and using a graphical user interface than most astronauts, Not only that but the gamers can do it in full gravity and the lightless hope void of their mom’s basement well into their thirties. Take that mission specialists.

2. Pizza Delivery Guy

OK, I know this one is a stretch but you have to ask yourself two things. First of all, whenever you are away from home, what is one of the things you miss the most? Your local pizza shop, right? I just know a good pizza night on the ISS would do wonders for morale. It might not do wonders for those balky toilets though so it’s a good thing we are sending that plumber too.

Yeah how about that, this one is free too you jerks.

The other thing is the guarantee. I mean come on! You must have wondered at some point if the 30 minute guarantee was still good when the address is:

International Space Station
Destiny Module
High Earth Orbit

You would think it wasn’t but as a promotional thing it could be priceless.

Not only could we get the pizza delivery guys to make dinner in space a treat but it is almost certain they know where we could find all the gamers with the mutant seven fingered hands we would use as the robotic arm operators. I mean this idea just keeps getting better. Pass me the Xbox controller and another slice of pepperoni.

Last but not least:

1. Trash Men/Sanitation Workers

This guy may be most important of all. It seems that like everywhere else we silly humans go we have left our mark on Earth by encircling it in trash. Metal, fabric mesh and plastics comprise a layer of detritus around the planet so scary it nearly acts as a global defense system.

Yup, it's this bad.

We here on Earth have set up a tracking system, operated by the United States Air Force, designed to track objects in orbit larger that four centimeters in length. As of this moment nearly twenty thousand objects are continually tracked and data relayed on their whereabouts to the appropriate agencies.

There may however, be ten times as many objects smaller than four centimeter up there hurling around the planet at speeds between 17,000 and 25,000 miles an hour. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? A four centimeter wide object is roughly 5 times as wide as a .50 caliber bullet, the largest bullet current used by the U.S. military. At a speed of 25,000 miles an hour an object would be moving roughly ten times faster than the bullet that killed Bin Laden. So basically we’ve encircled the planet in what amounts to gigantic, super high speed projectiles. No wonder no aliens have landed lately. They can’t find a parking spot without being shredded to ribbons!

And a lack of proper signage in space.

How did all that trash and debris get up there in the first place? Well besides our own slovenly nature as a species there is also the fact that we the simple primates of planet Earth didn’t always enjoy a global space faring community like we have in recent times. In fact, during the previously alluded to space race, it is entirely possible that we left junk up there intentionally just to get in the way of anyone else that might try to beat us to the latest space accomplishment that was the hot topic of the day. There was a time when it was just the U.S. and the Soviets running around up there and the emphasis was on the first anything we could launch. First chimp, dog, man, women, couple or Eskimo Astronaut were all major headlines.

"Now I'm just gettin' pissed off!"

In fact, according to a Space.com article, in February of 2009 an Iridium LLC satellite of U.S. origin, was involved in a massive collision with a Russian Cosmos 2251 Satellite approximately 490 miles above Serbia. The 25,000 mile an hour collision completely destroyed both satellites and resulted in over 500 pieces of additional debris that needs to be tracked as it hurtles around the planet.

Even that disaster was nothing compared to what the Chinese did in January of 2007. In order to test a missile they built that was designed to shoot down satellites in orbit, they intentionally targeted and destroyed one of their own. The test was a smashing success in that the missile shattered the target into over 2,500 new chunks of space trash that are now spinning around Earth at hyper-ballistic speeds.

So I guess the question becomes, who do we get to clean up this mess? It seems like every advanced nation on Earth is now up there dumping their trash and in space there are no retired Scottish grandfathers to wander around in cut off suit pants and wearing sandals with black socks, while holding a metal detector, to keep space clean like they do on the New England beaches.

We need some sanitation workers in space. We need NASA to build the first space vessel with a twelve ton hydraulic packing body and a 2,000 lbs per square inch hopper. Get a couple o’ guys in pressure suits to stand on the step at the back of the ship and hop off and load the trash. It seems like a dopey idea but so far it is the only idea on the table where as of this writing there are no projects in the works or proposals being considered to deal with this problem.

There is always this plan. What could go wrong?

So it’s time we get some blue collar guys up there to do the chores, bend the rods and do all the little jobs that would free up our astronauts to do the important work they do so well. Come on NASA!

by Revmacd with special help from CCF – for Roqoo Depot
All the best in Star Wars news.

Steam Engines In Space?

March 27, 2011 at 8:06 am | Posted in Miscellaneous, Regular Feature, Science News | 6 Comments
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Not so ridiculous anymore, eh Marty?

Sounds absurd, right? The very idea of using a steam engine to reach the stars hearkens back to an age when science fiction was in its infancy and modern methods of rocket propulsion had yet to be conceived of by mankind. Today with the advances in liquid fossil fuels, xenon propulsion, microwave propulsion technology, and the commonly used cryogenic fuels, the idea of a steam powered spaceship actually seems silly. Or does it? (Be a lousy premise for an article if I didn’t have something up my sleeve, eh?)

It turns out that in order to bring us to the future NASA scientists and engineers are looking to technologies from the past. Specifically they are developing a water powered “Space Coach” designed for use in manned missions to Mars.

As fantastic as it sounds these water powered vehicles would use large solar panels to super-heat water into steam that could be channeled through a nozzle. In the weightlessness of space the steam nozzles would then be used to direct a manned module to any point in the solar system.

The fact is that while we still envision travel beyond the Earth and our moon to be under constant propulsion in our minds most of the real movement of a spacecraft is still accomplished using gravity assisted “sling shot” maneuvers using whatever sources of gravity the craft encounters on route. In most cases there is only the need for initial propulsion and then maneuvering thrusters as the craft journeys toward its intended target. Newton’s Laws of Motion tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In a case where small course corrections are needed, steam power is as good as any other source.

To be specific the idea is to use the solar panels to create electricity that will be stored in batteries. When it is time to execute a maneuver such as a course correction or to achieve an orbit the water would be heated electrically and the resulting steam directed through a thruster.

The vessels equipped with these steam propulsion rigs would be permanently based in space. While steam power is more than ample to direct a vehicle in the void of space it clearly isn’t powerful enough to break free of Earth’s gravity or one would assume the Greeks, Romans, or Chinese might have done so a millennium or two ago. Traditional rockets would be used to bring the vessels to space initially where they would take up residence in orbit around Earth, the moon, and presumably Mars where they would be used to shuttle crew and materials.

This approach is not only innovative but is highly cost effective. The cost of a journey to Mars and back would be roughly the same as a single Space Shuttle launch due to the lower fuel costs and the ability to reuse the craft many times. It is estimated that it would cost roughly 1/30TH the amount of money to send a steam powered module to Mars than it would if we used traditional rockets such as the Orion rockets I wrote about in an earlier article. To read more on this remarkable spacecraft and its potential for furthering our efforts to explore our solar system, you can read an excellent article on it at Space.com by clicking here.

I am also including a video below on some of the other forms of propulsion and exploration that NASA is working with. Enjoy.

by Revmacd

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