NASA announced on Friday that the meteorite that exploded over Russia was a small asteroid, probably around 15 meters across. A subsequent collection of fragments by Russian scientists has confirmed this.
The event resulted in thousands of injuries and millions of dollars of damage as the asteroid exploded in the atmosphere with a blast as large as a nuclear bomb detonating. It did, in fact, trigger monitoring systems that have been set up to look for nuclear test explosions.
This could have been so much worse. Imagine the effect if this had happened directly over the Kremlin in Moscow or Washington D.C.? Considering the paranoia so often displayed in international politics, would calmer heads have prevailed long enough to determine what really happened before “hitting the button”? A knee-jerk response to a presumed attack would trigger devastation that would almost certainly be the “end of civilization as we know it”.
This to me says three things.
- It is imperative that the world’s major nations combine resources to create a better detection system for this type of space debris.
- We need to invest in effective counter-measures.
- Nuclear weapons need strict systems to avoid “Pavlovian” launches.
Scientists and SF writers have been warning of this potential danger for decades. It’s about time the world took notice.
I was reading a Space.com article on fifty years of human spaceflight and it contains a graphic entitled “How Far Into Space Have We Gone?” That got me thinking. The longest journey made by manned spaceships is to the moon (and back!) which is a distance of approximately 400,000 km. That’s a long way, but how does that really measure up against other potential astronomical targets? Continue reading
Over the summer we visited the Washington Dc area a couple of times to meet up with some Corvette ZR-1 friends. As well as taking care of some jobs that had been on my ZR-1 “to-do” list far too long, we also took the opportunity to do some sight seeing.
This isn’t a travelog but one big highlight of the trip for me was visiting the two Smithsonian Air and Space Museums. These are an absolute treasure trove for anyone into science, space and flight and I spent several happy hours wandering around taking pictures of real planes and space vehicles that in many cases I’d built models of as a kid.
The Museums cover everything from the very birth of manned flight all the way up to the latest in technology, from the Curtiss Kittyhawk to F35 Lightning stealth fighters, but for me there was one stand-out item that I felt I just had to share:
I’m sometimes critical of the shuttle program regarding the direction taken and some of the technological choices made, but nevertheless they contributed a number of very significant contributions to the space program and science as a whole. Actually seeing one first hand was an incredible moment, not on TV, not a piece of CGI, not a model. This is the real thing – Space Shuttle Discovery – a vehicle that has traveled to space and returned! How awesome is that?
The technology is incredible, from the incredible detail of the individually serialized ceramic tiles to the immense rocket motors and the scale is amazing. As you walk around you feel dwarfed by the incredible machine, nicknamed the “flying brickyard” for all the tiles used in the heat shield.
The Smithsonian displays are incredible and you really need to allow yourself almost a day at each one. There is such a wealth of information and such a large number of exhibits that it’s almost impossible to know where to look next. I found myself getting dizzy from trying to look six directions all at once.
A truly memorable experience.
What can you say but “congratulations” on the successful launch of the Space X Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 booster. The payload is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, October 10th and is carrying approximately 450 kilos of cargo and scientific instruments.
One of the rocket engines failed during the launch but the Falcon is designed to be able to complete it’s missions even if it suffers from two such failures.
Space X is working to produce a manned version of the Dragon and expects to complete this within three years. I can’t wait!
Flying was a major part of his life from the age of six when he took his first flight with his father, all the way up to that landing on the moon and beyond. In many ways he was the embodiment of everything that was best in the U.S. NASA space program and deserved the honors he received while alive and the tributes since his death on Saturday.
Like more than five hundred million others, I was one of the lucky ones who saw that “one small step”. I was only six, but my parents allowed me to stay up way past my regular bedtime to see it live. After all these years I still remember the excitement and sense of awe as Armstrong descended the steps, touched the moon’s surface and spoke his famous line.
Imagine the immensity of that moment:a person, someone just like you or me, actually standing on the surface of another planet! Even at the age of six I understood how special that was. It captivated as it did countless others and was one of the key events that drove my love of space, astronomy, physics, and science as a whole. From that day I, like humanity, would never be the same again.
Neil Armstrong changed everything. My respect to him, his family,and all the other astronauts who showed just how far we, as a species, can reach. As I look around it’s clear that now, more than ever, we need similar people to reach even further.
Planet Gliese 581 g has just been listed as the most likely to be habitable out of the list of known planets around other stars – a list that currently contains over 750 confirmed and over 2300 unconfirmed candidates.
The fact that we can detect planets at interstellar distances is an amazing feat all in itself. But that got me thinking about what kind of life might be possible on Gliese 581 g (G581g from now on!). Continue reading
We’re all so busy, so embedded in just keeping up with life that we can so easily lose the ability to dream. It’s often hard to maintain the vision that we can be better than we are, that humanity can reach out from the dirt and squalor we often find ourselves in to reach out to the stars.
It takes bravery and a sometimes unnerving arrogance to Continue reading
Next month the NASA MSL Curiosity rover will attempt to land on Mars, marking the 49th mission to explore our near neighbor. Unlike other missions that used airbag landing systems, Curiosity will use a risky rocket powered sky crane because of its weight. Once landed the rover will look for signs of life.
The Final Frontier? Perhaps not quite in a Star Trek sense, but breath-taking nevertheless.
According to data from the Voyager 1 probe it has crossed, or is crossing, the boundary between our own Solar System and interstellar space. For the first time in our history we can claim to have carried out a space mission beyond our own “local neighborhood”.
Through multiple “layers” wrapped around the sun like onion skins–the Heliosphere, Heliopause, Heliosheath and Bow Shock– the probe has made its long nuclear-powered journey to the very edge of our Sun’s influence and is passing into the void between the stars.
However, unlike the USS Enterprise which zooms between star systems Continue reading
Just a few weeks ago, the SpaceX Dragon successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS). This marked the first time any commercial space vessel has docked with the ISS or indeed any other space vessel. Five days later the Dragon splashed down in the Pacific ocean ending its mission triumphantly.
This week we saw another major milestone when the Chinese Shenzou-9 space ship docked with the Tiangong-1 space lab. This marks the first manned docking of a Chinese space ship, again a major historical event in the story of manned space travel. Continue reading