Category Archives: Space

The final frontier.

Is There a “Preparation A” for Asteroids?

I started hearing some rumblings at work about an potential asteroid strike a few decades out, so I got curious — one of the worst things for me! — and started looking around.

Sure enough, is reporting “Asteroid With Chance of Hitting Earth in 2029 Now Being Watched ‘Very Carefully’“. That someone found one doesn’t surprise me — that’s happened before. That the risk is actually getting more solid is a bit weird — admittedly, the risk has gone from 0.3% to 2.2%, but still…..

So, how big is it, and how much damage could it do? It’s about a quarter mile long — bigger than the one that made Meteor Crater (photos) — and would do considerable local or regional damage. It’s not a dinosaur-killer though, and that’s good news.
However, it would make a mess of somewhere on the planet assuming it hits land. I’ve always heard that a large body hitting water would be far worse than it hitting land, with large, regional, tsunami-like effects.

Obviously, the potential human tragedy could be far, far worse than that seen in the recent tsunami, depending on a gazillion factors.

On the bright side, if it hits land, the sunsets will be beautiful for years…. And I might get more snow here!

Starry, Starry Night

Well, not so much stars, but other things.

Tonight, Sio and I took Roaul’s Celestron out, and gave it a dry run from the driveway. This is a beautiful old C8, dating from the mid-70s. I can remember when Uncle Roaul bought it, and how much I wanted to have one someday. After using this one for an hour on a quiet, cool Friday night, I can see that why these old orange scopes have such a mystique about them.

This one has probably not been used in ten years or so, and yet was still perfectly aligned from the spotting scope to the main tube. The drive motor runs well (although I didn’t test its accuracy), and the tripod still is rock solid. What an amazing piece of engineering.

So, Sio and I pointed it at the Ring Nebula (M57) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and Albeiro. I explained to Sio what we were looking at, and what was significant. To me, seeing the wispy smoke ring of the Ring Nebula was such a thrill! That’s always been the litmus test for any piece of gear I’ve owned. However, the bigger impact on me was Albeiro. I’ve never been able to see the colors that so many people talk about with this beautiful Christmas-colored pair. Tonight I could.

I hope one day that Sio will look on the sky with the same fondness and wonder that I do, and that she’ll remember this night just as well as I will.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

In about an hour, Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne is to launch again, in an attempt to claim the Ansari X Prize. It’s simple — launch a three-person vehicle to the edge of space, return it to earth safely, and then do it again within two weeks.

Last week, Rutan’s group launched, accomplished their mission of hitting the edge of space, and then landed safely…. after a harrowing series of unintentional “victory rolls”.

I hope they make it today. This prize is ushering in a new era of private space travel, and that, I believe, is the only way I’m gonna get there. Richard Branson, seldom missing an opportunity, has already declared that he wants to make space travel as common as Carribbean cruises. The price tag, though, is thought to be $100k to $200k, which puts it a little outside my realm, but still waaaaaay lower than the Russians at $20M! 🙂

One day though, I’m fairly convinced, I will have an opportunity to be a tourist in space, and will have seen the tip of the iceberg that is to come, and fulfilled part of the future that was promised me when I was a kid.

Hello Up There

Tonight, we had a great view of the International Space Station as it orbited The Marble.

I’ve probably seen it before, but this is the first time that I’ve actually made time to go outside at a predicted time, and watch it glide by. I guess the thing that struck me was how bright it was, and how silent. Other things in the sky — planes, choppers — have a distinct amount of sound that goes along with the show. The ISS, being 100+ miles up, was quiet as could be. Of course, having no big engines, I guess it’d be pretty quiet, eh? 🙂

Somehow, it’s reassuring to me that that craft is there. To me, it’s the last toehold the human race has on space, and, if for no other reason than that, it’s presence above our planet is comforting.

Ad Astra!


OK, so the President is trying hard to make me like him.

Today, he announced a bold return to space for the US, albeit at the expense of the shuttle fleet before 2010. Manned missions to Luna by 2015, and Mars around 2030. However, he only increased NASA’s budget by $1bn (taking it to about $85bn, if I remember what I heard correctly). As has been widely reported, the Apollo decade cost about $100bn (in 2004 dollars).

So where’s the money coming from? Or, more importantly, who in Congress is gonna actually vote for this?

Well, you could pull $80bn+ from Iraq (or at least make Iraq pay for the “police” effort out of its oil profits, which is what I thought was supposed to happen anyway), and that might get you much of the way to Luna. The challenge though, is that Bush is talking new craft, new methods and lingering on Luna, and that ain’t gonna be $100bn, I suspect.

How about start with the unemployment/welfare rolls? How about as a condition of taking an check for unemployment or welfare, you had to work on The Program? As we learned in WWII, many people can learn skills that will not only help us out, but also help them out.

Of course, there’s the issues of wage, but you’re paying those folks already, and getting little in return. There’s also issues of paying for child care during the working day, but I think that’s achievable with government sponsored, near-site childcare.

Not all Americans who draw a federal check are close to where the big work would be done, of course, but I’m sure that not everyone working on Apollo was in Florida, either.

On the whole, good news…. assuming we as Americans are willing to belly up to the bar. That will be the interesting thing to watch.