Get Your Ticket To Ride To The Stars


NASA is not the only power player in US space exploration. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are all making a name for themselves. The difference is that NASA is concerned with public service and pure science. The private sector space agencies are more interested in the almighty dollar. That means they will be staging projects geared toward profitable exploration, like mining interstellar bodies for lucrative minerals and space tourism. And whenever there is a buck to be made competition is sure to arise. Americans only need to look East to find competitor nations joining the profitable space race. Who will the gringa be rooting for? Read on and find out. Here are the Asian contenders who have certainly got game:

JAPAN: PD Aerospace acknowledges that the company is lagging behind their US counterparts. However, Shuji Ogawa, the company’s CEO, doesn’t seem at all disheartened by this. He believes there is enough consumer and investor interest to go around. Pretty much every single Earthling would love to realize the dream of a trip into space. Even if PD Aerospace is dead last in the race to launch cosmic tourists, there will still be plenty of money to be made.

PD is looking to use a re-usable spacecraft that resembles a plane. It will have an alternating propulsion system using jet and rocket technologies. Passenger capacity of 8, crew capacity of 2, will make for a very personalized tour. Flight limitation is 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. That is where outer space and Earth’s atmosphere meet.

So when will this bird get off the ground? First flight is expected to launch in just 3 more years. Trials are scheduled for another 3 years. So, in less than a decade the non-average Joe, with an extra quarter million of disposable income, can take to the highest heavens.

It will take some time for revenue to affect the company’s bottom line and lower the cost of a ticket. Eventually, a space flight will become affordable enough for even the regular average Joe. PD hopes to eventually bring ticket cost down to the $3,600 range. That’s a relief to the gringa!

CHINA: Kuang-Chi Science has a bit more swagger to their space travel chatter. They believe Asia is a better market for space tourism than the US. This means that even though they got a slower start than private American space firms, they are confident they will become more profitable much quicker.

The gringa loves their space flight plan to use a giant helium balloon to lift a capsule to the same dizzying heights as PD. With the same passenger capacity the main difference between the two trips will be that PD’s flight will have the fireworks and noise of rocket propulsion while Kuang-Chi will deliver a steady, peaceful glide. A quiet ride is very appealing to the gringa.

The chairman of the company, Liu Ruopeng, points out that passengers have no need of skills training or to be physically fit. The Kuang-Chi balloon trip to the edge of the cosmos is open to everyone. The gringa appreciates this sense of inclusiveness.

Another cool aspect to China’s space tourism model is that it will double as a scientific data gathering mission. On board is a platform that collects meteorological and agricultural information that is transmitted to networks on the ground. Being a tourist means also being a passive citizen-scientist. Your ticket to ride funds research and environmental monitoring that can help make the world a better place.

Kuang-Chi is also determined to be competitive. Although they haven’t announced how much a ticket will be, they have made it clear that it will be significantly less than what their competitors will offer. So start saving up your money. They have already begun test flights with their spacecraft “Traveler” and a turtle was the first passenger! Tourism is scheduled to begin in 3 years.

MALAYSIA: Although one might not equate this southeast Asia nation with innovative technology, with the creation of Independence-X, it is changing people’s minds about the who’s who in space travel. Look for this company to have a robotic spacecraft on the Moon’s surface sometime this year. If successful, it will certainly catch the eye of investors. A successful lunar landing will hopefully spur funding for space tourism technology development. So, although they are not yet in the race, they are definitely warming up in the batter’s box.

So who is the gringa rooting for? Kuang-Chi Science. I must admit my soft spot for positive business modeling that features inclusiveness, consumer affordability, environmental activism and… is pet friendly! I would like to join that turtle in space flight that will not just be a thrilling vacation of a lifetime but will also perform a service to my fellow Earthlings!

Sources:

Kuang Chi Science

PDAS

Independence-X

Image Credit: Cosmos TV

Video Credits:

PD AeroSpace

Bloomberg

Digi Telecommunications

There REALLY IS Life On Mars (And The Moon)


What if the gringa told you that there was, without a doubt, life on the Moon and life on Mars? You might not believe me if you are a strict science enthusiast. You might believe me without hesitation if you’re a UFOlogist. You might hope that I’m telling the truth if you are a science-fiction fan.

Well, the gringa’s got exciting news for all of you. It IS true and there is proof and NASA testimony to back it up. But there’s a curious twist. The life discovered in both locations is not alien. It is very Earth in origin. What does this mean?

The strict science-evidence buff will say this of course means that NASA scientists have contaminated the regions they have explored. UFOlogists will claim it is trace evidence of mankind’s ancient extra-terrestrial ancestry. Science-fiction fans will simply shrug, nothing coming as a surprise to them.

The first thing to do is examine the decontamination procedures of NASA. Is it possible to launch space exploration vehicles that are not contaminated with even microscopic traces of Earth sourced materials? Nope. If complete decontamination is not possible, are there Earthly micro-organisms that can survive the harsh conditions of space travel, be delivered to an alien landscape and, ultimately, thrive only to be discovered later by exploration equipment? Yep.

NASA does not fly solo, determining unilaterally decontamination procedures before or after a space flight. About 50 years ago the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), comprised of UN members from the International Council of Science (ICSU), created the Treaty of 1967 which outlined certain protocols related to outer space travel and research. Contained within the document are guidelines for 5 categories of space missions, rated according to the risk of contamination posed.

  • Category 1: Any mission to celestial body that does not involve study of biological systems (like launching of an orbiting satellite).
  • Category 2: Any mission to any cosmic body within our Solar System where documentation of biological or chemical systems involves a remote chance of contamination (like when a satellite takes a sample of a vent plume to see what kind of gas it is without entering a cosmic body’s atmosphere).
  • Category 3: Any mission with a specific purpose of studying chemical or biological systems that may contain living organisms that poses a risk of introducing contamination to other cosmic bodies (as in taking a satellite sample that could involve an orbit or fly-by into a cosmic body’s atmosphere, elevating risk of picking up atmospheric particles that could cross-contaminate another planet, moon, etc.)
  • Category 4: Any mission that lands equipment on the surface of a cosmic body for the purpose of interacting with the natural processes of the extra-terrestrial body which will certainly create the possibility of introducing contaminates from Earth to a celestial body (this is what occurred with the Lunar Apollo and Mars Rover missions, the equipment at risk of contaminating the Moon and Mars with Earth organisms).
  • Category 5: Any mission that has equipment set down on an extra-terrestrial body and returns physical samples from an extra-terrestrial body to Earth. This creates 2 subcategories of Restricted and Unrestricted. If the host for the sample is rated a Class III stringent, in other words, not a host for possible life, the returning sample is considered Unrestricted. Any specimen returning from a cosmic body where life is possible, must go through severe decontamination and quarantine protocols.

But how effective are these guidelines? Well, considering what happened with the lunar missions in the 1970s, none of these protocols may even matter. Even though there were procedures for quarantines and decontamination, there was simply no baseline to compare against any data.

Astronauts, equipment and geological samples were quarantined in isolation units for 3 weeks after a “bath” in a super-bleach solution or a betadine wipe-down. An examination for biological, bacterial and chemical anomalies would determine whether or not there was any risk posed by releasing from quarantine. And what about alien contaminants that had dormancy periods longer than 21 days?

Not all returning Apollo mission “stuff” was scrupulously cleaned and monitored. You know the raft the astronaut crews rode in from the module that splashed down to the ship that picked them up? Yeah. It just got a wipe down with betadine and was then sunk in the ocean. And guess where Earthly biological life as humans know it is theorized to all begin? Yeah. In the oceans. Hm. That might not have been such a good idea. That raft may have just been converted to a lunar life nursery.

And you know the geological samples the astronauts returned? Those “Moon Rocks”? Yeah. They didn’t even get quarantined or a splash of Lysol. They were whisked away in a helicopter and taken to NASA laboratories in Houston. So that means a couple of pilots, their crew and an entire helicopter were not just contaminated but blazed a trail of contamination across the sky of half of the United States. The helicopter and crew were quarantined but what about all of that airspace? Yeah. There’s that.

So, basically, humans have already cross-contaminated the Moon and Earth. That means any samples that pop-up on either locale that indicate alien life from one or the other are suspect.

The same is also probably true for Mars. Chances are Earth-origin micro-organisms have probably already survived the trip,arrived and set up shop for the next millennia or two. And, if climate change continues on course, Earthlings may not be around to explain human life on Mars for the ETs that eventually discover them. They will be on their own to figure out that little conundrum.

Which poses the question. Is that how life on Earth originated? Are humans the ancestors of alien contaminates? Could be.

And what is NASA’s solution if samples are determined to be contaminated with biological matter that is a threat to humans? If a danger is discovered en-route back to researchers on Earth, their fall back plan is to fly the stuff into the Sun. Hmm. Yes, by all means. Let’s continue our practice of pollution and let the chips fall where they may.

Sources:

Gizmodo

NASA

Johnson Space Center

Image Source: Gizmodo

Video Source: Licensable

Will There Be Lunar Water Wars?


How important is the Moon? Well, pretty darn important. Without the Moon we could pretty much say good-bye to life on Earth as we know it. The relationship between the Moon and Earth results in our ocean’s tidal systems. The movement of the ocean oxygenates the waters, keeping them healthy and providing oxygen for all the life living in the seas. This movement is also like an air conditioner for the entire world, moving cold arctic waters throughout warmer ocean regions to cool overall water temperature.  Although the Sun and wind would affect waves and tides, our ocean’s would still see a reduction in tidal movement by about one-third.

Also, if there was no Moon to light up the sky every night, our year would become much longer. That’s because without the gravitational effect of the Moon, the Earth would rotate slower. Days would become shorter, nights longer and a year of 365 days stretch to more than one thousand days.

In addition to helping keep all of Earth’s life-forms alive, the Moon is also a great source for poets, artists, song-writers and conspiracy theorists. Even though we still have the Moon, lunar conspiracy theorists may have to find a new past-time.

The gringa is talking about the conspiracists who believe that the Moon is hollow. The hollow Moon theory came about as a result of some experiments conducted by NASA in 1969 during the Apollo 12 mission. They deliberately crashed a spacecraft on the Moon as part of a geological study to measure the vibrations of the Moon.

After setting up seismographic equipment, the team of astronauts climbed back into their spacecraft. When they reached the right coordinates they jettisoned their lunar module and recorded the seismic results. Impact occurred at nearly 4,000 mph and made an impact crater. Upon impact, the astronauts said that the Moon sounded like a ringing bell with reverberations lasting for about an hour.

Did this ringing sound and vibrations really mean the Moon is hollow? Are these lunar conspiracy theorists on the right track or over-reacting? Watch Vintage Space’s video below and find out.

Well, considering that some go even further and claim that an abandoned space alien spaceship is parked in the center of our “hollow” Moon, the gringa thinks maybe they have gone too far. After all, I don’t think the Moon is a cosmic garage. But it is true that the relationship between the Moon and Earth does contain many unexplained mysteries.

Physicists are puzzled by the size relationship. It’s simply much more enormous than mathematics and physics say it should be. To enjoy such consistency in its orbital and gravitational relationship with Earth, the Moon should be about 40 miles in diameter. The reality is that it’s more than 2,000 miles in diameter.  That makes it about one-fourth the size of Earth.

Hollow Moon theorists claim that because the Moon is actually hollow, it has less mass which solves this physics anomaly. This also feeds their add-on conspiracy that the Moon is artificial, constructed by ancient aliens, and not a natural satellite. But Moon Express will soon be blowing these conspiracies out of the sky.

Moon Express has gotten approval  from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Defense, NASA, Federal Aviation Authority and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a private Moon landing this year which will be the first step toward their goal of mining Moon minerals. The company will not be sending humans with pick-axes and spacesuits. They will engage in robotic mining. The MX-1E lander will launch with the aid of their Electron rocket. Once it lands the MX-1E will explore the Moon with an array of sophisticated instruments.

MX-1E won’t just be collecting geological samples. It will also be searching for water resources. Water will be the single most valuable natural resource on the Moon. It will be critical for future Moon missions as well as deep space missions.

Although it is very good news, indeed, that frozen water was discovered on the Moon, the gringa is very sad to hear one thing about this discovery. The founder of Moon Express, Bob Richards, had this to say,

“Water is the oil of the solar system, and the Moon has become the gas station in the sky.”

Unfortunately, Earthlings have been slaughtering one another and invading one another’s lands, fighting over control of the world’s oil supplies. The gringa hopes that the Moon doesn’t inspire the same kind of behavior. After all, the co-founder of Moon Express explains that space travel is the only way humanity can ensure the survival of the human race. How will we ever survive if we keep killing one another?

Sources:

www.space.com

Moon Express

Silicon Beat

Inside Science

Scientific American

Huffington Post

Express UK

Video Credit:  Vintage Space

Image Credit:  NASA

Young Mr. Daniel’s Moon Musings


One of the gringa’s dear readers shares the blog post over breakfast with his children. Thank you so much for the support, Neil. Now, Neil has reported that his 12-year-old wants to know why the heck no one seems interested in the poor, little Moon anymore. His son thinks we are simply wasting the opportunity of a lifetime for mankind to have an outpost that would make it easier to explore the Universe.

The gringa is impressed with such matter of fact, forward thinking. It does make perfect sense to establish a pathway of outposts. Rather than have to travel for months at a time, space explorers could station hop. So, indeed, why does an Earth orbiting space station receive all of our efforts? Is there any interest in a lunar outpost? Here’s what the gringa has found out.

The Arguments FOR A Lunar Orbiting or Fixed Base Station:

  1. Not only could all the research currently performed on the International Space Station (ISS) be done on a lunar orbiting station, but scientists would also have access to the surface of the Moon for hands-on terrestrial studies.
  2. Long-term opportunity from an orbiting lunar station would eventually result in the establishment of a lunar base on the ground. Reconnaissance for suitable habitat locations could be performed. Hothouses for growing food could be constructed. Eventually human habitats could be perfected.
  3. Astronomy studies would be optimized with telescopes that are much closer to targets.
  4. An orbiting lunar station would become a gateway to the rest of the solar system. Interstellar travel would be empowered, no longer requiring the massive amounts of fuel payloads in order to exit the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere.
  5. An orbiting lunar station could also serve as an intermediary warning system for near approaches of comets or asteroids. They could, perhaps, even be equipped to intervene should one pose a threat to Earth.
  6. Of course, ambitious politics would claim the importance of remaining relevant and dominant (pfft).
  7. Practice makes perfect. So, if the goal is to explore the far reaches of space, starting with a Mars base, having a trial run making a go of it on the Moon makes perfect sense. Technologies for constructing habitat, like 3D printers, can be tested and perfected before investing in a Mars mission, raising the potential for success on the first go round.
  8. To evolve and advance into an interplanetary species could result in unifying the world and contribute to world peace. Most wars are fought to gain dominance over the Earth’s limited supplies of natural resources. With the Universe within reach to all, such goals seem childish and unnecessary. And to achieve such a monumental goal will require cooperation of the best and brightest throughout the world.

What A Lunar Station Needs

  1. Radiation Protection: The ISS has shielding to protect it from Earth’s powerful magnetosphere. Further out, a lunar orbiting station or an outpost on the Moon’s surface would need sufficient protection from massive radiation exposure.
  2. Micro-Meteoroid Protection: Even a tiny piece of flying debris can be deadly if it pierces any protective layer, whether that layer be protecting a human or habitat.
  3. Supplies: Whether it is food, medicine, or power, supplies are necessary. Being so far from home means developing the technology for self-sustainability.

The Challenges

  1. Radiation shielding is heavy. All that heavy stuff would have to be transported. That would be very expensive.
  2. Rescue and escape from the current ISS can happen quickly. Crews can launch home in the Soyuz capsule and arrive home in a few hours. Time is critical especially for medical emergencies. Emergency transfer from the Moon would take days.
  3. Although the Sun is the primary source of the radiation challenge, it is also the primary source of power. Re-juicing solar panels on the ISS is easy with day/night cycles that occur every 90 minutes. On the Moon, a station in orbit or on the ground would go without sunlight for two weeks on a monthly basis. Alternatives to solar power reliance is a must.
  4. Climate: Apollo mission astronauts performed their duties in sealed spacesuits and space capsules. Yet, when they arrived home they all had toxic lunar dust in their respiratory systems. Inhalation most likely occurred when returning to the confines of their capsules and taking off dusty space suits.

Is There Interest?

The Russians are interested. They hope to achieve a semi-permanent lunar base by 2030. NASA is interested but wants to build a station on the dark side of the Moon. That means privacy away from the prying eyes of the public with high-powered telescopes. They are looking at “libration points” as part of the plan to get a manned crew to Mars. Libration points, also called Lagrangian points, are sweet spots in space where gravitational forces between two objects in space create a sweet spot to park a space craft. The Moon is considered just one leg of the journey, being a prime libration point. NASA has tentatively put a $10 billion price tag on a Moon base plan with hopes of mission accomplishment by 2022. It seems that the old space race between the US and Russia has been revived.

So, my dear, young Mr. Daniel, your bright, intelligent mind is on the cutting edge of space exploration ideas. By the time a US lunar station becomes a reality, you will be old enough to contribute your own talents and skills. Hone them and become part of the dream. Study math and science and geology and medicine and botany and robotics. Let your musings take you to the Moon, young Mr. Daniel!

Sources:  Forbes

space.stackexchange.com

www.space.com

Daily Mail UK

National Geographic

BBC

Image Credit: Thornhill Radio & TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Should We Fear? I Forgot!


The gringa is more than happy to cheer on Obama’s goal of getting the U.S. space program to Mars within the next 15 years. I should still be young and vibrant enough to don a space helmet if the call to serve my country arises! In fact, considering the latest news on expected conditions for Mars destined astronauts, someone like me might be the astronaut of choice.

Whereas, before, the gringa always believed that epilepsy would probably be a big disqualifier for space travel, turns out a bit of brain damage is probably just par for the course for a Mars trip. Heck, then, maybe I’ve already been there and didn’t even know it! Could be those alien abduction conspiracy theorists have been right all along!

Doctors are still mystified about what causes epilepsy. Maybe all of us epileptics were abducted by space aliens, taken to Mars in an instant through a wormhole, had all kinds of crazy medical studies performed on us, then returned home in the blink of an eye. All that radical space/time continuum dazzle frazzled our brains!

Or… maybe us epileptics are all originally FROM Mars! Now wouldn’t that be something. The brain damage expected to be experienced in a flight from Earth to Mars may have the same effect in a reverse course from Mars to Earth. Maybe I was switched at birth with a real Earthling by Martians who took my doppleganger to Mars! Wouldn’t THAT be something!

So how does travel between Earth and Mars, regardless of which direction you’re headed, end up casing brain damage? Two words… cosmic rays. It’s a long journey from the Big Blue Marble to the Red Planet and then back again. The effects of being exposed to cosmic rays for about one year would be neurological impairments that would affect an astronaut’s judgment and cognitive abilities. In addition to the space brain effect, prolonged, long-term exposure to radiation is pretty much a guarantee that Mars bound astronauts are going to end up with some form of cancer and a weakened immune system that couldn’t even fend off a bout of sneezing.  But how do researchers know this, or suspect it, if no one has traveled between Mars and Earth (that we know of… the gringa is still musing the possibilities of her origins…)

Studies have been conducted at the Brookhaven Laboratory in New York. Leading the research is a team of scientists from the University of California Irvine. They used the particle accelerator at the laboratory to simulate the Earth-Mars travel condition scenario on rats. What happened is that the rats suffered serious neurological damage. They became dumber… unable to remember which meant unable to learn. Even worse, as far as the gringa’s concerned, they lost their natural ability of “fear extinction”.

“What is “fear extinction?” the dear reader asks. Well, the gringa’s gonna tell you. From the time we are babies all sorts of things happen to us that traumatize us with fear. The human brain is an amazing thing. It has a powerful survival instinct that triggers all sorts of protective measures and responses that are automatic. Sometimes we don’t have to try at all when it comes to saving ourselves. Our brain automatically performs an extinction of the fear reaction to certain stimuli.

You see, when something scary happens, like a mom or dad that jumps out and yells, “Boo!”, scaring the baby, the first time the baby probably cries like the dickens, scared to death. However, as mom and dad continue to do this the baby’s brain learns that nothing really bad happens even though the fear response is automatically triggered when startled. Eventually the baby no longer cries when someone jumps up and says, “Boo!” In fact, the baby may even learn how to laugh.

As we grow and have all sorts of life experiences, this happens all the time. That’s how we are able to actually enjoy fear, like watching scary movies or telling spooky tales at campouts or visiting haunted houses or pranking loved ones. But a trip to Mars destroys this capability.

When the gringa puts together the entire picture of an astronaut’s mental condition upon arriving to Mars, she’s not so sure they will survive. Think about it. A Mars team would be:

  • Physically ill (early stage cancer with little to none immunity)
  • Critical information would be forgotten related to their survival (impaired memory may result in no longer remembering how to operate complex technologies their lives depend on)
  • Even if they are in contact with Mission Control on Earth who could talk them through an important process, they are not able to understand instructions (cognitive abilities impaired)
  • In a strange place so far from Earth, unable to master the necessary skills to survive, the realization of their doom would trigger immense fear that would be uncontrollable (the fear extinction response is destroyed)

If anyone has read “Lord of the Flies” it is no big stretch, then, to surmise what might result from this accumulation of trouble… a mission crew that becomes unreasonably paranoid, dangerous and turns on one another. Until the world’s space programs come up with a way to effectively shield Mars bound astronauts from cosmic rays, the gringa has lost all interest in a manned Mars mission. Although my personal level of brain damage can be frustrating, at least I can enjoy a good helter-skelter horror flick without turning on the caveman with a butcher knife.

Sources:

newatlas.com

news.uci.edu

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Image Credit:  signalvnoise.com

Space Flight & Fortune Cookies


When I was a young girl Six Flags was the big event once a year. The gringa was a country girl from a small town. I attended a tiny, rural school where the same 20 or so classmates I had were together every year from childhood through our teen years. A single building housed the classrooms for every grade, kindergarten through 12th grade. Once kids entered the 6th grade, officially “Junior High”, you felt as if you had hit the big time. That was the year you got included on the annual school trip to Six Flags, the biggest theme park in our state. It was about a 2 hour drive away to the big city.

My first year to go  was the grand opening of the big, new, rollercoaster attraction, the Shockwave. Two loop-de-loops of spine tingling action. The gringa was too young and naïve to realize that all the boys interested in going on the Spelunker ride with the girls only wanted to steal a kiss in the cool, dark passages. That was the second time in the gringa’s life that she socked a boy in the nose. But I learned quickly and didn’t fall for that trick a second time.

Now what has happened for the gringa to be reminiscing back to rollercoasters and clocking school boys? China. It’s all China’s fault. They have gone and done it this time. The gringa is counting her pennies and wondering just how fast she can afford to go to China. The gringa doesn’t plan on rollercoasters, though. No, now that I’m middle aged and epilepsy has had its toll on certain aspects, rollercoasters are out unless the gringa’s got paramedics lined up and waiting at the end of the ride. For the more sedate lifestyle I live now, the gringa still seeks adventure but with a smoother ride. Hence, China.

Remember when the gringa told you about Virgin Galactic and how you could hitch a ride to the highest heavens for a cool, couple hundred grand? Well, the gringa is certain that China can do it better and cheaper. In fact, considering that China is marketing their new ride as a feature at a theme park, surely tickets prices will be family friendly.

The plan is envisioned by KuangChi Science. The ride will be a balloon launch that will take passengers 15 miles into the atmosphere (24 kilometers).  The projected $1.5 billion project will encapsulate passengers in an airtight cabin beneath the balloon. Dubbed Shenzhou V after China’s first manned space mission in 2003,  the cabin is designed to block dangerous cosmic rays yet provide the comfort of a limousine-style ride. Once reaching top altitude, passengers will enjoy a peaceful cruise lasting a few hours before descent begins.  Although the ticket price hasn’t been announced, the gringa has got her fingers crossed that it may be in the $50 dollar range and include complimentary fortune cookies. Am I expecting too much?

Source: www.kuangchiscience.com

Image Credit: l.yimg.com

 

Stars Are Cool. No, Really, They Are


When the gringa’s dear readers think of a star, what do you think of? The Sun? Polaris? Alpha Centauri?  And what do you think would happen if you reached out to touch the Sun? You’d probably get vaporized, right? Well, depending on the star, not necessarily. In fact, if you touched the right star it might be a sensation more like when you roll over in bed and find the cool spot.

Brown dwarfs are cold stars. There are 14 that NASA believes are cool enough to touch. Cool! They are also the oldest stars in the Universe. I guess stars are kind of like people. Old folks with poor circulation are generally cold all the time. Stars get old and cold, too. Out of all the old, cold, brown dwarf stars in the Universe, it’s the Y-dwarfs that are even cooler than the average human’s body temperature. Y, you may ask. Well, the gringa will tell you why the Y is the way that it is.

Not only are they old but they are failures. Poor Y-dwarfs. They must have very low self-esteem. Perhaps that is why they don’t shine as brightly as other stars. They have grown old and are failures as stars. The gringa feels very sorry for the poor, little things.

Because their cores are not very dense they can’t fuse loads of atoms within. That means they don’t burn as hot and brightly as other stars. The gringa finds it very amusing that the denser a star is the brighter it is. It doesn’t seem to work that way in humans.

If Y-dwarfs are such failures at being stars, the gringa wonders if they should be considered stars at all. Do we have a Pluto prospect in the future? Just as Pluto got demoted from planet to dwarf planet, Y-dwarf stars may very well face the possibility of being re-classified. In the future scientists may decide they don’t meet all the guidelines of being a star. The gringa thinks this is a wonderful possibility for Y-dwarfs. Whereas poor Pluto suffered a demotion, the Y-dwarf could get better news. They could go from being failures as stars to being over-achievers for whatever it is they may become!

However, it may take astronomers quite some time to collect enough data in their studies. Their failure to shine bright like a diamond in the sky means it is difficult to view and study them. It’s practically impossible to study them at all with a telescope dependent on visible light. To take productive peeks at Y-dwarfs NASA had to construct an infrared telescope and mount it to an orbiting satellite. And that is why the Universe is wiser thanks to these cold, little star failures, because of Wide-field Infrared Survey Explore (WISE) that studies them in the heavens.

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit:  www.jpl.nasa.gov

 

NASA, Please Explain


Why hasn’t mankind been back to the Moon? Why do humans only travel as far as the International Space Station (ISS) and no further if Russia and the United States have already had successful Moon landing missions? These questions fuel the conspiracy fires that claim the Apollo Moon landing was a staged scene and never really happened. Regardless of a person’s position on this, what of Russia? If they made it to the Moon, why haven’t they been back either?

During the years of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, it was always a game of one-upmanship. Rather than flinging bombs at one another it was a bit of “Whatever you can do I can do better.” The space race was no exception.

In 1961 the Soviet Union took the lead in the space race when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth and returned home, all in one piece. In response, U.S. President John F. Kennedy did not say, “Well done.” No, instead he threw down the gauntlet and swore that the U.S. would out-do the Soviet’s achievement. He declared that within a decade Americans would have a man on the Moon and back home safe and sound. Eight years later people around the world watched televised broadcasts of Neil Armstrong planting a U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon. Or did he?

What we know now compared to what we knew then may cast great doubt on the legitimacy of the Apollo mission. Accusations that film director Stanley Kubrick prepared a fake production staged with the latest technologies of 70s era filmdon may actually have credibility. Consider the most common criticisms that point to the film being a fake:

  • Wind mysteriously blowing a flag that should be in the vacuum of space.
  • Anomalous shadows cast in different directions which would indicate multiple sources of light.
  • No disturbance of lunar dust or the Moon’s surface from the landing of the space module.
  • What are the strange objects that are reflected at different times in the visors of the astronaut’s space helmet?
  • Where are all the stars that should be in the background?

Skeptics of conspiracy theories can argue away these questions. For years the gringa has been inclined to believe in the Moon landing as an event that really did happen. My reason being that, for one thing, think about how many people would have to be in on such a crazy secret for all of these decades. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the gringa’s pretty certain that somewhere along the way, throughout all of these years, surely someone would have cracked.

Despite my confidence in NASA, however, the gringa must admit that by becoming informed about the Van Allen radiation belts, I may have to change my position. This may be the smoking gun that exposes how the entire world has been duped. The U.S., desperate to remain relevant and seen as the most powerful nation, outperforming its most aggressive global competitor, may have gone so far as to stage the most incredible hoax of all time.

You see, the Van Allen radiation belts surround the Earth. Consider these belts to be an enormous layered donut and the Earth the donut hole. They radiate outward as far as 36,000 miles depending on whether they are expanding or contracting. The innermost ring generally spans from 400-6,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The outer belt stretches generally from about 8,400-36,000 miles above Earth. The ISS is safely tucked into orbit at a mere 230 miles from the Earth’s surface in what is called a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Orbiting between the two belts is a GPS satellite set 12,500 miles away, just inside the innermost rim of the outermost belt, where radiation levels fluctuate according to waxing and waning cycles. Just within the outermost layer of the outermost belt is NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles away studying the mess solar radiation makes from time to time.

In addition to the Van Allen radiation belts is the problem of a cloud of cool, charged particles which envelopes most of Earth’s outer atmosphere. Its nearest edge is about 600 miles from the surface of the Earth and extends outward and stops just inside the outermost edge of the furthest Van Allen belt. Scientists call this cloud the plasmasphere. It seems to cause particles in the outer belt to scatter. As the electrons scatter they create a loop which becomes a well defined belt. The plasmasphere is responsible for creating and maintaining the belts. When a powerful solar event occurs, such as a solar flare, some of the belts’ electrons can be forced by these extreme conditions into the space void between the belt layers, thus creating the waxing and waning effect of the belts.

The craziness of this relationship boggles the gringa’s mind. Think about it. The electrons are prevented by Earth’s magnetic field from penetrating all the way to Earth and frying all of us Earthlings. However, they also do not have enough energy to escape and dissipate into outer space. Thus they are trapped in this belt system which results in a protective barrier that traps dangerous radioactive solar radiation so that we don’t all get fried. Without the belts we fry. Without the plasmosphere we fry. Without the magnetosphere we fry. And if we hang out in any of these Earth preserving regions for any length of time we fry. Is that not the most amazing irony? That which preserves us can also kill us.

Considering that the Moon is 238,900 miles from the Earth, these dangerous, radioactive belts must have been navigated safely with the technology available in 1969. The only other option would have been to “thread the needle”, so to speak, by using a trajectory that would have allowed astronauts to travel through a narrow window of space that would have avoided the highest concentrations of radiation within the belts.

If this path had been successfully traveled in 1969, and adequate shielding technology existed, why is the danger posed by the Van Allen belts considered to be the main obstacle and unsolved problem preventing a consecutive Moon landing today? The gringa suspects the answer may lie in the fact that there really was no successful 1969 Moon landing to begin with.

Here are the words and quotes NASA uses to describe the Van Allen belts today:

  • 2 donuts of seething radiation.
  • Impenetrable barrier.
  • Wax and wane.
  • Expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

So what did NASA do to deal with the dangers of the Van Allen belts? Did they come up with a competent strategy and deliver the real deal with a man on the Moon or did they scam the entire world?

Newly discovered in 1958 by scientist James Van Allen, not much was known about them two years later when the first solution was offered up. In 1960 Robert O. Piland and Stanley C. White told NASA that hoping to shield astronauts effectively from the radiation was impractical. They did believe they could provide moderate protection and a safe enough route that would enable astronauts to not fry as they passed through the outer belt.

NASA got to work with a Group On Trajectory Analysis. Van Allen, himself, suggested that by detonating a nuclear warhead the crew could clear a path of travel. The gringa can only say, “Thank goodness NASA didn’t do that!” However, the defense industry in the US really mucked things up by nuclear testing which only increased the intensity of the radiation levels in the belts.

In 1964 NASA officials were confident that with the right skin on the spacecraft, a layer of protection provided by instrumentation, and the right trajectory, the risk was nominal to the crew. Equipped with dosimeters to record radiation exposure, the gringa is puzzled over the final results as reported by NASA. The agency reports that over the course of all the Lunar missions, astronauts were only exposed to radiation levels that were actually lower than the 5 rem a person working in a nuclear power plant would be exposed to annually. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission claims that the average American is exposed to a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem annually. A full body CAT scan delivers a radiation dose of 1 rem. So any human going through some rather routine medical procedures can easily reach the same radiation exposure levels as what NASA reported in the Apollo Moon landing crew.

ISS astronauts deal with radiation issues daily. It took the gringa quite a bit of head scratching and calculating to discover how ISS astronaut radiation levels compare to the astronauts of the Apollo Moon missions. They use a different measurement, the SI system. Maybe, if there is a conspiracy, this is by design to confuse amateur sleuths like myself. Anyway, I digress.

Basically one mSv is the equivalent dose of radiation an average person would be exposed to on Earth in one year’s time. Astronauts on the ISS are exposed to 1 mSv daily! This exposure takes place well outside the Van Allen belts in a space station constructed with the latest technology in radiation shielding and manned by personnel equipped with the safest space suit equipment available. How, then, could minimally protected astronauts pass through highly radioactive belts not just once, but twice, and not be ravaged with radiation? If ISS astronauts report a daily radiation exposure equivalent to a year’s worth of radiation back home and are not in the belts themselves, how in the world is the public supposed to believe that the Apollo astronauts were only exposed to the amount of radiation a person would absorb if they had 4-5 full-body CAT scans?

The  gringa has become incredibly skeptical. The gringa is going to be hopping mad if she discovers hard evidence that proves we have all been had. NASA, please explain.

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

www.nrc.gov

www.popsci.com

www.mun.ca

www.newscientist.com

www.windows2universe.org

Image Credit: www.wakingtimes.com

Cannibals & Their Lightning God


Two things the gringa loves most are science and history. When the two collide I believe I am in Paradise.  Add the spice of controversy and there is simply no going back for the gringa. Archaeologists in Greece have made this dream combination come true for the gringa.

Let us travel back 3,000 years to the bleak mountaintop of Mount Lykaion in southern Greece, which some ancient Greeks believed to be the birthplace of Zeus, rather than Crete. This is the revered resting place of an altar featuring a grisly design of sheep bone construction. This is where the religious leaders of Greece hoped to pacify their god of gods, Zeus himself. Offered up are the bloody sacrifices of what one would expect to be sheep or goats, considering what the altar is made of. Think again dear readers.

For those schooled in literature and philosophy, when Greece is mentioned, you hearken back to the days of Plato and Socrates. You believe these sophisticated thinkers of Greece gave birth to civilized society as we know it. As you cruise about town, passing homes with columned porches, you remind yourself that this bit of architecture was passed down from an exceptionally cultured society. Or not. Not when the skeletal remains of a teenage boy near Zeus’ altar indicates that young, human sacrifices were being bled out on top of a table made from sheep bones in efforts to gain favor with a god that might rain down lightning if he got pissed.

But Mount Lykaion is historically linked to Greek athletic festivals, isn’t it? Isn’t it one of the ancient sites with a stadium and hippodrome, all indicators of a culture that appreciated athletic competitions? The gringa wonders, was death the price for losing or, could it have been the price for winning, or, could it have been the “opening ceremony” after which a priest turns around and commands, “Let the games begin!” Who really knows at this time because this is a recent discovery.

And some scholars are not too happy about revelations of human sacrifice as part of ancient Greek religious ceremonies. I mean, after all, Greece way back then liked to call rival foreign nations nasty names like barbarians and cannibals. But, really, who do they think they are fooling? Remember, Socrates asked Adeimantos if he had heard the latest gossip about religious zealouts feasting on the remains of their human sacrifice. Socrates includes a gruesome description of a terrible recipe of mixing the entrails of different victims which, if ingested by some hapless cannibal, transforms them into a wolf. Considering that Adeimantos had already heard the story, it seems that the nasty religious practices going on atop Mount Lykaion were no big secret among the ancient Greeks. It’s just big news to us.

So what kind of science goes into the decision that the remains of this young man belong to a specific era and culture? Scientists have to analyze the composition of the altar itself. Considered an “ash altar”, the gringa’s depiction of it being constructed in the fashion of, say, a dining room table and made completely out of sheep bones is not an altogether clear picture of what scientists are dealing with. Imagine, if you will, that ancient priests led sheep and goats to a sacred place, slit their throat, then burned the remains. Each sacrifice slaughtered and burned atop the ones that went before. Eventually a mound of ash accumulates and becomes a ritual platform. At Mount Lykaion the mound was almost five feet high.

So, the scientists use their handy-dandy equipment to measure remains of bones to see which animal (or human) they belong to. If human, they measure the pelvis to see if it is male or female. Then they need to determine the age of the remains. The first thing that comes to mind is ye aulde carbon dating technique. But there are other methods that can be used on other objects and archaeological sites to determine age:

  • Stratigraphical: The science of geology comes into play with a method that relies on the accumulation of soil to calculate the passage of time. The premise is that the area where people live results in layers of earth becoming deposited. Gives a whole new meaning to the saying that a particular area sure has “built up”.
  • Astronomical Chronology: Astronomers have used their knowledge to study the fluctuations of solar radiation to calculate when ice ages have occurred. The common argument is that 5 have occurred.
  • Dendrochronology: This science was pioneered in 1904 by A.E. Douglass who created the technique of analyzing tree rings to determine not only the age of a tree but to find indicators of drought, disease and hearty growing seasons.

So, if history, science and drama are appealing to someone you know, remind them that there are still exciting discoveries to be made, particularly in Greece. For young people who long for the curiosities that are found in archaeological digs, remind them that not every ancient puzzle has been solved. Along with history, they should also have a strong foundation in STEM studies.  And lucky for me this archaeological site has its own website keeping fascinated individuals like myself up-to-date on their latest discoveries. Because the gringa really wants to know just went on up there.

Sources:

www.greekmythology.com

www.biblicalarchaeology.org

www.oocities.org

lykaionexcavation.org

Image Source: tse4.mm.bing.net

 

 

 

Calling The North Star! Come In North Star! Do You Read?


Have you ever wondered if you got stranded on a desert island and launched a desperate plea for help through ye aulde “message in a bottle” method just how long it might take for someone to receive your communique. And if the hands it eventually fell into would even be able to read your language and decipher the message? That’s kind of the case anytime a messaging project is embarked upon launching human messages into outer space. And the latest one has been undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA).

A Simple Response to an Elemental Message” is sending a radio message to the North Pole star, also known as Polaris. The ESA believes that mankind is living in what they dub “The Critical Decade”. They posit that, as has been historically proven, ecological decisions today will affect future generations, for bad or good depending on what we choose. Do we set our future grandchildren up for failure or success? For mere survival or a flourishing civilization? The world’s response to the UN Climate Change Conference of last year will decide what the next decade will mean for the human species as an entire collective.

The ESA’s “Simple Response” project invites every single human to participate. Ask yourself the question, “How will our present environmental interactions shape the future?” Form your response and contribute your own perspective to the project. Later this fall, all contributions will be transmitted from the ESA’s station at Cebreros, Spain and sent on a journey at light-speed into outer space. The voices of the human race will forever be encoded into a beam of light. Will it be the last hurrah of a race bent on self-annihilation because of an obsession with comfort and consumerism?

As of the gringa’s composition of this post there were 3,139 contributions. By visiting the project’s website and clicking on the “Contribute” tab, Earthlings can fill in the blanks and contribute their own two cents worth on the subject of climate change. The gringa contributed the following under the name: Gringa of the Barrio, Houston, TX:

“If we don’t act now, this message may be the last gasp of a race bent on self annihilation through the obsessions of creature comforts and consumerism. If more intelligent beings are out there, please come help us save us from ourselves.”

After your contribution you may want to check out the mission statement of the program. The gringa, usually a light-hearted person who is perpetually positive, came away quite sobered. The reality of this project is that it may very well be, in the future, an archaeological relic to be discovered by some alien race of the future. It may be a message that inspires these ETs to travel to our home world and try to reconstruct the history of a civilization of fools who destroyed themselves because they arrogantly believed they were simply too great to fail.

 

Source: www.asimpleresponse.org

Image credit: 2.bp.blogspot.com