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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frozen Siberian Secrets


When you think of Siberia do you think of a Russian gulag or political dissidents exiled to the frozen wastelands of the Siberian tundra? If the word “secrets” crosses your mind it may be from the perspective of the kinds of secrets political prisoners might have. It probably wouldn’t occur to the average person that Siberia would be home to some amazing historical and archeological secrets. The forbidding frozen landscape of Siberia is the perfect cryogenic environment to preserve the secrets of Russia’s ancient past. Here are some of the amazing finds archaeologists have found below the permafrost:

World’s Oldest Known Wooden Statue

Shigir is twice as old as Egypt’s Great Pyramid. He may not be much to look at but imagine the story attached to this carving thought to be about 11,000 years old! Carved from the trunk of a larch tree, the religious icon stands more than 9 feet tall, although some experts think that Shigir originally stood nearly 17 feet tall. Now what kind of tools did ancient Siberians have 11,000 years ago when they chopped down the 150-year-old tree that became Shigir? What kind of tools did they use to create this idol? Not only can a face be seen but there are decorative patterns and lines that run the length of his skinny body. No one has yet solved the mystery of what Shigir worship entailed. shigir-idol-worlds-oldest-wooden-statue_3.jpg

Siberia’s Amazons

Many cultures have their own legends of female warrior culture. None more famous than the ladies from the Isle of Lesbos, Nordic Valkyries and rainforest Amazonians. Now Russian women can join the annals of fierce females. The preserved remains of a Siberian teenager was uncovered in the Altai Mountains. She wore pig-tails and had a muscular body that experts believe reveals that she was an experienced horsewoman, which also explains why nine horses were interred with her. Needing very little interpretation was the fact that she was buried with battle axes, bows with quivers of arrows and multiple shields. A sixteen-year-old Siberian girl, possibly of the legendary elite Pazyryk warriors, received an extraordinary burial fit to honor a captain of the cavalry.

a3b12c99dd495f7bdb0a5358fb28db6b.jpg

True Love

Glazkov culture was typically comprised of Mongoloid tribes during the 18-13 centuries BC. Researchers believe they were most likely a hunting and fishing tribe since their civilization centered around the headwaters of the Angara river. Birch bark boats and sophisticated composite bows and spears have been discovered.

Despite stereotypes as a fierce warrior culture, ancient Siberians were just like humans everywhere. They fell in love. A 5,000 year-old burial site excavated by archaeologists revealed an ode to ancient love,  a couple interred holding hands.  Buried by the shores of Lake Baikal, the gringa wonders if this might have been a favorite spot for romance for the two lovers. Members of the Glazhov culture, the couple had their heads facing west, towards the sunset. This was a curious find in the burial since most Glazkov remains have been discovered to be buried in a crouched position with face orientation downriver. Perhaps, for this particular couple, their favorite thing to do was sit lakeside, hand in hand, and watch the sun go down.

Siberian-Couple.jpg

Image Credits & Sources: Realm Of History

scfh.ru

Siberian Times

Daily Mail

A Special UFO Dedication


Today’s post is dedicated to dear reader “mike7sedona”. Thanks “mike7sedona” for some interesting leads on UFO stories.

A dear reader commented on a recent post including three links to stories regarding statements made by a former Canadian government official on the existence of alien life. The gringa became curious about just how many government officials have gone on the record with statements. I am sure there is much more information than what I can include in a single post. However, the gringa doesn’t want to spoil all the fun for my dear readers. This should be enough to whet your appetites and get you hot on the trail of your own UFO story.

Former Canadian Defense Minister, Paul Hellyer, who served during the 1960’s, was interviewed on live television. These are a few highlights of his interview with regard to space aliens:

  • Aliens exist, live amongst us and have developed much of our technology such as microchips, LED lighting and Kevlar protective vests.
  • Aliens are hesitant to share more technology because mankind are poor stewards of humanity. They are particularly unhappy with our nuclear capabilities and the fact that nuclear weapons have been used.
  • They have become so unhappy with our pollution and wars and neglect of the needy that they have been warning key humans since the 1970s that we nasty humans need to change our ways.
  • He and his wife personally witnessed a UFO flying over Lake Muskoka about 120 miles north of Toronto. The sighting lasted for about 20 minutes
  • He discussed aliens with Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. They concluded that there could be as many as 80 different species living among us, many humanoid and virtually indistinguishable from native humans. You could pass one in the street, live next door to one, share an office with one, and never know.
  • Tall Whites are a species who have two operatives working in the United States. Although, in general, they have rules governing their relations with other species such as non-interference.
  • The book “Millennial Hospitality”, written by Charles Hall, is about his relationship with one of the Tall White aliens working with the U.S. government.
  • Species “Nordic blondes” are virtually indistinguishable from natural humans.
  • Short Grey’s have very slim arms and legs, are short, barely taller than 5 feet, have big brown eyes in their very big heads.
  • Most are nice and want to help humanity but a couple of species are not so nice.
  • Their origins are varied such as: Andromedia which is one of Saturn’s moons, star systems like Pleiades & Zeta Reticuli.
  • Alien civilizations on Venus and Mars are thought to be communicating with each other.
  • A portal exists in the Andes, located in Peru that allows for space travel across vast distances.
  • They have been visiting Earth for thousands of years.
  • In 1961 50 UFOs left Russia, flew across Europe, buzzed the North Pole & returned to Russia which inspired a 3 year investigation by Russian officials who determined that the UFOs were of alien origin, four species to be exact.
  • A collaborative effort between powerful groups suppress information from reaching the public: U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, international banks, and specialized military personnel.

The source of this interview, Russia Today, is considered by Western journalists to be the strongest propaganda arm of Russia. However, considering the politics at play, the gringa understands why the West criticizes the East, attacking their credibility. If the U.S. did have a military edge with an extra-terrestrial alliance, of course they would want to discredit any revelation of this truth by Russia.

Unless the video is an absolute fake, edited piece, possibly even featuring a Hellyer doppleganger, there is no disputing the words spoken. Regardless of other reports that could be fake news, it seems that this interview would be difficult to classify as fake. The gringa tends to believe it is a genuine interview and that the former defense minister was entirely sincere.

But don’t just take the gringa’s word for it regarding the Russia Today video. Oh no, there’s more. In addition to the Russia Today interview, Hellyer testified at a Citizen Hearing On Disclosure (CHD) in Washington D.C. in 2013 which was also videotaped. He testified that aliens are indeed living among humanity with two operatives within the U.S. government. He testified before six former U.S. congressmen.

He then goes into the politics between the aliens and humans. The aim is for a one world government. He is also at odds with famed physicist Stephen Hawking who believes extra terrestrials have malevolent intentions toward humanity.

The gringa finds this incredible! Why was this not front-page headline news? However, I really shouldn’t be surprised. There’s actually quite a long list of government officials who have made public statements affirming the existence of extra-terrestrials and these reports have been equally buried or marginalized.

  1. Hillary Clinton campaign team-member John Podesta is an advocate for full disclosure of government information on UFOs and extra-terrestrials. He has succeeded in getting some documents declassified. The gringa can only wonder if this might have played a part in the FBI seemingly sabotaging Clinton’s presidential campaign? Hmmm.
  2. Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich claims to have personally witnessed a UFO.
  3. Former president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, also the current president of the World Chess Organization, claims he was abducted by humanoid extra terrestrials. He communicated telephathically during the experience on their spacecraft.
  4. Former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell is an avid UFOlogist, active in conventions. His origins are from Roswell, New Mexico, site of the famous UFO crash.
  5. Former Air Force Captain Robert Salas claims UFOs commonly interfered with nuclear warhead testing. He claims one of his crews came upon a UFO that was triangular in shape and emitted a substance like molten metal.
  6. The entire U.S. government admitted that the Roswell, New Mexico crash was an alien spaceship then changed their story, claiming it was only a weather balloon. This reversal has created controversy over what is known as the Guy Hottel memo, as well as other FBI documents, which contain descriptions of extra-terrestrial bodies that were recovered along with eyewitness testimony, descriptions of cattle mutilations, NSA documents on UFO crashes and coded messages that were intercepted.
  7. NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong claimed that he and Buzz Aldrin were watched by “someone” with more advanced technology than mankind when they were performing their famous Moon mission.
  8. Nine other NASA astronauts claimed to have witnessed UFOs.
  9. Most recently NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, after returning from an historic one year mission on the International Space Station, included a reference to space aliens in a statement about the harsh effects of gravity upon humans. But this could have been a joke and not at all serious, however many UFOlogists wonder if it was a cryptic admission. Especially since:
  10. Kelly Tweeted a photo from the station on day 233 of his mission which UFOlogists claim contains a UFO in the top right corner.

So there you have it. Dear readers, you will have to follow the links, dig up the dirt and decide for yourself. The gringa is fascinated and by no means a full-fledged believer or a full-fledged skeptic. Just as I am an astronaut hopeful, I am also hopeful that there are other beings out there who are kind. Who have succeeded in creating societies that are peaceful, co-existing with one another without war and greed. Civilizations who care for the planets that make their lives possible. Species that are so generous that they are willing to help us learn how to do the same. Who are so patient that despite how stupid humanity continues to be, they haven’t given up on us. If they haven’t given up on mankind, then the gringa won’t either.

Sources: provided through links throughout the post

Image Credit: pctechmag.com

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

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain


Although Olympic focus has been trained on Rio, the gringa would like to take the dear reader back in time and to the other side of the globe to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. When China was preparing to host this historical event, pollution was high on the list of problems to solve. Although everyone is probably familiar with the tactic of temporary bans on driving & factory operations as drastic measures to help reduce smog. What many may not be aware of is China’s ambitious plans to control the weather, a $30 million dollar plan that they are still working on today. A plan to shoot into the heavens special “bullets” filled with salt and other minerals. What in the world are those crazy Chinese scientists up to? Apparently, nothing new! They’re just trying to make it rain.

Officially called “weather modification”, China helped clear their smog-filled skies during the Olympic games by making it rain, rain, rain. They are not alone in being rainmakers. Fifty-two other countries have developed their own rainmaking strategies. Ten of these countries joining the rainmaking team only five years ago. Rainmaking countries include: Canada, United States, Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Australia, India, Senegal, South Africa, Russia and the list goes on. You can see the map created by the World Meteorological Organization to see who all is in on the rainmaking game.

The gringa is rather ashamed to admit that as for the United States, the origins of its weather modification program is not as noble as China’s. For the U.S., it all started with Operation Popeye which was a top secret program that weaponized weather during the Vietnam War. Although I’m sure the scientists who worked for General Electric had noble intentions, they probably had no idea that the U.S. government was going to take their technology and rain down silver iodide on the poor Vietnamese people.

But I digress. Back to China. In addition to creating rain to saturate polluted air and get rid of smog, they also wanted to prevent rain from spoiling events taking place in the stadium that was dubbed the “Bird’s Nest”. To achieve this amazing god-like feat, the Chinese implemented a 3 stage weather modification strategy:

  1. Officials tracked weather patterns with satellites, planes, radar and supercomputer.
  2. 2 aircraft, 20 rocket launcher & artillery sites sprayed silver iodide and dry ice into remote cloud systems that might approach the stadium so they would dump their rain before arrival.
  3. Nearby cloud systems filled with rain were seeded with chemicals that shrink the water droplets thus ensuring that the clouds would have time to pass over the Bird’s Nest without dropping their rain.

Now was all of this really necessary? The Beijing Olympics were held in August which is a high precipitation season for China so, yes, the gringa supposes that it was necessary. Consequently, China’s success in being a master rainmaker or rainstaller has resulted in China being the world leader in the weather modification sciences. They have more than 1,500 professionals devoted to all things necessary in controlling the weather: scientists, pilots, flight crews. Also proudly serving in the program are tens of thousands of peasant farmers who are more than happy to help their government blast away a cloud when crops have been inundated or have clouds seeded during times of drought. Peasants are on call to operate more than 7,000 aircraft guns and almost 5,000 rocket launchers when called to report to rainmaking duty.

The gringa is not too sure what to make of all this. For the most part I am the type to believe that the less we interfere with nature, the better. However, considering how bad mankind has screwed things up where climate change is concerned, it may just be that Mother Nature could use a few rainmakers. So, I say to the Chinese:

Let it rain. Let it rain. Let it rain.

 

Sources:

www.technologyreview.com

www.wmo.int

uspto.gov

fas.org

wikipedia.org/OperationPopeye

Image Credit:  cloudfront.net

 

 

Asteroids Are A Blast


If you are an amateur stargazer who enjoys viewing interesting cosmic objects through a telescope, there are a few galactic peepshows you want to make sure you execute before the subjects disappear forever. Russia has announced their intention to test their intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by blasting to smithereens certain near-earth objects (NEOs). The spacerocks in their crosshairs range in size from  20-50 meters (65-165 feet). Potential targets are asteroids as well as meteorites that have broken off from asteroids  which orbit the Sun and are capable of surviving the atmospheric burn of falling to Earth, posing the risk of slamming into the surface of our planet. Russia’s target practice could serve to save lives which usually runs counter to the whole point of ICBMs.

The first scheduled missile test is slated for 2036. That is when scientists expect asteroid 99942 Apophis to come within a dangerous close proximity to Earth. Although NASA has definitively ruled out the possibility of an impact, it is still expected to be a close enough encounter that Russia believes it will be within missile range. What weapons junkie could resist such an opportunity?

However, these high grade shoot-en-anny toys require upgrades. It takes days to properly prepare the fuel the rockets use. That means that Russia’s current ICBM’s cannot be rapidly deployed to destroy a meteorite that Earthlings may only detect within hours of coming into range, such as the Chelyabinsk meteorite. It will take millions of dollars to make the necessary changes. However, when they are completed Russia’s weapons of war will be converted to defensive weapons keeping the entire world safe. Instead of Russia launching people killers, they will be launching people saving asteroid blasters. Does that mean that by means of defensive measures we all become Russian by proxy? Or perhaps that simply means for a brief moment, we all become one united human race? Either way, the gringa thinks the sentiment is sweet.

Bottom line for backyard stargazers is that if you want to have a chance of seeing Apophis, you will get your last chance in about thirteen years. The asteroid was discovered twelve years ago and is a bit larger than three football fields. A pass of the asteroid is expected in 2029. This may be humanity’s last chance to view it before it’s 2036 pass that could be its final one if Russia gets its proposal approved and succeeds in blasting Apophis to infinity and beyond.

Although the 2036 pass only has a one in a million chance of impacting Earth, it is still an historical event where astronomy is concerned. Apophis will be the largest asteroid that has ever come as close to Earth as it is projected to. It will zoom by almost 19,000 miles over the heads of unsuspecting Earthlings. Although there are other asteroid’s that pass closer, such as 2012 DA14 which does a 17,000 mile altitude flyby, Apophis is much, much larger than the nearer pipsqueaks.

It is amazing how many NEOs travel by our home planet. Astronomy is a career where there is never a dull moment if you are entrusted with the task of tracking NEOs and projecting trajectories.  This is a very important job to determine courses in order to protect all of humanity from the possibility of a collision. For kids intrigued with outer space and who don’t mind the math, astronomy offers the opportunity of a lifetime. To get a taste of the work they do, follow their reports on NASA’s Asteroid Watch program and stay current with updates through Twitter.

Sources: tass.ru

www.nasa.gov

Image Source:  iluminaci.com

 

 

The Allure of Conspiracy Theories


The gringa loves real science and also a thrilling science-fiction tale. I don’t get the two confused. I love to debunk a curious space related conspiracy theory and I have to admit I have believed my share of crazy conspiracy theories in my lifetime. However, there is a difference, I believe, between a person who entertains a conspiracy theory as a possibility, explores it for its entertainment value or believes one with the joint purpose of proving or disproving, and the person who is a whole-hearted conspiracy theorist. Where exactly is the line in the sand between the two psyches? Why are conspiracy theories so alluring to otherwise sound, reasonable minds?

Take for example the true believers in a  YouTube video  that contains audio claimed to belong to a Soviet Union era cosmonaut, the first Soviet woman in space, who was killed upon re-entry when her space capsule failed to withstand the re-entry burn.  The video/audio was debunked as a hoax by former NASA mission control technician James Oberg. His career encompasses space journalist, historian, author and he is fluent in the Russian language, an expert in Russia’s space program.

The hoax award can probably be given to the Judica-Cordiglia brothers who perpetrated multiple space related hoaxes throughout the 1960s. These Italian brothers liked to while away the time underground in an old bunker filled with electronic equipment. Although they claimed the equipment was for detecting radio frequencies filled with covert signals that they decoded and revealed to the public, the truth is it was their own private hoax production studio.

They also claimed to have captured the dying words of Vladimir Komarov, a Soviet cosmonaut whose spaceship burned up in re-entry. Back then the public must not have known what we know now… there is a radio blackout during re-entry as radiation and intense heat interfere with the viability of radio signals.

Although the gringa is certain the hoax videos and audios were highly compelling, the truth is equally, if not more, interesting. While Komarov encircled the Earth in a faulty space capsule he had what he knew was his last conversation with a Soviet official who was safely aground on Earth. It is reported that Alexei Kosygin was in tears as the two talked, knowing his comrade was doomed to a torturous death by suffocation in extreme heat before the capsule ever disintegrated into a ball of flames. The United States had listening posts in Turkey where Cold War spies eavesdropped on the emotional exchange as  Komarov vacillated between rage and despair at his horrible fate.

To make the tale even more gripping is the fact that Komarov’s gruesome death could have been completely avoided. The original plan was to launch a second capsule the day after Komarov’s launch. The two space vehicles were to dock together and Komarov would swap places with one of the two cosmonauts in the second vehicle.  This was all scheduled to coincide with the Communist revolution’s 50 year anniversary and was Brezhnev’s victory plan to reveal to the world Soviet superiority.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was slated for the second space capsule. He made a tour of Soyuz 1 with a group of technicians and they recommended a postponement of launch due to hundreds of flaws in the vehicle. Forwarding the recommendation, inspection report and a ten page memo to Brezhnev through a KGB friend, the buck stopped with the KGB. No one dared defy Brezhnev’s dream of glory because the KGB agent, Venyamin Russayev, as well as every other agent who had knowledge of the communique, were summarily demoted and shipped off to remote areas within the Soviet Union for convenient, out of the way service.

Komarov knew he was on a suicide mission but he went anyway. He is a true hero. When Gagarin’s KGB friend suggested to Komarov to simply refuse the mission, he explained that if he didn’t go, the government would send the cosmonaut who was next in line, which was Gagarin. Gagarin had tried to save Komarov’s life by recommending the mission be scrapped. Komarov turned around and gave his own life that Gagarin’s might be saved. If that’s not a hero, I don’t know what is.

Soyuz I launched April 23, 1967 and almost immediately began experiencing problems and mechanical failures. Due to these problems the second capsule’s launch was scrubbed from the schedule. U.S. National Security Agency analysts (fancy words that basically mean spies) recorded and translated what they could of Komarov’s communications to ground control. They describe a cosmonaut who knew he was going to die. Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin cried as he told Komarov he was a hero. American records reveal that when the descent parachutes failed, Komarov raged as he entered his death plummet.

This tragic story is as fascinating as it is sad. Why would anyone feel the need to believe a titillating conspiracy theory rather than the tragic truth? And this is not the only case where outrageous conspiracy theories have often been eclipsed by an even more fantastic truth. Consider the following conspiracy theories and their fans:

  • Da Vinci disciples who believe the mysteries in the book “The Da Vinci Code” are real yet the mystery of Da Vinci’s art is even greater than conspiracy fiction.
  • 9/11 Truthers who believe that the U.S. government murdered thousands of U.S. citizens yet is eclipsed by the intricacies of an ideological war by a small group of terrorists that have managed to capture the entire world’s attention, keeping everyone riveted with fear despite their very small numbers compared to the numbers of allied militaries fighting against them.
  • Birthers who believe that President Obama was not born a U.S. citizen is really quite boring when compared to the fascinating, tragic yet triumphant tale of how a young boy became president of the United States of America despite the statistical odds stacked against him.
  • Amelia Earhart fans who believe that she was abducted by extra-terrestrials yet the biography of this amazing, adventurous woman and the impact she has had on the lives of women for decades is so much greater than chasing shadows.
  • Osama bin Laden – conspiracy theorists believe that he is not dead and that the story of his body being dumped into the sea from a helicopter is a cover story. However, the account of the assassination plan by military special forces is the stuff that best selling novels are made of.
  • Princess Diana – conspiracy theorists believe that she was assassinated by the British Royal family and would rather believe such outrageousness when the life of not only this amazing princess but the entire House of Windsor can keep a person riveted to history books for weeks on end.

The gringa would like to know what makes a diehard conspiracy theorist tick. Experts say that they are more than your average skeptic. To selectively doubt certain scenarios or details that are reported by official agencies is normal. But when a critical political view morphs into believing in the omnipotent power of an elite shadow government ruling the world, a real conspiracy theorist is born.

Conspiracy theorists are not necessarily mentally ill despite the fact that they may believe some things that seem outright crazy, unreasonable or illogical. It is becoming such a widespread perspective, psychologists are categorizing it with its own empirical field definition. They explain that distrust is the underlying condition but it is the wrong kind of distrust. It is a form of distrust that is disconnected from critical thinking skills.

Although everyone has trust issues with someone at some point in their life, not everyone becomes a conspiracy theorist. When a person is able to hold on to the general opinion that most people in society are decent people worthy of measured trust, that trust growing as a relationship grows, that is a person managing distrust in a healthy way. However, once a person becomes so cynical that they believe that no one can be trusted, that everyone is out to get something over on everyone else, they are primed and ready to believe that the entire world is at the mercy of global elite puppetmasters.

Conspiracy theorists believe a distortion of the real truth that governments, though corrupt to varying degrees, do have within them some officials who are puppets serving elite interests in order to line their own pockets yet at the same time there are also officials who genuinely want to serve their people. And working within these governments are programs honestly designed to make the nation, as well as the world, a better place while at the same time operating alongside programs designed to enhance and broaden the scope of power for individual elites as well as the nation. So, a conspiracy theorist neglects to believe the good that is very real and their perspective lacks balance because it lacks the entire truth.

You see, cynicism is like a cancer. Once a person gets into that negative mindset, cynicism grows. At first Frank believes that his coworker, Joe, who got a promotion, somehow conspired to sabotage Frank’s chances at the promotion by telling tales behind his back. Once Frank convinces himself of this truth, rather than the real, ugly truth that he’s just a lousy worker unworthy of the promotion, Frank then has to include his other co-workers in the conspiracy when they object to his accusations against Joe. As Frank continues to stew in his own angry juices he soon believes it all started at the top with a boss who must surely hate him. Eventually he either quits or his behavior is so affected he gets fired. Such an experience will most certainly shape his behavior as he continues on to his next job.

Rather than accept the uncomfortable truth that another person excelled his own capabilities and deserved the promotion, rather than believe the nasty truth about self, that he scapegoated a co-worker and then blamed his other co-workers and, ultimately, his boss, rather than accept that he is the problem, Frank continues in blaming others because that is more convenient than believing an uncomfortable truth about self. By perpetuating this scapegoat mindset Frank becomes unfit for any job. As he continues this self-destructive cycle blaming others rather than practicing self-accountability, Frank must then begin to believe in a united business conspiracy of a network of people who just want to keep him down. Eventually this unreasonable paranoia will affect Frank’s view of pretty much everything in his life.

Eventually, Frank is just a very nasty, negative fellow who believes that everyone is out to get him. He concludes if that’s true about society and work environments, it’s not a stretch to then believe that the federal government also conspires against the little people for their own gain. Mainstream and official sources of information are rejected as “tainted” and Frank only relies on fringe journalism because those are the folks who really know what’s going on and haven’t sold their souls to the “establishment”.  Eventually, by his own selective exposure to views that agree with his personal angry-at-the-world perspective, Frank is a full-fledged conspiracy theorist, brainwashed by himself.

So, when you get right down to it, psychologists are right. Conspiracy theorists are not really mentally ill. They are really just Negative Nellies and Nasty Nelsons. It’s perfectly fine to be a Curious Casper and entertain conspiracy theories for entertainment value or as alternative possibilities to an accepted truth that does not have the evidence to completely prove it to be the truth. But keep things in perspective. Don’t be like Frank.

Sources:

www.npr.org

www.yahoo.com/news

www.slate.com

www.scientificamerican.com

time.com

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