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!


Kuang Chi Science



Image Credit: Cosmos TV

Video Credits:

PD AeroSpace


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.




Johnson Space Center

Image Source: Gizmodo

Video Source: Licensable

Slingshot Time Travel With Cosmic Strings

If you have read sci-fi novels or watched sci-fi flicks, then you have heard about cosmic strings. If you have dabbled in physics and astronomy you have probably heard about string theory. But, really, what the heck is a cosmic string? What do they do? Do they really exist? Are they space garbage that can be recycled for another purpose?

You know how Enterprise always seems to encounter some kind of space “anomaly” that causes all sorts of mayhem and the crew doesn’t know what the heck it is? That’s pretty much what life is like for space explorers now. We really have no idea what kind of stuff is out there in outer space. Cosmic strings are just one such anomaly.

Cosmic strings exist. They’re weird. They have different textures. They have walls that define their domains. They’re powerful, possibly containing the energy-mass of our Sun within a tube about one billion of a billionth the size of an atom.  And scientists don’t know much more about them.

The gringa supposes that it’s a good thing that there are not very many of them, as far as we know. Running into such a weird anomaly could be disastrous for astronauts that don’t know what they are dealing with. But some scientists are not above guessing, er, um, theorizing about cosmic strings.

Physicist J. Richard Gott introduced the novel idea of using cosmic strings for time travel. Scientists suspect that these stringlike objects had something to do with how the early universe formed. They are left-over tidbits whose job is all done. Or not. Perhaps they could be upcycled to warp space-time near a black hole making time-travel possible. Is Gott for real?

Cosmic strings are skinnier than an atom. And they are taut, like a rubber band, because they are under immense pressure. So, just like when you launch a spitball by pulling back a rubber band, Gott thinks the same concept could be applied to cosmic strings. But we wouldn’t actually strap a spaceship to a cosmic string and slingshot it across the Universe.

To make Gott’s theory work, he proposes relocating two strings so that they are close together. Because of the great pressure they are under, putting two close together would create a massive gravitational pull on anything that passed near them. The strings would basically suck in a spaceship at such an incredible speed that the crew would experience time dilation.

Time dilation is a fancy way of saying you have changed the passage of time. On Earth, six months may have passed. For astronauts on a cosmic string launched spaceship bound for Mars, the trip might only take one month. They return home to find everyone a couple of years older yet maybe they only experienced the passage of a few months. Yep. Cosmic strings are weird.

The gringa can imagine the rich and the famous exploiting cosmic string travel as the next great fountain of youth treatment. Maybe we could blast across the galaxy our worst criminals on multiple trips. This could essentially leave them for the next generation to sort out. We could find all sorts of crazy uses for time dilation travel.

But Gott’s theory goes further. If the strings were positioned near a black hole, he thinks we could warp time-space and create what he calls a “closed timelike curve”.  This would make true time-travel possible. Currently, time-travel is theorized to only be possible to make trips into the future that are one-way. A person cannot travel back into the past, only forward into the future. But Gott thinks he has found a way to yesterday.

The compounded effects of gravity on a spaceship by two cosmic strings and a black hole could create a loop with the cosmic strings. This powerful loop would propel the spaceship back through time. But there’s a catch. To re-visit a previous birthday just one year prior, a loop of cosmic string powerful enough would need the mass-energy of our entire galaxy. So, basically you sacrifice the life of everyone and everything in the present just to return to life of a year ago. Not so sure it’s worth it. Today doesn’t seem so bad.

Sources:  Astronomy Cafe

Science – How Stuff Works

Science Daily

Image Credit: Pinterest

Video Credits:  FloatingUniversity

National Geographic


A Wave Making Waves & Suction Storms

(Originally posted 2/3/17 on Read With The Gringa)

An enormous gravity wave is making waves in space exploration circles. The wave of excitement began when Akatsuki, a space probe that is the handiwork of JAXA, Japan’s space agency, observed a 6,000 mile long gravity wave. That’s the longest gravity wave ever recorded by humans in outer space. But why is this a big deal? What does it mean? I mean, after all, gravity waves have been discovered before. Is this just a big deal because this is the largest one scientists have observed?

What a gravity wave does is affect a planet’s atmosphere. It can cause weather disturbances. What kind of weather does Venus have? With an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide, 3% nigrogen, a tiny speck of water vapor (about .003%), and a density nearly 90 times greater than Earth’s, things could be very interesting on Venus should a storm begin to brew.

Picture peeking out the window of your Venus habitat and seeing golden, yellow clouds billowing that stink of that rotten egg stench of sulfur. Imagine watching as they raced across the sky at more than 200 mph. And consider that you would have to be looking through glass several inches thick to withstand the atmospheric pressure outside. Sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it! But, really, is there more to this excitement than just discovering the longest gravity wave ever?

December, 2015, JAXA’s Akatsuki observed the largest gravity wave ever over one of Venus’ mountain ranges. It looks like a whitish, bow shape in the image below:


When the probe made its journey once again over this region a month later, the wave wasn’t there. The original thought that the wave was stationary had to be discarded. What scientists now theorize is that the gravity wave formed in Venus’ lower atmosphere and was then gradually pulled into the upper atmosphere by the rapid rotation of clouds. Once it reached the upper atmosphere it dissipated. So, on Venus, a storm is really like a great big gravity vacuum rather than wind and rain like Earthlings are accustomed to. Instead of stuff falling down, stuff is sucked up.

For scientists, this gives them more clues to understand what conditions are like on the surface of the planet. Instead of a lower atmosphere that is stable, quiet and boring, scientists are more inclined to believe that life on Venus’ surface could be quite thrilling and dynamic. It also means that any plans for a surface mission would require rovers that could withstand the possibility of a massive gravity suction storm. The gringa envisions the tornado scene that the “Wizard of Oz” opens with. That would be life on Venus if things weren’t “nailed” down really, really well. Or, Venus colonists could all just live in bouncy castles. When a massive gravity suction storm approaches you batten down the hatches, ride out the storm and who knows where you end up! New neighbors and new landscape when it all blows over. How exciting!

Sources: JAXA


Dispelling Some Space Myths

(Originally posted 2/2/17 on Read With The Gringa)

If you are a dear reader of Read With The Gringa, chances are you are also a fan of science fiction. The gringa has seen every episode of her favorite series like the Star Trek franchise, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. If it’s a cheesy, classic or epic sci-fi movie, I’ve seen that, too. What about some of the common themes and aspects of this genre? Is there any kernel of truth to these commonalities or are they just creative license?

Spacecraft Explosions: Cosmic space battles between a star ship battle cruiser and a sporty, feisty spacecraft that maneuvers with lightning speed often end up with the absolute destruction of one, maybe even both. But what about those fabulous fireballs and bits and bobs of bulkhead that create an enormous blast radius. Does that really happen?


NO! Why? Well, think about it. There is no oxygen in space! No oxygen, no fire. The best you could hope for is an insignificant spark that, pfft, quickly goes out. And the boom factor? Nope. You wouldn’t hear anything either. Sound only travels through Earth’s atmosphere because of a complex recipe of certain gases. So, that pfft effect goes for explosive sounds as well.

Human Explosion: Sci-fi takes a reverse course on the pressure effects of deep water on the human. Go deep enough in the ocean without protective gear and  the water pressure will implode you. Not a pretty sight for a human to be crushed like an aluminum soda can. Sci-fi screenwriters like to imagine the vacuum of space would result in the atoms of humans no longer experiencing enough atmospheric pressure to remain cohesive. Thus an explosion of eyeballs and fingernails. A rather gruesome and bloody prospect. Is this accurate? Would astronauts who experience spacesuit failure explode in the vacuum of space?


First, you would quickly begin to dehydrate as water began evaporating rapidly through your pores. You would also begin to feel the chill of MINUS 455 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, instead of exploding into itty-bitty bits, you would quickly become a human ice cube. About 30 seconds to be exact.


The dark side of the Moon… who could live there? Well, a colony on the “dark side of the Moon” would get just as much sunlight as the “other” side of the Moon. You see, it is only the Earth that the Moon hides its backside from. That’s because of tidal influences between these two planetary objects. The Sun, on the other hand, enjoys seeing every aspect of the Moon.


What of golden sunsets and sunrises? Are they as beautiful when seen from space? Well, they are definitely as bright but not golden. Stars, which our Sun is, have colors that are determined by their temperature. Our Sun, at about 6,000 degrees Kelvin, is actually white. It only appears yellow to us Earthlings because of how it’s short-wavelenths of blue, green and violet are scattered as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere. And you know those wavy little rays we always draw around our Suns when we are little kids? Yeah, those are all wrong too. The Sun isn’t burning. There are no flames. It is EXPLODING with gases so it’s glowing. Like a light bulb.


Have you ever seen those crack pilots zipping about in their little shuttles, navigating like aces through the hazards of an asteroid belt? Yeah. That’s not real either. Even in a really, super crowded asteroid belt with millions of space rocks each of these hunks of geological junk are most likely hundreds of thousands of miles apart. How do you think NASA’s probes make it to the farthest reaches of space if there were such dangerous obstacles? Remember, space is really, really, really, big. Plenty of room to navigate.


Could a huge meteor slam into a wilderness area and create a fiery crater? Nope. A crater, yes, but not a fiery one. I know, I know. The dear reader is saying, “Hold on there, gringa! I have actually seen a fiery fireball of a meteor that raced across the sky!” Yes, I am sure that you did. However, it is the outer surface of the meteor that has heated up, liquefied and converted to flaming plasma from the friction of hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at high-speed. Its core, however, is frozen solid from a lifetime in space where temperatures are hundreds of degrees BELOW freezing. So, you would most likely end up with scattered fires from fiery plasma scattering on impact and then a soggy mess in the crater after the cosmic ice ball melts. Basically, a meteor is like a flaming snowball.


The gringa’s really sorry if she spoiled things for you. But I must remind you that the most important thing about science-fiction is that it is FICTION. So enjoy it the way it is meant to be enjoyed… an escape from reality into fantasy for pure pleasure. Let it titillate your imagination and inspire you to greater things. But always know the difference between fact and fiction!



David Darling

Geoffrey Landis


How Stuff Works

Image Credits: Discovery Channel

Star Trek Desktop Wallpaper


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Top Tenz


Animal New York


A Triple Play Cosmic Conspiracy

(Originally published 1/30/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Mars, Utah and Germany are all in cahoots together. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been conspiring together for years and now evidence of their plot can be found in Utah. Yes, they thought they were clever, selecting a remote and rugged location, inhospitable to human life, in order to keep out prying eyes. But their schemes have been foiled. The gringa has discovered the truth of their cosmic conspiracy triple play.

I have discovered intelligence, yes, special intelligence. Intelligence that speaks with a German accent and rolls about the dust and craters surrounding the desert wilds of Hanksville, Utah. Cosmic conspiracy agents have been spotted in this region and are said to have the uncanny navigation skill of a Himalayan Sherpa and the adorability of a frisky coyote. And all controlled by the whims of German taskmasters. But what are they, the dear reader asks? What are they doing? What does it mean? Well, the gringa’s gonna tell you.

The whole world knows that global space agencies are itching to get to Mars. Scientists and engineers are all engaged in frenzied efforts, developing the technologies to make a successful mission possible. One thing astronauts will need on such a long-term deep space mission will be robots that can think for themselves, AI’s (Artificial Intelligence). There will be no shirking of duty on a mission like that. Everyone has to be capable of doing their part, even the robots. No slacking and leaving your duty for someone else to perform.

It seems that Germany has come up with a great design for a couple of robotic rovers, CoyoteIII and SherpaTT. However, seeing as how Germany is sorely lacking in landscapes that are similar to Mars, the good people of Utah have played host to NASA and the ESA. Exploring the crevices, rocky hills and dusty craters of the terrain around Hanksville is the work of the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Boy, those Germans are precise, that’s for sure. What a mouthful!

Now, these German scientists didn’t just dump costly technology off and wash their hands of the whole mess. They also aren’t managing their robot trials nearby, bunking with the locals. They are engaged in a more accurate enactment of what it would be like to work with a robot that is as far away as Mars. The robots in Utah are controlled by scientists in Bremen, Germany. “But what are they doing with them,” the dear reader says. The gringa thought that you would never ask.

It seems that there are some issues with how these babies get around. Although technically considered rovers, that doesn’t mean they are limited to just rolling about.  There were some issues to work out with the legs, navigating tight spaces and collecting geological samples. And, according to DFKI, the Utah tests were a success.

For now, there are no definite plans for Mars, but the gringa can see where these scientists are going with this technology. They will first use it to explore non-human capable places like underwater volcanoes with a tenuous future goal of searching for water on Mars. All the gringa can say is that the control center in Bremen looks like the most amazing video arcade. I may scrap my ambitions of becoming a space gringa, soaring through the heavens in a spacecraft, for operating gizmos like this. Check it out and see if you agree with me.

Sources & Image Credit:


What Really Is Out There?

Just about everyone, at some point, has asked themselves the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” Although most people are satisfied to follow up this question with non-committal discussions, others take it much farther. There are those, like the gringa, whose insatiable curiosity simply must be satisfied. You see, the curious types like myself are the people who walk up every single aisle in the grocery store even though their shopping list may only have four items on it. We simply must exhaust every possibility!

Once you start digging about credible resources like NASA and other science communities, you discover that there is plenty of fodder for the ET rumor and conspiracy mills. There is so much strange space stuff out there that NASA has a inspired series on the Science Channel entitled “NASA’sUnexplained Files”.  Now, keep in mind that the material comes from NASA but any oddball conspiracy theory comes from people unaffiliated with NASA. So, the gringa’s advice is watch for pleasure 100% of the time as well as with a critical eye so you don’t get sucked in to fringe science thinking that it’s “real” science endorsed by NASA. From 2012-2016, dozens of episodes have aired.  Here is one  of the gringa’s favorites:

Say Cheese!  James McDivitt, a NASA engineer and astronaut during the 60s, claimed that he filmed a UFO. The episode entitled “Something Out There” recounts his story. McDivitt served on mission Gemini 4, June 3-7, 1965. The Gemini 4 space capsule was orbiting Earth. McDivitt recounts that fellow Astronaut Ed White was sleeping as they drifted. Engines were off and instruments powered down. The gringa then supposes that McDivitt was probably quite bored. No one to talk to and nothing else to do. Of course he was watching the scenery pass by. And, suddenly, he claimed that a cylindrical white object appeared. Because he lacked any reference point for distance, he could not even guess at its size. However, being a well-trained astronaut, McDivitt did not remain frozen in awe, wonder and fear. He grabbed a camera and began filming. NASA will naturally dismisses it as space debris. You can look at the old footage and decide for yourself.

There are so many interesting episodes and amazing mysteries the gringa can’t possibly list them all. But my dear readers may be interested to explore the possibilities of:

  • Thousands of objects detected by the Hubble Space Telescope that travel faster than the speed of light.
  • Antananarivo, Madagascar, August 16, 1954, around 5pm, hundreds of thousands of people witnessed a UFO described as an “electric green ball” descending from the sky near the Palais de la Reine.  Among the witnesses was  Air France military officer Edmond Campagnac and an Air France technical director.  They testified that the UFO seemed to be at an altitude of about 50-150 meters, resembled a plasma shaped lens, was about 40 meters long, comparable in size to a DC4 aircraft, disappeared behind a hill and then an explosion was heard. A silvery metallic object flew behind it, was about the same size and produced blue exhaust flames. Both were completely silent. As the craft passed over, power outages were experienced but quickly resumed. Dogs were howling like crazy and other animals exhibited signs of panic. As the craft traveled over a farm, herds of animals were seized with panic and began to stampede in different directions.
  • Is Venus where the ancient ancestors of Earthlings are from? NASA says if the right ingredients are there, an Earth-like civilization on Venus would have been possible billions of years ago.
  • Is there 2,000-year-old evidence that the Earth once had 2 moons? And could we actually have 2 moons right now?


Huffington Post

Science Channel

UFO Casebook


Image Credit:  Aluminum Foil Hat Society