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

 

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Launch Your Own Spacecraft


One wouldn’t usually think that a rock-n-roll music producer would be synonymous with space flight, but think again, dear readers. If you haven’t heard of Thirdman Records before, please let the gringa educate you on how this music production company deserves a place at the space traveling table and how you can earn a seat yourself. It’s all because of Icarus.

No, not the imprisoned Icarus of Greek mythology who escaped with his father using wax wings to fly skyward but then plummeted to his death after flying too near the Sun. The Icarus creation of Thirdman Records fared much better in its space travels. Celebrating their 7th Anniversary, the record company made music and space history by launching a specially designed turntable into space that was tethered to a spaceflight worthy balloon. Installed upon the turntable on a play loop was the company’s three millionth record, the recording “A Glorious Dawn” by Carl Sagan from composer John Boswell’s “Cosmos”.

Icarus made a successful journey that reached a peak altitude of nearly 95,000 feet above the earth and traveled for almost an hour and a half. As it reached the pinnacle of its flight the balloon burst and Icarus began its descent, controlled by parachute. The record played faithfully throughout the smooth ascension. Descent triggered Icarus to enter “turbulence mode” which raised the needle from the vinyl but the record continued to spin. When the entire space vehicle was recovered after setting down in a vineyard, the record, amazingly, was still spinning, a testament to sound design.

Now, record producers are not necessarily spaceship engineers. To achieve this mission, Thirdman friend and electronics consultant, Kevin Carrico, collaborated with SATINS (Students and Teachers in Near Space). The team needed to create a design that would not only operate successfully in a near space environment, but would also meet government standards established by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and FCC (Federal Communications Commission), whose approval is required in order to launch any space vehicle.

The design had to take into account that rising altitudes, a thinning atmosphere, temperature fluctuations and the vacuum of space would all be variables affecting the integrity of a vinyl record. It can melt or distort if it gets too hot or exposed to the Sun for too long. Temperature fluctuations create expansion and contraction which could render the record unplayable. As Icarus traveled in direct sunlight, the team designed the turntable so that it would cool the record as it played. To prevent distortion due to temperature fluctuations, the grooves of the vinyl were plated with gold.

From the moment the artists of Thirdman Records conceived of this ingenious anniversary event, it took three years of research and development to finally be ready by launch day. Carrico credits the project’s success to his father, Dr. John P. Carrico, PhD., a physicist who worked on NASA’s Mars-Viking missions. The gringa can fully appreciate how a father like that would inspire space dreams of epic proportions.

Anyone with the same kind of dreams can create their own work of art that they can launch into the heavens as a gift to any alien species that might happen upon it. Contact the FAA and FCC about their rules and guidelines regarding unmanned aircraft systems. Design your space vehicle to meet their guidelines then get approval for launch! Don’t forget to let the gringa know your launch date! I already approve!

Sources:

thirdmanrecords.com

www.faa.gov

www.fcc.gov

Image Source:  astrologyking.com

The Moon Balloon


There is a former NASA astronaut who is partnering with a private company to bring the concept of hot air ballooning to a whole new level. And the gringa is fascinated. If any of my dear readers are familiar with the annual hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, think of that but on steroids.

Former astronaut Ron Garan and spaceflight company, World View, want to provide the ultimate thrill ride out to the edges of space with passengers gliding peacefully into the heavens aboard a giant space balloon. Garan, of course, is the ace pilot of the airship.

When Garan left NASA almost three years ago, it was for just such a purpose as this. He wanted to share space travel with regular folks on a full-time basis. And what a way to make his dream come true! He will be the first pilot ever to achieve such a mission. But why is he doing this? Is it for glory? Well, actually, Garan has more philosophical reasons behind his career move.

Garan believes that such an experience changes a person’s perspective. He believes he can help contribute to changing the world for the better by providing an experience that changes individuals for the better. The gringa quotes Garan’s own words:

“I left NASA… for really one reason. That was to share the perspective that we have of our planet from space and to do that full-time… I truly believe that perspective has profound implications for how we tackle the problems we face, how we deal with each other, politics, for every aspect of human life.”

Now his sentiment may sound rather lofty, but there is actually medical evidence that supports his reasoning. It’s called the “overview effect” and is defined as being a “cognitive shift in awareness” that occurs when an individual observes Earth from orbit. This causes a person’s perspective to change from seeing people categorized by national boundaries to seeing that mankind is one united race, the human race, and Earth is home to us all.

Passengers of the “moon balloon” (the gringa understands it doesn’t really go to the Moon, but, the name is catchy so please humor me, dear readers) won’t have the weightlessness experience of those who have a suborbital ride. It will be a gentler experience, a quiet ride above the Earth’s atmosphere. From take off to touch down, the ride will last about five to six hours, two of those hours being a cruise at maximum altitude for the viewing pleasure of the crew and passengers.

A test flight without paying passengers has already been successfully staged. Although the opening date has not yet been set for tourists to begin booking a seat, that may be good news. It will probably take folks a bit of time to set aside the $75, 000 a ticket will cost.

In addition to space tourism, World View also wants to engage in the science and technology of Earth observation, weather models and using data to help prevent devastating wildfires. This can be done by incorporating a satellite system into the balloon vehicle model being used for passenger payloads.

$75,000 is a bit steep for the gringa to think she’ll be floating in the atmosphere anytime soon. However, I always try to look on the bright side so I’m holding out for a coupon.

 

Source & Image Credit: www.worldviewexperience.com