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!


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A One Way Ticket To Tomorrow – Time Travel

Ever really screwed things up and wanted a do-over? Yeah, the gringa does that all the time. That’s what makes time travel so appealing. But is it possible? Theoretically, sure it’s possible, but only if you want to see the future. To start the day all over again in order to get it right the second time around means travelling faster than light and that, theoretically, is impossible. But, actually, that’s good news. That means a spiteful ex can’t travel back in time and take out your grandfather, thus wiping out your future existence. It also means that adventurers who travel to the future have to stay there (maybe). For a trip to tomorrow, it’s actually relatively easy, according to scientific formulas (although no one’s actually done it yet, I think).

You see, if a person hopped on board their spaceship and zipped away into the cosmos at even a fraction of lightspeed, for a journey of say a year or two, they would return to an Earth that had aged perhaps by decades. So, technically, the galactic pioneers traveled to the future. But Einstein offered another option to travel to the future in the blink of an eye, wormholes.

A wormhole is a time tunnel that connects different parts of the universe. By using the wormhole as a direct route across the universe, rather than taking the long route of flying through the curved mass of space, a person would emerge, within moments, in a completely different time zone, perhaps an entire era altogether, hundreds of years in the future. The furthest a person could then go back in time would be to simply use the wormhole to return to the point they started from. However, a Caltech physicist by the name of Kip Thorne believes that quantum theory suggests that once a person traveled through a wormhole it would collapse behind them. A wormhole to the future might be a one way ticket to tomorrow.

So, if you want to have a time traveling adventure, you just have to find a wormhole. Or go to China. Yep. That’s what the gringa said. Go to China. Interesting reports have been in the news for a few years now about a time travel tunnel in China. Located in Guizhou Province, time travelers can break all the rules and travel back in time. You don’t even need a spaceship. You can use the ancient technology of cars.

It only takes, technically, about five minutes to travel the 400 meter length of the tunnel. However, when drivers emerge on the other side of the tunnel their electronic devices indicate that they have traveled back in time about one hour. However, time is a jealous mistress. It seems to not appreciate being lost and chases down evaders like a jilted lover turned crazed stalker. Once people travel some distance from the tunnel their lost hour catches up with them.

What the heck is happening here? It’s a mystery. One that is absolutely adored by science fiction fans, conspiracy theorists and alien abduction proponents. However, China is not a fan of wacky explanations. They have offered a few boring theories as to why this is happening:

  • A transmitter in the tunnel is resetting everyone’s electronic clocks which reset once again when they receive new GPS signals from a different transmitter after emerging from the tunnel.
  • A localized magnetic anomaly messing about with electronic devices

The gringa doesn’t really care why. It seems harmless and loads of fun. The gringa would like to go back and forth several times, perhaps hundreds of times, maybe thousands just to see what might happen. Maybe I’ll lose a wrinkle or two.




SOHO, No, Not New York, Outer Space

NASA is celebrating the twenty year anniversary of SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory). Since its launch in 1995 it has provided scientists with data that has generated almost 5,000 papers and reports. Now, the gringa is well aware that this technology costs the U.S. taxpayer a pretty, little penny. Is it worth it? Well, let’s take a look at some of NASA’s reports on the information it has generated and if mankind has benefited.

Discoveries: coronal waves, solar tsunamis, sun quakes, and about 3,000 comets. The gringa says, “Big deal. Show me why that matters.” Well, for one thing, by detecting the activity of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), NASA can warn us Earthlings when there will be a geomagnetic storm caused by these CMEs colliding with Earth’s magnetic field. Such an event can really screw up my GPS, electronic communications, and put a real strain on power grids. I get lost driving around the block and depend HIGHLY on my GPS. Everyone everywhere depends on electronic communication. And, do you really want to be on the operating table and the power grid experience a “blip”. Mm hmm. Thought so. So, yeah,  SOHO is doing a good thing for mankind. Anything else?

SOHO enables scientists to study invisible solar wind. Why does that matter? Well, solar wind can wreak havoc with technology. The astronauts on board the ISS are especially vulnerable to disaster caused by technological failure. The safety of the folks here on the big blue marble is also highly dependent on reliable technology in order to remain safe and sound. Since SOHO can track and study the comets that pass near the sun, by studying the wind-sock effect of their tails in solar winds, they can calculate reliable estimations of turbulence levels of solar wind and determine if any safety measures need to be taken.

NASA has produced an interesting video about how SOHO has discovered thousands of solar comets: “Why are We Seeing So Many Sungrazing Comets?” at this link:

Of course, with climate change ongoing upon Earth and ozone depletion occurring in Earth’s atmosphere, being well informed on solar radiation measurements is more important than ever. The outermost atmosphere of Earth is illuminated by about 1,400 watts of solar energy. The Earth physically absorbs about seventy percent of this. Weather and sunspot activity affects absorption levels so seventy percent is an average, not a constant. SOHO contributes to NASA’s ongoing efforts to create models of “future Earth” and how it’s relationship with the Sun will affect climate change.

The gringa thinks that, considering SOHO just might help mankind make a plan to save ourselves and this little speck of the universe we shoot through space on, it’s worth every darn nickel and dime we spend on it.

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