The Space Race

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Stardate 240217 SXX launches 'Woodsmith'.  Significance unknown.   As the Third Rock mainstream media appears to be grinding to a halt, time to sling a hook at ex-terrestrial launches :

"An important shipment has finally arrived at the International Space Station, after a series of errors, delays and challenges. The SpaceX capsule smoothly arrived at the station the second time around as astronauts grabbed hold of the cargo ship, as the two of them floated somewhere over Australia. The capsule had been scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. But a GPS error stopped it from getting too close and the move had to be aborted.

The Dragon - loaded with 5,500lbs of supplies - lifted off on Sunday from Nasa's historic moon pad at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Now leased by SpaceX, the pad had been idle since the close of the shuttle programme almost six years ago. The station's six crew members will accept another shipment on Friday, this one from the Russians. Given the Dragon's delayed arrival - lift-off also occurred a day late - the astronauts were under orders to open the capsule as soon as possible to retrieve sensitive science experiments.

"Sorry about the delays," Mission Control said. "Now the real work starts."

""Congratulations Dragon on a successful journey from Earth and now welcome on board," said French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who used the station's big robot arm to grab the capsule. At the top of the crew's unloading list: 20 mice that are part of a wound-healing experiment. Another 20 mice are taking part in the study on the ground, as control subjects. Other newly arrived research: highly infectious MRSA bacteria, triple-contained so it does not get loose; stem cells; and instruments for studying lightning and the Earth's ozone layer. 

"The Dragon will remain at the space station for a month before it is cut loose to bring back science samples and other items. It is the only supply ship capable of returning intact to Earth, as all the others burn up during re-entry. SpaceX is one of two private companies flying up supplies for Nasa.  Besides the French astronaut, the space station is home to two Americans and three Russians."

Think... the local co-op.

The road to the Red Planet has been delayed ...

"About a year ago, SpaceX announced a 2018 mission to Mars. The plan was to send a probe to land on the surface with a possible sample return mission to follow at a later date. With less than two years to go, the private spaceflight company has decided that it can't meet that deadline after all. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell recently announced that the company is pushing their Mars mission back to 2020.

SpaceX has a lot on its plate. The Hawthorne-based company is currently making regular cargo deliveries to the ISS, struggling to develope a commercial crew program, working on a heavy version of its Falcom 9 rockets,  and trying to build a brand new spaceport in Texas.  With that much going on, SpaceX decided it didn't make sense to also rush a Mars mission, which has its own set of technical challenges.

Postponing their Mars mission means having to wait another two years, as the best window for a launch to the red planet only happens once every 26 months. Hopefully this extra time gives SpaceX the chance to tackle their other problems first and then focus on Mars.

SpaceX's mission to Mars, when it finally happens, will involve placing a modified Dragon capsule on the surface of the Planet. That capsule will be the heaviest object to ever land on Mars, so getting it to the surface in one piece presents virtually endless challenges. Mars's atmosphere is too thin to slow down something of that size with a parachute, so SpaceX is planning to use booster rockets.

SpaceX has previously floated a sample return mission to Mars as well, with a landing module to collect surface samples from NASA's Mars 2020 rover and launch them back to Earth. While SpaceX's original plans did not include sample return for the company's first Mars mission, it's possible the updated timetable will give them the chance to do so."  Source: The Verge

Also spotted :

Meanwhile Trump is urging NASA to bring forward plans for adding two crew members to its SLS rocket EM-1.

"NASA is assessing the feasibility of adding a crew to the first integrated flight of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). NASA is building new deep space capabilities to take humans farther into the solar system than we have ever traveled, and ultimately to Mars."

" The assessment will review the technical feasibility, risks, benefits, additional work required, resources needed and any associated schedule impacts to add crew to the first mission. “Our priority is to ensure the safe and effective execution of all our planned exploration missions with the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket,” said Gerstenmaier. “This is an assessment and not a decision as the primary mission for EM-1 remains an uncrewed flight test.”

The assessment is evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of this concept with regards to short- and long-term goals of achieving deep space exploration capabilities for the nation. It will assume launching two crew members in mid-2019, and consider adjustments to the current EM-1 mission profile"

"Meanwhile, SpaceX now has more time to work on its other big goals, such as the first launch of the Falcon Heavy — a larger variant of its Falcon 9 rocket — which is slated to occur this summer, according to Shotwell. Additionally, SpaceX is updating its Dragon capsule so that it can fly astronauts to the International Space Station. The company is aiming to launch crew aboard the spacecraft for the first time in 2018, however a recent govenment audit cast serious doubts on that time frame.  At today’s press conference, Shotwell maintained that SpaceX is confident about launching crew in 2018 despite what the report said. Perhaps delaying the Red Dragon mission will help the company meet that goal.

If SpaceX does end up launching in 2020, there’s going to be a lot of traffic on Mars around that time. NASA's next Mars rover is supposed to launch in 2020, as well as the rover for the ExoMars mission — a joint project between Roscosmos and the European Space Agency to look for signs of life on the planet. The United Arab Emirates plans to send an orbiter to Mars in 2020 as well, and even China has expressed a goal of reaching Mars by the end of the decade."

Waste not want not ....

No?  Oh ok ...  "For Elon Musk, it’s been a tough 48 hours in an otherwise spectacular year."



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Attention to Detail

Ssshhh ... sneak it in 'ere whilst no-one is looking ;-))

Missing links : "Aldous was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, the zoologist,  agnostic, and controversialist ("Darwin's Bulldog")

Hey ...

 * Whovians will air 8.30pm, Sundays from April 16 on ABC2 and iview.


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SpaceX to Fly Two Tourists

"US private rocket company SpaceX has announced that two private citizens have paid to be sent around the Moon.

The mission is planned for late 2018, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said, adding that the tourists "have already paid a significant deposit".

"This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years," he said.

The two unnamed people will fly aboard a spaceship which is set for its first unmanned test flight later this year.

Mr Musk said the co-operation of America's Nasa space agency had made the plan possible.

He said the two passengers "will travel faster and further into the solar system than any before them".

Mr Musk declined to reveal their identities, only saying that they knew each other and that "it's nobody from Hollywood".

"Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.

"We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year."..."



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Stella Waves

"Hold on to your lightsabers and brace yourself for hyperspace...

FRBs are intense radio pulses that last no more than a millisecond that emanate from remote galaxies billions of light years away. 

They were first detected in 2007 by the world’s largest radio telescopes but ten years on astrophysicists remain no clearer about what produced them.

Enter the team from Harvard with a theory to make Darth Vader splutter in his mask. Or as Yoda might say: “Aliens there are maybe.”

"A light sail uses the tiny amount of pressure exerted by light to produce a small but continuous acceleration that over time allows a space craft to attain great speeds.

The energy levels responsible for FRBs would be enough to push a payload weighing a million tons - about 20 times the mass of the largest cruise ships on Earth.

“That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances,” said Dr Lingam...

"While the prospect of alien life might thrill us mere earthlings, don’t get too excited. The FRBs occur in galaxies that more than two and a half billion light years away. Dr Foster explained: “So these signals we are receiving were created 2.5 billion years ago. Sadly this means that communication with any ‘aliens’ would be impossible as we would be waiting five billion years for a reply to a question we sent them.”.


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"Tonight’s Falcon 9 rocket launch sent the satellite on its way from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first time a purely commercial satellite launch took place at a pad that once served as the sending-off point for Apollo moon trips and space shuttle flights...."


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A Mars A Day

""You are called on to blaze the path of a new European humanism," Francis told the leaders.

"When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying," he said."


Ah, so :

Double vision:


“But solar geoengineering is not the answer,” he said. “Cutting incoming solar radiation affects the weather and hydrological cycle. It promotes drought. It destabilizes things and could cause wars. The side effects are many and our models are just not good enough to predict the outcomes”

Natural alterations to the earth’s radiation balance can be short-lasting, but terrifying. A 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption lowered global temperatures by 0.5C, while the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 triggered Europe’s ‘year without a summer’, bringing crop failure, famine and disease.

A Met Office study in 2013 said that the dispersal of fine particles in the stratosphere could precipitate across North Africa.

Frank Keutsch, the Harvard atmospheric sciences professor leading the experiment, said that the deployment of a solar geoengineering system was “a terrifying prospect” that he hoped would never have to be considered. “At the same time, we should never choose ignorance over knowledge in a situation like this,” he said.

“If you put heat into the stratosphere, it may change how much water gets transported from the troposphere to the stratosphere, and the question is how much are you [creating] a domino effect with all kinds of consequences? What we can do to quantify this is to start with lab studies and try to understand the relevant properties of these aerosols.”

Orbit. Orbit.


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"We're in the process of tallying up what the total amount removed was, but I'm going to guess right now that the amount of atmosphere that was present was about as thick as the Earth's atmosphere - about one or two bars of gas," said Bruce Jakosky from the University of Colorado in Boulder, US.

"The bulk of that - maybe 80-90% - has been lost to space," he told the BBC...

"...the satellite has looked in detail at the properties of the noble gas argon.

Atoms of this gas exist only in small numbers - just a few parts per million.

But argon is very instructive. It is inert: it will not react with other components of the atmosphere or indeed surface materials such as rocks.

This means the only way it can be lost from Mars' air is by being dragged away into space by the abrasive action of the solar wind - the billowing stream of charged particles constantly flowing from the Sun.

Just how much argon has been removed over the course of 4.5 billion years of Mars history is divined from the ratio of heavy to light versions, or isotopes, of the atom. The light version (argon-36) escapes more easily than the heavy version (argon-38), which leaves the gas remaining behind enriched in the more massive isotope...."

Yawwwn ...



"The State Government this week gave Adani the final approval it needs to go ahead with the mine, a water licence that will give it access to 9.5 billion litres of groundwater.

A Department of Natural Resources and Mines spokesman said modelling assessed by the department found up to 4.55 gigalitres of groundwater could be taken per year...

"The last major government approval needed is a water licence and the State Government is expected to announce its decision in the next few days.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland said the mine would be a big win for the state’s central and northern regions, particularly for Townsville where the project’s headquarters is expected to be located...

"Adani has rejected suggestions the mine will contribute to climate change.

“This project is a net positive impact on climate change in the world,” Adani Australia chief executive officer Jeyakumar Janakaraj said last year.

During his speech in Brisbane on Friday, Mr Janakaraj said the mine was vital in reducing India’s carbon footprint, with the higher quality Australian coal producing less pollution than that mined in India.

“The 20,000 megawatts of thermal energy (in India) needs a reliable source of good quality coal to keep the net impact to climate change neutral or lower,” Mr Janakaraj said.

“The thing about Carmichael is, it will reduce the carbon footprint of existing plants which are using Indonesian or Indian coal today, by say 30 to 40 per cent.”

Oh. Hang on ..

"The Indian company has been embroiled in illegal dealings, bribery, environmental and social devastation and allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering, according to a legal research brief released by Environmental Justice Australia in February.

In one concerning incident, a ship carrying Adani coal sank and caused an oil and coal spill along Mumbai’s coast, which damaged tourism and polluted the marine environment. A court fined Adani $975,000 for the accident.

Adani was also ordered to pay $4.8 million after constructing Hajira Port without approval, which destroyed habitat, claimed land and blocked access to fishing communities.

The company has also been subject to long-running investigations into tax evasion and money laundering while trading in diamonds and gold jewellery.

“I deal daily with the devastating impacts of coal while working with some of India’s poorest people,” Indian environmental justice advocate Dr Vaishali Patil said.

“Adani tops the list of the worst companies I have come in contact with in my work."


"Adani says work on the Carmichael mine will begin in August despite mounting opposition to the long-delayed project.

Company chairman Gautam Adani told a press conference in India recently that he was confident preliminary construction works would start in August 2017, with first exports to begin in 2020.

However, the project still faces some legal challenges and also requires the Federal Government to pass a controversial native title bill through parliament.

The bill was required after the Federal Court ruled in Western Australia that Indigenous Land Use Agreements had to be signed by all the applicants. Adani’s agreement with the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council did not get approval from all the 12 families represented.

The government was unable to pass the bill this week so won’t be able to consider it again until May or June.

The rise of renewables has also impacted the financial viability of the project, and a final investment decision by Adani is reportedly still pending."

Ah, so ...  A Boat Race.


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Fuzz Balls

"A relatively large near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.

The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona -- a project of NASA's NEO Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona. (An NEO is a near-Earth object). Contemporary measurements by NASA's NEOWISE mission indicate that the asteroid is roughly 2,000 feet (650 meters) in size, and that its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon. At this time very little else is known about the object's physical properties, even though its trajectory is well known.

The asteroid will approach Earth from the direction of the sun and will become visible in the night sky after April 19. It is predicted to brighten to about magnitude 11, when it could be visible in small optical telescopes for one or two nights before it fades as the distance from Earth rapidly increases."

lol ;-)

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Coal Free Day

" THE industrial revolution turns full circle today, as for the first time in 135 years Britain keeps its lights on without coal to stoke the boiler.

As the clock strikes midnight, the country is expected to have completed its first full day fuelled only by greener alternatives.

The last coal-free day was in 1882, before the opening of the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator at Holborn Viaduct in London.

The National Grid’s electricity control room tweeted: “It looks likely that today will be the first ever working day in Britain without coal since the industrial revolution.”


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A Hive of Five

"Theresa May will visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace later to mark the dissolution of the current Parliament before the General Election.

But what does it mean, and what will happen between now and June 8?

  • What is the dissolution of Parliament?

By law, Parliament is dissolved 25 working days before a General Election.

So from now until the results of the election on June 8 the House of Commons becomes vacant.

This means there are no MPs until a new Parliament is elected."

Between a rock n a hard place ..

the 'wider' family?

"Identify yourself"



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Forty Two

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NYMR Choo Choo

"8:31am 8th August 2017

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has been awarded £4.6 million by the National Lottery.

This funding will go towards NYMR’s Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey, a £9.2M Sustainability Project aimed at securing the future of the railway.

An award-winning visitor attraction steams across the Yorkshire Moors bringing delight to more than 350,000 passengers every year.

John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said:

"The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is part of this country's rich railway heritage and this £4.6 million investment, thanks to National Lottery players, will help preserve it for generations to come. The Railway welcomes more passengers than any other heritage railway in the world and is a fantastic way to see Yorkshire's stunning scenery.”

Keeping 18 miles of railway with more than thirty bridges through the difficult countryside of the North York Moors in top-notch condition is a continuing challenge for the NYMR Trustees. The 180-year old railway already invests around £1 million annually but there’s only so much the fare box can generate and much more is needed for the railway bridges and its 50-100 year old vehicles to remain viable.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Trust Chairman, John Bailey, said:

"Fifty years ago our founders had the vision and determination to re-open the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Today we face a challenge of similar scale. We are extremely grateful for the support from the National Lottery.  With its backing, we can plan confidently both the implementation of essential projects and our appeal for the balance of funds required. This should ensure that fifty years hence, people will still be learning from and enjoying the experience of steam across the Moors."

The NYMR is owned and operated by a 10,000-member community-based charitable trust. It employs more than 100 people, depends on more than 1000 volunteers and contributes more than £30M per annum to the economy of the Moors and Coast.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said:

“The North Yorkshire Moors Railway travels through some of the country’s most impressive and beautiful landscape. We are hugely supportive of this project which will preserve the heritage of the line, allow people to enjoy the wonderful journey it provides and engage new groups in its management and conservation.  We are grateful to National Lottery players for helping raise this substantial sum of money and we hope many will come to Yorkshire to experience one of the world’s leading heritage railways.”

To deliver the investment programme, the NYMR must raise matching funds of £4.6M. With generous member bequests and anticipation to secure more grants, the NYMR will need to raise approx. £2.5M from members, passengers and the public over the next five years.

Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey

The aim of Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey is to boost investment in the infrastructure and the activities of the railway to help ensure that it can continue to operate successfully for the next fifty years.

Specific elements will:

  • Renew and repair the worn-out iron bridges around Goathland, removing a threat to the NYMR’s continued operation (£2.67M).
  • Provide a fuss free access carriage in every train, with ramps, loos and seating to easily accommodate the needs of all passengers, whatever their mobility (£770k).
  • Construct a covered stable for up to 40 carriages at Pickering, reducing decay and easing maintenance of the irreplaceable carriage fleet (£4.16M).
  • Better serve school groups and families with a dedicated education carriage at Goathland, building on success at Pickering and providing interpretation so visitors get more from their visit to a perfect country station (£330k).
  • Create a new volunteer hostel at Grosmont, providing decent facilities to encourage new volunteers including families and young people (£450k).
  • Develop initiatives to recruit new generations of volunteers to the line (£170k).
  • Build a railway apprenticeship programme (£470k).
  • Place a new emphasis on the care and management of the 18 miles of lineside (£170k).

(The individual figures are approximate.)"


Thou must not scratch ;-0

Mind o'er Matter.

Elvis Lives.