Finally watching ISS

Hi,
today I am finally going to write about my first experience watching ISS, the International Space Station. I have probably seen it before it is just that I did not realize that it is not an airplane.


ISS is a space station (biggest that humanity has) orbiting around 400 kilometers above the sea level. There is lot of interesting stuff about it but in this post, we are going to concern ourselves only with the very simple part, just seeing it.

Do not get too cocky. With naked eye, it will look like a bright star, around the magnitude of Venus at its best. It moves fast and even the best flights above your place will take maximum of about 6 minutes. From my experience, simple binoculars do not make much of a difference, though telescope could and I am yet to see how it will work out with good one, for example if I am able to track it.

Now it might not seem as much but remember, you are seeing the ISS, 150 billion $ project! The upside of it is that the station passes everyday above your place. It will always happen at sunset or sunrise, that is because the station must be sunlit but you have to be already in the shadow of Earth.

Most internet sites will recommend you the NASA webpage but it is horribly done and I will rather link to this one: http://iss.astroviewer.net/observation.php

In the case you are the type of person who uses smart phone, you can also download some app like ISS tracker.

Dragallur

Note: even though ISS will pass over 95% of the world population it has over every place pauses for many days. This is because the Earth is rotating under it and it takes some time before it comes to “phase” again.

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Taking closer look on Sun

Hi,
today I will write about a unique mission that will go closer to the Sun than ever before (2018).


Something like 3.9 million miles will be the closest approach (should I rant about the imperial units or just convert them?). This means going through the Sun’s corona, that is the legendary region that is apparently not quite well explained, meaning, we do not know why is it hotter than the surface of the Sun, but I am no expert on that.

It is caller Parker Solar Probe, I am thinking that they named it after Matt Parker and the Parker square (anybody?). There are going to be top grade instruments on the board and these need to be carefully protected, aka. when you put 11.5 cm of carbon-composite “desk” around it, it will work.

This thing is going to be fast in its top speed, like 194 km/s, yeah that’s per second which is crazy fast. That would be less than 2 seconds to get from my home to Berlin, fun, I guess it would take some time to accelerate me to that speed (unless my life did not matter).

Another interesting thing that has an effect here and that I mentioned in other post, is that it is hard to hit the Sun since the Earth is traveling very quickly around and just because you get out of its atmosphere does not mean that you fall towards the center of its orbit. Parker Probe will use Venus to slow down to get there without such effort.

Dragallur

Problems that we will have to face

Disclaimer: This is my opinion, not advised by anybody, feel free to comment below.

Hi,

There are two problems that we as humans will have to face. I will write about the two that I think are crucial and only now people start to appreciate them.


The first problem is Global warming. It poses a lot of threats not only to fragile ecosystems but to whole Earth. Some of the effects listed from Wikipedia are: extreme weather, sea level rise, ocean acidification, changes in agriculture, environmental migration and much, much more [1].

Global warming is the first problem that we need to address but in this post, I will concentrate on the next issue on the list. Humanity will eventually die out if we are not able to spread in the Universe [2].

First, we could of course ask the question when we should colonize other planets or even if it is good idea. Let’s take a scenario, when humanity successfully colonizes Mars and at the same time Earth is becoming more inhabitable. At some point, we simply leave it behind, maybe let it rejuvenate without ever learning how to live in a way that does not cause rest of life extinct. What would continue? Maybe we will be able to spread out in the rest of the Solar System and eventually leave it behind. In what state though? And does it even matter if Mars which is right now mostly empty wasteland suffers any damage if it is even possible? Maybe we would change into species that travels the Universe and leaves dead rocks behind? What if we encountered other life out there, would them await the same fate as Earth? We are authors of our own morality and clearly there does not seem to be objective one. Our values change, we are starting to really appreciate our surroundings, the question is, are we fast enough?

Picture of Mount Sharp on Mars, taken by Curiosity rover.

Dragallur

Note: I am aware that there are different things that could happen. I took time today to write shortly out what I thought about one of them.

[1] There are also problems not related to Global warming but are as well very global, for example what are we going to do with plastic.

[2] See also, gamma ray bursts, solar eruptions (big problem but probably no immediate deaths), huge asteroid collisions and other things that would wipe us out.

SpaceX meets Moon (soon)

Hi,
private space company SpaceX aka Elon Musk decided to visit make a flyby around Moon in 2018.


Where to start? Well it probably began with two private citizens who were willing to pay many MANY millions of dollars to get a nice trip. Yes, space tourism, exactly.

This trip is planned to be done with Falcon Heavy which is rocket (not build yet) designed by SpaceX and is supposed to have 2/3 of thrust of Saturn V (the rocket that got Apollo to Moon). The crew will stay for about 8 days in Dragov v2 (v standing for version) capsule that is also not tested yet. Both of these things are supposed to be run later this year.

Dragon V2 in hover test [1]

The crew are definitely some rich people but as of now they are staying anonymous. At the end of this year they are supposed to start some training but otherwise the mission will be automated so they wont have to do much stuff.. also that means that they wont do much science either.. only some tests on their bodies but otherwise it really is only “sightseeing” trip.

Why this whole thing though? Well it will add lot of publicity and earn some money and it is place to test Falcon Heavy and D2 capsule[2]. The last time people went to the Moon was in 1972 and this mission is quite similar to Apollo 8 which was also such a flyby.

Otherwise we do not really know much details, SpaceX will have to do a lot to be able to accomplish this goal and right now it is behind schedule.. there were some rocket explosions which slowed the company down. We will see how it looks like in the upcoming months.

Dragallur

[1]When the rocket starts to explode and there are people on board, you need to be able to escape really fast. The capsule was not tested on rocket yet.

[2]Also if part of it is payed by somebody else.. well why refuse?

Picture source: By SpaceX Photos – Dragon 2 hover test, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46531492

Pioneer Anomaly

Hi,
today I will write about strange phenomena that occurd to Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecrafts.

Pioneer10-11.jpg

Pionner – artist’s concept


Both of these missions are quite old in the space exploration sense. One launched in the year 1972 and the other 1973. They were made to explore outer part of Solar System (meaning still quite close) and after that they of course just went on.. there is no way to retrieve object so far and it would not make much sense.

We lost contact with both but before that we knew how far they were because of their signal. There was something wrong about it anyway, every year when we predicted where they would be they would lack behind about 400 kilometers. Thats almost the length of Czech Republic though Pioneer 10 is able to cover the distance in 33 seconds so that is not much of a difference. But… there is a lot known about the forces acting on the spacecrafts and those could not be it. For example gravity from Sun is slowing them down but it is a thing that one can account for quite easily.

It took few decades to solve this problem (paper finally explaining it was published in 2012). Now we know that it was because of radiation from the spacecrafts as it was losing heat. Pioneers were spin stabilised so that their antennas always pointed towards Earth. The way it was build scientists found out that the radiation causes acceleration towards Sun. But it is kind of weak only: (8.74±1.33)×10−10 m/s2

Thats now much but in Viking program if radiation pressure from Sun (which is a different thing of course) would be ignored it would miss Mars by 15000 kilometers which is quite important.

Dragallur

Pionner picture: By NASA – http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/image/spacecraft/pioneer10-11.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2878008

Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission

Hi,
today I am going to write about proposed mission to investigate Europa.


Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission is a plan consisting of orbiter and a lander directed towards Jupiter‘s moon.

The reason why to choose Europa is quite clear. There is probably liquid water under its surface and if one launches such a thing, it might get public’s attention.[1] (Which might be now more important than ever considering how Trump wants to cut down NASA’s budget especially on the most important thing that they do: Earth’s climate monitoring.)

First of all the orbiter, which would be launched in the next decade, would learn as much as it could about the surface of the moon, Jupiter’s magnetosphere (see later), weird water

Composite image of Europa superimposed on Hubble data

This is two images of course. The original does not have the Europa in middle but only black spot. You can see the plumes on roughly 7 o’clock.

plumes and so on. There are 9 instruments together planned.

Instruments on those orbiters are able to collect data faster than we can receive it. This is because there are more mission that need attention of our receivers. Those are not some small receivers but specialized ones and all missions have some time to send information. For example New Horizons, just from its flyby of Pluto kept sending data for some 6 months.

In case of Jupiter oriented mission this might be a problem because Jupiter has extremely strong magnetosphere which will probably damage the instruments in matter of few weeks. This way it is best to get close to Europa and then get away as soon as possible and send the data later. This can not be done for the lander so it really lasts in matter of days. (Yes, it is still a problem even if you cover your equipment under 150 kilograms of titanium as is planned!)

The lander is thing planned even further into future, around 20 years or so. Much can change and we will see what the priorities are at that point.

Dragallur

[1]People will probably get quite excited by mission promising founding signs of extraterrestrial life.

Isolation for long space missions

Hi,
so I was watching Michael Stevens’s first and only free episode of Mind Field where he was talking about isolation. He mentioned that there were experiments of people in closed systems to test how body and mind reacts to long term isolation.


In 1989 Stefania Follini was for 130 days in a cave without any visitors, she could only communicate via “internet”. She also had books to read and some small animals like mice. Her menstruation stopped at some point, she slept for about 10 hours and was awake for 20-25! Also during the visit she lost 7.7 kilograms. This is not the longest isolation at all.

NASA also did in the last few years isolation of 6 people for 8 and later 12 months. This was to test the team work of the people since they were closed together cabin fever showed up, but they did not have to cancel the mission. In 2007 Russians did experiment called Mars 500 where six males stayed together for even longet rime, 520 days, only artificial light as before, they brought with them books and games or dvds but they had limited connection with outside world.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/hiseasgroup-uhi.jpg

Eight months in “cabin” (project HI-SEAS)

Michael Stevens on the other hand spent “only” 3 days in isolation, but it was a bit different. He was in soundproof small room with white walls, white and black bottles with food and water, sink and toilet. This had dramatically different effects. He had halucinations and could not really tell apart dream from reality, also at one point he was counting bottles and counted 6 instead of 9 😀

What are such experiments for? You want to know what happens to body if it is thrown out of its rhytm and mind too. When we are finally able to get to Mars we need people that are capable of staying in small spaceship for months and months.

Dragallur

Private companies take the space industry by attack

Hi,
today I want to talk about how private companies like SpaceX ,which I already talked about few times and Blue Origin for example, influence the space industry.


For many years there was NASA and only NASA. Now these days you could have noticed that SpaceX appeared, self-funded company with priority of making space cheap. Same interest has also Blue Origin, space company founded by Jeff Bezos, the owner and CEO of Amazon. (billionare as well as Elon Musk of SpaceX)

These two guys and others are aiming for cheap space which is something that NASA was never able to do. After Apollo 11 they wanted to start to use reusable rockets but it never went to perfection. The primary goal of 25 dollars per pound on the orbit of Earth, changed more into something like 25,000 dollars per one pound.

Now NASA wants to make Space Launch System and Orion capsule to get us to Mars. Noble goal it is. There is one “minor” problem. Look at NASA budget over years:

The peak is when we were trying to get to Moon

Right now NASA has about 0.5% of federal budget compared to 4.5 that got us to Moon. Estimates are that the whole Space Launch System (SLS), which is basically huge rocket, will cost in the matters of tens of billions of dollars (this is just development, see later for launch price)! (0.5% is something like 19 billions of dollars).

The thing is that there are other players, like SpaceX who can do this much easily. SLS will be using boosters RS-25 that are from 70s and throw them away after every launch while we have New Shepard of the company Blue Origin that has already been used 5 times over!

From what I have read from Phil Plait and others, SLS will probably be one huge fail. Already now it is behind schedule for its first unmanned launch, not talking about the approximation of mission to Mars (something like 2030-40) where as SpaceX is investing huge amount of money to Falcon Heavy that should be able to carry over time enough stuff to build a base on Mars. Falcon H. payload capacity is over one third of SLS though it should be able to fly several times for the same price as SLS. (I found that it would be able to make more than 5 flights for the same price on the Low Earth Orbit, thats some difference!)

The thing is that NASA is underfunded and right now it even spends money on something that may not ever be working while there are smaller players but with clear and cheaper mission.

Mind you that SpaceX is planning to design Interplanetary Transport System and Blue Origin’s New Armstrong (they are working on New Glenn right now which is one of these huge rockets anyway).

From what I have understood, the key in the future of space exploration is reusability.

Dragallur

Check out these pages for more info: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)

Btw. NASA does not plan to use SLS more than 3 time per year because otherwise they would have to build up huge facilities. Also the first version of SLS will have payload capacity of almost half the one that I counted in this post. They will have to change it a bit and add some things over time to get to the final capacity.

Rosetta and OSIRIS-REx

Hi,
today, as promised I will look upon two missions that has to do a lot with small stuff flying around the Solar System.


Now I said stuff because Rosetta is a mission for comet and OSIRIS is mission for asteroid.

Rosetta is a mission that was launched back in 2004 by ESA which is European organization. It went for the comet 67P or also called Churyumov-Gerasimenko which kinda looks like duck:

Comet 67P on 19 September 2014 NavCam mosaic.jpg

Ok, fine, it does not but look here.. from this photo I would say that it is cat with huge tumor on back.

It went with Philae which is a lander module. It took 10 years to get there. It visited two other asteroids and went around Mars.

After some small changes it went to orbit around the comet even though it has escape velocity of 1 m/s.

Then it deployed Philae in 2014 but harpoons that should have eased the landing did not deploy and the site was much harder than it looked like before (the site was chosen because there was supposed to be “soft” regolith). It bounced twice and almost float away completely. It had battery for 2 days which were of course not enough to conduct all experiments and it could not recharge because it was under some cliff. Nobody knew where it was and we could not identify pictures that it took.

Philae found

It puts me in awe to know that this picture is from a comet. (Philae sits in the right middle of the picture in shadow.)

Luckily Rosetta still orbiting the comet finally found it and put them all in context. The mission ends in 30th September and Rosetta will too crush on the surface.

close up of Philae

The picture of Philae


Now that is for some asteroid exploration back in time.

Three days back, 8th September OSIRIS-REx, an asteroid study and sample return mission was launched.OSIRIS-REx Mission Logo December 2013.svg

The last part is pretty huge, yes USA is for the first time going to return samples from an asteroid to Earth (Utah is the landing site).

It launched on the often used Atlas V and the whole mission for asteorid called Bennu will take 7 years. OSIRIS will stay on its surface for whole 505 days! (Look how planned this whole thing is!)

There are lot of instruments on its board which I wont go through all. There are many cameras because OSIRIS will first orbit the asteroid and scan its surface to find a good place to land.

It has special leg that will try to take samples using gas of nitrogen. It can take up to 2 kilograms and enough nitrogen for three tries.

Dragallur

Juno has some real party instruments!

Hi,
as I promised, today I will write about instruments that Juno has acquired for the journey to Jupiter. Also I wont post anything for something like two weeks again because I am going with my mum and sister to Poland on vacation. After that I will be few days at home and then I will go to Germany for one year (of course I will start writing again at that time).


Juno is very well prepared to gather some data, here are all the things that Juno is capable of:

Gravity measurements

To measure if Jupiter has solid core or not scientists are going to measure Doppler shift of radio waves transmitted back to Earth. The changes of gravity from computed should be from either storms if they go very deep into the atmosphere and/or changes of density and surface of the core if it exists.

JADE – Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment

Those are three detectors that each covers 120° + one special detector that has 270° view. This experiment is trying to observe the auroras of Jupiter by measuring the charged particles that create them.

JEDI – Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument

Right this does not correspond to the acronym but you know.. Jedi 😉

This experiment is similar to JADE except that it consists of only one detector and detects particles with lower energy.

JIRAM – Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper

Again this one watches over auroras but also it makes infrared images of the atmosphere.

JunoCAM

This is somewhat unnecessary camera that is going to collect pictures for public. There was even voting for what pictures it should take because it wont have so much time. As I said in the last post it is going to have some cool resolution but we will have to wait about month for it.

Magnetometer

Juno also has magnetometer that will measure the strength of the magnetic field and its other attributes. It is quite big instrument with 3.6 meters height.

MWR – Microwave radiometer

Such thing was not used before on Jupiter so it could be huge surprise what we will see in microwave radiation because that is exactly what wavelength this instrument measures.

Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer – UVS

This one will watch Jupiter in ultraviolet. Here nice target are again the aurora because they are much easier to watch in UV especially because you can do it even during day.

Waves

Waves are basically two antennas which are about 3 meters long and then one smaller electronic device. This instrument is going to measure the interactions between magnetic field and atmosphere. The smaller device is mostly wire, turned 10,000 times around some bar.


From all of this it could seem that Juno is going to measure only magnetosphere and auroras though this is simply what you can do without needing to crush into the planet. (Which will happen anyway though Juno wont survive of course). All of these things are quite observable from far away and yet they can tell you a lot about the planet.

Dragallur

Check out these pages for more info: 1) 2) 3)