Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.


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I watched the ISS fly over the other night. That’s the International Space Station. It was just a bright star crossing the sky, but to space exploration nerds like me, twas a noble sight. We’ve come a long way since the Space Race of my youth. If the gentle reader wants to check the ISS out for themselves, this site shows the viewing times from almost any city. And thus one more item crossed off my bucket list. Do people even say “bucket list” anymore? Next item: Seeing a tornado live. That’ll make for a fun blog post. Or amusing tombstone epitaph, it’s win win! In any event, I have been saving space exploration links for awhile now, here’s some cool stuff in recent space exploration news.
An exotic yellow glass found in the world’s deserts in and around Egypt has finally had the mystery of its origin solved. Well, partly solved, science is annoying that way. The glass has been used for decoration since at least ancient Egyptian times, and dates to about 30 million years ago. The question has always been, was it formed in an asteroid airburst, or an asteroid impact event? The jury is now in, examination of the glass has revealed a mineral that can only be formed in the high pressure created in an impact event. The crater where it came from, doesn’t look like that is known. At 30 million years of age, geologic forces might have obliterated it by now. And while this glass is cool stuff, we’d rather avoid another impact event that would create it. NASA has got it covered.
A solution to transient lunar phenomena may be at hand. Basically since at least the 1960s astronomers have observed odd flashes or discoloration on the surface of the Moon. They may be brief or persist for a few hours. And after they are gone the Moon’s surface appears unchanged. The best guess is that they are gases being released by geologic activity, but no one knows. So a new telescope is being trained on the problem, and hopefully it will get to the bottom of it. With manned lunar outposts on the drawing boards, kinda important to know.
Japan is planning an ambitious mission to explore the moons of Mars. Mars has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos. Were they created by an impact event on Mars, or are they captured asteroids? Or maybe one of each? Astronomers don’t really know, but this ambitious mission that includes sample returns and a rover might reveal the answer. The plan is to get there in 2024, so soon enough. This would be the first rover on a minor Solar System body. And aside from the plain scientific curiosity about how the moons were formed, the moons may one day be used as manned way stations for the exploration of Mars. So the more we know about them the better.
That’s because the current long term thinking for humans exploring the Moon and Mars is to have large manned space stations around each. With some sort of shuttle to get to and from orbit. Then build ships to travel between the Moon and Earth or the Earth and Mars. Such ships wouldn’t have to take off or land, massively simplifying their design and allowing them to carry vastly more cargo. They would be human’s first true spaceships. It’s going to rock, I hope I live long enough to see it. Assuming we don’t destroy ourselves first, and with global warming advancing by leaps and bounds, that might be an optimistic assumption.
Even sooner than the Japanese mission, the biggest best rover ever is going to land on Mars in 2021. And it includes a helicopter! Yes, the first helicopter to fly off Earth. Mars only has about 1% the atmosphere of Earth, so its rotors are going to be really spinning. It will carry a little camera and a solar navigation system. Basically it’s a proof of concept mission, it will fly around and do some neat scouting and picture taking, but that’s about all. If it works, bigger better helicopters will go on future missions to Mars and other targets with atmospheres. The Drone Age is beginning in space as well as on Earth.
The 2020 Mars rover is going to be bad ass too, it will also be searching for life, and stashing samples for a possible future sample return mission. It’s also got new instruments, like a core drill and a mini bar. I will likely write a dedicated post about it as the launch date gets closer.
And turns out I had more space exploration links than I thought. So this post I just covered exploration of the Solar System. Next time, the rest of the Universe! Aliens! Cosmology in crisis!
Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.
(Image: A Facebook Meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. If anyone knows who to attribute it to, glad to comply. Or remove it as needed.)

Written by unitedcats

August 7, 2019 at 4:30 am

One Response

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  1. “It’s also got new instruments, like a core drill and a mini bar.” Mini-Bar? Barometer?


    August 7, 2019 at 2:10 pm

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