Monthly Archives: June 2015

SpaceX CRS-7 Launch Photos

This morning at 10:21 a.m. EST, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Space Station CRS-7 mission.  The rocket suffered a catastrophic anomaly at about 139 seconds into the flight.  According to a TechCrunch article Musk tweeted that there was “an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.”  This is the first major failure of a Falcon 9 mission, following 18 successful launches.  The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS will have enough supplies to last them until the next resupply mission later this summer, even with the recent Russian resupply failures.  While this is a disappointing occurrence, it is a part of flying in space, and SpaceX, NASA, and all the organizations, agencies, and companies involved understand that space does not come without risk.  The investigation to the mishap will be conducted by SpaceX with FAA oversight according to SpaceX’s President and COO Gwynne Shotwell during a post launch press briefing.

I was down at the cape for the launch, and took the photos you see below.  For those who might be interested in such matters, they were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 with a Canon 28-135mm Ultrasonic lens from route 402 near Playalinda beach.


The giant crowd awaiting the launch.

The Blackhawk helicopter flying around.

The Blackhawk helicopter flying around.

Liftoff!  A couple of seconds into the flight.

Liftoff! A couple of seconds into the flight.


More or less what it actually looked like in person.

More or less what it actually looked like in person.

About 2 minutes into flight.

Just prior to the anomaly.

Non-nominal event.

Non-nominal event.


Science Thursday: June 25th, 2015

Welcome back to Science Thursday, the day so awesome that you wish it could be a whole week. Yeah, I was reaching there. Some exciting things this week about movies, Mars, more Mars, and Rosetta! But first, goldfish.

Did you ever flush your goldfish down the toilet? Did you ever flush your kids’ goldfish down the toilet and then tell your kids it was in “a better place”? Yeah? Shame on you, you lying deceitful parent. You probably dress up like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and… Anyways, if you did this, and you live in Alberta, Canada, you might not have been lying after all. The government of Alberta has issued a warning to its citizens to stop flushing their fish after several worryingly large specimens were pulled from ponds. Evidently the species has been thriving in the eco system of Alberta, even reproducing at alarming levels, “like bunnies”. Goldfish are now considered an invasive species, and the government of Alberta is working to eradicate them. According to the article in the CBC, some of the fish that were found in the wild had grown to be as large as dinner plates. The article made no mention as to whether baby alligators could survive in sewers.

A scientific journal has urged that Interstellar be shown in science classrooms. According to the American Journal of Physics, the way that the film portrays black holes and wormholes is scientifically accurate. This is something that I absolutely support. I am not a physicist, but Interstellar is amazing not only for the science, but for several other reasons. Not the least of which is Matthew Mahogany. I mean Machgouncgegeoyny. Mahochgonahue. However you say it. Interstellar encapsulates why we as a species need to keep exploring. Kids definitely need to learn that, loud and clear.

Is Elon Musk going to be the first human being to set foot on the planet Mars? Well, er, no. At least, not according to Andy Weir, who wrote the brilliant science fiction techno thriller novel The Martian, which I don’t know if you’ve heard, is being made into a big budget film to be released in November of this year. Weir spoke with Bloomberg Business’s Ashlee Vance about the entrepreneur who concocted SpaceX and Tesla, but also more importantly, the future of spaceflight and how the United States fits into it. It’s an interesting conversation, from a dude who worked out the orbital mechanics of a Mars mission for fun in his free time for the sole purposes of writing an awesome book. Worth reading. (Also it’s not that long so you really have no excuse. Yes, you, I’m talking to you. So get reading.)

Continuing on the theme of Mars, and the future of manned spaceflight as it relates to the United States, a recent Engadget article also dives into the question of going to Mars, specifically, when will it happen and what will it look like. The writer of the article claims to have read through a dense collection of NASA’s “science heavy” documents that lay the groundwork for a Mars mission, and has come to the conclusion that NASA is making progress towards bringing Mars closer to the Moon. But not this close. The article describes in some…reiterating…SOME detail the kind of habitats that NASA is going to need to build, the kind of space suits that the astronauts will need, astro-robo-nauts, and all sorts of interesting things to a space geek like me, and probably, to you if you actually read these. It is also a good read, but it does not even mention the possibility, or even probability of a Mars mission being an international undertaking similar to the International Space Station, which according to some, like Andy Weir, is likely to happen. Still, also worth your time.

Finally a word from Universe Today, which has been our source for an good chunk of the information on the Rosetta mission over the past couple of months. The mission has been granted a nine month extension, and has been given a chance to attempt to land on the surface of 67P/C-G. That’s right, potentially two landings from one mission. The comet will reach perihelion on August 13 of this year, and the orbiter will attempt a landing after the comet moves farther from the sun but before the spacecraft runs out of fuel. The mission extension will give Rosetta more time to make observations as it orbits the comet from a distance to avoid damaging its instruments in the comets dust tail.

That’s it for Science Thursday. Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Science Thursday: June 18th, 2015

Welcome back folks! Science Thursday again. We have exciting news about Philae, Elon Musk, and Europa, but first, we have to get started with everybody’s favorite encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Galactica! …I’m just kidding, that’s not even everybody’s favorite in the fictional work in which it was created.

Wikipedia! The site we all have actually learned something from, but are warned against by our teachers. (I think I’ve learned more real things from wikipedia than the teachers who warned me actually taught me…weird…) Wikipedia is turning on HTTPS encryption on all of its web traffic. This is good for you and me, because we both know that our wikipedia search history is a little whacky. This will hopefully prevent big brother from misinterpreting my interest in hydrazine as a plot to blow something up. Just to be clear, NSA employee reading this, I have no plot to blow anything up. So now feel free to wiki the most weirdest things in your head and not worry about prying eyes, except anybody who can see your computer screen, because they might think you’re weird. It’s ok though. I don’t think your weird. Well, I might. This is the Internet after all.

Apparently Jupiter’s great red spot is shrinking? Over the past hundred years, the massive storm on the jolly red planet has been subsiding. (Why is Jupiter jolly? Because of it’s astrological significance. Which is always 100% accurate.) The planets massive superstorm has actually disappeared before in the 1600s according to the Universe Today article, but reappeared in the early 1700s. If it does disappear again in our lifetimes, I know my elementary school classmates and I will be doubly gipped on planetary knowledge gained in primary school, what with Pluto being fired and all. “When I was a kid sonny, there were 9 goddamn planets, and the big one had a giant spot in the middle!” “Mommy, Grandpa is talking all crazy again…” Something like that.

Really exciting news. Philae is alive!!! The little lander made contact with its earthlings over the weekend after a couple of month’s hibernation on the surface of Comet 67P-C/G. According to Wired, the lander made contact with ESA controllers on June 13 with a strong signal, and again on the 14th with a weaker signal. The controllers have been working the last few days to try and figure out just what science they want to do with the lander now that the little guy is talking again. While there is reason for celebration, there are also more hurdles that have to be overcome for the team. With the comet approaching the sun, dust and gas might obscure the flight path of Rosetta, which acts as a relay antenna for the lander.

From the Elon Musk department, SpaceX is building the hyperloop. Well, when I say building, I mean prototyping. SpaceX will build a short (1 – 3 miles) test track in California, where the company is based. The train will have the potential to carry passengers at speeds over 760 miles an hour, and, well, still isn’t planned for commercial implementation. Two companies, named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop Technologies (this begs for a press conference mistake…”The winner is Hyperloop…uhh…something with technologies….dammit I always get these two confused…”) are bidding to make the actual cars. According to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s focus is still spaceflight and eventually sending humans to Mars. (Like Mark Watney!!!)

NASA has given the go ahead for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, which scientists believe could harbor life deep within its oceans. The planet has an icy crusts, underneath which scientists believe lies liquid oceans. The mission could lift off as early as 2022, depending on funding and hardware selections.

In space events in history, this week was the anniversary of two female firsts in space flight. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first female cosmonaut, and first female in space. On this day in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American in space, flying aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Interestingly enough, Tereshkova was not the first Russian female thing into space, as the dog Laika launched in 1957 was female. Likewise, Ride was also not the first American female mammal in space, as both monkeys Able and Baker – and possibly other American space animals – were female.

Here is an article explaining why we should build swimming pools on the Moon. That’s it for Science Thursday. Thanks for reading.

Science Thursday: June 11th, 2015

Science Thursday, June 11th edition. All-in-all, some pretty exciting science-y news this week, although the biggest bit of news is science fiction-y. Don’t worry though. After some investigation, it is certainly worthy of inclusion.

First off, some really cool news. No, I mean it. A team at MIT has created an ultra-cold molecule. The team successfully brought molecules of sodium potassium (NaK) gas to a temperature of 500 nanokelvins, which is over a million times colder than interstellar space. The linked article is on MIT’s news site, and goes into a lot more technical details for those of you so inclined. Worth clicking.

Check out this kick-ass photo. It was taken by Trevor Mahlmann and Max Fagin who are astronomers based in Southern Illinois, and managed to capture an image of the ISS passing in front of a waning gibbous Moon on June 4. This happened during the station’s “High Beta Angle” season, in which the station was continuously lit for about 5 days. Pretty cool photo.

More from Universe Today, Ceres. Those mysterious white spots from before? Well they’re back. Actually, they (probably) never left. Unless they’re little huts set up by aliens or something. Who knows? The point is: we still don’t. While the new images are of great detail, the spots are too bright to give up their secrets. We’ll see what the next round of photographs brings.

NASA says that the average daily temperature in most countries will exceed 113 F (45 C) by the year 2099. The agency has just released a new set of climate change projections aimed at helping developing counties fight climate change. The data could ultimately lead to predictions of new sea levels, and draught preparations in locations before that are going to be prone to draught before the draughts hit.

In an article full of puns that make my articles look nice and civilized (when they’re that bad, one is all it takes to be ‘full’) we find some news about the little spaceship that could (not Philae) LightSail! Actually, LightSail-A. The little technology demonstrator has unfurled its sail, after some glitches were worked out. Now, we have pictures. As the philosopher Aristotle used to say, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” At least, I think it was Aristotle…

Finally, the most important bit of news of the week: there is going to be a movie version of The Martian and it is going to be out in November. Upon hearing this news Tuesday I promptly overnighted myself a copy of the book off Amazon (it had been on my ‘to-read’ list for a little while) and after receiving it today, am currently fully encompassed in it. In fact it’s a testament to my self discipline that I put it down to write this tonight. I will say this though, having read the little bit that I have. If you’re going to read it before the movie comes out, do it now, so you can get over all the ways that they will fuck it up in your head and still be able to enjoy the movie as a movie. Here’s the trailer, which according to the youtube comments may have some spoilers? (I honestly don’t know yet)

That’s it for Science Thursday. Thanks for reading, see you next week.

Science Thursday: June 4th, 2015

Welcome to Science Thursday! We start today in Virginia.

Virginia it seems has opened up some roads to self driving cars. They join some other west coast states in opening roadways to self driving cars, and hopefully in a couple more decades, there will be more self driving cars all over the place, like that Audi in I, Robot (the movie).

NOAA has said that the pause that evidently happened in global warming, evidently didn’t actually happen. Some NOAA scientists have done some research, and while it may have seemed that the world was not ending for a little while, turns out it’s going to end just as quick as we thought it was. I think they used some other language, but, you know.

Oh no! The BBC has told us that we’re all drinking our coffee all wrong! In their latest edition of “10 things we didn’t know last week” they link to a video explaining your circadian rhythm and how drinking coffee at certain times during the day can mess with the natural energy boosts your mind gives your body, and essentially render the nectar of the Gods useless. The meat of it is this: don’t drink coffee between 8 and 9 a.m., 12 and 1 p.m., 6 and 7 p.m., or within an hour after waking up at any time of day.

Facebook has taken inspiration from Alex Garland’s last film, Ex Machina, and decided to open their own AI lab. Actually, they probably didn’t take inspiration directly from the fi…I’ll let you go see it and decide. Any who, the new lab, located in Paris (evidently there are a bunch of AI researchers there) will work on “‘ambitious long-term projects’, including natural-language processing and speech and image recognition,” according to the article in the BBC. This will be good, because in the future you can have robot friends on Facebook to bolster your social status. Wait…no…they must have some other motive…

I’m already beginning to lose track of the bidders for the 2016 U.S. presidential race, but there are a few that stick out. Among the few is a guy called Chafee, Lincoln Chafee. One of this things, which he has already begun talking about in interviews with Wolf Blitzer of CNN (the Breaking News Network), is that he wants the United States to switch over to the metric system. While this would be a radical move that you would only expect from a democrat, his reasons for wanting to switch – to be a more “internationalist” country – is something that might not be best. All that aside, the metric system would probably not be the worst thing to happen to America in the long run. We certainly wouldn’t crash any more spaceships into Mars, which would be a good thing since we will probably send people there in the next couple of decades.

All right, well, that’s that for this week. Thanks for reading, see you next time.