Sunday, April 1, 2018

Penny For NASA Finally Paid Off!


After a startling announcement from NASA, space enthusiasts everywhere will be happy to know the "Penny 4 NASA" effort finally resulted in the space agency budget tripling to $55.2 billion dollars!

All projects and programs will be fully funded, simultaneously. Unnecessary pork allocations and tax cuts for massive corporations will be re-routed so that the space administration no longer has to pick and choose between heavy launch vehicles, space stations, lunar base plans, asteroid-mining, solar system probes to the outer gas giants, or long-duration missions to Mars.

Very. Serious. Astronauts.

"It was Steph Evz of the STEMulus who convinced us," Said US Representative and current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. "She's wicked smart. Science communication matters."

Representatives of NASA's 10 major US centers gave impassioned speeches at the Capitol about how Americans spend $65 billion dollars on illegal drugs and $600 billion per year in casinos. One Cape Canaveral employee produced a pie chart of the national budget and challenged the legislature to use their magnifying glasses to find NASA's tiny slice. Amid the chorus of gasps and mutterings, all members of Congress voted to take pay cuts.

Will they miss the money? Sure. But it's gratifying to know the legislative branch finally realizes that the space program benefited the entire planet, and handed Earth a technological way of life: medical advances, agricultural progress, satellite and communications maintenance, plus new developments in weather forecasting and natural disaster warnings.


Betty White didn't mince words: "I knew I had to step in amid all this kvetching. Look at the nonsense cancellations since Nixon axed Apollo. It's preposterous. You want something done right? You get a coupla old broads to do it. I'm running for President in 2020 with RuPaul as my VP, and we're going to double NASA's budget again. $80 billion, no joke. Anything less is bullshit, you guys. Now get out of my way -- I gotta go pick up my Deadpool 2 tickets."

Could Earth possibly be that lucky? Is it even possible that for the first time in human history, potentially pioneering sciences might benefit all of humanity, without having to take a backseat to military aims or politics?

In another completely unrelated, ludicrously unforseen and utterly unprecedented move, Johnny Depp announced he would forgo his entire $90-million salary for "Pirates of the Caribbean 7" and donate the entire amount to NASA. 

Johnny Depp

"Seriously, I have enough dough," Depp was quoted as saying on the red carpet, at the gala for the "Firefly Season 2" premiere.

"And why should anyone get that kind of ridiculous cash for a movie anyway? Come on, all I do is dress up and play pretend in front of a camera.  It's hardly rocket science. Ninety million could fund the entire Exoplanet Exploration Program for an entire year!"

Yes. Yes, it could.

Happy April Fool's Day! The White House will release the actual Fiscal Year 2019 Budget on April 16th. Tip: Don't believe everything you read on the internet. Not just today, but kinda always. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Space Station INCOMING! Again.


Hey, remember when Taco Bell used the fiery re-entry of Space Station Mir for an advertising campaign?!

Taco Bell Mir Target
Mir, meaning "Peace" (or "World") in Russian, was a Soviet Space program craft, launched February19, 1986, and was intended for a 5-year mission. After the Russian Federation was established in 1991, Roskosmos continued to operate experiments on the station until 2001.

Side Note: Cosmonauts Aleksandr Volkov & Sergei Krikalev were aboard Mir during the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. When they left Earth, they were Soviets. When they returned from orbit, they were citizens of the Russian Federation. Volkov and Krikalev are the only space travelers whose citizenship changed while they were away from their planet



Mir was scheduled to be decommissioned over the South Pacific Ocean, guided back toward Earth to burn up in atmosphere. However, it was the largest object ever to be brought back from space! Would pieces survive? The marketing department at Taco Bell Corporation created a 40x40 foot target with the words "FREE TACO HERE" around a bell bullseye, and floated it off the coast of Australia.

Chris Becker, vice president of brand communications, confirmed: "If Mir rings our bell, we will offer a free taco to everyone in the USA."

ABC on YouTube https://youtu.be/YMnUZkSrpCY
Click to play hilarious "no tacos for you" video (1:42)

In one of the most precious pieces of space press ever, ABC asked the Little Shop of Physics: what were the odds of Mir hitting that target? YIKES, about 1 in 7.5 billion! No tacos for you! And after all the trouble Taco Bell went through to purchase insurance, covering anticipated costs of free food upon a direct hit. 

Мир dipped from its 139-mile-high orbit, and re-entered Earth's atmosphere on March 23, 2001 -- losing solar panels first, and then many larger modules broke into fragments around the 50-mile mark. Photographers captured swarms of incandescent fragments hurtling toward the sea at near-sonic speeds amid streaming smoke trails. After 86,331 orbits, Mir plunged into the ocean off the coast of New Zealand at 175 West longitude, 25 South latitude.

Flaming space station piecesPartly cloudy with no chance of taco...

Will Taco Bell do the same for China's Tiangong 1 space station? One imagines attrition in the marketing department has resulted in a new staff, but here's hoping they give us another chance for free food.

Over the coming week, most likely between March 30 - April 2, 2018, China's 8-ton orbiting lab is scheduled to fall back to Earth -- uncontrolled, as Chinese engineers have lost contact. In less-than-reassuring press releases, those who calculate possible orbital dynamics cannot say where it will crash -- only that it will definitely crash -- across a HUGE potential area. Like Mir and Skylab (1979), much of the "heavenly" orbiter is expected to burn in the upper atmosphere, but various sized pieces are still expected to hit the planet.

Track Tiangong1 real-time


What are the odds of it falling in your yard? Waaaaay more than 7.5 billion to 1. More like 20 trillion to 1. First off, it's only about 10% of the size of Skylab, and only the 50th largest thing to fall from the sky, planned or unplanned. However, if you're the lucky (?) recipient, be safe: do not touch it, and contact local authorities.

Launched from Jiuquan September 29, 2011, the 19.4-meter-long module has been in orbit for 6 years and 181 days, and by the end of the week, will have completed nearly 38,000 orbits. 

Follow re-entry updates of Tiangong 1 at the official ESA blog, or follow real-time tracking of the space station at SatFlare.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Post-Thanksgiving Planet

Share

For any international readers, you may have noticed American social media buzz about a curious little holiday we call "Thanksgiving", which we pretend is about Pilgrims and Natives preparing meals together at the dawn of our colonial period. It's kinda really totally actually NOT, but as with most holidays, we like myths more than we like historical facts.

This excuse to over-eat is held each year on the third Thursday of November. Then, on the third FRIDAY of each November, we celebrate an even more curious custom known as... Wishing We Could Move To Planet Mercury.


Your Weight On Other Worlds
There is a great contraption at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where you can step on a large scale and see what you weigh on all the planets. I've been on it, and it's quite a fun experience. They also have their calculator on a web page, so you can see Your Weight On Other Worlds.

(I think it goes without saying, there will never, EVER be a book fad known as "The Jupiter Diet".)

Why the discrepancies? In simple terms, gravity is the force of attraction between objects. Gravitational pull is what makes the Earth orbit the sun, or the moon orbit the Earth. Suns, moons and planets are all surrounded by fields of gravity. These fields will be different, depending on things like planet size, mass, speed, its location in any solar system, and any other objects around it in space.

If Earth's force of gravity is measured at 1.00, force on other planets would be:

List of Planets and their Gravitational Forces
We'll include Pluto for the purists. And so I don't have to listen to any arguments.

More complex components of gravity come into play, but in general: the larger the object, the greater the gravity. However, the further away you travel from an object, the less you are affected by its gravitational field. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, so it has the strongest field (except for our Sun, which is over 27+!). You cannot stand on Jupiter, because it's mostly gas. However, if it had a surface, the force holding your body on the planet would be much greater. This increases your weight, even though your mass remains the same.

At any rate, multiply your weight by any of these numbers, and you will see what you weigh on that planet.  Oh goody, math homework!


Monday, August 31, 2015

Death Star Math

Share

So there's this realty company named Movoto, and they somehow grew a sense of humor, despite being a realty company.

Death Star

Not only are they funny, they are space enthusiasts! On the Movato blog, they profess an admiration for SpaceX, and say they have been inspired by commercial space initiatives to think up interesting ways to relate to space!  Hey, don't most of us do this all day?

On this same blog is an amusing info graphic about how many average homes could fit into the DeathStar, and I'm digging whomever they go to complete their artwork.  In terms of working environment, this place must be a hoot. Clink on the link or the picture to see the answer. :)

Launch Your House Into Space

It gets better. Want to know how much money it would take to launch your entire house into space? I tried it. It would take $678 million to put my dwelling up into the black. 

To put that number into perspective, that's just slightly over the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of Ecuador. 

They don't happen to mention whether you will just be orbiting around Earth in your floating house or if you theoretically get to travel somewhere interesting. Pity, as I was expecting the follow-up graphic to be the mileage to Europa!

Earth's Moon

The space fun doesn't stop there. Last but not least, just how large would a house have to be in order for it to be visible on the moon??

No joke, just a little larger than the city of Houston.  I'm betting we wouldn't lack for construction volunteers on the project, however...when do we leave?  Check out Movoto's site -- but make sure it's when you have some time to kill.