Category Archives: Science

Hubble is back up and running….

Well…if you are a science/astronomy nerd like I am, you must have had concern when the Hubble went down a month ago and everything they tried to get it running failed….but the smart men and women at NASA kept at it and just yesterday they switched the telescope to a backup system and it fired right back up and is running like normal….and these people figured all this out with the telescope out of reach over 500 miles in space…and if they couldn’t get it working, Hubble would have become just another piece of space junk since there is no spacecraft that could get to it and stabilize it so spacewalks could be done to fix it….but I think we who have enjoyed the science and beauty that the telescope has provided over the past almost 30 years have to get ready to let it go…after all, it is 90′s technology that has a fixed life and it will die at some point…but I hope it’s not before the James Webb Space telescope is launched next year…it would be so damn cool to have two great scopes in the sky at one time and have them work together to do things that they can’t alone…fingers crossed…

Another toy for rich people…

Well….with the launch of Richard Branson’s sub orbital space ship today and the breathless coverage of it, I don’t get it….yeah, it is something of a technical accomplishment but damn, sub orbital trips were being done 60 years ago so I guess I don’t see that this is any kind of progress….and the news constantly emphasized that this ship can take 6 passengers into space and that is just so wonderful that ordinary people can now go kinda into space…but what kind of ordinary people? At more than 250,000 bucks a seat, what kind of ordinary person can afford that? I don’t mean to be a crab about this but if we tell the truth, this ship is not going to do any scientific research…it is not stretching the limits of technology…and it’s only use is to be another toy for rich people to uselessly spend money on that will go straight into another billionaire’s pocket….not much of an accomplishment in my eyes….

We flew a helicopter on Mars!

Well….I kind of wanted to get out of my rut of topics lately and NASA helped that out with the first successful flight of a helicopter on Mars early this morning….and I just saw a photo from the lander showing it about a foot off the ground and I can’t wait to see the video of the flight that should be available next week…and it takes that long since the data stream is very small from the copter to keep the weight low and give it a chance to succeed…something like this is just what I needed since the start of the pandemics…yep, I said pandemics…one caused by the virus and the other caused by guns that are used for the daily mass shootings we have seen for the past month…but, that is for another one of these. One of the coolest parts of the Mars helicopter saga is that it has on board a small piece of the fabric from the original Wright flyer onboard that the Wright Brothers flew for the first powered flight of a heavier than air craft in 1903…there are some dreamers at NASA still and that makes me smile…and it looks like the proof of concept that this copter is providing will lead to others on other missions no matter what the results of the next flights are…and I can’t wait til the copter can go higher and get a shot of the lander and it’s surroundings…we humans can still do astounding things when we try….

Perseverance has landed!

Well…yeah, I’m a space geek and had to watch the landing of the new Perseverance lander on Mars just a few minutes ago…and the lander is in good shape and sending photos already….I just love seeing the reactions of the people running the show when they get the announcement and data saying the landing went off without a hitch and they have a healthy rover…man, to have a job you love that much and to be successful looks like a great thing…can’t wait to see photos from the helicopter…

Some good virus news…

Well…yeah, I’m writing a lot today but I’m getting other stuff done too…got the first two totes packed in the kitchen after I ran errands…even got some salt to put on the ice outside the door so keep my old butt from falling…but, that’s not what this one is about…just read an article from an epidemiologist that had a bit of good news on the virus in it…in his calculations using the amount of Americans infected, along with the pace of vaccinations, he estimated that we could reach herd immunity with 75% of the US population with some amount of immunity to the virus by the 4th of July….and that is with the current rate of vaccinations at the already doable 2 million per day…and that rate should go up as competent people take charge of the vaccination efforts. So, this could be the biggest damn 4th of July celebration in the history of the country if we achieve it…but there is still a long way to go…so, keep wearing your masks and social distancing…we can do that for 4 more months if the reward is a maskless summer and getting to see our family and friends again….

Just an idea…

Well…I know that in this time of rampant hunger and the looming eviction crisis, to think about science and figuring out a way to fund it is pretty far down on any list until we get this country back up and running again…but, I had a thought today after the sad news that the rest of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico collapsed over the weekend and took the support towers down with it….so, there is nothing left but a pile of aluminum panels and cables that used to support the science instruments…and that thought is to fund a  replacement by selling off the damaged panels in 6inch by 6inch pieces for 20 bucks each…I would buy one of those and turn it into a display to sit in my living room…and since you could get almost half a million or more of them out of a dish that size, that would give you seed money of 10 million dollars to start to replace it and when it was done, you could point to the new one and know you had a part in furthering science in the world. There are times when we need a distraction from what is happening in the world and when we can find something that makes us smile and forget for just a few minutes, we need to allow ourselves to do it…and not feel guilty about it.

RIP Arecibo…

Well…okay, this one is a little different in that Arecibo is not a person but is the iconic radio telescope nestled in the hills of Puerto Rico…over the past couple of months, support cables for the receivers that hang above the dish have failed…the first dropping a receiver through the dish and putting a 30 foot hole in it…but the final blow came when another support cable failed and the people in charge have determined that trying to repair it is too dangerous so the telescope will be dismantled instead. For 57 years, this telescope has been on the forefront of deep space exploration…and I’m sure you’ve seen it in the many movies and tv shows it was featured in and I even used it in my first novel as a setting for one of the characters home base. It is always a sad day for us nerds when an iconic part of our nerd world is gone but 57 years is a darn good run for any piece of technology….my only concern is that with the death of this telescope, too much of the essential research that is done to just figure out our universe will be lost since it appears that the politicians (repubs) will only support it if it can be immediately monetized…but that’s not how science works…it always pays off but many times it’s not the put money in and get money out linear progress mistake that is expected…isn’t just figuring something out about the universe reward enough? RIP Arecibo…

This is exciting…

Well….today is a big day for the US and SpaceX and I am getting excited about the first launch of astronauts from US soil in almost 11 years….it’s only an hour away and, while I know it’s not a milestone like the Alan Shepard or John Glenn launches…both of which I watched by the way…okay, I’ll admit I’ve seen every launch that I could from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space shuttle missions..yeah, I’m that old…and I saw the first successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage so I guess that makes me a space geek…and I’ll freely admit that. One of the things that will make you laugh is that I actually cheered at the first Falcon 9 launch and it’s first landing…after all, it is too damn cool that we have the talent and drive to do something that no one has been able to accomplish in my lifetime…oh, and there is one bit of comedy that I’m probably the only person who has made that connection….the two astronauts who are flying today are named Bob and Doug…does that strike any memory for you? Well…if you were alive in 1980 I’m sure you watched the Canadian tv show SCTV where they had a skit with a pair of brothers named Bob and Doug McKenzie who hosted a tv program called “the Great White North” that was one of the funniest damn things I had ever seen…and when I heard the astronauts were named Bob and Doug, I immediately flashed back to SCTV and laughed my head off…good luck Bob and Doug..eh? Okay, it looks like the launch is going to be a no go for weather today…darn….

Space X sticks the landing…

Well…just a shorty on the Falcon Heavy launch I just watched…another great launch and, for the first time, all three boosters landed successfully! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing rocket launches…ever since I was a little kid at the start of the space program, I have always been mesmerized by how we humans can have built these machines…and now a private company is leading the way…okay, with help from the government but still…it was never in anyone’s plans to land and re-use boosters until Space X came along…nice job…one last thing…what’s the deal, space X? My ad blocker has blocked over 350 ads in the 20 minutes I have had the live stream running…that sucks…shame on you…

Cool stuff….

Well…with all of the criminality and idiocy coming out of the right these days, it is nice to think about something else for a change since there is some cool stuff happening. Just Saturday morning, SpaceX launched it’s first Crew Dragon on a test flight to the ISS as part of the certification process that will lead to a manned flight later in the year…and just this morning, the flight was completed with the spacecraft automatically docking with the ISS after a series of maneuvers testing the craft and it’s ability to pace the station and match it’s orbit. I didn’t stay up to watch this launch and landing since it didn’t launch until almost 3 am…but I was able to watch it Sat morning with the videos being uploaded to Youtube from SpaceX…and that just made a thought come into my head….we really don’t have many shared experiences in this world anymore…at least as related to tv, as we did when I was a kid. When the first moon landing happened in July of 1969, everyone in this country and across the world were watching it and could then discuss it the next day….and that made these events even more exciting knowing you were part of a huge community that was participating in something special…not like today where there are other things to do and watch. Now, I’m not going to go on that the “olden” days were better than today…different, yes, but they both have things that made them special…and, I’m glad I’ve lived through them both….