Beyond the Cusp

April 9, 2019

The Winner in Israel Is…

Filed under: Israel — qwertster @ 2:06 AM
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The election will be over but probably not the screaming. The tally will be known and all that is left is for the coalition to be announced. It may already have been cobbled together, but all of that will not matter on April 11, 2019, which will forever be known as the day Beresheet and Israel landed on the Moon. There will be those who will still be arguing about the election, but some are always stuck on politics. I know that we are a fine one to talk about obsessing over politics. Today, with elections already driving many to the brink, we decided to be calm and talk about the little spacecraft that is about to be the first privately funded, government free (sort of) that ever landed on the Moon. Beresheet will make Israel the forth or fifth nation to soft-land a craft on the Moon behind the United States, USSR (Russia), China and here comes the iffy part as sources we checked were uncertain whether or not India had also managed this feat. Israel has also become the seventh country to enter the Moon’s orbit after a successful maneuver the last couple of days. Beresheet has six cameras nestled under the top plate on the spacecraft. Just like any teenager with a cellphone, Beresheet is able to take selfies like the one below. That small orb just hanging there in space, that’s us, the Earth, everything we know is on that small orb. And of course we are going to try and fill the article with pictures taken by our ‘little spacecraft that could’ from the small country with big dreams.

 

Beresheet Takes a Selfie with Earth Doing a Photobomb

Beresheet Takes a Selfie with Earth Doing a Photobomb

 

The Beresheet lander weighs in at a mere 180 kg (600 kg fully fueled), she is a four-legged spacecraft and is the smallest, a mere one and a half meters by two meters wide and one and a half meters tall (approx. washing machine sized), and least expensive spacecraft to land on the Moon thusfar. It is so appropriate that Israel, one of the smaller nations (about the same size as New Jersey), would build a spacecraft commensurate with her own size, but Beresheet will hopefully perform some remarkable achievements other than simply landing on the Moon. If nothing else, Beresheet has already sent back some amazing pictures including some from the back-side of the Moon (see below). The launch back in February was successful and the little spacecraft that could has been circling the Earth in an ever-greater elliptical orbit until she reached distances allowing for her to go for Lunar capture. That was the recent maneuver which was successful as Beresheet is now circling the Moon in preparation for landing.

 

Beresheet Back-Side of the Moon

Beresheet Back-Side of the Moon

 

Beresheet Back-Side of the Moon

Beresheet Back-Side of the Moon

 

Beresheet’s arrival on the Moon could not be timed any more perfectly coinciding with the end of election here in Israel on Earth. For the past few weeks, one could have debated which was flying higher, the rhetoric and accusations between the candidates and their respective parties, the hyperventilating by the media over the Mueller findings (one nothing burger) or Beresheet on her way to rendezvous with the Moon. That was settled when she made the transition into Moon orbit putting all these other lesser things into perspective. This little craft has been through a large area of space since the following picture was released before her launch date.

 

Beresheet Readied for Launch

Beresheet Readied for Launch

 

The launch of Beresheet was an accomplishment in any number of ways. The main cargo taken aloft was not Beresheet, but a communications satellite. Furthermore, the different items launched required different orbital incisions with Beresheet requiring an additional burn after the other payloads had been delivered. This was something unprecedented for the Space-X launch teams but it came off according to plan. This is the point where we require showing a video of the planned trajectories, engine fires and everything it is taking to get little Beresheet onto the Moon. Please watch and enjoy.

 

 

Beresheet carries equipment which will collect data on the magnetic field of the Moon and any fluctuations. NASA also provided a laser reflector on the spacecraft, which scientists will use to determine the exact distance to the moon, and to pinpoint the lander’s location. Beresheet also aims to deliver a time capsule to the moon with the Israeli flag, and digital copies of the Israeli national anthem, the Bible, and other national and cultural artifacts. The only sad thing is that Beresheet was designed to function for a mere two days mostly taking pictures and some various readings. We close with additional pictures, enjoy.

 

Moon with Earth in the Background

Moon with Earth in the Background

 

The Beresheet spacecraft’s six-minute deceleration burn Thursday steered the probe into orbit around the moon. Credit: SpaceIL

The Beresheet spacecraft’s six-minute deceleration burn Thursday steered the probe into orbit around the moon. Credit: SpaceIL

 

Mission Timeline

Mission Timeline

 

Photo of the LRA Laser Retroreflector Array image credit NASA-GSFC

Photo of the LRA Laser Retroreflector Array image credit NASA-GSFC

 

Arab Peninsula and Southeast Africa image credit SpaceIL and IAI

Arab Peninsula and Southeast Africa image credit SpaceIL and IAI

 

Beyond the Cusp

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February 18, 2019

Going Where no Man Has Been Before and NASA

 

Yes, we know that is the introduction to Star Trek, but it also defines what NASA was supposed to accomplish. We also note that it has been almost half a century, since December 7, 1972, that NASA was not even capable of sending a man into space beyond Earth orbit. The Space Shuttle was not space exploration and for almost a decade NASA could not even launch Space Shuttles. For the most part, the United States is reliant upon Russia just in order to place Americans onto the Space Station, the ISS. Further, the Space Station did not turn out to look anything like what was envisioned in movies such as “2001,” (see pictures below). We have come upon an unexpected blessing of a new director for NASA being a man of vision and the drive to accomplish. How, you may ask, did we come upon such a man. Well, it was due to the Congress finding that a man of integrity and one who despite being quite conservative and a Republican was willing to work with anybody with a good idea. He desired to work for the betterment of the people who elected him and the entire nation as well. He thought for himself and had an independent spirit. The Republicans attempted to defeat him in consecutive primary elections but the people knew a man of integrity and kept this marvel. They finally found something he would grab ahold of and they could get him out of the Congress, so Jim Bridenstine became the head of NASA. There were his detractors who claimed he had no backing or experience to hold such a post as he was not a bureaucrat and definitely not a paper shuffler who could produce reams of reports while doing nothing.

 

Actual International Space Station and The Space Station We All Expected

Actual International Space Station
and
The Space Station We All Expected

 

So, let’s see exactly how unqualified is Mr. Bridenstine. He is a graduate of Rice University with majors in Economics, Psychology, and Business, and has an MBA from Cornell University. He is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and was a Naval Aviator in both the active duty United States Navy and the United States Naval Reserve where he flew the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft (image below) as part of a carrier air wing. While the E-2C Hawkeye is not exactly a spacecraft or one of the more fancy aircraft, being part of a carrier group and taking-off and landing on an aircraft carrier does require quite a bit of skill even with a prop aircraft. Landing at night, the carrier is no more visible or appear any larger no matter what one is flying towards it to land. Further, he has the degrees which make him exceedingly qualified for any management position. He is already making progress and has shaken things up a bit which sometimes is the fastest means of shaking out the cobwebs and injecting a little excitement. Jim Bridenstine has taken ahold of the directive to return to the Moon and do so while remaining with an outpost firmly and stretched it to also include doing the same on Mars. Where in Congress his clear thinking and independent voice was pretty much quashed in the cacophonic din of egoistic partisan bickering, in NASA it is his voice which will determine their direction and the alacrity with which they accomplish their tasks and it will be his voice alone with no distractions.

 

E-2C Hawkeye

E-2C Hawkeye

 

The White House announced that Bridenstine was President Donald Trump’s preferred pick to head NASA. This choice was quickly criticized by both Republican and Democratic politicians, saying that NASA should be headed by a space professional, not a politician or a Trump ally. The first thing is Jim Bridenstine was not a Trump ally so much as a clear thinking person who was not tied to any rigid political fervency. But as Jim Bridenstine resembled a square peg in a house full of round holes, he was approved if for no other reason than this removed him from Congress. Those who rose against him could not point to any lack in his qualification beyond their distaste for him and that he had never been out in space. Neither had most previous administrators of NASA ever been in space nor finding somebody who would have met that qualification would have limited the field. Having an MBA as well as a bachelors degree in three areas, Economics, Psychology, and Business, would all assist Jim Bridenstine in heading NASA. Knowing economics might assist with cash distribution and minimizing costs; add business to this and these become probabilities which time will be borne out. The final degree in psychology will assist in the most difficult area of management, people skills and knowing how to motivate people to have them reach goals they initially may not have thought possible. Jim Bridenstine is an affable person who has a warmth about him which while assisting him to become a member of Congress, will also assist his efforts to get the most out of the people working in and with NASA. So, the United States may have struck it rich with a man with the credentials who is familiar with flight as a pilot and who works well with others and he is the take-charge kind of person who has great dedication to any task at hand. An aside, before making Aliyah, Jim Bridenstine was our Congressman and had our support in two elections, so we are also a bit partial and believe in the man.

 

What is wonderful to see is the United States finally returning to the original NASA goals and mission, space rather than low-Earth orbit literally Shuttling supplies and people to the ISS. NASA was to be about the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has plans to reach the moon and this time to build a permanent manned station on the Moon. The plan then is to reach out to Mars which could very easily be launched from the Moon base. This would make reaching orbital position and then launch outward far easier despite the fact that the modules would need to be taken largely from Earth to the Moon. One could hope that a permanent space station, which is in the same orbital position as the Moon being on the opposite side of the Earth orbiting at the same speed and path as the Moon, will come to pass. This could be equipped with a space dock where interplanetary craft, and hopefully interstellar craft could be assembled. Another station within the Asteroid Belt could be a location where spacecraft could be built using the Asteroids for the raw materials necessary. This would relieve the necessity of lifting materials from Earth. Granted, until specialized production facilities for such items as circuit boards, computers, cameras, lenses and other specialty materials and objects, they would remain Earth bound. These are concepts for the future and once there are bases and orbital stations, then commercial enterprise will kick in and accelerate space conquests.

 

We hear so many people claiming, and quite loudly, that NASA is not necessary and space exploration and exploitation should simply be handed over to private enterprise just as the New World was colonized and opened up by private enterprise. The problem with this presumed analogy is that it is quite inaccurate. Initially, the New World was explored by governments which set up colonial bases with ports, repair facilities and where ships could be refitted and stocked for a return trip. The governments had to initially provide the support facilities before private enterprise took the picture the rest of the way. The Spanish and Portuguese had ports of call in the Caribbean and South America while the French and English had ports in North America. These colonialists also built or took over ports in Asia as did the Dutch. These ports were a necessity along with the protection provided by the presence of national forces, militaries in these cases. In space there will be the need for the same things with nowhere near as much military as long as the nations of the world can find some means of cooperation. Were space exploration and exploitation left to private companies and individuals, then there would be a great deal of waste adding billions, if not trillion or more, of dollars as each enterprise would need to construct their own base. Think of air travel. Does each airport serve merely one airline or do multiple airlines use the international airports. If the airports were built by each carrier, there would be tens of airports around each major city and air traffic around cities would become excessively dangerous as circling airports could have the paths intersect making for very dangerous air space in and around cities. Instead, government builds the airports and they serve everyone equally according to the fee they pay. Private airlines build their own terminals onto major airports when they have a large service area there but the central hub and the lands are all governmental. Exploration of space will be no different. We do not need to have multiple Moon Bases with one built and used by SpaceX and Elon Musk, one built and used by Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos, one built and used by Sierra Nevada Corporation and Faith and Eren Ozmen, one built and used by The Spaceship Company run by Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, one built and used by United Launch Alliance and Tory Bruno as well as those by other nations and soon the Moon and its orbital path would get quite crowded. With one per nation which is going into deeper space, the Moon will appear to get smaller and smaller just as the Earth appears to have become with air travel placing the entire planet reachable in under a single day compared to taking months to simply cross the Atlantic Ocean a mere century ago.

 

One might hope that numerous nations could agree to build such stations for their use instead of each having their own platforms. This would actually simplify future space travel making it safer. Should numerous nations agree, or if even the entire planet could reach a standard docking system, then should one craft have complete failures of systems from propulsion to any other problem, with everyone using the same docking systems, any nation with a craft in the proximity could become a rescue craft and assist or take on as passengers the crew of the stricken craft. Were every nation simply continue, as it now appears will be, each designing their own docking systems with no regard to matching other spacecraft, which will make any rescue either impossible or additionally difficult requiring space walks outside the craft, always far more risky than if docking were possible, major problems will ensue. Cooperation and coordination when it comes to space and efforts by man to leave Earth and explore becomes essential and is completely logical as when one is in space they notice there actually are not lines demarking the borders of nations as we see on maps and globes. We are not fools and realize that the odds are greatly against the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and others including private companies are not going to have a very high level of cooperation initially. With time they will all reach the same conclusion, space ventures initially are going to be expensive and without at the least some universal system applications starting with docking systems, the cost in reputation and human lives will force cooperation. It will be similar to the origins of the phrase, “I’ll be home with my bells on,” which originated with early horse and mule drawn freight wagons. The drivers would decorate their harnesses with bells which would warn on passages, especially narrow mountain passages, that there was another wagon in the area and by the loudness, one could tell if they were approaching or moving away. When one got into an emergency or became stuck and required assistance, the custom was to give the other driver some of your bells. Thus, arriving with your bells on meant a trouble free trip and if you had more than your own bells on you were celebrated for your having provided needful assistance. Needless to point out, bells are not going to work as well in space as they do on Earth, something to do with lack of atmosphere and sound waves not working in a near vacuum.

 

But, the good news is NASA is back into the space business and is done with being simply the highest-flying earthbound aircraft, which is all the shuttles actually amounted to, very high-flying gliders. Jim Bridenstine was a good choice for the job of heading up NASA and will pay dividends until some political change ends up removing him from his post which will likely be to the detriment of NASA. It would be really nice if the politicians, as far as NASA is concerned, take up being as nonpartisan as was Jim Bridenstine and like he, simply judge if things are working well and if so, don’t try to fix it. This has been part of the problem with NASA over the years as when the White House changes hands, not even necessarily parties, just a new President, the person heading NASA is all too often used as a political appointment to repay some donor by appointing them or somebody they chose for the President. Whenever a business or operation changes the leadership, there is a disruption which more often than not sets things back six months or more as everyone learns the new rules and expectations coming from the leadership as when the leaders are changed, all too often they reorganize the departments and change many things just for the sake of presumably showing that they are accomplishing things the former leader was not. Unfortunately, just because you are now doing something the former leader was not doing does not necessarily mean that you are actually accomplishing your job, it just means you have altered the focus and did so potentially away from completing the tasks at hand.

 

Jim Bridenstine has talked about working to integrate with other nations on establishing the Moon Base as well as Mars exploration with humans going and returning from the Red Planet. Jim Bridenstine recently was speaking before some NASA employees about the future probably just so it could be posted online, so we thought it might be nice to share with you Jim Bridenstine’s future of NASA. We just hope that his excitement is contagious and that NASA once again will lead the world going forward and farther until we all start to think of the Star Trek lead for the show, “To go where no man has been before.” Of course, that meant no normal man and obviously did not apply to Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

 

 

Needless to add, we are not expecting to find Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, Horta, Gorn or any of the other many races from Star Trek. As for finding other life, that appears to be inevitable. As for intelligent life, well, let us just say that is highly unlikely until we find some means of efficiently within a reasonable time of traveling the great distances. With any amount of luck, there will be an inventor who will accomplish what Zefram Cochrane did for the Earth by inventing the first warp-drive. Be the means a warp-drive, a hyperspace dimensional driver or any of the other various proposed star-drives which would propel and decelerate man across the galaxy and perhaps some day beyond; for now, we think that the Moon and Mars are great steppingstones to the Asteroid Belt and from there the outer planets and their cornucopia of moons and moonletes then to the Kuiper Belt and the Ort Cloud (assuming it exists as theorized as we have yet to detect it beyond it being the theoretical origin of long-term comets). What is out there beyond the new horizon, a horizon which expands by distance cubed, (distance)3? So, the only advice I would give NASA director Jim Bridenstine would be to the stars and do not let anything hold you back.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 15, 2018

Who Will Win the Actual Space Race?

 

There is this very comfortable but equally fallacious solution to getting man into space is to leave it to private enterprise. The argument often goes along the line such as the East India Tea Company and other private enterprises which were very important to the settlement by Europeans of the New World. We love this way of describing the way the New World was conquered as it also makes our argument better than any other story. The reason is obscured by wishful thinking. These companies which assisted with the settlement of the New World were all dependent upon governments first establishing settlements with docks and infrastructure for housing and serving the shipping companies. Under this concept, some government or world collaborative effort would need to first build a working space station (image below) with rotational gravity making it livable by masses of people without the difficulties of zero gravity. There would be the need of a space dock capable of permitting the construction of the space vehicles which would be used to “conquer” space. The most advance of these docking stations with its own space station should necessarily be built close to the Asteroid Belt so as to permit the use of asteroids for raw materials instead of stripping the Earth. The nation to first establish such facilities will be the one most likely to win the real space race. No nation can safely believe that should any nation construct such structures in space that they would be willing to share or allow others to use these expensive facilities. So, what would it take for the United States or others with a governmental space program?

 

Space Station Double Wheel from Stanley Kubrick Arthur C. Clarke 2001 A Space Odyssey

Space Station Double Wheel
from Stanley Kubrick Arthur C. Clarke
2001 A Space Odyssey

 

The first thing we need to talk about is exactly what does NASA really cost. One ugly reality is that when ever the Congress debates spending cuts, the first agency placed on the chopping block is almost always NASA. An even uglier secret is how the NASA budget is represented to the public; NASA is spending is almost twenty-one-billion dollars and we have almost nothing to show for all that money. What they do not tell you is that since 1975 the NASA budget has rarely risen above one percent of the total budget and currently approximately a whapping half-of-one-percent of the total budget. That miniscule percentage of the budget is why they give the number in dollars; simply because you will be shocked by the word billions, as most people do not realize that the total budget is over three trillion and heading up and up. They could triple the NASA budget and it would hardly make any difference in the total budget. So, with this initial establishment that the NASA budget is a minimal part of the total budget and Congress could be honest and allow NASA the funding they really require if earthlings are to leave the solar system within the next century. Basically, the question is how quickly does the human race desire to make war on the planet all but eradicated because once one nation has established their presence permanently in space, they will have the capability to dictate to every other nation. The return on the investment financially and the defensive level provided any nation who has a solid footprint in space is one of the reasons along with the economic boost such a program would provide for why we suggested strongly that Israel build a launch facility and invest in space for the continued future of the nation and her people (suggested location on the map below).

 

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

 

For those of us who have perused space, science, physics and cosmological educational and entertainment lectures, classes and other presentations on YouTube, you have probably run across the now infamous quotes from Ben Rich Lockheed Skunk Works CEO.

“We already have the means to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in black projects, and it would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity. Anything you can imagine, we already know how to do.”
“We now have the technology to take ET home. No, it won’t take someone’s lifetime to do it. There is an error in the equations. We know what it is. We now have the capability to travel to the stars. First, you have to understand that we will not get to the stars using chemical propulsion. Second, we have to devise a new propulsion technology. What we have to do is find out where Einstein went wrong.”

Assuming that Mr. Rich was extrapolating on concepts and what is possible in the near or not too distant future, we need remember that the spy plane SR-71 was a Mack 3+ (some claim Mach 5) craft build by the Skunk Works and flying by 1964 and was designed before President Kennedy declared that the United States was going to the Moon within the coming decade. So, we might need take Mr. Rich at his word. But no matter what the reality, technology is now capable of placing a space wheel in orbit around the Sun closely behind the Earth, build a space colony on the Moon (though personnel would require regular rotation due to the low gravity or become incapable of leaving the Moon and returning to Earth), place a colony on Mars (also requiring rotation or the station would need to be self-sufficient) and place another space wheel and construction dock near the Asteroid Belt. These are the minimal requirement for establishing a permanent space presence for the planet and the question will be whether this is committed to as a planet or will it fall to a single nation or groups of nations. But it all stands on a government, or the people from a nation, making the decision to invest in making these space colonies and stations a priority. As for the United States, perhaps we should put this into a basic equation. Would being the undisputed and irreplaceable leader of planet Earth and the Solar System be worth five percent of the budget? If that sounds reasonable, realize that this would be a nine to ten fold increase in the current NASA budget and would make the Moon colony and space wheel attainable within ten to fifteen years. Once these are in place, the remainder of the Solar System is simply a few more steps away. Once the Asteroid Belt becomes available for mining, which ever nation has permanent mining colonies and stations, perhaps one reachable with a launch ever three months to rotate people to and from each point, there would be so much gold, silver, platinum, rare earth materials and potentially unknown treasures to make that nation wealthy beyond all measure. That is not to mention the immeasurable amounts of nickel, iron and other more common elements which would be useable for the construction of large craft developed for potential inter-stellar travel. The Moon colony could pay for itself through mining Helium-3 (He-3, also written as 3He) useable as an energy source which scientists have simply drooled and dreamed of being able to use to power the Earth almost completely pollution free.

 

Helium-3

Helium-3

 

So, the final question is which nation will be the first to invest in taking mankind into the future. Will it be the United States or will the public fail to follow through because there is no actual race that they are able to see. Trust that there is a race and there is one nation ready and willing at this time of winning that race, and it is not the United States. For a set of charts showing the developed space programs from around the globe, click here. The simple equation is which government or group of governments will make the necessary investment and which will be the first. Will it take the realization that perhaps Russia, China, Iran, United States or some dark horse such as Israel or maybe Mongolia has taken a large lead to push the rest to take the race seriously. The answer is that it will be whichever nation decides they are going to invest in their and the human race’s future and desire to be the one who leads the world forward. The one promise we can foretell is there will be a number of nations who will be crying, “If only we had known, we would have acted smarter.”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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