Beyond the Cusp

December 20, 2016

A Trump Challenge to Make American Space Self-Sufficient Again

 

One of the challenges facing the Congress before the end of year should be logged is passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with the remainder of the 2017 Federal Budget. One of the items NASA and the rest of the “space is the future” groups, count us a select few from amongst them, is that within the (NDAA) is the finalization for the American purchases of so-called RD-180 rocket engines from Russia. These engines are essential for launch of America’s Atlas V rockets, themselves essential for placing highly expensive and uniquely capable satellites in deeper orbits. While this expenditure is necessary in the immediate future, it is a situation which screams for remedy. It is difficult to believe and should be embarrassing that the United States is dependent upon the Russians for the very rocket engines required to lift United States deeper space elements, including military surveillance orbiters, as well as transporting American astronauts and all supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). How utterly embarrassing this situation is. Whatever happened to the spirit and concept from the Administration of President Ronald Reagan where it was demanded that all military inventory down to the individual components be manufactured in the United States and the Defense Departments not be dependent for anything greater than bananas from outside the United States, well, maybe pineapples too as there is only so much farmland in Hawaii. The space components should be another vital area where the United States need be self-reliant and hopefully incoming President Donald Trump is made aware of this disgrace and is willing to go the extra mile and set this as one of his higher priorities. This should be a priority of at least one of the newer space companies who are invested in producing boosters, especially heavy lift boosters for the first two base stages for lifting payloads into space for building on the Moon, Mars or even simply larger structures as will be required before deep missions into the Solar System, let alone eventual interstellar missions can be even thought about, let alone planned.

 

The world, preferably starting with the United States, need place space based infrastructure higher up in their items of importance as the very basics of platforms, Moon Bases, Asteroid and Comet intercept networks, mining of Asteroids and planetary moons, newer and more advanced space telescopes including extreme-size optical telescopes requiring their components to be constructed in space, Space Wheel and finally a series of space docks designed for the specific varieties of future space vehicles including a series of multi-generation deep interstellar colony ships. These ideas and builds are presumed to be in place in the hopefully not too distant future but also the sooner they are planned for, the sooner they can become a reality. There is no reasonable argument which can be made against world governments, and some nations independently such as the United States, Russia, China and any other nation with the foresight, preparing for the future where mankind extends its curiosity to the stars and beyond as if the human race is to have a future, such exploration and eventual settlement will become a necessity. We hope Israel might either be partnered with a reliable ally or attempt one independently in cooperation of another nation so as to utilize their infrastructure as a between staging area to make such a venture more readily accomplished. We can hear some already arguing that there is already far too much treasure as measure in the billions of dollars wasted on the impossible dreams of a future with mankind in space. Star Trek was a television and then movie fairy-tale with no possibility of ever becoming reality. We covered this argument not long ago in our article titled, “How Bad do Americans Want to be First in Space?”. To cut to the chase, one main point in the article is that the NASA budget has been under one percent of the total budget for most of their existence and never reached as high as two percent even when shooting for the Moon landings, so any cut made to the NASA budget would be negligible and a complete wasted effort and only weaken the United States in the process.

 

We would like to take a somewhat different tack in this article rather than repeat the previous article just for the sake of change. We have already more than sufficient repetitions of certain vital and specific agreements, treaties and events as is want to occur when one spends an inordinate amount of writings on similar subjects as the news of warrants. Any reasoned discussion about the necessity for space travel will admit that it is an eventuality which will be required for the continued existence of the human race. Arguments can be made that it will not be urgent for as far as one can reasonably plan, but even this assessment may be in error. The geologic record points to a distressing cycle of major extinction events with them reoccurring approximately every twenty six million years  due to comets or other objects from deep out of the Solar System. With an even higher percentage, actually nearly unanimous, consent of scientists the Earth is well overdue for just such an event. Most cosmologists and astrophysicist also think they know that the event will be caused by a comet. Their debate comes over whether the comet will have originated in the Kuiper Belt or the Oort Cloud. There are a number of means for testing for the origin of comets with one being their orbital plane. If a comet has an orbital plane well outside that of the Solar System then it can be assumed that its origins were from the Oort Cloud. Comets sharing their orbital plane with the Solar System are more of a challenge as they could originate in either source. The greater the variance from the orbital plane of the Solar System the higher the probability of origins in the Oort Cloud while those falling very close to the orbital plane of the Solar System need closer observation. Velocity is another determining factor as those comets originating from the Oort Cloud will likely have a far greater velocity originating two-thousand-times further from the Sun than those from the much closer Kuiper Belt. These comets fit into two main families, the short period or Kuiper Belt comets and the long period comets or Oort Cloud comets. Within the Solar System measurements are often made in standard units known as Astronomical Units (AU) which is the mean distance of Earth from the Sun, or about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). The Kuiper orbits between 30 and 60 A.U. from the Sun while the Oort Cloud orbits from 50,000 to 100,000 A.U. surrounding the Sun. The Kuiper Belt is a toroidal mass of icy bodies ranging from dust sized ice crystals to dwarf planet sizes approximately the size of Pluto with some potentially twice that size. The cross sectional shape would best be described as a flattened oval which would measure thirty Astronomical Units lengthwise with a height of around one to one and a half Astronomical Units. The Oort Cloud is a giant sphere fifty-thousand Astronomical Units from the closest pieces to the furthest reaches. The size and other characteristics of the Oort Cloud are all theoretical as it has not been directly observed and most of what we believe we understand was figured from the mathematical calculations made from long period comets. A better understanding of this strange and mysterious body of objects is just another reason on the list of things to be learned once we make our way out into the cosmos.

 

Mass Extinction Event from Space Overdue

Mass Extinction Event from Space Overdue

 

The best argument for starting to move into space and doing so immediately has to do with these extinction events caused by space rocks, be they meteor or comets. Almost any system devised to deal with these threats would be far more effective being launched from orbit or based on the Moon when mass drivers and lasers are considered. Detection is also more readily established when telescopes are not required to peer through the relatively thick atmosphere of mother Earth. Where having a nice blanket of air surrounding the plant is great for breathing and life in general, it is a detriment to optics which plays havoc both with their ability to even detect objects and then again when determining their absolute trajectories. Both of these pieces of information are vital in determining the threat level if any. The sooner we have the proper array of telescopes gaining good coverage of, at the very least, the tracking ranges for the short period comets and referencing triangulation for accurate mapping of their trajectories, then the sooner we can set about discovering which ones pose the greatest of risks and then can work at mitigating such threats. This will require planning and the building of laser pulse cannons used to obliterate threats which still manage to sneak up on us and long duration firing laser artillery which can be used to nudge objects to new and safer trajectories. The laser pulse canons will likely be solid laser which send a burst of potentially incredible power for as long as the lasing material lasts and once the core element is lased, it requires its replacement between firing. These are the variety of lasers which are capable of near atomizing targets which is perfect for any long period comets determined to be a potential threat as due to their speed we may only get a half dozen shots at it if that. The long period comets will be one off encounters as they are less likely to reach the inner Solar System and when they do they are unlikely to return in anybody’s life span thus we would only have the one-time encounter where it may threaten the Earth. Further, their excessive speed would render trajectory altering options unusable due to lack of time to influence its directions and also limit the options as at such speeds we could never manage to place a gravity tractor near it which would remain in close proximity. A one-off high energy pulse or, if trajectory alteration was an absolute must; an electronic rail-gun would be another potentially useable and proven alternative. Whatever system was utilized, it would be required to be space based or Moon based, definitely not terrene as anything used from Earth would be compromised by our blanket of air.

 

Another reason for making the jump into space would be for making the Earth safer from its inhabitants, named humankind. Our wars have been getting more frequent, more violent and escalating where another World War is not out of the question. We know the next World War, be it whatever number from three to twelve you wish to give it (some claim that a war between the Western World and the Islamic nations coming together forming a Caliphate for the sake of Grand Jihad and the final realization of Allah’s promise of world conquest would simply be World War I claiming it started in the Seventh Century, and they have a point), that war may very well be the final war where human beings were at the top of the food chain. It was Einstein who answered the question of what the weapons of World War III would look like saying, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” The validity of Einstein’s answer could be debated from this day forward to doomsday or until World War IV as until then we know not what will remain available, but his inference is sobering enough to anybody who believes that their lives in this world are important, not necessarily more important than the world to come, but at least of a measurable value in living and not simply a means to die well assuring your place in the world to come. What are frightening are those groups who insist that they are the sole possessors of absolute truth and that all others must be bent to their will and accept all that they believe as to believe any other way is such an abomination that those holding different beliefs must be destroyed utterly and completely down to the last man, woman and child. Those who stand that theirs must be the sole dominant, if not only, views permitted and that their leadership must be obeyed by every last soul in existence, space offers a respite to these kinds of threats and might make those holding these thoughts to realize they can no longer strike everyone and make all come to their system and surrender to their superiority. Space is the ultimate high ground which Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thucydides, Abraham, King David, Joshua ben Nun, Napoleon Bonaparte, General George S. Patton, General William Tecumseh Sherman, General Robert E. Lee, and virtually every other military mind throughout history believed was vital to victory. Space grants the holder complete control over the terrain as all terrain is readily reachable by them while they remain virtually invulnerable. The best example one can give is that the time a projectile aimed with accuracy at an Earth-bound target from the Moon is measured in hours, while the time for any projectile launched from Earth at that target on the Moon is measured in days. One projectile is almost guaranteed not to be intercepted while the other is woefully vulnerable to interception. That is the advantage of owning space and the Moon and stations in orbit.

 

The reasons for taking the time, efforts, investments and material to establish an initial permanent presence in space with a workable area designed for the practical exploitation of space for most of the energy requirements and raw materials are legendary and lengthy. Humans have stridden for a presence in space since the idea for the Tower of Babel. Time has not weakened that urge for most of us; unfortunately there are those who would rather buy votes than actually serve their constituents through actually accomplishing something beyond self-served greed. Instead of making that third million through all the illegal for everyone else but not for thee insider-trading that takes place by Congress-critters why not actually think about the future of the nation, the people, the entirety of humanity, oh, wait, I asked Congress-critters to think, my bad, sorry. Perhaps someone new to their staff might think, yes, that might be possible, and then slip papers to them to sign explaining it will get them thousands of votes. Get a number of junior staffers to do the same across the House of Representatives and then the Senate and who knows, the media might make fun of the idea and that way President Trump will most definitely sign such legislation with little regard for the content, after all, if the media hates it then it must be good for the United States. Perhaps make a big White House East Garden in the Spring with manicured garden in full bloom (because the plants were planted in full bloom mere hours before and then the gardeners sat nervously watching in case a single pedal fell to the ground) with rocket scientists in the required white lab coats and slide-rulers in hand and notepad in the ready and President Trump with Vice President Pence and the head of NASA all smiling as the challenge is put forth (without warning anybody because Melania Trump had just told him about it a few hours earlier) to place an operating and self-sufficient Mars Base by 2035 sending it off as the next great step following the footsteps of that great experiment which President John F. Kennedy had set as the challenge of that time, this is the challenge for our time. By the time all the screaming and impeachment for signs of insanity has failed, who knows, we might be half way to that base on Mars. The first thing we have to test is whether Martian soil, dust, dirt, whatever covers a fair part of the planet and is blown around like a Saharan dust storm, is capable of supporting Earth plant life with watering and if not exactly what else is necessary. This should have been part of the plan since day one. We have tested for if life had existed and by doing so we should also have tested for amount of compatibility with Earthen soils and what is missing for making it great for growing foodstuffs such as wheat, vegetables, possibly even fruit bearing trees in time. Mars turned green with greenhouses. Perhaps the scientists and agronomists from the United States could work with Israelis and between them develop special hybrids which could survive on Mars with minimal shielding from radiation, smaller amounts of water as the Israelis have developed for the Negev, capable of thriving on recycled wastewater which is another area of Israeli expertise, and possibly survive and thrive in lower temperatures by hybridizing the plants with winter wheats and lettuce which already are capable of colder temperatures. Once they have grains then all that is required is water, yeast and hops and large tanks to make beer and the heat generated, it will necessitate very active yeast, can warm the plants. Once there is Martian brewed beer there will be people ready to go to Mars just to try the beer, well, maybe not tens of thousands, but hundreds will do for a start. One more set of items is that it has been figured that if the right asteroids are selected the people mining it could make millions of Euros, Dollars, Shekels and the variety of precious materials from iron-nickel asteroids to some which hold gemstones, rare earth materials, silicon, germanium, crystals and things we have yet to discover. There are also many very anticipated and desired items which can only be manufactured in space and other things which would be of far higher quality with almost no defects such as crystals and computer storage disks. Space is a frontier with opportunities but we need to go there first and set up the bases for operations.

 

Examples from Space Manufacture for Making Crystals And the Effects of Different Flames Earth Gravity vs Microgravity

Examples from Space Manufacture for Making Crystals
And the Effects of Different Flames Earth Gravity vs Microgravity

 

Finally, there are those who claim that we should simply allow private individual, small groups and corporations go and build everything necessary to carry out all these great new ventures in space. They point to the Mayflower as a prime example of the new world being developed by private interests. That is not the entire truth, and these people know this. Governments set up the structures required to operate in the new world. The initial discoveries were all financed by the crowns of the nations who came starting with heavy investments by Spain, then France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands and more. The governments built the docks such that everybody had access, equal access. The government built the roads in time but yes, the paths were worn by colonial people getting from A to B but eventually A to B was paved by government. Space is the same. The initial space docks will be placed next to a large spinning double or triple wheel with room for additional wheels which can be added by private ventures and the central hub will also be expandable and all of this adds more for people and corporations to invest. The roadways to the Asteroid Belt will be strewn with largest asteroids used as ports where the government makes certain assurances such as it does not get destroyed by that other large rock over there and making the place relatively safe even from people mixing not so amorously with other people. Claims on asteroids and property will need to be regulated and licensed with enforcement. Property rights are one of the most basic necessities to allow for wealth production. The “shipping lanes” will need to be protected such that it will require armed government vessels and strict guidelines on actions and their relative permissibility. Much of this will be done as a work in progress but the world has experience in such ventures and hopefully can avoid shooting one nation at another. Think of the alternative that people suggest. What would be the opportunity for say Westinghouse or Sony or other companies if the main space station and its docks were the General Electric Space Station and docking facility. How would things work for all involved or wishing to be if the Moon base was Citibank Moon Base? If companies were to own the main facilities and infrastructure then they would control who got to go where and very soon there would be a horrific situation where it would simply become untenable. At that point government would need to step into the breach and then when places were either forced to be accommodating or were replaced by government there would be lost money by the original investor who would be claiming they were only trying to make good on the largest investment the corporation had ever ventured upon. Their argument would be they would be financially destroyed if they did not eventually turn a profit. Such acrimony and the potential to lose everything if you did not toe the government line would make every other company shy from space. Without the central structure being initially government and for everybody’s use there would be little if any progress. Put in a dock and some infrastructure and then have bids on space in the space station, sell apartments, a hotel, everything any decent small town on the Interstate provides and that would be the private partnership with government and then you have respected property rights and universal access and from there a whole bunch of happy campers. That is the other reason government must take the initial steps and then if they build it the rest will come.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 12, 2016

How Bad do Americans Want to be First in Space?

 

It has been a while since NASA and space have been much of a news item. With the cancellation of the Space Shuttle, which really did not go into SPACE Space, NASA has kind of fallen by the wayside. President Obama had set the target as Mars, an Asteroid, but definitely not the Moon; as we have “Been there, Done that.” Well, right about now being capable of getting American Astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) using an American rocket of any sort would be a step in the right direction. Many of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering where did this idea stem from. Well, I read that NASA has a plan for a space station, all American this time would be nice, in Moon orbit from which to go Mars, Moon, Asteroids, just about anywhere. They want to use this station to test some theoretical shielding systems which should protect against radiation. Yes, radiation, a real set of shields like real science fiction spaceships have. They want to power the station for correcting the orbit with, wait for it, electronic drive systems. Can you say Ion Drivers? I knew you could. Their plans reach into the 2030’s but I bet Americans do not want the race to place an orbiting station in Moon orbit or a real underground Moon Base to be anywhere near or close to the Chinese who claim they will have a Moon base by the early to mid-2030’s. My bet is knowing that the Chinese, yes, the Chinese building on American and Russian know-how, are screaming at their monitors about now, “What’s the holdup?” Well, the usual, funding.

 

Let’s talk NASA funding. Anybody have an idea on the percentage of the budget NASA used to go to the Moon, assist with building the ISS, the entire Shuttle fleet? Not the actual cost in dollars as that is too relative, the percentage? Was it 10%, 15%, 20%? Too low or too high? Well, believe it or not too high so let’s try under 10%. Was it 8%, 5%, 3%, how low would we need to go? Perhaps we should first figure out what it would be worth for the United States to build a Space Wheel with central hub serving as a dock for building any size ship for any destination desired with the ability to tow Asteroids for the metals, ceramics, gold, silver and any other necessary materials including enough water to power the entire venture and transmit power back to fixed Earth stations from space? All of this with a proper Moon Base with the vast majority of the base safely underground protected from Asteroid and Meteor strikes and the Space Wheel and Moon Base entrances all self-sealing from anything smaller than decent rock size holes and a system of lasers, both pulsed and pulse types for differing requirements which automatically fire to destroy larger or even down to as small as an inch projectiles keeping them from striking the sensitive areas where people can even live. A Space Wheel spinning at the correct speed would give five or six levels of near Earth gravity and the central hub could be used for zero gravity manufacturing which allows for perfect crystals and electronics and electronic miniaturization with precisions not possible on Earth due to gravity of the situation. Any ship build from workers based on the Space Wheel could use smaller grabber craft with ion drivers and a pulse driver to assist in gaining return velocity and stopping for fetching Asteroids for materials and resources which would pay for everything in time and give the Earth needed resources of precious metals and who knows what else would be discovered. It all is a dream but would you be willing to invest 3% or maybe, dare we suggest, 5% of the budget set aside just like military spending for NASA and other space related activities by private enterprises which could be subsidized just like General Electric, Chrysler, General Motors and the Banks but actually accomplishing something. This could be done in style at 5% of budget as NASA has rarely cleared 1% of budget.

 

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

 

You are amazed now, right? Well, there is a reason they always told you how many billions of dollars were “wasted” on NASA and Space things, never going to Mars or propulsion systems for interstellar exploration, or a Moon Base and Space Wheel. No, it was space junk or wasted on space with nothing to show for it. Well, at less than 1% of the budget and often floating around ¾% of the budget, yes, that is 0.75% of the budget, what did you expect, miracles? Well, considering their budget you did get miracles like first men on the Moon, only people to land on the Moon, and with some effort it could be first woman on the Moon, first whatever you choose on the Moon, first Mom to Mars, first family born in space, at 5% of budget we bet NASA could wow the world again. Of course there would be one other item, NASA should be returned to their parent, the Air Force with a General running the show so as to keep things real, just a suggestion as NASA has done some boneheaded things such as crashing a Mars probe because somebody did not transfer the European specifications from meters to feet and thus the speed was grossly underestimated and BOOM! Well, no boom as Mars atmosphere would only transmit a loud clap, yes a series of loud rapid claps as it crashed into Mars way too fast for survival. We all know that many missions NASA had launched were for the Military or the CIA or other even more clandestine agencies so why not quit hiding the link and make it official, the American Military is running the space program and be done with it. Still, 5% or even 3% would seem like they hit the Lottery at NASA and the Military could now put their “black ops space items” onto NASA missions with far less argument, not that NASA ever said no that we know about, nor would we ever know such things or talk about them if we did. Alright, enough with the paranoia and back to Earth or at least Earth bound orbits.

 

Image of NASA Space Vehicle Concept Ship

Image of NASA Space Vehicle Concept Ship

 

The above picture depicts a NASA prototype of the Orion space vehicles. These would sit upon the new heavy lift rocket systems with smaller support more likely contracted out to Space X, Axiom Space, Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic or any of the literally dozens of other venture space companies. These other space companies could also place their own experiments or modules onto the Moon Base or Space Wheel as long as they would meet certain specifications as it helps if the seals fit tightly and do not leak because they were made to the wrong size. There could even be an additional wheel with set asides for such projects which required livable requirements with Earth gravity and add on space to the Space Doc built to orbit within workable distance from the Space Wheel central hub unit for anything requiring zero gravity and possibly everything inbetween using the service legs of the wheel. The hardest part, as proven by the landing on the Moon in under a decade starting from more rocket failures at launch with some of the most spectacular and impressive explosions in the early 1960s and the Moon in July 1969, America can do whatever they wish in space if only they commit to do whatever they want in space.

 

There are always those who do not believe that the Human Race must conquer space and claim it is all a waste of money. These people can be vocal while the dreamers are often the quiet sort leaving their noise for cheering launches trying to out shout the deep rumbling grumble of the first stage rocket and boosters. The supporters of active and daring space development programs, despite knowing that the ultimate fruits are not going to materialize in their lifetimes, are committed and hope to make such developments as a driver for interstellar missions become a reality before their grandchildren’s, or to be bolder, children’s lives end. The obvious secret about such grand ventures is that the sooner we, as a people, begin to venture towards these goals, the sooner we will overcome the difficulties we will encounter. NASA has developed a projected mission profile for the initial Orion Mission (see below). Their claim is they may, if all proceeds as well as expected, to have the craft orbit the Moon instead of a single trip around using a free return gravity driven return orbit just in case their craft has problems as they intend for it to return to Earth. All we can say is, “Decent start, now what?”

 

NASA Orion Flight Trajectories Including Lunar Orbits

NASA Orion Flight Trajectories Including Lunar Orbits

 

Now for our dreaming part of this article. We would like to see a spaceport launch facility built in the Negev Desert and for an ambitious Israeli space program built near the 31o Latitude (see map below). While 31o Latitude is somewhat too far north for optimum, but when your country is slightly smaller than New Jersey with largely populated northern half and a more sparsely populated southern desert, then this is perfect for a spaceport launch facility. Israel definitely has more than sufficient technological sophistication for an advanced space program and such a facility would free Israel from dependence upon other nations to launch communications and special satellites and doing so without having to proclaim their launches to the world unless required by treaties. Israel partnering with the United States on certain missions and reserving space on the space wheel for Israeli modules would be one more economical approach and building an Israel space wheel, likely smaller with a higher rotation speed, would be beyond any expectation. Israel having an operating launch facility could also allow other nations to utilize and launch from the spaceport in order to defray costs. Even a partnership with a dependable and consistent ally would be beneficial. Israel reaching into space would also serve to be deterrent to military ventures against Israel especially should Israel launch sufficient spy and mapping satellites as such craft would give early warning capability to Israel allowing early responses which could allay an attack. The secret to forging a well-ordered peaceful planet is the need to control all the high ground, that being space, and that could be something within the reach of Israel. There also exists another reason that Israel should build a spaceport capable of multiple launches in rapid succession possibly as many as six to ten rockets in a single day and perhaps a dozen to a dozen and a half per week and far more than any probable need would arise per month. Such a launch schedule potential would make Israel a preferable launch platform than Europeans or Russians currently possess or are even likely to possess. This capability would make Israel a space center which the developed space-faring world who could come to depend upon Israel thus making Israel even more intertwined with the world and thus having even greater impetus for good relations with all. As we stated, this is our dream space where we fantasize and paint pretty pictures of the future and perhaps also to work to plant a seed, an idea which grows until it has a life of its own. Once that stage is reached more than half the battle has been won. As stated above, the most difficult time is getting the idea accepted and started, once there your dream has a great potential to be realized. Israel in space, almost sounds like a Mel Brooks comedy (see video below map).

 

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

Israel Space Port Launch Facility

 

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 21, 2016

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Falling Down

 

China has finally confirmed suspicions that their Tiangong-1 Space Station will fall from orbit at some point in 2017. The lack of any specific date, location or other normative information about how, where and why the space station will return to Earth or whether any parts are expected to reach the ground or even where any reentry might occur further reinforces the rumors that there is a problem with the station and the Chinese no longer are controlling its movements. The rumors started when the station was recently decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts were returned home early without any replacements being sent to the station. This had initiated the belief that the Chinese space station was damaged in some way but the fact that they are unsure as to where, when and not controlling how the rather large satellite space station would be reentering the atmosphere and whether the entire station will burn up in the atmosphere does present at least a small threat of landing on land and potential for it striking a populated area. Perhaps it is going to pay, well, at least give some a chance at immortality should they find themselves underneath the falling remnants of the Tiangong-1 Space Station.

 

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station

 

The Chinese have been utilizing the Tiangong-1 Space Station for approximately the last five years. The similarities between the United States Skylab and the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station are startling. Skylab remained in orbit for six years and the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station is predicted to make it approximately five years. Both stations were deserted and left lifeless at the mercy of nature simply waiting for gravity to work its unavoidable result. It remains to be seen if the crash of the Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station will strike an inhabited area, the center of one of the Earth’s oceans or what we usually describe as the middle of nowhere. Skylab caused minimal damage falling in one of those middle of nowheres, namely the Australian Outback and the oceans around Australia and northward into the Pacific Ocean. For now we can only guess as to where Tiangong-1 Space Station will come to Earth. One thing which we need to remember is that Skylab was an early space station made from a part of a Saturn-V rocket booster modified with floor platforms built inside (see montage below). Skylab was never planned on being a permanent station and in consideration of costs there were no thrust boosters which had the power to allow for making a planned reentry. There were orientation thrusters which could have reduced the station speed bringing it to earth faster, but that would have probably led to larger pieces reaching the ground. Modern satellites are required to have a reentry system and a plan for bringing it down over water and choosing an angle of entry which will allow for the maximum amount of the orbiter to burn up in the atmosphere. Yes, ending a satellites life is rocket science. What one wonders is why they do not use the Hollywood method for satellite removal and fire the rockets sending the satellite either into the sun or out towards Jupiter or simply out of the solar system. Perhaps the out of the solar system would need to understand the gravity of such a solution while aiming for the sun or Jupiter is using the gravity of the situation.

 

Skylab pictured as astronauts orbiting laboratory on the third and final mission, known as Skylab 4, in November 1973 and the building of Skylab from a Saturn-V booster section

Skylab pictured as astronauts orbiting laboratory
on the third and final mission, known as
Skylab 4, in November 1973 and the
building of Skylab from a Saturn-V booster section

 

There should not be any great fears as over two thirds of the planet is covered with water and large areas of the land are sparsely populated. For those who live in large cities and have been convinced by the eco-fanatics that there are no open areas left on the Earth may we suggest you search for pictures of the steppes in Russia, anywhere in northern Africa and the Sahara Desert or the great plains of the United States, particularly in Nebraska or any of the numerous rain forests anywhere from Washington state to the Amazon. When the United States lost control of their primitive space station Skylab on July 11, 1979, and the seventy-seven ton orbiter rained down on the Thornton farm and house in the Australian Outback, another place of sparse population; that, it turns out, was very fortunate as there was one large section which did reach the ground largely intact, the station’s oxygen tank as well as there were numerous smaller pieces including a smaller oxygen tank, a set of nitrogen tanks which powered the attitude thrusters, a refrigeration unit, and a structural ring from the outer hatch piece which is labeled “Airlock/Danger.”

 

Skylab Oxygen Tank Largest Piece Striking Earth in Australian Outback

Skylab Oxygen Tank Largest Piece Striking Earth in Australian Outback

 

Skylab is one of the few NASA satellites which had pieces strike the Earth which they made little effort to claim and collect the debris. There was a $400.00 littering fine assessed by the town of Esperance, Australia submitted to NASA which was never paid; but there was also a $10,000.00 reward to be awarded to the first person to turn in a piece of the satellite at the offices of the San Francisco Examiner provided it was done within seventy-two hours (three days) from the reentry of Skylab which was awarded to seventeen year old Stan Thorton from Esperance. Hopefully the paper made a large deal as they probably doubted anybody in Australia would have heard of the offer, let alone fly to San Francisco to claim the prize. Hopefully Stan had a nice vacation in San Francisco paid for in mid trip by the San Francisco Examiner. Must have been nice and well-played Mr. Thorton.

 

The Russians also has their own space station named Mir. Mir was launched in two stages on February 20, 1986 and April 23, 1996. It finally crashed to the Earth on March 23, 2001. Mir was brought back under a controlled system of three steps using a booster attached to the station. The explanation can be read here. Today we have the International Space Station (ISS) which was a collaborative effort of the European Space Agency, Russia’s Roscosmos, Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (see symbols below). The ISS is presumed to be a long term station expected to serve on into the future and has been slowly added to over the years. How long it remains of use will depend upon planning with a mix of luck as a disastrous collision with any of the following: space debris, meteor, asteroid, comet or other natural space projectile; would be a disaster. The ISS has been an extravagantly expensive project and the cost was the likely reason we did not start building the double wheel luxurious space station like the one seen at the beginning of the movie “2001.” Perhaps some day such a station will be built and it will likely say Sheraton Space Hotel at the docking station. We may as well face it that private monies will be what conquers space and initially only the wealthy will be able to afford space vacations and the rest of us will have to find employment to get into space, and the work will be as dangerous as it will be strenuous. Much of this future will not be happening in most of our lifetimes unless the miracles expected in biology in the coming near term are true and readily accessible to the average person. Otherwise we can only dream of our exciting vacation on one of the moons of Saturn.

 

Space Agencies of the International Space Station Top Row Main Agencies Second Row Member European Agencies

Space Agencies of the International Space Station
Top Row Main Agencies
Second Row Member European Agencies

 

International Space Station

International Space Station

 

The ISS has delivered some exciting discoveries, most intentional and some simple accidents happened upon through the actions of everyday life aboard the station. One example of an inadvertent discovery has been told of when astronaut Donald R. Pettit mixed salt, sugar, and coffee grounds in an inflated plastic bag and the different small pieces clumped rather than simply floating independently proving the theory of accretion as a vital and necessary stage for planetary formation. The discovery resulted from Pettit playing around on a Saturday morning only to have Stanley G. Love, whose training in planetary science involved asteroids and collisions, working spacecraft communications in Mission Control in Houston, Texas, who immediately realized the implications of this simplistic, gee-whiz demonstration. “Don!” Love exclaimed, “Do you realize you’ve just solved the middle stage of planetary accretion?”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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