Tag Archives: space

Rogue Planet Discovered Near Earth

When I was a kid I was fascinated with all things outer space.  If there was a slight orientation towards space in something, then I was going to pay that something a modicum of attention — except the drink of NASA (back then) Tang, I thought that stuff was just awful.

To be honest though I think all kids go through their outer space phase based on my nephews’ and many of my friends children too.  It should be too hard to understand why; outer space is just so darn fascinating.  It is the one place where it seems like anything can and does happen, and for a child’s imagination, that is simply a fantastic playground to, well, play in.  Then of course there are the cool sci fi franchises out there, like Star Wars and Star Trek, which simply adds to a child’s enthrallment with outer space too.

Well, to further illustrate how fascinating outer space is, is this new discovery of an orphaned or rogue planet just floating along out there 100 light years away, not orbiting a star like good little planets should.  Speaking of little, this rogue planet is anything but little.  It is in fact 4 to 7 times more massive than Jupiter — that’s pretty big their folks.

It is the size of this rogue planet that leads some scientists to question whether or not it should even be considered a planet at all, and is instead perhaps a brown dwarf star, or a part of a group of very young stars that this object seems to be hanging out with.

Regardless of whatever, or however scientists wish to classify this planet/star/something I think it is just really interesting all of the things we things we simply do not know about outer space; which will certainly keep many more kids interested in it.

SpaceX Set to Launch Supplies to ISS

America’s space program is in some sort of a transition period with the retiring of the Space Shuttle program.  While it was time to put the Space Shuttles to rest, a program and design that dates back to the 1970’s, what is a little surprising, sad, and perhaps even understandable is that there really didn’t/doesn’t seem to be any real kind of plan to transition to following the decommissioning of the Space Shuttles.

Typically organizations have a new product ready to go when they are looking to end the run of the current product.  Apparently NASA didn’t get that memo, because our astronauts are now reliant on the Russian Space Agency to ferry them to and from the International Space Station.  That’s right, NASA does not have a rocket capable of delivering men into orbit, it is the 1960’s all over again, when America found itself woefully behind the Soviet Union in its space program.

Given the persistent budget cuts that NASA faces year end and year out I guess this lack of a replacement for the Space Shuttle is perhaps understandable.  It is no secret that America’s finances are a little strained, and given that it is kind of hard to justify the continued spending of billions of dollars on space exploration when there are a lot more Earthly needs that should be addressed.

Thankfully though this is still America and the private sector is demonstrating that it is more than capable of filling needs where they exist in the market.  Enter Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, known simply as SpaceX, which was founded by PayPal founder Elon Musk, and the capsule that this company developed called Dragon.  Tonight at 8:35 pm EST will be this company’s first mission to the International Space Station carrying supplies.  There was an earlier mission to the Space Station, but it was simply a test mission, nothing was carried on board the capsule.

Right now many are saying that SpaceX’s privatization of space flight is kind of neat, but it isn’t exactly solving the lack of manned spacecraft here in America.  Well, just relax there people, because the company does have plans to convert their Dragon capsule for manned missions too.  Just as with a government funded space program, you don’t just start shooting people into space without an adequate trial program first.

You Can Fly to the Moon — Well, Maybe Not You, but Perhaps Bill Gates

If you are person who was born from the mid 1960’s to the early to mid 1970’s then there is probably a good chance that you wanted to be an astronaut when you grew up.  It isn’t too hard to understand why; astronauts back then were American heroes who were blazing the trails into the final frontier of outer space.  Yes, they were boldly going where no one has gone before, and it all culminated with the Apollo missions to the moon.  It seemed that fantasy had finally become reality and that we were on a destined track to explore the solar system, and the stars beyond; and then the real reality set in.  That reality was twofold; (1) space exploration was/is expensive, and (2) the odds were really stacked against the vast majority of us of ever becoming astronauts.

With regards to the first little piece of reality, the Apollo moon program cost the American tax payer over $100 billion, adjusted for inflation, and over the almost 60 years of manned space flight roughly $500 billion has been spent.  Given the current state of America’s finances (almost $16 trillion in debt) it isn’t too hard to see why there is no big rush by NASA to launch a manned mission to Mars anytime soon — if ever.  So, for the time being we, as a country, should be content with simply flying our astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and usually aboard a Russian rocket.  Yeah, NASA is a far cry from its glory days isn’t it?

As far as the second little piece of reality, where the odds are stacked against most of us becoming astronauts, well that is still true too, but only kind of.  There is a burgeoning space tourism industry developing that has opened the door for mere mortals to experience space flight, but much like number one above, they are very, very expensive.  There is a new company out there which is actually planning eight month long trips to lunar orbit and back and it is actually selling seats on these “missions,”  but before you start making reservations and re-reading “The Right Stuff” you might want to consider this little tidbit of information; the price of a ride to the moon and back will run you about $160 million…  Yeah, it appears that space exploration is still pretty damn expensive, and that the odds are still very long that many of us will ever be able to realize our childhood dream of launching beyond the harsh grasp of Earth’s gravity; but we all still can dream, can’t we?

We Just Need Funding Scotty!

As a person who was born in the early 1970’s I was greatly influenced by outer space and the possibilities of continued human exploration of it.  It isn’t too terribly hard to understand why many children of this time were so intrigued by that possibility, because all we have to do is consider what was going on at the time.

First of all, NASA’s lunar program was still fairly fresh in the American psyche, with the last mission to the moon being Apollo 17, launched 12/7/1972.  Then there is the fact that if you were born in the early 1970’s then you pretty much grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, though they weren’t the only pop culture item to have influence.  More than likely if you were a child at that time, and had an interest in space, then Star Trek played an obvious roll in your space exploration fantasies; I mean trekking the stars is actually in the title of the program and subsequent movies.

Well, all of us space geeks can finally rejoice, because human space exploration appears to be only a scant 20 years away — kind of . . . maybe.  Meet BTE Dan and the BTE stands for Build The Enterprise.  BTE Dan is an engineer, and apparently quite the Trekkie, who has boldly proclaimed what no one has proclaimed before; and that is that the technology exists to build a full size, functioning Starship Enterprise; sans warp engines.  BTE Dan has so thoroughly developed his vision as to include proposals as how to fund such a mammoth project and he believes that it would only take a scant twenty years for his fantasy, I mean vision, to be completed.  While the technology might actually exist to build a working model of the Enterprise, I highly doubt the majority of the public is willing to fund a 20 year long nerd quest, and that really kind of sucks.