Saturday, December 5, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Obama talking about astronomy and science at the White House. He even looks through a telescope at a double-double star in the constellation Lyrae. It's great to see a president who understands how important science really is to society.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Space exploration is extremely important to the world. One of the main reasons why it is so important is because it fulfills human curiosity and increases our understanding of how the universe works. Space exploration has helped discover how the dinosaurs went extinct, how the moon formed, and how nuclear reactions work, just to name a few.
A second major reason why space exploration is so important is because it provides every person with a sense of where they stand in the universe. It is very humbling to know the Earth is a tiny speck orbiting a mediocre yellow-dwarf star nowhere near the centre of our galaxy, let alone the universe!
A third reason why space exploration is so important is the spinoffs created from new technologies that are developed. From space exploration technology thousands of products have been developed such as digital cameras, cordless power-tools, memory foam, and UV-proof sunglasses. These three reasons are just a few of the reasons why space exploration is so important to the world.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I've always known that NASA has been underfunded since the end of the Apollo program but that has been brought to extremes lately as NASA's budget has shrunk and inflation has reduced it further.
Early in Obama's first term as United States' president, he set out a group of people to do a review of NASA and in particular, the Constellation program.
The Constellation program was created in 2005 and initiated by the Bush administration to move humankind back to the moon, Mars, and beyond. It consists of the Ares I which launches the Orion crew capsule into space, the Ares V heavy cargo lifter, the Altair moon lander, and a whole new set of space suits, rovers, and other gear. The first moon landing is currently planned for 2020.
The budget required to develop the new Ares I and Ares V rockets was 108 billion dollars over 10 years. This budget has been hacked at and cut down by 30 billion dollars!
Obama's panel found that the Ares V won't be completed until 2028 on the current budget and moon landings won't be possible until early 2030s at the earliest. NASA was hoping on launching manned missions to Mars by the late 2030s.
Sally Ride, a former astronaut and one of the panel members concluded, “We can't do this program in this budget. This budget is simply not friendly to exploration.”
The panel's final review is due out by the end of August.
NASA has already put nine billion dollars into the Constellation program and is ready to test launch a mock-up of the Ares I crew launcher by October 2009.
Personally, I think that NASA should continue to develop the Ares I and use it until SpaceX's Falcon 9 Heavy Launcher is ready for crew. Then, NASA should scrap Ares I and continue development on the Ares V heavy cargo launcher. The Falcon 9 will cost around 50 million dollars per launch (the regular Falcon 9 costs only 27 million dollars per launch) while the Ares I will cost many hundreds of millions of dollars per launch.
The reason NASA needs to continue development of the Ares I if they want to launch the Ares V is because the Ares V requires many of the technologies that are being developed for the Ares I.
Another area where NASA's budget is stretched far too thin is the search for potentially hazardous asteroids. NASA has been mandated by Congress to find 90% of all Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that are 140 metres wide or larger by 2020.
Congress hasn't even approved any extra funding for NASA to do this, not one cent! This has lead to NASA taking money from other programs within NASA to help cover searched costs. Even with the NEO search program “stealing” money from other programs, NASA will finish the search by 2030, ten years late!
To give some perspective on how powerful an asteroid impact can be, think of Beringer Crater in Arizona. It is believed that the asteroid that impacted there was only 20 metres across, but hit so hard and so fast that the impact had the force of at least 150 times that of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. That single atomic bomb released more energy than ALL of World War I and World War II COMBINED.
These two extremely important programs aren't even close to being adequately funded yet Congress acts as if it's business as usual. More money is spent every year on pizza ($27 billion) or underage drinking ($23 billion) than the entire American space program!
It all comes down to this: stop cutting NASA's budget and instead cut or restrict spending (just a little bit) on something such as the defense program (the Americans' defense budget is more than half of the world's defense spending).
Start spending on science, new technology, and exploration and move humankind off of this tiny blue dot!
The Ares I-X test rocket shortly after completion in August 2009.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
With the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America began. Each tried to do something new in space before the other. In the beginning the Soviets were well ahead. They even got the first person into space, but this didn’t deter the Americans.
Before America put a single person into orbit they had created the Apollo program to send people to the Moon. This wasn’t just for science or for exploration; it was to show America's superiority over Russia and the world.
Later, when the United States’ Space Shuttle program started, the Soviets tried to keep up, but the Soviet Union crumbled and all plans were abandoned. This effectively ended the space race. After that, the United States and Russia have cooperated in low Earth orbit with the Russian Mir space station and more recently the International Space Station.
There hasn’t been any political motivation to reach farther, go back to the Moon, visit the asteroids, or go to Mars. NASA is currently planned to return to the Moon in 2020 and to go to Mars by the late 2030’s. It won’t be a space race, but it will still be exciting as the first person leaves Earth, crosses millions of miles of empty space, and sets foot on another planet for the very first time.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the first NASA spacecraft sent to the moon in many years, is expected to launch June 17, 2009. It will spend its time orbiting the Moon, mapping its surface in high detail and searching for water hidden in the dark lunar craters near the southern and northern poles. It carries with it a probe which will impact the moon. The dust plume that will result from the impact will be examined for water and other compounds.
NASA's Constellation program is making fairly good progress with the first test launch of the Ares I-X rocket planned for this summer. The rocket will test the main rockets and will have weight added to the top to simulate the crew and a payload. It will fly on a ballistic trajectory and land in the Atlantic Ocean. The first manned flight of the Ares-I will occur no earlier than 2014 and the first test flight of the Ares-V heavy lift rocket will happen no earlier than 2018.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Every amateur astronomer has been asked at some point, "Is it astronomy or astrology?" and "What's the difference between astronomy and astrology?"
Astronomy is a science, it uses facts, evidence, and mathematics to come to conclusions about the universe around us. Astrology is the unfounded belief that the position of the planets relative to the stars in the sky affect everyday life in some way.
Although very different today, astronomy and astrology share common roots. Over 2000 years ago, astrology was created by the ancient Babylonians. They believed that the position of the planets in the sky could be used to predict the future. They also believed that the constellation the sun rose in the day of a person's birth would determine their personality and fate.
Since the sun rises in the same general area of the sky all year and the stars and constellations slowly rotate overhead, the sun will rise in one constellation to the next spending on average a month in each.
According to astrologers, the sun rises in Gemini from May 21 to June 21, but not all constellations are the same size, so the sun can spend different amounts of time in each one.
There's also another major flaw in astrology: since astrology was created, the positions of the constellations have shifted. If you take someone born on June 16, they are considered a Gemini, but when it comes to checking where the sun rises, it actually rises in Taurus!
Astronomy started to diverge from astrology in the early 1600's when it was discovered that the planets are actual worlds of their own and not just tiny points of light, Earth is not the centre of the universe, and math began to be used to predict the path of planets through space (math can't be used to predict someone's personality or the next time someone will stub their toe).
Astronomy is now a diverse and extremely interesting scientific field. Using it, humans have landed on the moon, robotic spacecraft have been sent to the planets, there are planets around other stars, we now know stars don't live forever and often die dramatic deaths, and that the universe is so enormous that light takes billions upon billions of years to cross just a portion of it.
Astronomy has also provided great benefits to our everyday lives. Things like cell phones, satellite TV, weather forecasts, GPS, and accurate maps of the Earth all owe their existence to the science of astronomy.
Look at all the benefits astronomy has provided, what has astrology done for anybody other than being a little fun to read in a newspaper?
Astrology has done a great deal of harm to many people in the past. Many civilizations of the past had their own appointed astrologer and didn't allow anyone else to make observations of the sky, hindering any way for astronomy to develop.
Astrologers that got predictions wrong were often executed, as their job was to predict the future of the empire to which they belong. Those astrologers made sure to keep their predictions vague or change the details of their predictions to match what later happened.
Although not very common today, many people still fall victim to fraud artists who scam people out of money with astrology.
In 1998, for example, an astrologer in Alang, India, predicted that there would be a disastrous cyclone. Over 60,000 workers were evacuated from the town's shipyard. The cyclone never came. As much as 60 million dollars of profit were lost. This is just one example of many in recent history.
As Carl Sagan, a great astronomer who popularized science, once said about astronomy and astrology, "There are two ways to view the stars, as they really are, and as we might wish them to be."
To read further into the nonsense of astrology go to "www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/astrology.html".
Forgetting astrology, let's check out what the planets are really up to this month.
Mercury will be low in the west right after sunset while Saturn will be high in the south. Jupiter will be rising much later in the evening and will be fairly high in the southeast by twilight.
Right before the sun rises in the morning will be brilliant Venus in the east. It will be the brightest starlike object in the sky and will slowly rise higher in the sky as the month progresses. Reddish-orange Mars will be to the lower left of Venus for much of the month.
The moon will be full on May 9 and will shrink to a new moon by May 24.
On May 11, the space shuttle is planned head up to the Hubble Space Telescope for a repair mission.
The Athena Community Astronomy Club will be having boardwalk astronomy viewing sessions by the Shipyard Market building during the weekend if skies are clear. Come by for a peek through a telescope at Saturn, the Moon, or whatever else is visible in the sky at that time. Club members will typically be there from 9pm to 11pm.
To end this month, is the monthly Athena Community Astronomy Club meeting in the Wilmot community centre. Visitors are always welcome. It runs from 7pm to 9pm on Sunday, May 31.
Until next month, just look up!
On April 25, the "world's largest model rocket" was launched. It was a model of the Saturn V rocket that brought people to the moon in the 1970's. It's about ten times shorter than the Saturn V and was only expected to fly up about one mile high. It set the Guinness world record for heaviest model rocket. It weighed over 1600 pounds. It may have been a beast but it was sure beautiful when it launched!
Monday, April 6, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
• Provides $18.7 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Combined with
the $1 billion provided to the agency in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,
this represents a total increase of more than $2.4 billion over the 2008 level.
• Funds a program of space-based research that supports the Administration’s commitment to
deploy a global climate change research and monitoring system.
• Funds a robust program of space exploration involving humans and robots. The National
Aeronautics and Space Administration will return humans to the Moon while also supporting a
vigorous program of robotic exploration of the solar system and universe.
• Funds the safe flight of the Space Shuttle through the vehicle’s retirement at the end of 2010.
An additional flight will be conducted if it can be completed safely before the end of 2010.
• Funds the development of new space flight systems for carrying American crews and supplies
• Funds continued use of the International Space Station to support the agency and other Federal,
commercial, and academic research and technology testing needs.
• Funds aeronautics research to address aviation safety, air traffic control, noise and emissions
reduction, and fuel efficiency."
•Provides $7 billion for the National Science Foundation, a 16-percent increase over the 2008
level, as part of the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation.
•Increases support for graduate research fellowships and for early-career researchers.
•Increases support for the education of technicians in the high-technology fields that drive the
•Encourages more novel high-risk, high-reward research proposals.
•Increases support for critical research priorities in global climate change."
It looks like congress is taking science a little more seriously than George Bush did. Let's just hope they spend this money more wisely, otherwise it is just wasted tax-payer dollars.