30 March 2008

NSS Posts Dedicated Space Solar Power Issue!

At last! A full dedicated issue to one of the two most important space goals of our generation (the other being Planetary Defense against Comets and Asteroids). Way to go NSS!

19 March 2008

Ex-astronaut pushes for international asteroid impact policy.

On the front page of its Marketplace section, the Wall Street Journal reports, "Ex-astronaut Rusty Schweickart wants to save the world from an incoming asteroid -- the multimegaton variety blamed for killing the dinosaurs -- and he thinks that the only sure-fire way to keep them away is by using, of all things, diplomacy." Schweickart maintains that "[t]he hard part of asteroids involves finding a way to reach a global agreement on how the planet would respond should an asteroid head our way." To that end, he hopes to meet with secretary-general of the United Nations this fall. Schweickart explains that certain factors, such as increased risks for certain countries when changing an asteroid's trajectory away from Earth, could lead to a badly-timed crisis, and that "the only fair way to proceed is to have a decision-making formula drawn up well in advance, thus unaffected by the political heat of an actual crisis." He adds that it is also important "to overcome global suspicion that a unilateral American anti-asteroid effort would be a ruse to militarize space."

17 March 2008

Delta V

Nice Delta-V Chart for interplanetary Missions:
And a Delta-V Calculator: http://www.strout.net/info/science/delta-v/intro.html

12 March 2008

ProSpace "MarchStorm" Storms Hill

This year's March Storm, has chosen Commercial Access to Space, Space-Based Solar Power, and Planetary Defense for its key topics. It is asking to expand COTS, sign a letter of support for SBSP, requesting the first NSSO recommendation be acted upon, and assign the National Science and Technology Council the task of sorting out organizational responsibilities for Planetary Defense.
http://www.prospace.org/?q=node/8 Pro-Space was a spin-off activity of the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) http://www.space-frontier.org/ which is one of the founding organizations of SSAFE, and the original host of the NSSO study blog http://spacesolarpower.wordpress.com/ and its own Space Solar Project: http://www.space-frontier.org/Projects/spacesolarpower/

11 March 2008

Black holes could bump asteroids our way

From: http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19726465.000-black-holes-could-bump-asteroids-our-way.html
Some physicists think these little black holes, invisible remnants of the early universe, could be a candidate for the dark matter making up much of the universe's mass. Alexander Shatskiy of the Lebedev Institute in Moscow, Russia, points out that if all dark matter, is black holes they would likely pass through the asteroid belts in our galactic backyard. Since a metre-sized primordial black hole can have the mass of the Earth, it would need only to pass near an asteroid to knock it out of a safe orbit and towards our planet, he says

10 March 2008

A New View of the Solar System

From: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/nation/03/09/0309solarsystem.html
First, until recently, people thought that there were two parts to the solar system: four small, rocky inner planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars — and four gas giant outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus..."That was the old view,"...Under the new definition, the International Astronomical Union has officially recognized 11 planets: eight traditional ones plus three "dwarf planets." The dwarfs are Pluto; Ceres, which was thought to be an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter; and Eris, an object that's slightly larger than Pluto and farther from the sun. At least 40 more dwarf planets have been found even farther out and are awaiting official recognition. They bear names such as Quaoar, Sedna, Orcus, Varuna and Ixion. Dozens of others are known only by code numbers.

Stern said the solar system now was thought to be composed of three zones instead of two.
The four rocky planets make up the inner zone. The gas giants form a "middle solar system." Beyond them lies an enormous third zone composed of the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, both named for the astronomers who predicted their existence.
"This third class of planets vastly outnumbers the terrestrial planets and gas giants," Stern said.
The Kuiper Belt, which was discovered in the 1990s, is a ring of dwarf planets, including Pluto, and smaller icy objects that range from 3 billion to 5 billion miles beyond the sun.
More than 1,000 Kuiper Belt objects have been detected, and astronomers say there might be 50,000 to 100,000 more. Most are small, but some rival Pluto in size. Some have atmospheres and moons of their own, and some may have warm, wet interiors.
Far outside the Kuiper Belt looms the Oort Cloud, which Stern calls "the solar system's attic." The cloud is a gigantic sphere with an outer edge almost 5 trillion miles from the sun and is nearly a quarter of the way to the next nearest star, Proxima Centauri.
"If the Oort Cloud were the diameter of a football stadium, the inner solar system would be the size of a washer one-eighth of an inch in diameter," said David Aguilar, a spokesman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.
The Oort Cloud is thought to contain at least 1,000 planetary bodies, some as large as Earth or larger, and as many as a trillion comets. Periodically, a passing star knocks an Oort comet loose and sends it diving toward the sun.
A second upheaval in planetary science is the realization that most members of the solar system weren't born where they are now. Instead, gravitational forces forced them to migrate from their birthplaces to their present homes.
"This is a true revolution," Stern said.
"The planets didn't necessarily form where we see them today," said Douglas Lin, an astronomer at the University of California-Santa Cruz. "They move all over the place."
For example, the giant planets Neptune and Uranus formed where Saturn now lives and drifted outward to their present orbits.
The third revolution in planetary science is the realization that making planets is a common process in the universe. In the past dozen years, 276 planets — some of them forming miniature solar systems — have been detected orbiting other stars. One such system has at least five planets. Astronomers discover an average of 25 planets each year.
NASA will launch a new spaceship, named Kepler, next year hoping to find hundreds more of such faraway planets.

05 March 2008

Binary 'deathstar' has Earth in its sights

From: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1878
SYDNEY: A spectacular, rotating binary star system is a ticking time bomb, ready to throw out a searing beam of high-energy gamma rays – and Earth may be right in the line of fire..."When it finally explodes as a supernova, it could emit an intense beam of gamma rays coming our way", said Peter Tuthill, lead researcher of the team that report their findings in the current Astrophysical Journal...At a distance of 8,000 light-years from Earth, the pair of stars are a short hop away in galactic terms, and just one quarter of the way to the centre of our Milky Way galaxy....A 2005 study showed that a gamma-ray burst originating within 6,500 light-years of Earth could be enough to strip away the ozone layer and cause a mass extinction. Researchers led by Adrian Melott at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, U.S., suggest that such an event may have been responsible for a mass extinction 443 million years ago, in the late Ordovician period, which wiped out 60 per cent of life and cooled the planet.

The Next Great White Fleet


The author argues for using the US Air Force as a catalyst for positive change in space to advance and maintain the international system, and discusses Space Solar Power, Planetary Defense, and debris de-orbit.