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Archive for the ‘Space exploration’ Category

05/07/2019 – Ephemeris – We’re starting to look at the race to the Moon that culminated 50 years ago

May 7, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 8:54, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:23. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 11:58 this evening.

As we look at the Moon near the planet Mars tonight, we recall that fifty years ago today the United States was one week from launching Apollo 10, the penultimate lunar mission to test out the Lunar Module shortened to LM pronounced “Lem” in the vicinity of the Moon. President Kennedy announced the goal in 1961 to send a man to the Moon and return him safely by the end of the decade. This required a lot of learning steps and in the end a huge rocket, the Saturn V. That rocket’s chief designer was Wernher von Braun an ex-Nazi officer who designed the German V-2 during World War II. His counterpart on the Soviet side was Sergei Korolev, though we didn’t know his name until after he died in 1966.  His death hampered the development of the Soviet’s N-1 moon rocket.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Wernher von Braun

Wernher von Braun around 1960. Image is in the public domain.

Sergei Korolev

Sergei Korolev, undated image published after his death. Image is in the public domain.

A fascinating look of the Soviet side of the moon race can be found here: https://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/rockets_people_vol4_detail.html.  The ebook Rockets and People Volume IV, The Moon Race by Korolev’s deputy Boris Chertok.  It’s available in epub, mobi and pdf formats.  Volume 3 covers from 1961 to 1967.  There are links to all the other volumes from that page.

04/12/2019 – Ephemeris – The proposed Deep Space Gateway

April 12, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, April 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 8:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:02. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 3:55 tomorrow morning.

With international cooperation NASA is hoping it and its partners, the European Space Agency, The Japanese JAXA, The Canadian Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos will a build the Deep Space Gateway, a way station between the Earth and Moon to exchange crews and vehicles traveling between the two bodies. This plan is an integral part of the returning to the Moon by around 2028. The gateway will also be a way station for the eventual exploration of Mars. How President Trump’s new demand to have the United States return to the Moon by the last year of his second term, if he has one, will affect current plans and international cooperation remains to be seen.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Deep Space Gateway

Deep Space Gateway configuration concept. This would orbit the moon is a long elliptical orbit. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA.

12/31/2018 – Ephemeris – New Year 2019 – A new solar system body is being explored right now!

December 31, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for New Years Eve, Monday, December 31st. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:11. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:54 tomorrow morning.

Later tonight the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto and its retinue of moons, will fly by Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. It’s probably an odd looking contact binary body with lobes 12 ½ and 11 miles (20 & 18 km) in diameter. That’s the guess as of a week ago. It will pass this body by 1,366 miles (2200 km), traveling at over 32 thousand miles an hour (52,000 kph). The spacecraft will pass closest approach at 33 minutes after the ball drops in Times Square. Nearly 4 hours later it will phone home. We won’t receive that message here on Earth until 10:28 a.m. due to the over 6 hours of time it takes the radio signal to reach Earth. We should get the first images by tomorrow night.  The New Horizons spacecraft was built and is flown by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHAPL) is collaboration with NASA and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Path of New Horizons

The Trajectory and position of New Horizons as it approached 2014 MU69 two months ago showing some of the KBOs recently discovered near its path. Credit JHAPL.

Ultima Thule silhouette

Silhouette of KBO 2014 MU69 (Ultima Thule) created by occultation timings on July 17, 2017 from southern Argentina.  Credit NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker.

Links to information can be found here:  http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Where-to-Watch.php.

A cool app to follow New Horizons in real-time or to preview its passage of Ultima Thule is NASA’s Eyes:  https://eyes.nasa.gov/.

NASA's Eyes

NASA’s Eyes screen Captured as a real-time simulation as I write this post. At this time two instruments are active, LORRI the long-range imager and ALICE the Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA/JPL

 

12/11/2018 – Ephemeris – The Chinese just launched a spacecraft to land on the far side of the Moon

December 11, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 11th. The Sun will rise at 8:10. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, half way from new to first quarter, will set at 9:06 this evening.

Last Friday the Chinese launched their Chang’e 4 spacecraft to land on the far side of the Moon in January. That side of the Moon has been mistakenly called the dark side. It actually gets more sunlight than the near, Earth facing, side. This will be an extraordinary feat. So how can they tell what’s happening on the other side? In preparation for this landing attempt the Chinese put a communications relay satellite in a halo orbit about the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point 38 thousand miles (61 thousand km) beyond the Moon. It is a kind of a gravitational point of equilibrium behind the Moon. One of five, and they are very useful. The satellite will lazily orbit that point, in view of the lander and the Earth for continuous communication between the Earth and the lander.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Chang'e 4 trajectory

Chinese mission to land a lander and rover on the far side of the Moon. Click on the image to enlarge.  It’s in Chinese except the numbers. Credit China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation via Space.com.

How Queuiao, the lunar communications satellite orbiting L2 performs its relay function

How Queuiao, the lunar communications satellite orbiting L2 performs its relay function. Click on image to enlarge. Credit CNSA via gbtimes.com.

Note:  Next Monday’s program will be about Lagrangian points.

10/16/2018 – Ephemeris – Soyuz failure makes for problems for the ISS

October 16, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 16th. The Sun will rise at 7:59. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 6:56. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:36 tomorrow morning.

Last Thursday the 11th a cosmonaut, Alexy Ovchinin and an astronaut, Nick Hague were launched toward the International Space Station by a Russian Soyuz rocket. At about the time the four first stage boosters separated from the second stage, something happened, and the capsule containing the men was weightless instead of being boosted by the second stage of the rocket. The Soyuz has an escape system, so the descent capsule separated from the protective shroud and the orbital module on top of it and the service module below it. To make a landing downrange. The men are safe, but the three persons in the ISS must return by mid-December, whether or not they are relieved as their Soyuz capsule cannot be safely flown after that.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The above with the exception of the last line is what goes out on the 59 second length of my radio program.  What follows is a more complete explanation of the problems in store for the International Space Station as the Russians attempt to determine the cause of the failure, fix the problem and begin flying again.

Cosmonauts and astronauts visiting the International Space Station generally use the same Soyuz that brought them up and docked to the station to return to the Earth.  It happens that the reaction control thrusters used to orient the spacecraft use hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a monopropellant.  It decomposes into oxygen and steam when in contact with a catalyst to provide thrust.  However, hydrogen peroxide is unstable if left to itself, slowly decomposing.  This gives the Soyuz a useful lifetime of about 200 days on orbit.   The current crew of Sergey Prokopyev, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, and Alexander Gerst was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on June 8, 2018.  The 200 days runs out in late December.  Their original scheduled return date was December 13th.

Scott Manley on YouTube has more information:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpqq0i4w_fM

06/08/2018 – Ephemeris – A second Moon race?

June 18, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, June 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:31, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 1:30 tomorrow morning.

The Moon as a destination is becoming a hot topic among the space faring nations. Who will land humans first in this second wave since the United States landed there in the late 1960s and early 1970s: The Chinese, Russians, us? Or maybe someone else? Next year July 20th will be the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface. The goal this time is not to just visit, but to stay. The lunar surface is a harsh environment of extremes in temperatures and radiation from the Sun, and from the universe beyond. There is shelter beneath the surface, in lava tubes. There is one lava tube with a collapsed roof, a skylight, which could provide access in a place called the Marius Hills.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Marius Hils

An oblique view of the Marius Hills from the Lunar Orbiter 2, with an inset look into a skylight into a lava tube from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the lower left. Click on image to enlarge. Credit NASA, Lunar Orbiter 2, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The picture above was posted on Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) 2017 October 2017:  https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap171025.html, where there is more information.

05/29/2017 – Ephemeris – We remember too those who died reaching for the stars

May 29, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Memorial Day, Monday, May 29th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 9:18, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:01.  The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 1:04 tomorrow morning.

Today we pause to remember those who gave their lives for our country.  For purposes of this program that includes those courageous enough to sit on top of or beside a million pounds of explosives to be launched into space.  From the three astronauts who died in the Apollo one file in 1967, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, to the disintegration of the Columbia in 2003, 17 Americans and other nationals have died in NASA space accidents.  The Russians too have lost cosmonauts in the exploration of space.  Brothers and sisters in the quest for knowledge and to expand the horizons of human habitation.  Per aspera, ad astra,  Through difficulties to the stars!

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

A listing of Astronaut and Cosmonaut deaths:  http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0114.shtml