M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Drill, rocket launch, catch, ferry, repeat?

August 2, 2020
MThomas

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The Airbus spacecraft will have to manoeuvre itself into a position to capture these samples that will be packaged inside a football-sized container.

After ingesting this container, the satellite must then prepare it for return to Earth.

This means not only shipping it across hundred of millions of km of space, but also putting the football inside a re-entry capsule that can be dropped into Earth’s atmosphere to land in an American desert.

This would be, indeed, a feat of engineering as well as a first in interplanetary exploration.

But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an “interplanetary cargo ship.” Unless the intention is to maintain it as a permanent link between research locations (i.e., some kind of permanent orbitor stationed above the Jezero Crater) and research facilities on Earth (or the Moon, or the International Space Station).

Political will is needed in addition to the enormous funding. Semi-privatization, anyone?

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53575353

 

 

Shooting star above Tokyo

July 4, 2020
MThomas

“I thought a person living (in the condo) above knocked down a shelf,” wrote one Twitter user, while another said, “I thought my child sleeping on the second floor fell out of bed.”

Granted, the embedded video is only understandable to those who speak Japanese, but even if you don’t, the footage is still cool.

(The sound people heard was likely the result of a small meteorite — about 1 meter wide —  breaking the sound barrier as it disintegrated.)

https://japantoday.com/category/national/shooting-star-seems-to-have-exploded-above-tokyo?

SpooQy-1 action at a distance!

June 30, 2020
MThomas

“In the future, our system could be part of a global quantum network transmitting quantum signals to receivers on Earth or on other spacecraft,” says Aitor Villar, lead author of the study. “These signals could be used to implement any type of quantum communications application, from quantum key distribution for extremely secure data transmission to quantum teleportation, where information is transferred by replicating the state of a quantum system from a distance.”

OK, OK, so it’s not the first time quantum entanglement has been demonstrated. But it sure is the smallest. Only 20 cm by 10 cm!

Now we only need a few thousand of these things and a way of somehow making tangled photons actually carry encrypted messages…

(Sorry, thinking of the SF novel I should have published by now…still figuring out the last two chapters!)

See more at New Atlas (note: I seriously doubt the CubeSat actually looks like that picture when it’s doing its thing).

The Once and Future Rings of Mars

June 17, 2020
MThomas

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The researchers looked at Phobos, which loses height as it interacts with Martian gravity over time. Eventually, its orbit will be too low and Mars will essentially rip it into pieces that form a ring around the planet. It’s estimated that this will happen within 50 million years.

So say goodbye to fear, but dread may stick around a while longer…

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/03/world/mars-rings-moons-scn/index.html

Giant asteroid flying by Earth next week looks like it’s wearing a face mask

April 24, 2020
MThomas

On April 29, an asteroid estimated to be 1.2 miles wide will fly by Earth, but it’s not on a destructive path. And new images of the asteroid make it appear as though it’s wearing a face mask.

😷

— Read on edition.cnn.com/2020/04/23/world/asteroid-1998-or2-face-mask-scn-trnd/index.html

Honey, I Shrunk the Lunar Payloads!

April 13, 2020
MThomas

NASA tells Inverse that the payloads will need to measure no more than 100 millimeters by 100 millimeters by 50 millimeters, around the size of a bar of soap. They will also need to weigh no more than 0.4 kilograms (0.88 pounds) and be able to withstand external temperatures between minus 120 degrees Celsius (minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit) and 100 degrees (212 degrees Fahrenheit). These are the maximum limits, but smaller and lighter is preferred.

Yow, that’s wicked tiny. But small price to pay to set up a Lunar Space Base from which humanity can expand into the expanse.

Er, the solar system. I meant the solar system.

https://www.inverse.com/innovation/nasa-payload-contest

New mini-moon! — well, at least until we kick it out of orbit

February 28, 2020
MThomas

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He added that the mini-moon appears to have been orbiting our planet since it was first captured by Earth’s gravity three years ago. Early observations also suggest it is small enough to fit in just about any garage or shed, with an estimated diameter between 2 and 3.5 meters (about 6 – 11 feet).

The photo obviously doesn’t match the actual size of this “mini-moon” but you get the idea.

There was another one a few years ago, by the way. It stayed a few months and then got booted out of orbit.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2020/02/26/earth-has-captured-a-second-tiny-mini-moon/#52d80f1d58cd

It’s a Nice Model you’ve got there, Mars. Be a shame if something happened to it…

January 12, 2020
MThomas

“Without this instability, Mars likely would have had a mass closer to Earth’s and would be a very different, perhaps more Earth-like, planet compared to what it is today.”

Damn you, Jupiter and Saturn! Why couldn’t you have just stayed in your orbits and left Mars alone? (Shakes fist futilely at night sky.)

— Read on www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/5/10/the-giant-planets-in-the-solar-system-stunted-the-growth-of-mars

Happy (Belated!) New Year’s 2020!

January 4, 2020
MThomas

NY2020Tokyo.jpg

Hi, everyone. I guess I should have planned a little better — should have written a “new year’s post” and then saved it before the holiday season began, scheduled the post, and then enjoyed overeating, overdrinking, and sleeping in.

Except of course that’s not what actually happened. Continue Reading

What’s more valuable than gold? This rock

December 27, 2019
MThomas

If you find a big rock in your backyard, and you can’t break it open with normal tools, guess what?

The researchers argue that the Maryborough meteorite is much rarer than gold. It’s one of only 17 meteorites ever recorded in the Australian state of Victoria, and it’s the second largest chondritic mass, after a huge 55-kilogram specimen identified in 2003.

This next bit is more interesting to me:

“Other rare meteorites contain organic molecules such as amino acids; the building blocks of life.”

Hmmm… 🤔 Sounds like a storyline…

flip.it/PjaS-D

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