M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Children of Pella — to post or not to post?

September 14, 2020
MThomas

OK, so I admit it — I’m way behind in finishing my SF novel, Bringer of Light (you can read the prologue here).

I had hoped to get the draft done by January, then work on edits in the spring and publish it in summer.

But a little COVID happened to the world, and believe it or not I got a little sidetracked by, uh, life. And a family history project about a love triangle (kind of).

(During our two-month quasi-lockdown-not-sure-what-this-is-stuck-home-with-two-kids thing, I did get pretty good at the Mars terraforming game. Highly recommended.)

So now I’m thinking, to kickstart my writing life back into action, why not post the chapters I have so far? There are about 35 of them, tend to be short, and since I’ve been struggling with the ending, might help generate some ideas for getting to the expected final scene.

Sound like a good weekly post?

Where are your nuclear wessels?

August 11, 2020
MThomas

nuclearrockets

Astronauts on a trip to Mars would be exposed to very high levels of radiation which can cause serious long-term health problems such as cancer and sterility. Radiation shielding can help, but it is extremely heavy, and the longer the mission, the more shielding is needed. A better way to reduce radiation exposure is to simply get where you are going quicker.

Hmm. So putting them in a ship with a giant nuclear fission reactor is safer?

I think somebody may want to come up with a backup plan…

BZsV.gif

https://www.space.com/nuclear-powered-rockets-to-explore-solar-system.html

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

 

 

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).

Mars GLOWS green — but brighter at day than at night

June 19, 2020
MThomas

mars-green-glow-exlarge-169

By studying Mars’ green glow, the researchers can understand the structure of this layer in the planet’s atmosphere, better understand its altitude range and even observe any changes in reaction to the sun.

First time to see a “green glow” around another planet. In the case of Earth, it’s mostly caused by oxygen, but Mars’ glow is primarily CO2.

So there really ARE “Green Martians.” Just don’t turn and run!

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/16/world/mars-green-glow-esa-scn-trnd/index.html

The Once and Future Rings of Mars

June 17, 2020
MThomas

deimos-mars-moon-super-169

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

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