M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Ready to ride the laser to Mars?

February 11, 2022
MThomas

“The laser, a 10-meter wide array on Earth, would heat hydrogen plasma in a chamber behind the spacecraft, producing thrust from hydrogen gas and sending it to Mars in only 45 days. There, it would aerobrake in Mars’ atmosphere, shuttling supplies to human colonists or, someday perhaps, even humans themselves.”

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-laser-mars.html

The only problem is that there’s no way to slow the thing down right now…”aerobraking” using current technology would cause gees of 8 or above for several minutes and temperatures hot enough to cook whatever’s in the ship to a nice toasty crisp.

Not even the G-Force would survive! Well, OK, maybe. (But only if they reverted to their original Japanese name – “Gatchman.”)

But what if robots could design a receiving station with lasers to “catch” the ship and slow it down…?

Hmmm. Sounds like a science fiction work in progress…

Purple rocks on Mars

February 5, 2022
MThomas

SuperCam showed that the coatings are enriched in hydrogen and sometimes magnesium. In addition, images from Mastcam-Z suggest that they also contain iron oxides. Both the hydrogen and iron oxides point to past water being involved in the formation of the coatings. That shouldn’t be too surprising, perhaps, since this area in Jezero Crater used to be a lake a few billion years ago.

https://earthsky.org/space/purple-rocks-mars-perseverance-rover-desert-varnish/

The rocks resemble so-called desert varnish, which protect microbes from the sun’s radiation. It’d be interesting to find out whether cyanobacteria that once existed on Mars did this…but the four billion year old question is, how did those bacteria get there in the first place?

The Death Star has an inner ocean

January 22, 2022
MThomas

New analysis of one of Saturn’s moons suggests that it may harbor a liquid ocean. No, not the usual suspects – the new culprit is Mimas, the little moon with a big crater, which gives it more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Death Star’ from Star Wars.

https://www.sciencealert.com/evidence-for-a-liquid-ocean-has-been-uncovered-in-saturn-s-death-star-moon

Add Mimas to Europa and Enceladus as possible moons harboring ET.

Like, IWOW —-

China investigating how to build a mega spaceship

January 9, 2022
MThomas

China is investigating how to build ultra-large spacecraft that are up to 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) long. But how feasible is the idea, and what would be the use of such a massive spacecraft?

https://www.livescience.com/mega-spaceship-china-proposal.html

The original title of the Live Science post linked above is “China wants to build…” but this is incorrect. The National Natural Science Foundation of China is proposing a feasibility study. This is not the same thing as “China wants to build a kilometer-long ship.”

Likely the study will find out that it’s just too expensive and not worth it in terms of effort, resources, and maintenance costs. But it may show the benefits of setting up a base on the Moon and then sending materials there to be 3D-printed for future exploration or human colonies elsewhere.

Sending up a ginormous ship from Earth is foolhardy. Figuring out how to build stuff in space is much smarter.

Bringer of Light, Chapter 31: Ceres – The mining station (Part 2)

January 8, 2022
MThomas

The Seventh Sister finally shows her hand, and no one is particularly pleased…

Gennaji strolled forward, keeping one eye on the traitor, Andrej. But the miner was no longer paying attention to him. Riss and her crew were the star attraction now. And they seemed to have infuriated Ildico.

He was curious, yet the fate of Sergey gnawed at him. Better to glean whatever information he could here and run to Luna. The old man was stubborn and still had allies. Surely he’d hold out, regroup and bide his time until help could arrive.

“Gennaji!” Riss called. “We’ve been waiting for you. This,” she gestured, “is what we are prepared to offer you.”

Andrej gave a mild yelp and threw his weapon to the floor. “It’s burning!”

“No,” Riss said calmly. “It’s changing.”

Before their eyes, the pistol seemed to melt, then condensate. The grey metal dissipated into the air and the shimmering form emitted a vapor and slight hiss as the color changed.

It was a dull yellow and black.

Gennaji pushed through Ildico and Taygete, knelt at the former weapon. He touched it with a tentative finger, then picking it up. Heavy. Much too heavy.

Gold.

“How?” he raised his head.

Continue Reading

Should Pluto and Ceres be “planets”?

January 3, 2022
MThomas

Demoted by the IAU in 2006, the Once and Future “9th planet”

…a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system.

I’m not sure I agree that moons of Jupiter and Saturn should be classified as “planets,” but frankly I see little difference between “dwarf planets” and “planets.”

Plus it wrecks the song I learned to remember the order…

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/pluto-planet-debate-rages-rcna8848

World’s largest space telescope has liftoff

December 26, 2021
MThomas

The James Webb Space Telescope – Hubble’s successor – has successfully lifted off.

Now starts the “two weeks of terror” as it gets into position and unfolds. Fingers crossed! 🤞

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59782057

Bringer of Light, Chapter 30: Ceres – The Sagittarius

December 11, 2021
MThomas

Gennaji prepares to take his vengeance.

Finally. His time had come.

In the expansive cargo hold, railgun at the ready, Gennaji waited. At any moment, Ildico would give the signal, and he would blast the Artemis with radiation. Its systems disabled, he would board it, find Riss, and do what the Ceres Mining Council should have done years ago.

Deliver judgment.

At his side, cabled into place, stood Andrej.

He wasn’t sure how much he could trust the man, to be honest. As a capable defender, yes. At the helm, yes.

When it came to supporting his revenge?

Gennaji clenched a fist. He would not allow another man’s personal feelings to get in the way of his revenge.

Lena.

If only he, himself, had been allowed into the Mining Council!

But, no, that wasn’t the plan. Ildico had promised him justice.

Fortunately, the Mining Council had quickly agreed to their joint demands. He had no idea where she’d managed to find two additional hunter crews willing to support them. But evidently the Pleiades was not the only ship with a grudge against Riss. At least, that’s what it seemed like, to Gennaji. What other reason could there be?

In the meantime, he wondered what to say to Sergey the next time they met. If they met. The old captain might not forgive any action taken against his adopted daughter.

Gennaji felt for the hollow point. Safe and secure in his left arm sleeve pocket. He grimaced. Soon, he would discover whether it had been worth spending depleted funds on.

Karel’s voice filled the cargo hold.

“Someone just left the Artemis on a tether. Whoever it is appears to be headed for the mining station port.”

“That must be Clarissa,” Gennaji growled. “So, she gave in, in the end. Too bad.”

He unbolted the railgun and moved to the comm panel unit. At a nod, Andrej undid the tethers from his wrists. It was just as well, Gennaji though with a chagrin. 

She hadn’t called his bluff. There was no way he could have used the railgun anyway. Not if he wanted to keep his ship in one piece.

Bluster. He shook his head. Sergey would not have approved. But this was revenge.

All was fair, Sergey, he thought as he completed his final systems check. He turned to the equipment cabinet, yanked out two suits, and tossed one to Andrej. He toggled the comm again.

“Ory, Andy and I are preparing to Hop down to Ceres. Once we’re out, re-establish the solar shield.”

“Captain, we can’t possibly match the Artemis in a one-on-one fight.”

Gennaji frowned. “I know that. I doubt she’ll attack with these odds against her. Still, keep on eye on it. I wouldn’t put anything past that crew of vipers.”

“Captain,” Karel’s voice cut in. “Do you want me to prepare a ballbuster?”

“No. Too close to Ceres. We can’t risk it.”

“Then?”

“Hand to hand, Karel.” Gennaji grinned in anticipation. “If we’re lucky.”


Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 31: Ceres – The mining station (Part 1). Things may not actually go according to Ildico’s plan, and Riss has a few surprises for Gennaji.

Bringer of Light, Chapter 29: Ceres – Weng

November 27, 2021
MThomas

As Riss prepares to surrender herself to Gennaji and Ildico, Sam helplessly watches the scene unfold…

From the command seat of his tiny shuttle, Weng silently watched the face off between the Artemis and the ships of the new Ceres Mining Council. He wished he knew what they were saying.

He also wished Gen were still in the shuttle with him.

Weng grimaced. He still didn’t trust the clone, but he would feel much safer if someone obviously as highly ranked as Gen were in the shuttle. It would reduce the chance of his becoming yet another target.

Apparently, however, this was all going to plan. He mentally recalled the conversation he had with Gen just prior to arriving at Ceres.

“Gen, why are there five hunter ships here? Are we getting ready for a fight?”

“Not to worry, Sam,” Gen had told him. “There will be no fight.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because we control the Seven Sisters, and without them, there is no fight.”

“The Seven what?”

Continue Reading

The DART has lift-off

November 24, 2021
MThomas

twitter.com/nasa/status/1463315612042678279

Technically, the two asteroids the DART is aiming at are a “binary” (they orbit each other).

The BBC’s explanation is pretty good.

They don’t even mention Bruce Willis until the final sentence.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59327293

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