Stunning Views of the Solar Eclipse

On Sunday, across a pathway that included parts of Africa and Asia, viewers were treated to a stunning “ring of fire” solar eclipse. In this “annular” eclipse which coincided with the Summer Solstice, the Moon passed between the Earth and the sun, revealing a thin outer ring of the fiery solar disc. Skywatchers were not bathed in total darkness, but astronomers have said it was like switching from a 500W bulb to a 30W one.

In the above combination photo, the eclipse is seen in various locations in India: (top L to R) Kurukshetra, Allahabad, Bangalore and (bottom L to R) Kolkata, New Delhi, Bangalore.

 

 

Company plans space tourism flights in high-altitude balloon

Researchers, armchair astronauts and even brides and grooms looking for an out-of-this-world wedding experience will be able to celebrate, collect data or simply enjoy the view from an altitude of 100,000 feet in a balloon-borne pressurized cabin, complete with a bar and a restroom, a space startup announced Thursday.

“Spaceship Neptune,” operated by a company called Space Perspective from leased facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, will carry eight passengers at a time on six-hour flights. The passenger cabin, lifted by a huge hydrogen-filled balloon, will climb at a sedate 12 mph to an altitude of about 30 miles high. That will be followed by a slow descent to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean where a recovery ship will be standing by to secure the cabin and crew.

Test flights carrying scientific research payloads are expected to begin in 2021. The first flights carrying passengers are expected within the next three-and-a-half years or so, with piloted test flights before that.

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Space tourists enjoy the view from 100,000 feet in this artist’s impression of a ride aloft in Space Perspective’s balloon-borne “Neptune” crew cabin.SPACE PERSPECTIVE

While the company initially will operate out of the Florida spaceport, the system could be launched from multiple sites around the world, with Hawaii and Alaska near-term possibilities.

Ticket prices for crewed flights have not yet been set, but company officials said Thursday the initial cost will probably be in the neighborhood of $125,000 per passenger. That’s about half what space tourists can expect to pay for sub-orbital flights aboard rocket-powered spaceplanes like those being developed by Virgin Galactic, which are designed to reach altitudes of more than 50 miles.

Spaceship Neptune will fly well under that altitude and passengers will not experience weightlessness, but they will still be above 99% of Earth’s atmosphere, nearly twice as high as the supersonic Concorde once flew. And unlike shorter sub-orbital rocket flights that only spend a few minutes at the top of their trajectory, Neptune passengers will enjoy two hours at peak altitude, taking in the view through large, wrap-around windows.

“One of the amazing things about the design we’e been able to work up is the ability to have events, things like weddings, corporate events. I can’t wait to see spiritual leaders flying with political leaders,” said Space Perspective founder and co-CEO Taber MacCallum.

“I think we’re going to see a wide variety of flights. Science flights are going to be really interesting, mixing tourism and science. The imagination runs wild. We’re getting lots of interest in all types of great ideas.”

Space Perspective has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA and the company has arranged to lease a facility at the 3-mile-long runway once used by returning space shuttles. Neptune flights will be regulated by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight.

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An artist’s impression of a Space Perspective balloon and crew module high above Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The company plans to begin test flights from the Kennedy Space Center next year.SPACE PERSPECTIVE

“Space Perspective is bringing a fundamentally new capability to the Cape, which will enhance the offering we have in Florida for space-related research and tourism,” Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said in a statement. “Its presence here in Florida creates not just job and supply chain opportunities, but opportunities for civilian astronauts to experience this planet Earth from the edge of space, a privilege previously available to only a few.”

MacCallum and co-CEO Jane Poynter said extensive market research showed untapped interest in such flights across a broad spectrum of users.

“When we take all the people that we want to take to the edge of space, we want them to really be able to experience what astronauts talk about, seeing the Earth in space (and) doing it comfortably, gently and accessibly,” Poynter said during a teleconference.

“There’ll be eight people at a time, with a crew member in the capsule. And of course, you’ll be able to connect with your friends on the ground. And we’ll have some really great communication systems so that we can have all kinds of live events up there as well. The whole capsule has been designed to be really flexible to allow for all kinds of things to go on and up in the space environment.”

As for weddings, she said Neptune will provide “the best place to get married, ever.”

cbsnews.com

Dragon Capsule Docks with International Space Station

US astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have docked with, and entered, the International Space Station (ISS).

Their Dragon capsule – supplied and operated by the private SpaceX company – attached to the bow section of the orbiting lab 422km above China.

After a wait for leak, pressure and temperature checks, the pair disembarked to join the Russian and American crew already on the ISS.

Hurley and Behnken launched from Florida on Saturday.

Theirs is the first crew outing launched from American soil to orbit since the retirement of the US space agency (Nasa) shuttles nine years ago.

SpaceX Makes History

On Saturday afternoon SpaceX and NASA successfully launched a crew of American astronauts aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. There has not been a mission from the Kennedy Space Center to put people into space for almost ten years, since the end of the Space Shuttle program. The launch was also historic for SpaceX as it became the first private company to carry humans into orbit. The Dragon capsule will dock Sunday morning with the International Space Station. The astronauts will stay in space for at least six weeks but possibly up to four months.

 

NASA Rocket Testing

The John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC) is a NASA rocket testing facility. It is located in Hancock County, Mississippi (United States), on the banks of the Pearl River at the Mississippi–Louisiana border. As of 2012, it is NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility. There are over 30 local, state, national, international, private, and public companies and agencies using SSC for their rocket testing facilities.

The Rocket Propulsion Test Complex is a rocket testing complex which was built in 1965 as a component of the John C. Stennis Space Center. The Rocket Propulsion Test Complex played an important role in the development of the Saturn V rocket. The A-1, A-2 and B-1/B-2 test stands were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985. The NASA Engineering & Science Directorate (ESD) at SSC operates and maintains SSC’s rocket test stands.

The Rocket Propulsion Test Complex is a rocket testing complex which was built in 1965 as a component of the John C. Stennis Space Center. The Rocket Propulsion Test Complex played an important role in the development of the Saturn V rocket. The A-1, A-2 and B-1/B-2 test stands were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985. The NASA Engineering & Science Directorate (ESD) at SSC operates and maintains SSC’s rocket test stands.

The test in this video is from a site in the Utah desert.

The Soviet Lunar Lander that Never Landed on the Moon

 

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The Soviet lunar program was covered up, forgotten after failing to put a man on the moon.

Soviet scientists were well ahead of their American counterparts in moon exploration before President John F. Kennedy pronounced the U.S. would put a man there first. The Soviets had already landed the probe Luna 2 on the surface of the moon in 1959 and had an orbiting satellite in 1966.

The Soviets developed a similar multi-step approach to NASA, involving a module used to orbit the moon and one for landing. Their version was decidedly less complex and lighter to account for inferior rockets. This photo show the LK “Lunar Craft” lander, which has a similar pod-over-landing gear structure but numerous key differences.

 

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All the activities done by two astronauts is done by one. To make the craft lighter, the LK only fits the one cosmonaut, who was supposed to peer through a tiny window on the side of the craft to land it. After landing the vehicle the pod separates from the landing gear, as with the Apollo Lunar Module, but uses the same engine for landing as it does for take off as another weight savings.

The L2 Lunar Orbit Module designed to transport the LK into orbit around the moon was similarly stripped down. There’s no internal connection between the two craft so the cosmonaut had to space walk outside to get into the LK and head towards the surface. When the LK rejoined the L2 for the return trip home, the now likely exhausted cosmonaut would then climb back out into the abyss of space. The LK would then be thrown away.

 

Soviet Lunar Orbiter

 

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Soviet Lunar Lander (LK)

 

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There were numerous political, scientific and financial reasons why the Soviets didn’t make it to the moon first, including a space agency with split priorities and therefore not single-mindedly dedicated to this goal. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon first on July 20, 1969, besting the Russians, who were still planning to visit the moon in the upcoming years.

They had the equipment, but they didn’t have the rockets.

Getting to the moon requires launching a command module and a lander. Both are heavy objects and require massive amounts of thrust to get into orbit. The Soviet’s planned to use their N-1 rocket, but two failed launches in 1971 and 1972 destroyed dummy landing and control modules, as well as the rockets themselves, and led to the program being shelved for lack of a proper launch vehicle.

The LK was sent into space for numerous test missions. The first two unmanned flights were successful tests of the vehicle through a simulated orbit. The third flight ended when the N-1 rocket crashed. The fourth test in 1971 was a success, but years later the decaying test module started to return to Earth with a trajectory that would put it over the skies of Australia.

NASA explains in a report on the Soviet space program how they had to convince the Australians it wasn’t a nuclear satellite:

To allay fears of a nuclear catastrophe, representatives of the Soviet Foreign Ministry in Australia admitted that Cosmos 434 was an “experiment unit of a lunar cabin,” or lunar lander

Eventually, the program was deemed too expensive and unnecessary in light of the NASA success. The Soviets moved onto building space labs, successfully, and the remaining parts of the lunar program were destroyed or dispersed, including this amazing collection of parts hidden in the back of the Moscow Aviation Institute.

 

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American Lunar Orbiter top, Soviet Orbiter bottom

 

Soviet Lander ascending from the surface of the Moon, artist graphic.

 

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LK Lander and Apollo LM (drawn to scale). Manned Moon landers

 

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Soviet left, American right

Playgrounds From The Space Age

The rocket holds a special place in history. It’s an icon of technological progress that’s both revered and feared at the same time. During the sixties of the last century, the United States and the Soviet Union was gripped by the space-age fever, and the rocket emerged as the fundamental symbol of the space rivalry. Throughout America, as well as the Eastern bloc, rocket shaped structures began popping up across children playgrounds to foster curiosity and excitement about the space race among kids. Aside from rockets there were other fixture resembling various space-age equipment such as satellites, radar tower, planets and even submarines that kids can climb, swing and slide from.

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A rocket slide at a playground in Iowa, United States.

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The rocket ship slide in Torrance’s Los Arboles Park, installed in 1960. Photo credit: Daily Breeze

Brenda Biondo, a freelance journalist who photographed many old playgrounds across the US, added that “the Consumer Product Safety Commission never issued requirements, just suggested guidelines. But manufacturers felt that if their equipment didn’t meet those guidelines, they’d be vulnerable to liability. Everybody went to the extreme, making everything super safe so they wouldn’t risk getting sued.”

Playgrounds across the country began retiring old equipment. The Carson playground, in Wisconsin, lost their rocket despite pleas from the public not to remove the beloved fixture.

“Of all the pieces of equipment, the rocket had the most memories associated with it … a lot of the play value went away with the new guidelines,” laments Phil Johnson, the Superintendent of Parks & Recreation.

But lower heights and softer landing haven’t made playgrounds any safer. On the contrary, injuries seems to have risen. As David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London, explains, when playground equipment was higher and had asphalt instead of sand or rubber, kids knew they had to be careful and learned to assess risks. Nowadays, with everything lower and presumably safer, children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, and take more risks leading to injuries.

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A jungle gym in Riverside Park in Manhattan, which has disappeared now. Photo credit: Dith Pran/The New York Times

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Children playing on iron pole playground equipment at Trinity Play Park, circa 1900.

 

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Girls’ playground, Harriet Island, St. Paul, Minn. 1905.

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Broadway Playfield, 1910.

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Rings and poles, Bronx Park, New York. 1911.

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Hiawatha Playground, 1912.

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A rocket shaped playground apparatus in Thetford, England.

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A rocket in Levy Lowry Memorial Park, Princeton, Missouri.

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A rocket-shaped playground equipment in Bakerview Park, Mount Vernon, United States.

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A rocket slide at a playground in Chillicothe, Missouri, United States.

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A rocket slide at a playground in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, United States.

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A rocket slid at a playground in Benalla, Australia.