The news is always about the Covid beast that is ravaging the planet….and now there are variants to the virus…..
The pandemic news is good and bad……
Good in the sense that the numbers of infections and deaths is falling…..
Bad in the sense that variants of the Covid virus is making its presence known…..
But what does that mean?
Vaccine rollout in the United States has been undeniably slow. And while we wait, worrisome new coronavirus variants are emerging, heightening the urgency to control the pandemic. Some variants, including ones first identified in Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom, have mutations that help the coronavirus evade parts of the immune system, raising the specter that some people might face a second round of COVID-19.
All of this can make it feel like the pandemic has come full circle and that we are back where we started. But even in the face of potential reinfections, the world has a tool at its disposal that didn’t exist a year ago: effective vaccines.
WE all have knowledge of the giant Goliath that was brought done by a pea shooter….then there are those giant TV shows about the big guys that have been here since history began…..but are they just fallen angels? Maybe some form of ET that visited to make us a better race…..surely there is evidence somewhere.
Those TV things try to convince us of the existence of such beasties. Shows like ‘Ancient Aliens’……but there is evidence!
Evidence that they did not exist!
It seems every time you look away from the Internet for more than a few minutes these days there are about five new conspiracy theories to catch up on by the time you come back.
Go for a jog, look at the computer, and suddenly the Internet believes that Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks flay children alive in order to harvest their blood (no, really, this is an actual conspiracy theory). But even given the strangeness and speed of conspiracy theories these days you might be shocked to learn that the Vatican – in conjunction with the Smithsonian, no less – is suppressing the truth about the existence of gigantic human skeletons, confirming the existence of giants and somewhat messing up our evolutionary tree.
There’s even evidence, in the form of the worst photoshop jobs you are ever likely to see.
I know it has been a helluva week….but since I am one of the few bloggers with an eye on space I need to report the stuff happening.
Was that a message?
On December 18, 2020, Ian Sample of the Guardian published a report about a tantalizing radio signal at 982.002MHz that was detected within the Breakthrough Listen project by the Parkes telescope in Australia from the nearest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri. This infrared star hosts an Earth-size planet, Proxima b, in its habitable zone, where liquid water could allow the chemistry of life on the planet’s surface. There was no scientific paper accompanying the report, and therefore it’s too early to draw any inferences.
Astronomers must verify that the signal cannot originate from radio interference on Earth or some natural emission mechanism. Terrestrial interference should be different for telescopes at different locations on Earth. If the radio source repeats and resides on Proxima b, then it should show an 11-day modulation associated with the planet’s orbital (and spin) period. As soon as I saw the news report, I wrote to the publisher of my forthcoming book Extraterrestrial on the search for intelligent life: “We might have friends out there. Better than a five-star review is getting reassurance for the book’s content from an actual star on the sky.”
The question is asked….have we been contacted in the past?
Canadian astronomer named Robert Weryk was reviewing images captured by a telescope known as Pan-STARRS1 when he noticed something strange. The telescope is situated atop Haleakalā, a ten-thousand-foot volcanic peak on the island of Maui, and it scans the sky each night, recording the results with the world’s highest-definition camera. It’s designed to hunt for “near-Earth objects,” which are mostly asteroids whose paths bring them into our planet’s astronomical neighborhood and which travel at an average velocity of some forty thousand miles an hour. The dot of light that caught Weryk’s attention was moving more than four times that speed, at almost two hundred thousand miles per hour.
Weryk alerted colleagues, who began tracking the dot from other observatories. The more they looked, the more puzzling its behavior seemed. The object was small, with an area roughly that of a city block. As it tumbled through space, its brightness varied so much—by a factor of ten—that it had to have a very odd shape. Either it was long and skinny, like a cosmic cigar, or flat and round, like a celestial pizza. Instead of swinging around the sun on an elliptical path, it was zipping away more or less in a straight line. The bright dot, astronomers concluded, was something never before seen. It was an “interstellar object”—a visitor from far beyond the solar system that was just passing through. In the dry nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union, it became known as 1I/2017 U1. More evocatively, it was dubbed ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “oh-mooah-mooah”), from the Hawaiian, meaning, roughly, “scout.”
For space exploration, the executive order directs the NASA administrator to prepare a report within 180 days defining “requirements for NASA utilization of nuclear energy systems for human and robotic exploration missions through 2040 and analyze the costs and benefits of such requirements.” Those requirements include details such as power levels, reactor size and mass, and specific issues associated with operating such reactors in the space environment
Another weekend and yet more space stuff for your enjoyment and knowledge….
Back in the 50s the US was caught flat-footed by the Russians when they successfully put a object in space, the Sputnik.
History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (58 cm.or 22.8 inches in diameter), weighed only 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.
The Soviet Union inaugurates the “Space Age” with its launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. The spacecraft, named Sputnik after the Russian word for “satellite,” was launched at 10:29 p.m. on 04 October 1957. Moscow time from the Tyuratam launch base in the Kazakh Republic.
And ever since the US has tried to always tried to remain one step ahead of the Russia…..and today is NO different…..
Space has once again become a prominent national security issue 63 years after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. Sputnik’s launch sent shockwaves throughout the U.S., thought to have been the world’s technological leader. This historical event and the U.S. response provides us with valuable context for how the U.S. faces the current space challenge posed by today’s array of potential adversaries.
In meeting this challenge, the U.S. has established Space Force, a U.S. Air Force component. The operational arm of Space Force will be U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM), a unified combatant command created in 1985 before being disbanded and subsumed by U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in 2002.
These days there is a whole industry built up around space…..with Musk and others trying to capitalize on the promise of unforeseen profits the race is on…..and with this type of stuff changes are inevitable….
The attention of the world has recently been captured by the return of Japan’s Hayabusa-2 asteroid mission, the activities of Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture, and China’s Chang’e 5 moon landing, yet a quiet revolution is taking place in the global space industry. This revolution started in the 2010s and its full impact on global space industry should be measured over the next decade.
In the next 10 years, the entry into service of constellations of small satellites should reshape the face of the global space industry. While the miniaturization of satellites is not a disruptive innovation in itself, it signals a paradigm shift. It will continue to significantly reduce the cost of access to space and pave the way for the mass production of satellites, which in turn will reduce the cost of the space infrastructure itself.
The space industry used to be organized in highly hierarchical industrial chains around prime contractors, most often under public leadership, NASA being a leading example. It now operates like industrial ecosystems budding upstream or downstream around private space infrastructure.
My last post of this Sunday is an FYI…one of those fun things that seldom gets noticed.
Everyone knows the Earth goes around the sun, but something you might not know is that its orbit isn’t perfectly circular. Earth orbits in a slight ellipsis, so it isn’t always the same distance from the sun: sometimes it comes closer, and sometimes it’s further away. Today, Saturday, January 2, the Earth is at its closest point to the sun, in an event called the perihelion.
At its perihelion, the Earth will be just 91.5 million miles from the sun, compared to its further point (called the aphelion, which will happen on July 5 this year) when it is 94.5 million miles away. According to NASA, the distance between the sun and the Earth varies by around 3 million miles throughout the year, which is 13 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Alas, that difference in distance isn’t enough to bring noticeable extra warmth, so if you’d been hoping for a warm day in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere then you’re going to be disappointed. That’s because the seasons are caused by the tilt of our planet, which is set at a slight angle so some parts of the globe face the sun more than others at different times of the year. The tilt is different from the elliptical orbit, which is why we won’t be getting warmer weather even though we’re closer to the sun.
This year though we can expect to learn a whole lot more about our nearest star, with missions like the Parker Solar Probe which will be getting closer to the sun than any human-made object before to observe the sun’s corona. The probe will study the sun’s outer atmosphere to learn more about solar winds, which are streams of charged particles that are periodically released from the corona and which affect space weather.
There’s also the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter which has a camera on board to capture images of the sun directly, and which will take the closest-ever photos of the sun. Its aim is to shift in its orbit so eventually it will pass over the sun’s poles, which have never been observed before. Researchers believe that imaging the poles is essential for understanding the magnetic field of the sun.
I remember in school wondering how it could be cold when we were closer to our heat source…..it was always a bit confusing…..
Most of my regulars know that I have been keeping an eye on the doings over at the US newest military branch, the Space Force…..and now we have a new president will he continue the trend to put our military might into orbit?
Well I have been writing that while I believe our future is space I do not think it should be militarized. And some Progressives have asked Biden to shit can the Space Force.
But true to his Centrists lack of backbone he will ignore the plea…..
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have vowed to take the United States in a sharply different direction on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
But with regard to space and its importance to national security, analysts and industry insiders believe the Biden administration will largely stay the course.
The arrival of a new administration “does not portend any immediate abrupt changes to U.S. national security or civil space programs. Space continues to be a bipartisan policy area and Joe Biden’s campaign has articulated their belief in the importance of the domain,” the Washington aerospace and defense-focused consulting firm Velos said in an email to clients.
Biden has “expressed no plans for structural changes to U.S. space programs,” Velos noted. “The Democratic Party national platform supports continuity within NASA and the Space Force.”
What makes me think that it will be yet another siphon on the treasury?
The U.S. Space Force plans to almost triple in size and add a Reserve element in 2021, the service’s top general said Tuesday as the newest military branch neared its first birthday.
Gen. Jay Raymond, the chief of Space Operations, will officially become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday when the Space Force marks its one year anniversary. The space chief told reporters that he was optimistic about his plans to grow the force from about 2,400 active-duty troops to about 6,400 by the end of 2021.
“We were up and running on day one, and we have not let our foot off the accelerator ever since,” Raymond said in a telephone news briefing. “The progress we have made far surpasses anything that I would have would have expected.”
Now if you have read my posts you are caught up with my feelings on the laws that should govern all space exploration…..
The US and others are considering placing nukes in space….this is a violation of the 1967 treaty that we signed….what we need is to bring space law into the 21st century…..
The legal and governance challenge that exists with respect to outer space is that the core legal frameworks for space law were all agreed upon during the Cold War. The 1967 Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies (aka the Outer Space Treaty) is the founding treaty, and was supplemented by the separate 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Moon Agreement). While both treaties have been in force since 1967 and 1984, respectively, adoption has been variable, with 110 parties to the Outer Space Treaty and only 18 parties to the Moon Treaty. Australia has adopted both. While the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all parties to the Outer Space Treaty, none have adopted the Moon Treaty.
One of the overarching international law principles that applies in outer space is “common heritage”. The common heritage principle was first promoted in the 1960s and applied to the deep seabed. Similar terms are found in the Outer Space Treaty and Moon Agreement. The common heritage principle includes non-appropriation of resources, benefit sharing and associated principles such as the freedom of scientific research, freedom of access and environmental stewardship.
Governance of outer space is also problematic, given that traditional notions of state sovereignty do not apply, and there is no overarching governing body. Within the UN, the General Assembly established in 1959 the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The Committee has a mandate to review “international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programs and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space”. However, the focus of COPUOS has been on peaceful uses of outer space, and not current concerns such as the militarisation of outer space.
Sorry to be a downer with the hopes around the new vaccine…..but the bad news first…..
Yes we have a vaccine and people are starting to be treated…..the same day as the US vaccine began more news has come out about the pandemic……a new strain of Covid-19…….a strain that the vaccine may not protect people from acquiring.
A new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Britain and while Health Secretary Matt Hancock says it could be linked to a fast rise in cases, experts say people should remain calm. Hancock told lawmakers Monday that more than 1,000 cases of the new variant have been identified, and “it may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England,” where COVID cases have been rising sharply,” the Guardian reports. “I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine,” Hancock said, per CNN.
Hancock said British scientists are researching the variant and the World Health Organization has been notified. He said that with infection rates in some areas doubling every seven days, London and a few neighboring areas will return to a stricter lockdown level this week. University of Birmingham expert Alan McNally tells the BBC that the variant was detected in recent weeks. “Let’s not be hysterical. It doesn’t mean it’s more transmissible or more infectious or dangerous,” he says. “It is something to keep an eye on.” He adds: “Huge efforts are ongoing at characterizing the variant and understanding its emergence. It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.”
Just what the world needs these days…..a new strain of Covid-19…..let us just hope that the response will be better and more thorough than the response for the most recent pandemic.
Now the good news……
The Pfizer vaccine is already happily being doled out. And now Moderna’s may join it within a week, reports the Washington Post. Like Pfizer’s, it was found to be highly effective, around 94%, in clinical trials. On Tuesday, a panel of FDA scientists confirmed the accuracy of those results, clearing the way for the next steps. A panel of outside experts is expected to endorse the vaccine on Thursday, followed by a quick emergency authorization of its use by FDA regulators, per Bloomberg. If Moderna’s vaccine follows the same path as Pfizer’s—and no surprises are expected—the first inoculations would be delivered on Monday.
But that is not all there is…..in case you missed (and most did)…..the Trump Boyz released their space policy plan….and as I have been saying the whole time….it reads more like a recipe for the invasion and occupation and exploitation of space for the corporate heads.
The Trump administration released a new national space policy Dec. 9 that articulates U.S. goals in civil space exploration, commercial growth and national security. The document recognizes the U.S. Space Force as the primary organization responsible for defending the nation’s interests in space.
The previous version of the national space policy was issued by the Obama administration in 2010.
The Pentagon in a statement said the new policy document “highlights the Department of Defense as a key agency in implementing and achieving the nation’s goals in this important domain.”
As usual…..do not take my word for it and if you like you can read the plan for yourself…..
I realize that there are limited amount of time for some of us on-line….so let me jump to a synopsis for those with the limited time…..
It has five major headings with several bullet points each. The following excerpts provide a snapshot.
“AMERICA FIRST AMONG THE STARS: President Trump’s National Space Strategy works within his broader national security policy by putting America’s interests firsts.” It “emphasizes dynamic and cooperative interplay between the national security, commercial, and civil space sectors,” and “ensures that international agreements put the interests of American people, workers, and businesses first.” It also “prioritizes regulatory reforms that will unshackle American industry….”
“SPACE PREEMINENCE THROUGH THE AMERICAN SPIRIT: President Trump’s National Space Strategy harnesses the American spirit and continues the American tradition of pioneering and exploration.” It lays “the groundwork for the next generation of American exploration in space” and “establishes forthrightly that securing the scientific, commercial and national security benefits of space is a top priority for this Administration.”
“PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH: President Trump’s space strategy builds on the National Security Strategy emphasizing peace through strength in the space domain.” It ensures “unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in space”; “affirms that any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of our space architecture … will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing”; “recognizes that our competitors and adversaries have turned space into a warfighting domain”; and the “United States will seek to deter, counter, and defeat threats in the space domain that are hostile to the national interests of the United States and our allies.”
“FOUR PILLARS FOR A UNIFIED APPROACH: President Donald J. Trump’s new National Space Strategy drives a “whole-of-government” approach to United States leadership in space, in close partnership with the private sector and our allies, and is based on four essential pillars.” They are: “transform to more resilient space architectures”; “strengthen deterrence and warfighting options”; “improve foundational capabilities, structures, and processes”; and “foster conducive domestic and international environments.”
“A NEW DIRECTION FOR U.S. SPACE: President Trump has already taken significant steps to reorient American space policy and set it on the right path for the future.” It identifies those steps as recreating the National Space Council and signing Space Policy Directive-1.
The Office of Space Commerce is the principal unit for space commerce policy activities within the Department of Commerce. Its mission is to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the U.S. commercial space industry.
Not to worry Biden has plans for space as well…..
Biden has already signalled that he sees NASA’s role as having a greater focus on addressing the global challenge posed by climate change. That would certainly mean investing more in new satellites and scientific research to monitor changing weather patterns and rising sea levels and to deal with climate-change-induced extreme weather. A more ambitious, parallel approach would be to invest in establishing a permanent human presence in space, including on and around the moon, to support the development of space-related renewable energy technology, such as space-based solar power.
CRAP! I hit the wrong button…..post instead of draft….enjoy a few days early….
Another Sunday and more space news that means nothing to most people….but I am a child of the 50s and space was always on mind mind…..
Does anyone remember Voyager probe? Yes it was featured in the Star Trek original movie….it was named Veger….
The two Voyager spacecraft were launched by Nasa more than 40 years ago, with the aim of flying to the far reaches of our solar system. They have now gone even further than that, reaching interstellar space, and exploring the gaps between the stars, giving us the first glimpses of what it might be like in that mysterious zone.
The latest discovery from the spacecraft – using data taken from both Voyager 1 and 2 – saw them pick up bursts of electrons like none ever detected before. They found that cosmic ray electrons are being accelerated by shock waves that originate in major eruptions on the sun, and are then flung out into space.
Once we get to Mars one of the challenges will be oxygen to breath….and now a system has been invented to extract oxygen from the Martian water…..
Humankind’s quest to set up base on Mars has received a boost as scientists have now claimed to have discovered a way that can help extract oxygen and fuel from the salty water found on the red planet.
The water which is salty due to the Martian soil can’t be used for drinking purposes. Even electrolysis, the usual method of using electricity to break it down into oxygen (to breathe) and hydrogen (for fuel) requires removing the salt – a cumbersome method that can be a costly endeavour in a harsh environment like Mars.
But now researchers at Washington University in St Louis have developed an electrolysis system that can directly separate oxygen and hydrogen from briny water – in a less complicated and expensive manner.
I am a geek for diplomacy…..and have written about space and laws and such…..but how will diplomacy effect space exploration?
This is a paper by a grad student…..
Let us be frank, humankind is not exactly renowned for its willingness to collaborate, particularly when self-interest must be sacrificed. Though we have made enormous progress on the back of collaboration, the history of humankind is littered with stories of greed, corruption, and a constant willingness to stratify and dominate others. But as we step into the future, into the great beyond of space, that must remain buried in the sands of history. Humans must reject the identities that are protective shells for advancing personal interest and adopt a collective vision. One that allows for freedom and respect for sovereign thought processes, but also champions ethical and moral considerations. Most likely, this will occur at the level of the nation-state.