Now the truth is, as an amateur astronomer, I spend a lot of time looking up in the sky just to catch a glimpse of some faint point of light. A faint point of light that could be bursting with some form of energy transfer or with life. Maybe that faint light is already gone, and I’m mesmerizing at some distant historical event, that I can barely tell one way or the other. Then videos like this one come along, and show me that my home is just some faint point of light on the landscape of this blueish planet. And I long to go here…to see this with my own eyes, and look down.
This is Our Planet from Tomislav Safundžić on Vimeo.
Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center
Music: The XX – Intro
Today a friend of mine asked me why if we have so many problems here on Earth, why should we spend the money looking away from the Earth. My answer was simple, we need to both. They are NOT mutually exclusive events. Human beings will likely always have similar problems as we have today, it’s part of what makes us get out of bed in the morning. However, someday, this delicate blue planet may be destroyed, it may become uninhabitable, we might chew through most of its natural resources, or it might just get too darned crowded. My answer to this person was, my goal, along with many other people, is to see that humanity needs to struggle with problems on both this planet, and maybe another. Then those of us here on Earth can watch a video similar to this one for another planet far, far away!
A few weeks ago I was giving a presentation on the future of US space flight. It was a pretty good presentation, if I do say so myself, and I had lots of fun making it and presenting it. It was a small crowd of about 30 – 40 folks, which is strange for a clear night at Kopernik Observatory, and somewhere during the presentation, one of those rare moments of inspiration arose, and I just had to share it here on the blog.
Faster Than Light Travel (credit: NASA)
At the very end of the presentation, I presented a slide covering various technology and efforts which I hadn’t gone over in the presentation. I was only summarizing and providing a list of things to research for those interested. After all, we have to keep the presentations down to 45 minutes to allow folks to observe the heavens. However, I hit a moment where it was really just myself in the room despite all the others, and was able to block everyone else out. I absolutely long for moments like that, when everything became clarity, and time seemed to stop outside that moment. For a brief time, I had found a Zen like state to exist in, and it couldn’t have been interrupted by a better question…
On December 9th, NASA will launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) aboard a Delta II rocket. WISE brings with it the most sensitive Infrared detection capability that has ever been used. Infrared detection will allow us to see objects which have very low amounts of visible light, and the WISE craft will survey the entire sky in IR over a six month time, which is something that has never been done before.
The craft houses a 16″ telescope with four IR cameras on board to survey the sky in four different IR wavelengths.
It is believed that WISE will uncover hundreds of thousands of asteroids (hundreds of them being Near Earth Objects), possibly hundreds of thousands of brown dwarf stars, some of the most luminous ancient galaxies, and with a little luck stars which have planetary discs around them.
Also, who knows what unexpected things will appear as we view the universe in a whole new way!
Follow the WISE mission at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/main/index.html
One of the more intriguing aspects of this mission, is that the craft must be kept super cooled so as to minimize its own IR emissions. If left at normal temperatures, it would be like shining a flashlight into the barrel of a telescope. Therefore, the craft is cooled by frozen hydrogen, which slowly evaporates away over a period of about 10 months.
This mission is going to be “cool”, and i for one am very excited about this NASA Science mission!
The Augustine Report was released this month, and there isn’t much good news for those of us who want to see NASA accomplish all of its goals in human space flight. The choices are all tough, many folks employment future at NASA has been placed in uncertainty, and no tangible results will be reached until nearly 2020 under the best of options. One Twitter Spacetweep said it best, “I guess we are all bogged down in trivia, and don’t have the same curiosity and excitement anymore.” Therein lies the problem with human space flight…it doesn’t carry with it the excitement anymore.
I woke up this morning, turned on my MacBook Pro (which I love!) as part of my start of day ritual. I walked outside to get the newspaper, and looked over at my family’s cars. Went into the garage, sat down in my foldout chair, lit up a cigarette, and started to drink my morning coffee out of my spectacular Starbuck’s coffee mug. A familiar theme started to resound in my head. The only things in this morning ritual (including my bathrobe and clothes) that were made in America that I noticed were my newspaper, my cigarette, and my coffee. Everything else was made somewhere else. Of course both the newspaper and cigarette are sunset industries for their own marketplace reasons. The coffee itself will be a thriving business for sometime to come, but the mugs in which it is consumed are not. Therein lies the rub.
We all experience this in each of our daily lives. And I think we all reflect upon it from time to time. It is hard not to. I think we all do this because deep inside, each and every one of us knows what a bad thing our dependency on the rest of the World is. Or at least it feels that way. This morning though, it dawned on me just how bad this condition is becoming for us.
STS-128 Discovery Liftoff (Photo Credits: NASA)