Neil Armstrong - 1930-2012

posted in Obituaries by Cargo Cult on Sunday August 26 2012

Apollo 11

Launch

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Neil Armstrong - 5 August 1930 - 25 August 2012

Sunday Things - nuclear propulsion edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday August 19 2012

While reading up on the oft-mentioned MSL Curiosity and its nuclear-fuelled RTG power supply, I got distracted by some altogether less safe nuclear options starting with the heady days of the Cold War...

No, not MINERVA.
NERVA - or Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application - a programme to develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine, later deemed suitable for a putative manned mission to Mars, and then cancelled in order to avoid the cost of that manned mission to Mars. The test rockets looked terrifying - and of course the Soviets didn't want to be left behind...

Nuclear fallout is someone else's problem.
Project Orion - the mother (and father, and three-headed irradiated child) of potential nuclear rocketry, this would have worked by dropping small nuclear bombs behind the spacecraft, exploding them and riding the resulting shockwave on a gigantic, spring-loaded plate. While it would have succeeded in launching frankly implausible masses into orbit and beyond, it would also have produced plenty of radioactive fallout - though not as much as the nuclear war they were expecting...

All pilots are equipped with Pip-Boy 3000s.
Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion - prior to the invention of the rapid-delivery ICBM, keeping one's nuclear bombs on near-endlessly-flying nuclear bombers seemed like an eminently sensible thing to do. Perhaps fortunately for everyone involved, a test flight with an operational but otherwise unconnected nuclear reactor showed protecting the crew from irradiation was too impractical to warrant further development.

Not developed by the Weyland Yutani Corporation.
Project Prometheus - moving close to the present day, instead of an interstellar mission to disregard sensible quarantine procedures, a bid to combine a nuclear reactor with ion thrusters to send giant, unmanned space probes to the outer solar system. Cancelled, due to budgetary issues. Of course. We did get the solar-powered Juno, currently en route to Jupiter!

Bonus Martian Humour corner:

Sunday Thing - miniature Mars Science Laboratory edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday August 12 2012

Previously, details of landings on alien planets were left to the imagination.

The barest minimum of links this week, thanks to an extended trip to Canada - so, here goes. Want updates on NASA and JPL's daring Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover on Mars? Try the Planetary Society's extensive blogs, complete with gloriously excessive detail and insider information. Need raw imagery for stitching into fancy new panoramas and the like? Look at the Raw Image Library on the MSL site. Would rather see pre-constructed panoramas and other enthusiast-produced visualisations? The Unmanned Spaceflight forums definitely win at that.

One of my Intended Career Paths in the distant past was to become some kind of planetary scientist, exploring the surfaces of our nearby planets. Unlike distant stars or exoplanets, we have the ability to get up close - while walking on the surface of, say, Mars is perhaps many decades away, that doesn't stop us from poking remotely controlled cameras wherever we like, be it Venus, Mars or even Titan...

Canadian Science

posted in Photography by Cargo Cult on Saturday August 11 2012

Expect some jumbo-sized uploads to Flickr quite imminently, but I've recently found myself unexpectedly exploring multiple Canadian research establishments with a camera.

Your intrepid correspondent has braved ionising radiation (dosage in the order of consuming three bananas), strong magnetic fields and radio-quiet valleys in order to bring you these glimpses of SCIENCE in Canada.

Edit 2012-08-24: Now on Flickr, the TRIUMF cyclotron and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. Enjoy!

Canadian radio telescopes are PUNY AND INSIGNIFICANT compared with the mighty Jodrell Bank. Cyclotrons are not to be confused with velodromes. They've yet to discover intelligent life south of the 49th parallel. They're waiting for you, Gordon. In the test chamber.

In other astrophysical news, pioneering radio astronomer, hero of the Space Race and arboriculturalist, Sir Bernard Lovell, has died aged 98. Of note: I once pointed a radio telescope at the radio telescope.

Sunday Things - emergency Mars edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday August 5 2012

Following a vast journey across unfathomable emptiness, a lone explorer shall survey the empty, potentially lifeless wastes of ... Canada?

In case they don't have the intertubes in Canadaland, here's an EMERGENCY SUNDAY THINGS, prepped and launched some time prior to Sunday, its eventual arrival now fully automated.

MRO can transmit data to Earth at up to 6Mb/s. THAT'S FOUR TIMES BETTER THAN ADSL IN RURAL DERBYSHIRE.
Grand Canyon of Gale Crater - part of a grand selection of HiRISE images around Gale Crater, landing site of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, a.k.a. Curiosity. When's it landing? Today! Or tomorrow, if you're east of the central USA.

Looking for a good place for up-to-the-minute news, discussion and occasional insider information? Try the Unmanned Spaceflight forums. Go Curiosity!

This is not the rover you are looking for?

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I HOPE IT WORKS I HOPE IT WORKS I HOPE IT WORKS.