Eric Knight Inventor. Entrepreneur. Author. Futurist. Business & Internet Pioneer.
Browsing all posts in: Astronomy

Ridiculously cool: Elon Musk will launch his Tesla into space — and the car will be blaring David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” at liftoff

December 2

“SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk tweeted Friday night that the Falcon Heavy’s first test flight, scheduled to blast off from Florida’s Space Coast next month, will have his midnight cherry Tesla Roadster on-board.  The Falcon Heavy’s payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’.   Musk tweeted, ‘Destination is Mars orbit.'”

Read the complete SPACEFLIGHT NOW article here.

 

Don’t miss the year’s biggest “Supermoon” on Sunday night. The Moon will appear 7% brighter and 16% larger than usual.

November 28

This Sunday night, December 3rd, the Moon will appear bigger and brighter than what you normally see.  It’s because, on the day after, it will make its closest approach to Earth for the month:  Just 222,443 miles.

The best view of the Supermoon will be as it rises just after sunset.  It’s a nice educational experience for the whole family.

Click here for a great article by National Geographic.

NASA is rebooting decades-old nuclear-propulsion technology, designed to cut flight time to Mars in half

November 11

“The strengths with NTP [Nuclear Thermal Propulsion] are the ability to do the very fast round trip [to Mars], the ability to abort even if you’re 2 to 3 months into the missions, the overall architectural robustness, and also the growth potential to even more advanced systems,” Michael Houts, principal investigator for the NTP project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, told Space.com.  Check out the complete article here.  Image Credit:  Pat Rawlings/NASA

 

Elon Musk’s audacious mission is achievable: Humans on Mars in seven years

September 30

For years, people have doubted Elon Musk’s far-reaching projects and plans.  And many have been proven wrong.  I would not bet against one of the leading visionaries of our time.  From Spectrum News / News 13:

“SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk says he plans to send a spacecraft to Mars in five years and put humans on the red planet in seven years.  Musk laid out his ambitious goals at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia on Friday.

‘Build up the base, starting with one ship, then multiple ships, then building out the city, then making the city bigger and even bigger,’ Musk told the crowd.

His goal is to make humans a multi-planetary species.

‘It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past, and I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars,’ he said.

The key to his project is a large rocket and spacecraft, code name BFR.

Musk plans to send cargo to Mars first, in the year 2022. After building a base, complete with a propellant production facility, humans would arrive in the year 2024.”

For the complete article, please click here.

 

What will YOU do with today’s extra second? “Leap second” to be added at midnight UTC.

December 31

leap-second-clockA year consists of 31,536,000 seconds (over 31.5 million seconds). But today will have one more second — a “LEAP SECOND”. Why? Because the Earth’s rotation slows about 1.8 milliseconds per day due to the braking effect of the world’s ocean waves, which messes things up over time (pun, intended). So the “International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service” (yes, there is such a thing) will tack on an extra tick to the world’s clocks at midnight UTC (7PM Eastern).  For more info: http://wapo.st/2hEx5mS

Enjoy the extra tick!

Image courtesy of EarthSky.org

 

Help launch an out-of-this-world documentary about an American rocket pioneer

March 2

ky michaelson rocketman documentaryI was honored and privileged to be part of Ky “Rocketman” Michaelson’s extraordinary quest to launch the world’s first civilian rocket into space — which we accomplished on May 17, 2004.  And I feel honored, again, to help Ky and his production team bring this amazing American story to life.

Please visit the Indiegogo link below to see how you can help launch the ROCKETMAN documentary movie.  You can receive all sorts of perks for participating — including memorabilia that flew into space on our historic mission.  Even get “co-producer” credit in the film.  Join us.  The sky is (not) the limit!

F.Y.I.:  On a personal note, it’s neat to see me in the clips that make up the Indiego intro video.  It brings back great memories of such an important part of my life.

CLICK HEREhttp://igg.me/at/rocketmandoc — or on the image above to help launch this extraordinary movie.

Superbly written article: “Why Finding Gravitational Waves Would Be Such a Big Deal”

February 8

By Maddie Stone / GIZMODO:  This morning, the Internet erupted with rumors that physicists have finally observed gravitational waves; ripples in the fabric of spacetime predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago. While it isn’t the first time we’ve heard excited whispers about the elusive phenomena, the gossip feels more promising in light of the recently upgraded detector at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) that’s behind all the hubbub.

Discovering gravitational waves would be a huge deal for physics, cosmology, and our understanding of the universe at large. But if you’re not a scientist studying one of the aforementioned fields, it’s possible you’ve never heard of these mysterious ripples. What the heck are gravitational waves, and why have physicists been struggling to find them for a century? Moreover, why should we care?

Simply put, gravitational waves are vibrations in the fabric of the universe—light-speed ripples in spacetime itself, caused by such epically violent events as exploding stars and black hole mergers. Thanks to inconceivably large, violent, and distant celestial happenings, the atoms that make up everything from the stars in the sky to the human beings on Earth are shaking a tiny bit, all the time.

And by tiny I really mean tiny. For all the energy that goes into producing gravitational waves, spacetime ripples themselves are incredibly faint. Physicists estimate that by the time gravitational waves reach Earth, they’re on the order of a billionth the diameter of an atom. You need ridiculously precise instruments operating in completely noise-free environments to measure them, and until very recently, our detectors simply haven’t been up to snuff.

But the gravitational wave detection game’s been changing of late, with a recent spate of improvements to our leading ground-based observatory, LIGO, and with the launch of the very first space-based gravitational wave detector, LISA Pathfinder. Armed with these two science laboratories, physicists are hopeful that we’ll be able to measure our very first spacetime ripples by the end of the decade. Now, it’s looking like that day might come a lot sooner.

For the complete article, please click here.

Image:  Numerical simulation of two merging black holes performed by the Albert Einstein Institute in Germany.  Image Credit: Werner Benger / Wikimedia

Why the SpaceX rocket’s vertical takeoff & vertical landing (VTVL) was such a big deal

December 22

spacex-vertical-landingImagine what an airline ticket would cost if you flew from, say, New York to Los Angeles — and then THREW AWAY THE AIRPLANE? In fact, if we disposed of every airplane after ever flight? We’ll that’s what we’ve been relegated to doing in aerospace since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. We put satellites into orbit. We bring astronauts to the ISS. Then “throw away” the rocket. Elon’s achievement with his SpaceX company — to land the first stage back on the ground — is a historic technological achievement. (Kudos to Jeff Bezos, too. His company, Blue Origin, recently did something similar, but with a much smaller sub-orbital spacecraft.)

Check out the following excellent article from NBC News, with videos of the takeoff and landing, at this link.

Image courtesy of SpaceX

Planet Earth: No kaboom. “WTF” space junk about to strike Earth not a big deal

October 28

“Let’s start with the facts: Yes, there’s something hurtling through space in our direction. Yes, it’s going to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and possibly land in the Indian Ocean next month. No, scientists don’t know quite what it is. And, no, that doesn’t make it a UFO.

The European Space Agency released information last week about an object spotted streaking through space and heading toward Earth. Headlines are zeroing in on the chance of impact and the unidentified object’s comically apropos nickname. Officially named WT1190F, the object’s catalog number has been popularly shortened to ‘WTF.’

But ESA scientists have a pretty good idea of what it could be — probably a remnant from a past mission, like the hollow shell of part of a spent rocket — and they’re confident that it’s unlikely to be a threat.

‘The expected 13 November reentry of what is likely to be a rocket body poses very little risk to anyone,’ they wrote on the ESA blog Thursday.

‘The object is quite small, at most a couple of meters in diameter, and a significant fraction if not all of it can be expected to completely burn up in the atmosphere,’ said Tim Flohrer, from ESA’s Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany.

Whatever remains of the space junk after the fiery reentry is expected to fall into the Indian Ocean, about 60 miles off the southern coast of Sri Lanka, on Nov. 13.”

For the complete article, please visit, the CBS Interactive Inc. page at this link.

Image courtesy of ESA / D. Duccros

Senior aerospace writer, Jeff Foust, provides an insightful perspective regarding the Antares and SpaceShipTwo commercial spaceflight mission failures

November 4

Excerpt from Jeff Foust’s article:

“The two accidents are linked by proximity in time, but in reality little else. Yet, there’s the danger that they will be tied together by the public, and by policymakers, by the fact that they were commercial, despite the otherwise vast differences. Already some people have raised questions about the capabilities of commercial space in general, for example, from these accidents. How the industry responds to and recovers from these accidents will shape those public and policy reactions in the months to come.”

For the complete article, please click here.

Images courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsk and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

“Solar storm nearly destroyed Earth two years ago” say NASA and scientists.

July 27

Yep:  Our entire electrical grid, orbiting satellites, Internet — the mainstays of modern life — were almost wiped out on July 23, 2012.

This is not hyperbole.  It almost happened.  And scientists believe that the odds of a solar storm with enough intensity to disrupt our lives over the next 10 years is 12%.

With all of the crises going on in the world, this little bit of news slipped through the cracks of the general media.  But it got the attention of lots of scientists and astronomers.

If you want to know how close we came, check out http://bit.ly/1jYtzzb

Image courtesy of the Associated Press

At a recent aerospace event, astronaut legend — Buzz Aldrin — and I exchanged signed copies of our books. But that’s just for starters…

July 27

Eric_Knight_with_Buzz_Aldrin_400x239_copyright_Eric_KnightBuzz and I are part of a growing team of advisors, astronauts, aerospace companies, universities, and energized students of the Time Capsule To Mars project that is designed to send your “selfies” to Mars for 99 cents each. (Yes, you read that right!)

To be working with Buzz Aldrin — one of my childhood heroes — is a tremendous experience. The student-led Time Capsule To Mars project combines my passion for student enterprise and new frontiers in aerospace. If you’d like more info, check out www.TimeCapsuleToMars.com

“Aquarids” meteor shower this Monday night / Tuesday morning; should outperform the annual favorite, Perseids.

July 26

The moonless sky and fair weather forecast throughout many parts of the U.S. means a great celestial event.  Just grab a lawn chair.  Lie down and look generally south / southeast towards the horizon.  And enjoy the show!  (No telescope or binoculars required.)  After your eyes fully adjust to the dark (give it 10 minutes), you should see up to 20 meteors per hour.  Best time should be about 1am on Tuesday morning.  The following is a great article with particulars:  http://bit.ly/1otTi2x  Watching a meteor shower is a great family event and educational experience.  Have fun!

Image courtesy National Geographic / Starry Night Software

Watch Stunning First Simulation of Universe’s 13-Billion-Year Evolution (from National Geographic)

May 8

(National Geographic) “Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales simultaneously,” Mark Vogelsberger of MIT and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the simulation team, says in a statement. Using a computer program, the team grew the virtual galaxies in simulated time, starting from 12 million years after the big bang (which kicked off about 13.8 billion years ago), they report in a study released this week by the journal Nature.

For the complete article, please visit here.

Will Comet LINEAR produce a new major meteor shower in 2014?

May 4

comet-LINEAR-meteor-shower-orbit-graphicFrom EarthSky: The list of major meteor showers hasn’t changed much in recent decades, but it has changed a little. Meteor showers are part of nature, after all, and the list of major showers shifts and changes slightly, as all things in nature do, with one shower or another becoming more or less exciting as the years pass. In 2014, though, an exciting new meteor shower might come on the scene. This possible shower stems from a comet — Comet 209P/LINEAR — discovered in 2004. Comet 209P/LINEAR passed near the sun in 2009 and will pass near it again in early May, 2014. On the night of May 23-24, 2014 — if the predictions hold true — Earth might be sandblasted with debris from this comet, resulting in a fine display of meteors, or shooting stars. Mid-northern North American latitudes are favored. Follow the links below to learn more about the possible 2014 meteor shower of Comet 209P/LINEAR.

As for the predicted time of the shower … skywatchers in southern Canada and the continental U.S. are said by the experts to be especially well positioned to see the meteors on the night of May 23-24, 2014.

For the complete article, with excellent graphics and references, please click here.

Image courtesy of NASA / JPL / Horizon / Sky and Telescope / EarthSky

Would you like to fly to Mars? Here’s the next best thing…

January 19

time_capsule_to_mars_spacecraft_rendering_for_online_distributionMy company is a proud supporter of the international student team that’s planning to build and fly a small spacecraft to Mars. On board would be a two-inch-diameter titanium “time capsule of humanity” containing perhaps millions of digital photos, videos, audio files, and text messages from people all over the world — including you.

Your digital creations would be stored on new “quartz” media that, by some estimates, will survive on the surface of Mars for up to 300 million years.

This would be the world’s first interplanetary space mission led by a non-government team. Other key mission supporters include MIT and Explore Mars, Inc. Details of the mission can be viewed at this link.

While the students are working on the essential science, they are also looking for creative names for both the spacecraft and the Mars “time capsule” lander. The goal is to unleash the world’s creativity in every aspect of the program. The individuals who submit the chosen names will get special digital allocations in the time capsule’s quartz memory, as well as other unique tributes. To submit your name ideas, visit www.TimeCapuleToMars.com.

After 36 years and 12 billion miles, Voyager 1 crosses into interstellar space — becomes humanity’s “first true starship”

September 12

(CBS)  Covering nearly a million miles a day, NASA’s nuclear-powered Voyager 1 spacecraft, 36 years and 12 billion miles from Earth, has crossed the boundary between the sun’s influence and interstellar space, sailing into the vast gulf between the stars to become humanity’s first true starship, scientists announced Thursday.

“In leaving the (solar system) and setting sail on the cosmic seas between the stars, Voyager has joined the other historic journeys of exploration such as the first circumnavigation of the Earth and the first footprint on the moon,” said Voyager project scientist Ed Stone.

“This historic step is even more exciting because it marks the beginning of a new era of exploration for Voyager, the exploration of the space between the stars.”

To read the full story, click here.   Image courtesy of NASA

See Friday night’s rocket launch to the moon from your backyard!

September 4

Most places on the central East Coast, all the way up to northern New England, will be able to see this Friday night’s maiden launch of America’s new five-stage “Minotaur V” rocket.  It will transport NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft (LADEE) to the moon.

The launch is scheduled for 11:27pm EDT from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  Use the associated graphics and your location to determine the number of seconds from launch the rocket will be visible, the direction to look, and how many degrees above the horizon the rocket will appear.   For instance, if you’re in New England, it should be visible 80 seconds after launch, towards the south, about 10 – 15 degrees above the horizon.

The weather forecast for Friday night, at the launch site and for viewing, looks great.

For more information about the moon mission, visit http://www.space.com/22635-american-minotaur-5-rocket-launch-debut.html

Images courtesy of NASA Wallops, Orbital Sciences Corp., and SPACE.com

 

NASA lets Curiosity rover drive itself on Mars with first use of autonomous navigation

August 30

(JPL)  NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has used autonomous navigation for the first time, a capability that lets the rover decide for itself how to drive safely on Mars.

This latest addition to Curiosity’s array of capabilities will help the rover cover the remaining ground en route to Mount Sharp, where geological layers hold information about environmental changes on ancient Mars. The capability uses software that engineers adapted to this larger and more complex vehicle from a similar capability used by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which is also currently active on Mars.

Using autonomous navigation, or autonav, Curiosity can analyze images it takes during a drive to calculate a safe driving path. This enables it to proceed safely even beyond the area that the human rover drivers on Earth can evaluate ahead of time.

On Tuesday, Aug. 27, Curiosity successfully used autonomous navigation to drive onto ground that could not be confirmed safe before the start of the drive. This was a first for Curiosity. In a preparatory test last week, Curiosity plotted part of a drive for itself, but kept within an area that operators had identified in advance as safe.   For the complete article, click here.  Image courtesy of NASA.

Astronaut nearly drowns on spacewalk outside of International Space Station

July 17

astronaut_spacewalk(USA Today)  Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency got into trouble Tuesday. He was performing routine maintenance outside when water started trickling into the back of his helmet.

Spacewalking partner Chris Cassidy, a U.S. astronaut, took a look: “It’s a lot of water. His hair is saturated. It’s in his eyes as well as his nose and mouth.”

Mission Control was alarmed. NASA quickly aborted the spacewalk, cut it short by five hours. Parmitano and Cassidy were ordered back to the U.S. Quest airlock, where they would be out of the deadly vacuum environment in low Earth orbit, and into the relative safety of the space station.

The tide kept rising in Parmitano’s helmet during his 20-minute retreat to the airlock. And yes, NASA said he was in danger of drowning.

“Imagine you’re in a fish bowl,” said David Korth, NASA’s lead spacewalk flight director. “So, go stick your head in a fish bowl and try to walk around, and that’s not anything you would take lightly. And certainly, (spacewalking) is dangerous already.”

Parmitano could not hear or respond to questions after he reentered the airlock.

“Hey, Luca, from Houston, how’re you doing? Give us a status,” astronaut Shane Kimbrough said from Mission Control.

“Luca, did you hear that?” Cassidy asked.

He didn’t.

“Squeeze my hand if you’re fine,” Cassidy said, peering into his crewmate’s visor.

“I’m trying to see him,” Cassidy said. “He looks fine. He looks miserable, but OK.”

NASA is investigating. The initial suspect, a drinking water bag, no longer is thought to be the culprit. Jones, the veteran spacewalker, said his best guess is the leak came from Parmitano’s astronaut underwear.

Astronauts don form-fitting garments called Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garments. They are cooled by chilled water lines running throughout. Jones suspects a rupture in a cooling line near Parmitano’s neck.

“The closest water line to where he was experiencing (trouble) is in the neck area of the LCVG,” Jones said.

For the complete article, click here.   Image courtesy of AP/NASA

Voyager spacecraft surfs solar system’s edge

June 28

[BBC News]  Ed Stone cannot say when the Voyager-1 spacecraft will leave the Solar System, but he believes the moment is close.  The latest data from this extraordinary probe, reported in this week’s Science journal, suggests it is surfing right on the very edge of our Sun’s domain.

The particles streaming away from our star have reduced to a trickle at its present location, 18.5 billion km from Earth.   Particles flying towards it from interstellar space, by contrast, have jumped markedly in the past year.  It all points to an imminent departure, which would make Voyager the first man-made object to cross into the space between the stars.

“It’s hard to imagine there’s another layer between the one we’re in and the outside,” Dr Stone told BBC News. “Topologically, it makes sense that this is the outermost layer. The only question is: how thick is it?”

Launched way back in 1977, the probe has now travelled so far from home that its constant chatter of data takes 17 hours to arrive at the US space agency’s receiving network. And chatter, it does.

Voyager’s instruments are busy sampling the far-flung environment. This has allowed Dr Stone and colleagues to map the shape and reach of the heliosphere – the giant bubble of charged particles blown off from our Sun.

For the complete article, click here  Image courtesy of the BBC and SPL.

Don’t miss the alignment of Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury at sunset on May 26th

May 21

planet-alignment-jupiter-mercury-venusHere’s something fun (and educational for the kids) on this upcoming Sunday, the 26th:  Look to the west in the evening twilight after sunset and you’ll see the triple conjunction of three planets:  Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury.  You’ll need an unobstructed view of the western sky, as the planets will be just above the horizon.  Click here for an excellent article and animation from NASA Science News.  Image courtesy of NASA.

Life on Mars? Curiosity proves Mars had the formula for life

March 12

(LA Times)  “Drilling into the Martian surface in search of signs of ancient life, the Mars Curiosity rover hit the jackpot, NASA said Tuesday.  The intrepid geologist on wheels analyzed a powdered sample pulled out of the Red Planet last month and  discovered some of the basic building blocks of life — and signs of a past environment capable of hosting primitive microbes.  ‘We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and is so supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it,’ mission lead scientist John Grotzinger, a Caltech geologist, said at a news conference in Washington, D.C.”   For the complete article, click here.   Image courtesy of NASA

Curiosity rover uses robotic arm to drill into Martian rock [DVICE]

February 10

[DVICE]  NASA reports the Curiosity rover has successfully drilled a hole, 0.63 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep into a sample of sedimentary bedrock. Ground control will now use the rover’s robotic arm to collect samples for processing in its self contained laboratory, looking for evidence Mars may have once harbored water.  The agency released a photo of the hole captured by Curiosity, and in a press release NASA’s associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld said, “The most advanced planetary robot ever designed is now a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars.”

Sea Launch Zenit rocket with Intelsat spacecraft fails at launch [BBC News]

February 2

Sea Launch failureA Ukrainian-Russian rocket carrying a US-made telecommunications satellite has plunged into the Pacific Ocean shortly after launch.

The Zenit-3SL rocket, which was being operated from a floating pad south of the Hawaiian islands, failed 40 seconds after the lift-off at 06:56 GMT.

Officials say no-one was hurt as a result of the incident.

Intelsat-27, which weighed some 6.2 tonnes at launch, was to have provided direct-to-home TV services and mobile broadband connections.

You’re essentially looking over my shoulder as I write, think, create, invent, and — in general — ponder the world around us.  Feel free to peruse my writings and chime in as you’re so inspired.

Everything I type feeds parallel simultaneous streams to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.  It’s a global tightrope without a net.

Lots of new features are coming online.  They’re all in various stages of development.  You’ll soon see innovative things I’m working on — such as a live, streaming, two-way “TV channel” of sorts where you’ll be able to interact with me (audio, video, text) in real time as I type here in front of my computer.

This is my platform to push the boundaries of technology in every dimension.

Hang on tight.  We may achieve orbit.  Or we may sail off a cliff.  But the ride will be exhilarating.

— Eric

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