Building the World

August 19, 2017
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Eclipses and Innovations

Solar Eclipse: Image: NASA, 2016.

The Great American Eclipse, 21 August 2017, may lead to innovations. Thomas Edison is said to have invented the incandescent light bulb after witnessing a total eclipse in Wyoming, USA in 1878. Just the year before, at the age of 30, Edison had invented the phonograph. Friends engaged Edison’s scientific and technical curiosity with word of an impending celestial wonder; a train ride to Rawlins, Wyoming ensued. The town was tiny: there was only one hotel and only one room left; Thomas Edison, Henry Draper, and the whole expedition bunked there and waited. The night before the eclipse, Edison recalled reclining outdoors and staring at the star-lit sky; suddenly the idea for a light bulb appeared. Perhaps Edison was also influenced by recent demonstrations of Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov’s arc lighting at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878. A few years later, Gustav Eiffel would open the Paris International Exposition of 1889 with the Eiffel Tower.

Wear special sunglasses to view an eclipse. For more, see: eclipse@siu.edu. Image: wikimedia.

Yablochkov’s arc lamps were used by early movie studios for indoor scenes, but produced so much ultra-violet light that actors had to wear sunglasses. Even more protective are the special glasses viewers must don to view the Great American Eclipse of 2017. MIT’s Haystack Observatory will study the eclipse effects on space weather with radar and navigational satellites. Nasa and scientists worldwide will study the space phenomenon from every place on earth, and above. Eyes on the sky: what inventions and innovations may result?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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August 4, 2017
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Space Agent Wanted: Apply Here

“Buzz Aldrin Walks On Moon.” Image: wikimedia commons.

Just two more weeks to apply for an out-of-this-world job: Nasa is seeking a “planetary protection officer.” Think public health on a galactic level. Spacecraft land on planets, but they rarely take their shoes off upon returning home. Similarly, as humans set foot on lunar and other surfaces, what might they carry  on those moon boots that will forever contaminate new worlds?

In 1967, the United Nations Outer Space Treaty stipulated that nations take heed of contamination, but the law applied only to countries; at the time, COMSAT was just forming, nor were private space enterprises such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, Inc, and SpaceX yet anticipated.

“The Day the Earth Smiled.” On 19 July, 2013, Cassini slipped behind Saturn for this photo. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Nasa is so careful about contamination, according to current PPO Dr. Catharine Conley, the agency learned a lesson on 21 September 2003 when Galileo, first spacecraft to visit an asteroid (two, actually: Isa and Gaspra), observer of Venus, explorer of Jupiter, where it discovered the saltwater ocean on Europa and volcanic activity on Io, and a magnetic field on Ganymede, plummeted into Jupiter’s atmosphere rather than crash into Europa. It is there one might find life. Cassini, currently orbiting Saturn, will be similarly decommissioned.

If you become the successful applicant for HQ17S0010, as PPO it may be your responsibility to update the Outer Space Treaty? What will you do to protect interplanetary public health?

For More:

Outer Space Treaty. http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

Galileo: End of Mission Status. https://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/galileo_final.html.

Weinzierl, Matthew and Angela Acocella: “Blue Origin, NASA, and New Space” Harvard Business School, HBS Case Collection, 2016. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=50708

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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July 14, 2017
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Eye on the Sky

Jupiter’s “Red Eye in the Sky” image by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the Juno NASA mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS/Jason Major. Nasa.gov.

Juno met Jupiter this week. NASA‘s Juno mission flew over the planet’s 10,000-mile-wide (16,000 kilometers) storm, so big that three earths could fit inside of the Great Red Spot. Since 1830, sky-watchers have kept an eye on this mysterious spot marking a storm that has raged for eons. When the Juno mission launched in 2011, the spacecraft did not arrive in orbit around Jupiter until July 4, 2016. Since then, it’s been photographing Jupiter, and will continue operations until 2018. Knowledge gained by Juno may serve useful in updating the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space that entered into force in 1967. Principles include:

“Exploration of space for the benefit of all countries and all humankind;

Outer space not subject to national appropriation or occupation;

Outer space to be free of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction;

Countries and states shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects;

The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

At the start of the Space Race, only governments were thought to be financially and technologically capable of Space missions. But now private enterprise has taken impressive steps; Weinzierl and Acocella recently introduced a Harvard Business School case on the ownership of space with a close up of Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin. Planetary Resources, Inc, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic are also prominent, joined now by an enterprise hoping to win Google’s $20million Lunar X Prize, Moon Express.

COMSAT might be an organizational model to follow. On 31 August, 1962 the Communications Satellite Act became law and set a new tone of inclusiveness that transformed the space race with greater multinational, public/private cooperation. New agreements about the future of space may foretell a mixed-economy organization to promote world-wide distribution of solar power.

Outer Space Treaty:http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf

Google Lunar X Prize:http://lunar.xprize.org

COMSAT:https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-76/pdf/STATUTE-76-Pg419.pdf

Space Solar Power:https://archive.org/details/sps91powerfromsp00unse

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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May 5, 2017
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Bloom in the Plume

Cassini found bloom in the plume. Image:: Enceladus, nasa. gov.

At a cocktail party, someone whispered while toasting the launch of the International Geophysical Year. News spread quickly that another launch had just occurred. Sputnik may have been the spike in the punch; Apollo soon countered. Fast forward to Comsat, the international space station, spacex, and beyond. Cassini spacecraft flew through of plume of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, finding evidence of hydrothermal processes that “favor the formation of methane from CO2 in the ocean of Enceladus.” How should the Outer Space Treaty reflect such new discoveries?

“Cassini finds molecular hydrogen in the Enceladus plume: Evidence for hydrothermal processes.” J. Hunter Waite, Christopher R. Glein, Rececca S. Perryman, et al. Science 14 Apr 2017. Vol. 356, Issue 6334, pp. 155-159. COI: 10.1126/science.aai8703. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6334/155.

Outer Space Treaty: http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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April 22, 2017
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It’s Earth Day: Look Up!

Ra, Egyptian sun god. Artist: Jeff Dahl. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day. Could the answer to our planet’s energy problems and resultant climate change be found by looking up? Every culture on earth has myths about the sun. For example, Egypt worshipped Ra, the sun god whose falcon head was crowned with a solar disk. In 1973, building upon the success of COMSAT and the Apollo Moon Landing, Peter Glaser was awarded the United States patent for solar power from space, via satellite. Honored in the spring, as the sky glows with a stronger light, Earth Day might call us to look up.

Thanks to Jacques Horvilleur, and Lucien Deschamps, and Sociéte de électricité et des électronique et des technologies de l’information et de la communication (SEE), Société des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France (ISF).

For solar power from space: http://archive.org/details/sps91powerfromsp00unse/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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April 7, 2017
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Of Course I Still Love You

Saturn V launches Apollo 11. Image: NASA, Marshall Image Exchange.

For the first time in history, a rocket has been reused successfully. SpaceX has been practicing round-trip rocketry for years: Falcon 9 launchers have flown to/fro 13 times, with 8 perfecting the touchdown. That meant 8 rockets sitting in inventory. But never had a launch rocket yet been reused. “It’s been 15 years to get to this point,” stated Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, who now prices reused rockets at a discount. Packaging and discounts are a sign of private industry in space, a step beyond NASA or ESA, the European Space Agency. But reuse means more than discount: Luxembourg’s SES used the occasion to launch a communications satellite, descendant of COMSAT, to convey an environmental message. SpaceX sent a message too: in the spirit of whimsy, Falcon 9 landed on a welcoming vessel – an autonomous ship – named: “Of Course I Still Love You.”

For video of the Falcon landing on “Of Course I Still Love You:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqnQ1dHnUr0

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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February 23, 2017
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Watcher of the Skies

TRAPPIST-1, impression by ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger. Image: wikimedia.

The first known system of seven Earth-sized planets clustered around a single star, much like our solar system, has been discovered. It’s name? TRAPPIST-1, a salute to spotting telescope in Chile. Three of the exo-planets (nomenclature indicating an orbit around a star, not a sun) are in what NASA terms the ‘habitable zone.’ All seven possess potential for water. On March 13, 1781, Sir William Herschel announced a new planet, the first discovered by telescope. Keats included Uranus in this poem:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been,
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

– John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

More? Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnKFaAS30X8

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 20, 2017
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The Big Picture

The big picture – “Montagem dos corpos do Sistema Solar, seus tamanhos e distânces relatives.” Image: nasa.gov

Visions of the Future” might reveal the world is smaller, and larger, than any one moment in time, or space. NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) shared a wider perspective, with posters downloadable for free, for all to see the big picture.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 2, 2016
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Diplomacy on Ice

Flag of the Antarctic Treaty. Image: wikimedia commons.

December 1, 1959: the world came together not in cold war but in cold peace. The previous year, International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-1958, inspired peaceful treaties in two different spheres, both new to human endeavors. Space opened up with landmark IGY achievements including Sputnik, then Vanguard, leading to the Outer Space Treaty. Antartica, earth’s only continent without native human population, became active with 50 IGY scientific stations. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States called their cooperative IGY initiative “Diplomacy on the Ice.” Antartica is defined as the land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees latitude; it was formerly called Gondwana. On December 1, 1959, the twelve nations opened for signature the Antarctic Treaty; by 2016, the treaty included 53 parties. A treaty system developed including the Protocol on Environmental Protection, Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, expanding the original treaty’s statement: “Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes” for this continent, never home to humans, to honor and protect the abundant other forms of Nature. In this era of climate change, how should signatories safeguard this treasure of earth and environment?

For more: Diplomacy on Ice: Energy and the Environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. Rebecca H. Pincus and Salem H. Ali, editors. Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780300205169.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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November 25, 2016
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Island in the Sun

Rose Atoll, American Samoa. Image: NASA.gov.

4,000 miles + 600 people + cost of diesel delivery = innovation. T’au traded fossil fuels for renewable energy via solar collectors combined with storage batteries. Building a microgrid generating 1.4 megawatts of energy, powered by 60 Tesla power packs and 5,328 solar panels, American Samoan island T’au can supply residents and businesses with electricity. In case clouds shroud the island in the sun, battery power runs for three days. Islands in space, like satellites launched by Comsat, Nasa, and the International Space Station, rely upon solar energy. But oceanic islands formerly waited for boats to deliver diesel to power generators. T’au’s solar innovation, funded by contributors including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and American Samoa Economic Development Authority, may set a new standard for renewable energy. Next? Tesla and partner Solar City hope to apply the model to Hawaiian island, Kaua’i.

Thanks to Jason W. Lusk for suggesting this post.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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