Building the World

May 11, 2021
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SPACE: What goes up, must come down. But how?

Long March 5b just missed the Maldives. Image: “Diamonds Thudufushi Beach and Water Villas, May 2017, Ari Atoll, Maldives.” by Martin Falbisoner, 2017. Wikimedia commons.

It was a long march and a splash entry. On 8 May, the Long March B5 fell from space into the Indian Ocean, thankfully missing the nearby 1, 192 islands of the Maldives. Long March 5B launched on 29 April 2021, conveying into orbit the hefty main module of the new space station that China is building, to open in 2022. Some questioned the decision not to fire the Long March 5B rocket engine after releasing its payload, therefore sending it into “uncontrolled reentry.”

“Long March 3B Launch,” by Aaxanderr, 2008, public domain creative commons.

Even if the odds were good, since 70% Earth happens to be water, dumping space debris in the ocean whether in controlled or uncontrolled reentry, may not the best practice. Just ask the marine life at 72.47 degrees East and 2.65 degrees North.

“It starts right here – in Maldives.” by Nattu, Male, Maldives, 2008. Image: Creative Commons 2.0, wikimedia.

Controlled reentry aims at a watery grave. Coordinates 48 degrees 52.6 minutes south latitude and 123 degrees 23.6 minutes west longitude mark Point Nemo, or the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. It’s 1,450 nautical miles from anywhere, which is why it is the chosen splash-down spot for space detritus. Between 1971 and 2016, space agencies worldwide crashed 260 spacecraft into Point Nemo: there’s part of the MIR space station, a SpaceX rocket, and over 100 resupply vehicles. Over time we may regret that ditching strategy, no matter how much we believe Point Nemo or the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility poses no problems. As water rights develop, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) may rule on Point Nemo.

“Point Nemo or the Oceanic Pole of Inacessibility,” by Timwi 2007. Creative Commons Public Domain. Image: wikimedia.

But most space debris never gets to Point Nemo. There are an estimated 9,000 tones of material circling Earth. Many pieces like old satellites drop out of orbit and burn up before they hit the surface (that’s what happened to Sputnik, the first object in space in October 1957). But even such burning is cause for concern. Little has been done to assess effects on the upper atmosphere, especially consequences of alumina particles that remain trapped and can deplete the ozone layer. The protective layer that keeps Earth from ultraviolet radiation was the subject of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and 2016 Kigali Amendment.

“Image of Depleted Ozone Layer on South Pole Antarctica 2006.” Image credit: NASA. http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/ozone_record.html

Space business is increasing faster than we can keep up in laws and treaties. For example, early laws and conventions spoke only of governments, on the assumption that space was just too expensive for private enterprise. Today, companies like SpaceX are rewriting that text. Space law’s founding documents include the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Space Liability Convention. The first regulates what people can do in space; the second considers how to assign responsibility for activities or objects that cause damage. With satellite constellations like SpaceX and OneWeb launching rapidly, the sky is suffering from traffic, some of it from dead satellites taking of space while waiting to drop, burn, or splash. And we’re putting more up there. As of August 2020, there were 2,787 satellites in orbit (1,364 of those are communication satellites used by business and government). In addition, there are 3,000 dead satellites (and 34,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimeters and who knows how many particles) still up there, and causing not only traffic but danger.

“Image of Space Debris and Human Spacecraft.” NASA.gov.

We’re only getting started. Since COMSAT began, we’ve sent more satellites, and spacecraft, each year. Estimates now predict 9,000 units by 2025. Some of those will burn, some will splash, and eventually some of them will be retrieved. It’s a new industry. Watch for more laws about what goes up and how it comes down, along with innovations in space sanitation.

Gorman, Alice. “The growing problem of space junk.” 8 May 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/08/opinions/long-march-5b-space-junk-growing-problem-gorman/index.html

Gorman, Alice. Dr. Space Junk Vs The Universe: Archaeology and the Future. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2019. ISBN-13: 9780262043434; ISBN-10: 0262043432.

Hunt, Katie. “Mission to clean up space junk with magnets set for launch.” 1 April 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/19/business/space-junk-mission-astroscale-scn/index.html

Jones, Andrew. “Huge rocket looks set for uncontrolled reentry following Chinese space station launch.” 30 April 2021. Space News. https://spacenews.com/huge-rocket-looks-set-for-uncontrolled-reentry-following-chinese-space-station-launch/

Mosher, Dave. “A spacecraft graveyard exists in the middle of the ocean – here’s what’s down there.” 22 October 2017. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/spacecraft-cemetery-point-nemo-google-maps-2017.10

Myers, Steven Lee and Kenneth Chang. “China Says Debris From Its Rocket Landed Near Maldives.” 8 May 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/science/china-rocket-reentry-falling-long-march-5b.html?referringSource=articleShare

O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “What is space junk and why is it a problem?” Natural History Museum, London. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-is-space-junk-and-why-is-it-a-problem.html

Paoletta, Rae. “This Is What Legally Happens If An Uncontrolled Rocket Damages Something.” 5 May 2021. The Planetary Society. https://www.planetary.org/articles/uncontrolled-reentry-rocket-damage-space-lawyers-explain

Thompson, Helen. “There’s a Spacecraft Cemetery in the Pacific.” 21 May 2015. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/theres-spacecraft-cemetery-pacific-180955338

United Nations, Environment Programme, Ozone Secretariat. “The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol-substances-depleete-ozone-layer/text

United Nations, Environment Programme, Ozone Secretariat. “The Kigali Amendment.” https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol/amendments/kigali-amendment-2016-amendment-montreal-protocol-agreed

United Nations. Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

United Nations, Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.” https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introliability-convention.html

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

 

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January 28, 2021
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TRANSPORT/SPACE: Can the Internet fly?

Google/Alphabet Loon. Image: wikimedia

Wave Goodbye to Loon. The visionary project, to beam down the Internet from floating balloons, called it quits. For nine years, Google/Alphabet sent up as many as 35 floating globes – the size of tennis courts – with the goal of transmitting internet capability to areas where land-based infrastructure is not feasible. Of course, the balloons used Google autonomous navigation technology to steer themselves. But this week, the start up wound down. In 2017, when Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s telecommunications system, Loon helped to get the island back online. Another good outcome: Telkom, a telecommunications company in Kenya, inked a deal to bring 4G to remote areas. Because almost half the world does not yet have internet access, it’s a big market. Land-based technologies picked low-lying fruit, but there is still room for growth – above.

Starlink satellites stacked and ready to launch. Image: SpaceX and wikimedia commons.

Flying internet is a rapidly developing sector. Since early days of COMSAT, satellites are proving better vehicles for connectivity, even to what some call “notspots” (Kleinman 2021) with a vision of bringing the whole world online. It’s a movement that recalls the achievements such as the telephone and telegraph (connections were laid under the tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad). Here are some satellite enterprises delivering broadband internet today – and tomorrow:

FLYING INTERNET PROVIDERS

Apple – A plan to develop their own satellites prompted Apple to recruit two Google satellite experts: John Fenwick and Michael Trela will work with Greg Duffy, Dropcam founder who joined Apple recently. Apple may partner with Boeing to launch more than 1,00 low-orbit satellites.

Starlink –  Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink will require 42,000 satellites. SpaceX launched 60 satellites on 20 January 2021 to tally 1,015 so far (only 951 are still in orbit). In 2020, SpaceX carried out 14 launches. Possible subscription: $99 monthly fee + $499 for hardware.

OneWeb – Founded in 2014 by Greg Wyler, OneWeb re-emerged from potential bankruptcy with help from Bharti Global and UK government. 648 satellites will form OneWeb network constellation. Development of terminals is with Intellian Technologies and Collins Aerospace. Customers? While at first it was rural folks (OneWeb promises they won’t be overlooked), now it is telecom companies. Second generation satellites will include intelligence and security capabilities. New funding from SoftBank Group Corp and Hughes Network Systems/EchoStar tallied $1.4 billion in funding to put first-generation fleet in place in 2022.

Project Kuiper Constellation  – Funded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s satellite project plans to launch 3,236 satellites. In March 2019, Project Kuiper filed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Federal Communications Commission. The satellite array will orbit at three altitudes: 784 satellites at 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at 379 miles (610 kilometers), and 1,156 satellites at 391 miles (630 kilometers). The plan is to provide coverage from latitude 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south – that’s where 95% of the world’s people live. (Boyle 2019)

Telesat – With priority Ka-band spectrum rights and a fifty-year history of technical prowess, Telesat Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will link to customer terminals and electronically steered antennas (ESAs) for commercial, government, and military use. The first launch happened in January 2018.

LeoSat – The vision was a constellation of 78 -108 satellites but in 2019 the company laid off its 13 employees after investors dropped support. The investors were Hispasat, Spanish satellite operator, and Sky Perfect JSat of Japan. LeoSat still exists but for now is dormant.

Viasat – This satellite system offers internet access from geosynchronous orbit. New entrants like Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper, Telesat will use Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for lower latency and lower cost.

03b – Using medium Earth orbit (MEO), this constellation offers fiber-equivalent connection. The prime contractor is Arianespace for the operator SES Networks.

Athena Facebook filed with the Federal Communications Commission to launch Athena to provide broadband access to “unserved and underserved” areas of the world. The filing included a new name: PointView Tech LLC.

Boeing – The aerospace giant plans to launch and operate 147 satellites for a broadband constellation. Apple may help.

Satellites: a traffic jam in the sky? Can astronomers still see the stars? Image: Starlink, initial phase  – wikimedia.

PROBLEMS: Are satellite constellations the new Milky Way, or are we creating the same kind of traffic jam above that we suffer from on land? Some astronomers already report difficulty in seeing the sky. Negative comments from astronomers caused Starlink satellites to come up with a visor that prevents sun reflection, reducing glare – its a sub-company called VisorSat. OneWeb chair Sunil Bharti Mittal pledges environmental stewardship, working with astronomers on issues like reflectivity. (Amos, 2020) And then there is the problem of space debris: getting satellites up is easier than getting them down,

OPPORTUNITIES: Why are so many players entering the flying internet competition. Opportunity: Morgan Stanley projected that “the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more in  2040, up from $350 billion today.” (Conroy 2019) Of that, $410 billion will come from satellite-based internet services.

GPS Constellation. Image: wikimedia

Amos, Jonathan. “OneWeb satellite company launches into new era.” 18 December 2020. BBC.com

Boyle, Alan. “Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ Constellation.” 4 April 2019. GeekWire. https://www.geekwire.com/2019/amazon-project-kuiper-broadband-satellite/

Foust, Jeff. “SpaceX surpasses 1,000-satellite mark in latest Starlink launch.” 20 January 2021. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/spacex-surpasses-1000-satellite-mark-in-latest-starlink-launch/

Henry, Caleb. “LeoSat, absent investors, shuts down.” 13 November 2019. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/leosat-absent-investors-shuts-down/

Kleinman, Zoe. “Satellites beat balloons in race for flying internet.” 25 January 2020. BBC.com/Tech. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55770141

Matsakis, Louise. “Facebook Confirms It’s Working on a New Internet Satellite.” 28 July 2018. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-confirms-its-working-on-new-internet-satellite/

OneWeb. “OneWeb Secures Investment from Softbank and Hughes Network Systems.” 15 January 2021. https://www.oneweb.world/media-center/oneweb-secures-investment-from-softbank-and-hughes-network-systems

Raymundo, Oscar. “Apple is reportedly looking to put broadband-beaming satellites into orbit.” 21 April 2017. Macworld. https://www.macworld.com/article/3191474/apple-is-reportedly-looking-to-put-broadband-beaming-satellites-into-orbit.html

Yan Huang, Michelle, Bob Hunt, David Mosher. “What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for – and to – planet Earth.” 9 October 2020. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-elon-musk-42000-starlink-satellites-earth-effects-stars-2020-10

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

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December 21, 2020
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SPACE: Rock Hounds bring Finds to Earth

There’s a goddess on the moon and she’s a rock collector. China’s lunar explorer, Chang’e 5, named after the lunar deity, returned four pounds of rocks to Earth this week.

“The Moon Goddess Chang E.” Ming Dynasty Scroll, Metropolitan Museum of Art Acquisition number 1981.4.2. Image: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

It’s been 44 years between rock collecting expeditions: for the first time since 1976 (Soviet Union’s Luna 24 returned 6 ounces (170 grams), humans reached the lunar surface, collected samples, and headed home with prize specimens. The USA returned moon rocks in 1972. Since making its first lunar landing in 2013, China has achieved notable milestones including the first space probe landing on the far side of the moon in 2019. Change’e 5 brought 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar material back, landing in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region landing site on 16 December 2020. Some was surface rock, but a probe mechanism also collected material from 6.5 feet (2 meters) underground.

“Chang’e 5 Assembly, leaving CZ-5 rocket.” China News Agency. Image: wikimedia.

We may be in what some call a “golden age” of sampling from space. In addition to moon samples, we have retrieved interplanetary material from NASA‘s Stardust that returned samples from the tail of Comet 81P/Wild 2, and Genesis mission that sampled solar wind. JAXA’s Hayabusa that brought samples from asteroid Ryugu in December 2020; NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex visit to asteroid Bennu will return material (in 2023). Meanwhile, in 2021, we expect China’s Rianwen-1 to reach Mars, and Russia’s Lunar-24 to revisit the moon. JAXA’s Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission will soon return samples from Martian moon Phobos.

Hayabusa in hover mode. Image: JAXA. Wikimedia commons.

What did Chang’e find on the moon? The legendary goddess told a tale of global warming involving the heat of 10 suns. Perhaps rocks from the moon may shed light on Earth’s plight. As for the Chang’e mission, Pei Zhaoyu deputy director of China National Space Administration (CNSA) stated: “We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the international lunar scientific research station, which could provide a shared platform for lunar scientific exploration and technological experiments. ” Earlier, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, then director general of European Space Agency (ESA) suggested building a village on the far side of the moon to replace the aging International Space Station: “Partners from all over the world contributing to this community with robotic and astronaut missions and support communications satellites.” Frank P. Davidson, co-founder of Camp William James of the CCC, envisioned a program called Lunar U. Should there be a lunar study-abroad program for students, too?

“Moon and International Space Station.” That’s ISS in the lower right of the photo. Image: NASA.gov. Wikimedia.

Elin Urrutia, Doris. “We may be in a ‘golden age’ of sample-return space missions.” 5 December 2020. Space.com. https://www.space.com/golden-age-space-sample-retrieval-missions.html

Hauser, Jennifer and Zamira Rahim, “China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe successfully delivers moon samples to Earth.” 16 December 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/16/asia/china-lunar-probe-intlindex.html

Quirke, Joe. “European Space Agency proposes village on far side of the moon.” 15 July 2015. Global Construction Review. https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/european-spa8ce-age6ncy-8p0r6o4p2os8e0s6-4v2i0l8la/

Xinhua. “China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft brings home moon samples.” 17 December 2020. www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-12/17/c_139595181.htm

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

 

 

There are plans in development for lunar base establishment; some aspects will be scientific, other may be commercial.

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October 16, 2020
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TRANSPORT: 5G Whiz

It all started with DARPA. Image: “Darpa – Big Data.” Wikimedia.

“Gee Whiz” is an old-fashioned phrase, first used in 1876, but the combo of astonishment + speed related to the saying may well describe 5G speed in telecommunications. In this case, the G is for generation. And whiz – it’s still about speed.

5G is fifth generation mobile technology. Back in the days of 2G, mobile phones and texting were new, 3G brought mobile broadcast data, and 4G was faster and came to be called Long Term Evolution (LTE). Now we are at the advent of 5G. Ericsson created the initial 5G platform in 2017, but it is only in 2020 that 5G is coming to market. 5G is a breakthrough because of a something called “latency.”

Will 5G advance human and other mobility? Image: wikimedia.

Latency is the time it takes for information sent to be received. While 4G seemed fast at the time, taking about 30 milliseconds from sender to receiver, 5G could travel that synapse in 1-2 milliseconds. That whiz of time is barely perceptible. Closing the gap of latency will enable leaps the “Internet of Things” (IoT) including:

Autonomous vehicles

Drone navigation

Gaming

Robotics

Will 5G allow next-generation bicycle helmets? Image: wikipedia.

Many breakthroughs in technology began with military or government research, including the Internet that stemmed from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), founded in 1958 by American President Eisenhower in response to Sputnik’s success the year prior. DARPA led to computer networking, the Internet, and graphical user interfaces – and also to the NASA lunar landing.

Now, government may again take the lead in connection. The United States Department of Defense is exploring sharing a new 5G wireless network with commercial enterprises. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are rolling out 5G upgrades, and Google’s Alphabet has advocated sharing the wireless spectrum. A shared network would keep military use, but add commercial partners. License bidding for spectrum access through a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) raised $4.6 billion recently; in December 2020, another auction will determine future power and access. While CTIA, trade association for the wireless industry, may favor private-sector decisions, some advocate sharing. Precedent may be found in FirstNet, AT&T’s $40 billion service for fire-fighters and public safety. In 2021, the Pentagon may direct 100 megahertz of spectrum towards the FCC for auction. What do you think of military and commercial interests – combined or separate?

Drones – both military and commercial – may benefit from 5G. Image “Drohnenflug im Abendrot.” Wikimedia

Meanwhile, 5G network leaders include Ericsson (ERIC) with a market capitalization of $25 billion, Nokia (NOK) with $18.5 billion, and Qualcomm, with $81 billion market capitalization. Ericsson created the first 5G platform in 2017. Huawei is among 35 global carriers active in 5G deployment. New chips will be needed: Qorvo (QRVO) and Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) are active. It will also mean new phones: Apple (AAPL) announced the 5G-capable iPhone 12 this week.

5G – fifth generation mobile network. Image: wikimedia

Speed has always driven advances in transport. Wheels were faster than walking; cars were faster than horses (we still use the term “horsepower” for speed); jets were faster than propeller-equipped aircraft. Now, a new era of connective transport is arriving, with the advent of 5G. But latency exists in more than signals; it’s also a roll-out timing factor. Full 5G capability requires new infrastructure. China, South Korea, and Switzerland made progress in 2019; in 2020, U.S. low-band is more available than mid-band or high-band, and only in some cities. By 2023, 5G may support more than 10% of the world’s mobile connections. Investors are betting on developing capacity, including chip-makers, with the next wave of significant activity from 2021-2022. Meanwhile, important policy issues regarding 5G access are in discussion: what do you think?

Carpenter, J. William. “5G Network: Top 3 Companies to Invest in Before 2021.” Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing-strategy/062916/5g-network-3-companies-invest-2020-qcom-nok.asp/

DeGrasse, Martha. “Which vendor leads in 5G contracts?” 13 September 2019. Fierce Wireless. https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/which-vendor-leads-5g-contracts

Fisher, Tim. “5G Availability Around the World.” 16 October 2020. Lifewire. https://www.lifewirecom/5g-availability-world-4156244.

Fitzgerald, Drew. “Pentagon Considers Sharing 5G Network: Private businesses would get opportunity to use spectrum without an auction.” 22 September 2020, page B6. The Wall Street Journal.

Krause, Reinhardt, “5G Stocks To Buy and Watch.” 17 September 2020. Investors.com. https://www.investors.com/news/technology/5g-stocks-5g-wireless-stocks/

McLaughlin, Ronan “%G Low Latency Requirements.” Broadband Library. https://broadbandlibrary.com/5g-low-latency-requirements/

Ranger, Steve. “What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now.” 3 February 2020. ZDNet. https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-internet-of-things-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-iot-right-now/

Shankland, Stephen. “How 5G aims to end network latency.” 8 December 2018. CNET.com. https://www.cnet.com/news/how-5g-aims-to-end-network-latency-response-time/.

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

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August 28, 2020
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ENERGY: Promethean Problem

“Prometeo trayendo el fuego,” Jan Cossiers, 1637. Museo del Prado. wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humans, we’ve been the only species that can start and stop a fire. Darwin believed human capability to control fire was the greatest evolutionary achievement, second only to language. Now, that capability may be changing.

Wildfire Map of California, seen by NASA satellites. Image: nasa.gov.

Increase temperatures by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, decrease rainfall by 30%: it’s a formula for fire risk. Add occurrence of lightning strikes, like those in California recently, and there is a predictable crisis. According to Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center, the area’s temperatures are 3.5 degrees higher than a century ago. Lightning strikes have also increased: up by 12% across the United States. According to California governor Gavin Newsom, California experienced 10,849 lightning strikes in 72 hours in August 2020, amid record temperatures. In 2020, California has battled 40 percent more fires than in 2019. It’s not just a California problem. In Alaska, temperatures are increasing faster than anywhere else in the USA, with four of the ten largest fire years on record occurring in the past fifteen years, with 2 million acres lost in each major fire year. In Colorado, over 1 million people receive drinking water from the Upper South Platte Watershed, northwest of Denver: in the past two decades, fires have threatened the water utility. In Colorado this week, wildfires burned across 135,423 acres, causing the state to warn residents about air quality and banning campfires: the Grizzly Creek Fire closed Interstate 70 for more than one week. Some warned that after the fires, landslides may increase. Water levees across the Colorado River Basin have decreased, including reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell. In South America, wildfires also pose dangers. It’s a global problem that will increase with climate change. What can we do?

“Trees Torching: High Park Wildfire” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017. Image: wikimedia.

World Weather Attribution (WWA), an international collaborative organization including the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford (ECI), Laboratories des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environment (LSCE), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), uses satellite data and other sources to monitor atmospheric pressure patterns and levels of water vapor to predict heatwaves, fires, droughts, among other weather threats. Study data on every global region from 2014 – 2020 can be found here. These studies provide both warnings, and the basis for sustainability litigation.

Wildfire Propagation Model. Image: wikimedia.

Like sea-rise that will continue to some extent after we solve the climate crisis, temperature increases, with resultant drought and fires, can also be expected. There are some options: limit building and development in fire-prone areas, manage forests, combat insect-borne disease, improve our power grid, strengthen data analysis on climate change, and develop early warning systems for wildfire smoke that can pose air pollution and health risk. Future environmental decisions will need collaboration among biologists, fire scientists, and landscape ecologists, according to Professor Van Butsic of UCBerkeley, who states “land sits at the nexus of ecological conditions and human decisions.”

“Eden Reforestation Projects Logo,” www.edenprojects.org.

Wildfire protection innovations include Elevated Rain Induced Solution (ERIS) developed by Wildfire Innovations with targeted, moveable, suppression systems. Early detection innovations like SmokeD by IT for Nature can detect fires and alert nearby businesses and residents, via a phone app. Verisk Analytics Inc. developed a fire risk management tool to evaluate fuel, slope, and access, generating a hazard score. Will reforestation help? According to studies, the cost of replanting may bring promising returns: one reforested acre will be worth $191, 110; 30 acres, $5,733.300. Eden Projects and MillionTrees help restore land and lives. Private investment may see an opportunity, with investor capital innovations like Blue Forest Resilience Bond (FRB) and  Encourage Capital. 

Butsic, Van, A.D. Syphard, J.E. Keeley, and A. Bar-Massada. (2017). “Can private land conservation reduce wildfire risk to homes? A case study in San Diego County, California, USA.” Landsc. Urban Plan, 157, 161-169. LUC LAB: Researching Land Use and Land Use Change, University of California Berkeley.

Darwin, C. The Descent of Man. London: 1871.

Doer, Stefan H. and Cristina Santin. “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world. 5 June 2016. Philos Trans R Soc Lon B Biol Sci. 2016 Jun 5: 371 (1696): 20150345. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015. 0345 PMCID: PMC4874420.

Finley, Bruce. “Climate change hits home in Colorado with raging wildfires, shrinking water flows and record heat: State faces continued increases in average temperatures for decades due to past burning of fossil fuels.” 25 August 2020. The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2020/08/19/colorado-climate-change-wildfire-drought/

Gowlett, J.A.J. “The discovery of fire by humans: a long and convoluted process.” 5 June 2016. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0164. Article ID: 20150164. Special issue on The Interaction of Fire and Mankind. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0149

Lenihan, Rob. “Innovation at the forefront of wildfire prevention.” 24 July 2018. Business Insurance. https://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20180724/NEWS06/912322839/Disaster-management-innovations-at-the-forefront-of-wildfire-prevention#.

Lightning Maps. https://www.lightingmaps.org.

Mulkern, Anne C. “Climate Change Has Doubled Riskiest Fire Days in California.” 3 April 2020, Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-has-doubled-riskiest-fire-days-in-california/

NASA. Forecasting Fires in South America. VIDEO: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%3AForecasting_South_American_Fires.ogv

Newsom, Gavin. “CA has experienced 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours.” 19 August 2020. Twitter: @GavinNewsom.

Temple, James. “Yes, climate change is almost certainly fueling California’s massive fires.” 20 August 2020, Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/20/1007478/california-wildfires-climate-change-heatwaves/

Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Connection between Climate Change and Wildfires” published 9 September 2011; updated 11 March 2020. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/climate-change-and-wildfires

U.S. Global Change Research Program. “National Climate Assessment”. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov

World Weather Attribution. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/analysis/projects/

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

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August 10, 2020
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SPACE: Here’s looking at you, Earth

Eye of a Chameleon. Image: wikimedia.

Eyes in the sky, Earth Observation Satellites monitor environmental conditions by reporting hot spots and testing efforts to mitigate climate change. OHB-System has just signed a contract to build a new satellite network to monitor carbon dioxide, helping countries achieve goals of the COP 21 Paris Agreement. Part of the Copernicus System, the first OHB spacecraft will launch in 2025; it will be called CO2M.

Scenographia Systematis Copernicani” engraving circa 1660. Image: wikimedia.

CO2M will join the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation program, a system of satellite sensors called Sentinels that watch the Earth from space. Marco Fuchs, CEO of Germany’s OHB-System, oversees the contract with the European Space Agency. Thales Alenia Space (TAS), a French-Italian company, is a sub-contractor, designing carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide spectrometers. Belgian partner, OIP Sensors, will provide a cloud imager. CO2M will track carbon dioxide to a resolution of 2km by 2km across a span of 250 km. Satellites will carry both a CO2 detector and also secondary sensors that can differentiate between human-produced emissions and those occurring naturally.

TAS logo. Image: wikimedia.

Looking for employment or investment opportunities? Check out satellite enterprises: OHB, TAS, OIP

Since COMSAT launched the first communication satellites, space has become the place that allows us to transmit video, communication, and weather information about Earth. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are leaders. Here’s a look at NASA’s program:

NASA’s Earth Science Division Operating Missions. Image: wikimedia/nasa.gov.

ESA’s Sentinel satellite system is comprehensive, and will expand when CO2M joins the initiative. For now, here’s the Sentinel array and specific capabilities:

Sentinel-1: monitor Earth’s surface in all weather conditions

Sentinel-2: monitor land changes

Sentinel-3: observe oceans

Sentinel-4: measure atmospheric gases

Sentinel-5: monitor air quality

Sentinel-6: measure rising seas

When CO2M becomes operational, joining the Sentinel series, it will track CO2 around the whole globe every five days. CO2M’s data, along with other Sentinel reporting, and NASA’s initiatives as well as others, will help meet the climate goals established by COP21 also known as the Paris Agreement. The Eiffel Tower displayed the message: now we must meet the goals. Space, looking at Earth, can help.

“#1Heart1Tree” image on the Eiffel Tower, Paris, during COP21 where climate goals were agreed by most nations of the world. Earth Observation Satellites will help meet those environmental goals.  Photo by Yann Caradec, image: wikimedia.

If you are interested in learning more about Earth Observation Satellites, join the Copernicus Academy’s MOOC, beginning in September 2020.

Amos, Jonathan. “European Sentinel satellites to map global CO2 emissions.” 1 August 2020, BBC.com.

Copernicus Earth Observation System. https://www.copernicus.eu/en

Copernicus Academy, 160 members fromthe EU 28 plus Iceland and Norway, sharing research and providing training on Earth Observation. Join the MOOC starting in September 2020.https://www.copernicus.eu/en/opportunities/education/copernicus-mooc

OHB Magazine. https://www.ohb.de/en/magazine/

NASA, Edited by Andrew J. Butrica. “Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1997. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4217/sp4217.htm

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

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May 20, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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SPACE: Spring Cleaning

Satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Image: wikimedia

When COMSAT began a new era in communications, emphasis was on getting satellites into orbit, not how to get them down. One option: a “graveyard” orbit where old tech circles endlessly in a geriatric retirement lap; another solution, crash and burn; a third, shoot them, causing space junk to become space debris, now tallied at 50,000 pieces hurtling at 17,500 miles per hour and causing hazards to active spacecraft. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects established some guidelines, but so far humans are better at launching satellites than retrieving or fixing them, and many satellites are getting old. But there has been a breakthrough.

Intelsat. Image: wikimedia.

In April 2020, Intelsat 901, beaming Internet to airplanes and ships, was running out of steering power but still functioning. Northrop Grumman built a spacecraft called the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) to fly to Intelsat 901, latch on and supply propulsion and steering. This is the first time in history that two commercial spacecraft have docked together in space, proving that in-orbit service is possible. Existing satellites are getting on in years, and may need servicing. Space will see more communication satellites, along with observation technology monitoring Earth’s climate. Northrup Grumman and Intelsat plan to continue in-orbit service, a new industry.

Davenport, Christian. “In historic first, an aging satellite is resurrected by another in a technology that could reduce junk in space: A Northrup Grumman spacecraft latched on to a communications satellite, extending its life.” 20 April 2020. The Washington Post. Includes video. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/20/new-technology-creates-fountain-youth-aging-satellites-potentially-reducing-space-junk/.

European Space Agency. 6th European Conference on Space Debris, 2013. http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Space_Debris/

Henry, Caleb. “Intel-901 satellite, with MEV-1 servicer attached, resumes service.” 17 April 2020. Space News. https://spacenews.com/intelsat-901-satellite-with-mev-1-servicer-attached-resumes-service/

Intelsat. https://intelsat.com. Ticker symbol: I

Northrop Grumman. https://www.northropgrumman.com. NYSE: NOC.

United Nations. Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.” September 1972. http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introliability-convention.html/

Thanks to David H. Marks for sharing research and 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 Unp

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November 17, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES Underwater – Venice

St. Mark’s, Venice, underwater again. “Aqua Alta Venise,” Image: wikimedia

Venice, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has suffered the worst flood in 50 years, attributed in its severity to climate change. Inside the city’s venerable buildings are paintings by Francesco Guardi, J.M.W.Turner, and many other priceless treasures. St. Mark’s Basilica, flooded just six times in nine centuries, shows inundation-damaged marble floors; there is fear the iconic columns may also be weakened. Modern art is also affected: Banksy’s “Shipwrecked Girl” mural on the Rio di Ca’Foscari canal is now underwater.

What can be done to prevent the loss of life, property, and infrastructure that cities like Venice must anticipate in the future? Coastal cities may soon have more accurate information about sea-rise. As Venice flooded in November 2019, Sentinel-6a entered testing in the final stage before expected launch in November 2020. Sea-rise is accelerating: five-year span 2014 – 2019 revealed a 4.8mm/year increase.  Copernicus Sentinel’s Jason-2 Poseidon Altimeters will map ocean floor peaks and valleys, reading temperature, salinity, gravity, currents and speed.

Coperniicus Sentinel-2A Satellite, 8 August 2017. “Greenland, wildfire.” Image: wikimedia commons.

A global system like COMSAT, Sentinel coordinates orbiting devices. Sentinel-6 moves between 66 degrees North and South; Sentinel-3 goes to 82 degrees. Sentinel-6 repeats its cycle every 10 days, monitoring big areas like the Gulf Stream or the Kuroshio Current; Sentinel-3 repeats every 27 days, focusing on smaller ocean eddies that move more slowly. Earth Science Division of NASA may link Landsat to Sentinel-2, completing the circle.

Meanwhile, Venice’s regional council may be having second thoughts about their recent veto to fund a proposal to combat climate change. Just minutes later, their Ferro Fini Palace offices flooded, sending the fleeing officials into the flooded streets, with  70% of Venice engulfed. From St. Mark’s Square, Venice’s mayor Brugnaro expressed hopes that the Mose system, a series of barriers consisting of mobile gates located at inlets, will soon protect the city from inundations. Venice is not alone: Boston and other cities may build harbor barrier systems. Worldwide, hundreds of cities  face the same fate: what are some of the ways cities can respond, from Amsterdam to Jakarta to Yangon?

The once and future Venice: “Piazza San Marco with the Basilica,” 1720. Image: wikimedia.

Amos, Jonathan. “Sentinel for sea-level rise enters testing.” 15 November 2019. BBC Science & Environment.

Cerini, Marianna. “Venice is flooding — what lies ahead for its cultural and historical sites?” 16 November 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/venice-flooding-st-mark-damages/index.html.

Giuffrida, Angela. “Venice council flooded moments after rejecting climate crisis plan: proposals rejected as lagoon city faces worst flooding in 53 years.” 15 November 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/15/venice-council-flooded-moments-after-rejecting-climate-crisis-plan/.

Kirshen, Paul, et. al. “Feasibility of Harbor-wide Barrier Systems: Preliminary Analysis for Boston Harbor.”   2018. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Lemperiere, Francois and Luc DeRoo. “Peut-on éviter les inondations a Paris?” Symposium du CFBR, 25 janvier 2018 a Chambery. Thanks to David Edwards-May.

Mazzel, Patricia. “82 Days Underwater: The Tide Is High, but They’re Holding On.” 24 November 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/us/florida-keys-flooding-king-tide.html?smid=nytcore.ios.share.

MOSE SYSTEM: The mobile barriers for the protection of Venice from high tides.” https://www.mosevenezia.eu/project/?lang-en

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

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October 29, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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Happy Birthday, Internet

Internet’s 50th birthday. Image: wikimedia

October 29, 1969. Neil Armstrong had recently stepped onto another world: the moon. That same year, another new world was born. UCLA, Stanford, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah were working on ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). Graduate student Charley Kline sent a computer message from UCLA to Bill Duvall at Stanford, typing the word “Login.” The system crashed; but the letters ‘L’ and ‘O’ transmitted. Leonard Kleinrock, professor of computer science at UCLA, helped to complete the message about an hour later

Now, we’re moving into 5G. 1G was analog cellular; 2G was CDMA and GSM digital. 3G technologies like EVDO were faster; 4G LTE was even faster. 5G will deliver three changes: faster speed (moving more data); lower latency (optimizing response); ability to connect multiple devices. 5G might help autonomous vehicles become more accurate; smart roads will become more responsive, too. 5G will enable Virtual Reality (VR) and instant transmission.

The internet was born fifty years ago today.  Since then, complex transmissions have spread science around the world, and a few chats, too. But some might opine that the first two letters ever sent best expressed the wonder: “‘Lo,’ and Behold.”

Novak, Matt. “Here’s the Internet’s ‘Birth Certificate’ From 50 Years Ago Today.” 29 October 2019. https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/heres-the-internets-birth-certificate-from-50-years-ago-1839436583.

Segan, Sascha. “What is 5G?” 28 August 2019. PC Magazine. https://www.pcmag.com/article/345387/what-is-5g.

Appreciation to Dr. George H. Litwin for suggesting this post topic.

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

 

 

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April 11, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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SPACE: Photo of Infinity?

Enter here: matter, time, and space. Black hole Messier 87,  galaxy located in Virgo cluster 53 million light years away. “Black Hole” photograph by Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, 10 April 2019. Image: wikimedia commons.

April 2019. A photo of a black hole just gave the world first view of what was thought unseeable. Black holes are so termed because matter, time, space, even light, are pulled into the vortex and never come back, or perhaps become suspended in the energy field around the black hole called the Event Horizon, identified by Stephen Hawking and suggested by Einstein. Messier 87, a very large black hole photographed today, is termed “a supermassive spacetime deforming structure.” (Heater, 2019).

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team. Image: wikimedia.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration worked as a team of eight telescopes around the world, including coordination by NASA. One of the project heroes: Katie Bouman, postdoc fellow from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Bouman will teach at Caltech in the fall of 2019), who worked on the CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) algorithm that combined the eight data flows into one image. Also on the CHIRP team: MIT’s Haystack Observatory and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Event Horizon’s photo may place Bouman in the tradition of Photo 51. It’s worth noting that Event Horizon’s historic photo is evidence of the essential importance of global collaboration in space; is this hope for a path to peace?

Bever, Lindsey. “Katie Bouman helped the world see a black hole. Fans want ‘a rightful seat in history’ for her.” 11 April 2019. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/04/11/katie-bouman-helped-world-see-black-hole-fans-want-rightful-seat-history-her/.

Bouman, Katie. “How to take a picture of a black hole.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/katie_bouman_what_does_a_black_hole_look_like?language=en.

Event Horizon Telescope. https://eventhorizontelescope.org

Ghosh, Pallab. “First ever black hole image released.” 10 April 2019. BBC Science and Environment.

Hawking. “Black holes store information.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkRDmJpthXg. KTCH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, 2015.

Heater, Brian. Here’s the first image of a black hole.” 04/10/2019. TechCrunch.

MIT CSAIL. @MIT_CSAIL.

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

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