The Right Stuff

With all the excitement with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon along with the National Geographic Channel making a new miniseries based on the book, which they plan to release in 2020. It was time to read the book, I’ve seen the movie before and have been a fan of outer space since I was a kid. So Tom Wolfe’s book on the beginnings of the American Space Program focusing on the Mercury Program.

Tom Wolfe begins the book with the test pilots at Pax River and Muroc, later Edwards and Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. Next the Soviets send up Sputnik and that kick starts the whole space race with the formation of NASA and selection of the Mercury 7. It’s a fun read as it covers all the ins and outs of the training and missions

Apollo 11 (2019)

Another big Documentary Film this year is Apollo 11, it takes the raw footage of the launch and mission from NASA itself and creates the documentary. In this film from CNN we watch as the mission goes up into space and it is pretty unique that I think that NASA and CNN could do this with all the other missions. If you are a fan of Outer Space pick up this film at least once and if you don’t want to go out and find it CNN will be airing it on June 23 and again on July 20. Will this be the film that wins Best Documentary in the upcoming Oscars, that seems possible yet we are only halfway through the year and there are bound to be other documentaries released before the end of eligibility for the year.

Go Space out and watch it. It’s a cool movie and since July 16 marks the 50th anniversary of liftoff what better time to watch it. I am sure that various places will be showing this film this summer from the local museums to maybe an outdoor movie showing under the stars.

This post has been updated fixing a previous error and adding another date on which CNN will be broadcasting it.

Mercury 13 (2018)

This documentary from Netflix is really interesting. First off it’s about early spaceflight which is a very interesting topic in general I am a big fan of the film The Right Stuff (about the Mercury program) and miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (about Apollo) so this one was up my alley.  This is about the women who underwent the same tests as the men did to determine if they were fit to be astronauts. The tests were developed by William Lovelace and with the influence of Jacqueline Cochran. There were several rounds of test but unfortunately it was never sanctioned by NASA and was shuttered before it really got that far. It shows how far we’ve come that in the 60s there was a Congressional hearing about women in space. This is pretty crazy as you’d think that they would really want anyone who was willing to go to space to go, just to beat the Russians but it would take some time for the US to have women in space. The old boys club was set and unwilling to budge. Thankfully it changed and Sally Ride eventually got into space followed by Eileen Collins who became the first female American to fly in space piloting the Shuttle first in 1995 and the current pool of astronauts is diverse.

If you got the chance to watch it please do to learn a little bit more about the beginnings of the Space programs.

Space Policy

So, we knew that Trump would have some sort of space policy and yesterday he revealed it. Space Policy Directive 1 according to Trump “marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.” This sound sort of like Newt Gingrich’s idea from back in 2012 to build a colony on the Moon.  It sort of is a tweak to Obama’s plans as we will no longer be going to an asteroid. Now NASA and science haven’t been at the forefront of the Trump Presidency with facts taking a seat behind feelings, sure the race back to the moon seems to be a common Republican goal but it would be great if they could “make NASA great again”. (#MNASAGA, anyone?)  Previous attempts to make it back to the moon from the past Republican Presidents have failed to pick up steam. It’s nice that there are some guidelines being set out but it would be a whole lot better if NASA had an Administrator and one who knows that Climate Change is a thing.

However, I doubt anything will be coming of this unless Congress approves some more funding for NASA, in the 2012 Neil deGrasse Tyson told the Senate Science Committee that “Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th-century birthright to dream of tomorrow.” For just a penny basically the same budget that NASA got in the 70s-90s a lot could be done and I doubt that we’d get anywhere to the 3- 4% of the Federal Budget that it got building the Apollo program. Let alone that fact that it won’t be until 2019 that the first test flight of the new Orion Spacecraft will be launched and that most likely will be unmanned and it won’t be until 2021 that we will see a manned mission. Will this policy include that new cis-lunar space station built with Roscosmos, the second International Space Station or perhaps an American space station or something else? It just want to set America as a leader in Space once again so it seem doubtful. Yet, the good news is that in 2018 the US can finally send people back up to space from its own soil with the Commercial Crew systems by SpaceX and Boeing. I guess we will have to wait and see what all happens.

Aging limits and expectancy

This was an interesting article from The Guardian and Gizmodo about life expectancy. In a recent study published in Lancet and funded by UK Medical Research Council and the US Environmental Protection Agency indicates that by 2030 there will be some places with big increase and other with more modest gains. In 2030, girls born in South Korea will have an expectancy of 90.8 years and boys will be about 84. These were the highest points and if accurate we will be seeing many more supercentarians, those over 110, in the years to come. This points towards the advances in health technology that have happened and the ease of access to it. These were the reasons that the United States was given modest gains, with several problems including obesity and general violence. The article notes “Not only does the US have high and rising health inequalities, but also life expectancy has stagnated or even declined in some population subgroups.” Hopefully, Trump and the Republican can do something to fix what they call the “awful” Affordable Care Act other than just changing the name to not Obamacare. With an increase Life expectancy more people should be living into their 100 or so, these might help us figure out how long a human life span is, as many scientist think that it’s about 122-125. As the oldest living person lived until 122 and no one has lived longer since. If more humans are living into their 100s space travel and manned expedition that last for years like of Mars seem logical and perhaps eventually to some exoplanets as we have decades which we previously didn’t have.

News Roundup

Space: Remember the Electromagnetic Propulsion thruster which could if it works cut down travel time  from the roughly six months to a year to Mars to a more manageable 70 days. The EM Drive is about to be launched into outer space, although no date has been set for launch it could come within six months, to see if it really does what scientists have said it roughly does here one Earth. The drive works by using microwaves as fuel to propel, if this works it will be a major leap forward for space travel however it will throw a big kink into Newton’s Third Law. I hope that this happens soon as it would help lower to cost of space travel by a whole bunch since we won’t have to carry any fuel to get anywhere, and this seems like the first steps to a hyperdrive.

Star Wars: Someone had some free time and drew up an info graph about how much a AT-AT would cost to build and surprisingly it is even less than what the US has to pay for a B-21 bomber, but far more that a simple tank.

SpaceX: This is a cool article about Elon Musk’s company and how it’s using a similar plan that Boeing used that made air travel a regular occurrence. If Musk succeeds this could be a wonderful thing and would even perhaps begin to lower the cost of space travel.

News Roundup

Election 2016: Trump opened his mouth again and it ended disastrously as he said that “Second Amendment” diehards can take care of Hillary so that she doesn’t get to the White House he continued saying the same about a potential Supreme Court Justice. Now he’s not outright advocating that some gun nut go out there and shoot the Democratic nominee or anything like that at least that’s what we all hope he’s saying. Yet this is the guy how said he could shoot a someone on fifth Avenue in New York and he wouldn’t lose any votes. So I’m not sure what to believe what this all means, but you know how he likes to joke about things like this.

Smoking: Ann Arbor, Michigan has voted to push the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21. This is the first in Michigan and will be enacted in January 2017. It is interesting to see that there is a push across the country to raise the smoking age citing that raising the drinking age to 21 has done wonders to curb high school aged kids drinking and they want to do the same for smoking as it’s not the most healthiest thing in the world. Look at what the Colorado and California have done/ are planning to do with their cannabis laws, it’s legal for those 21 and older. It seems reasonable  for wanting this to be done as smoking currently kills like one in five people a year.

Space: This sounds cool as Deep Space Industries is going to be sending out ships to mine asteroids. If they are successful think of how we will be able to mine and refuel from like asteroids instead of having to send up rocket full of fuel for future space missions. The first mining mission isn’t expected until the end of the decade but that is rather soon. They will launch an exploratory mission in 2017 and space exploration is going to be getting better from here on.

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The latest Star Trek film has come out, it is the 13th of the series the third of the rebooted timeline. It is an odd movie so you’d think that it’s going to be bad but that trope has seemed to have reversed since Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), with the rebooted Star Trek doing well and Into Darkness feeling very derivative of The Wrath of Kahn, now Beyond come out and feel a whole lot closer to the original concept.  Some spoilers to follow.

Beyond picks up three years after the end of Into Darkness during the third year of the crew’s five year voyage. After failing to broker peace between two races. The ship is running out of supplies and they are heading towards Starbase Yorktown to resupply and for shore leave. The crew is rocked by doubts, Kirk is haunted by the death of his Father and wonders what the meaning of the mission is as he applies for Vice Admiral of the Starbase, Spock gets news that Ambassador Spock had died and wonders if going back to New Vulcan, this causes friction between Uhura and Spock and they decide to breakup. When an escape pod drifts into Yorktown with a survivor, Kalara, she says that her crew crashed on a planet it’s up to the Enterprise to help her out. They head for the Nebula where Kalara’s crew is and when they get there are ambushed by a massive swarm of ships and the Enterprise crashes and the crew using escape pods get captured by Krall. The crew is broken into four groups, Kirk and Chekov, Spock and Bones, Scotty, and Sulu and Uhura along with the rest of the captured crew. With no ship how will they get off the planet and will they get the crew back together before Krall can find and use an ancient bioweapon, a part of which was on the Enterprise.

The film is great it’s got some nice nods to the classic series and Greg Grunberg shows up. If you were disappointed by the last film come and see this one as it works. For non-Star Trek fans it is a decent film, sure you won’t be getting some of the references but it doesn’t really distract from the film. I hope that the next film comes out in like 2018 during the final year of the five year mission as that seems like the logical next film to make.

News Roundup

Election 2016: This is huge news as Sanders $15 minimum wage a central part of his campaign has been incorporated into the draft of the Democratic platform. This is important for the simple fact that the current wage of 7.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on and we can see this by simply looking around the nation where over half the states have a wage higher many around $9. Washington DC is one of the places with the highest wages currently at 11.50 an hour and by 2020 if a bill is passed DC’s minimum wage will be 15 and tipped wages will be 5 an hour as well then they would inflate with the economy after that. It’s a smart idea but some people would rather have a basic income provided by the government however this is a more radical idea. It’s a smart idea and something that the Republicans are not going to be touching at all.

Architecture: This is a unique story as it talks about graffiti from the middle ages. In churches around England and I assume Europe there is graffiti on the walls depicting the life of the commoners from a time period when most of us think of Knights and Kings.  The article also gives a new look at graffiti as most of us have only encountered the spray painted things by the likes of Banksy but graffiti was commonplace in the ancient world even more so than it is today as everyone was leaving a mark to say they visited the sites of Europe.

Space: Juno has successfully made it’s way into orbit around Jupiter. This mission should help expand our knowledge about the planet. This is pretty cool since we don’t really know much about what’s underneath the clouds on Jupiter. I look forward to hear more information when ever NASA releases it.

News Roundup

New National Monument: This is pretty unique as President Obama has announced that women’s equality get a monument as well. Obama announced that the Sewall-Belmont house in DC will be designated  the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. The building was the headquarters of the National Women’s Party which fought for women’s suffrage and tried mightily to pass the Equal Right Amendment, an amendment to the constitution that granted women equal rights, it was introduced in 1923 and sort of died in 79. However, the Virginia Senate continues to vote on it most recently in January, it seems like the time has come for the amendment to be added to the Constitution.

Comic book Movies: In news that really isn’t news it has been officially confirmed by Warner Brothers that Matt Damon is directing a stand alone Batman movie in the DC Movie Universe. In the Marvel Universe there is a new trailer it only a teaser for the latest film Doctor Strange.

Space: This is a cool story as it involves interstellar travel. Stephen Hawking along with Yuri Milner and the help of Mark Zuckerberg want to send a bunch of computer chip sized satellites with solar sails which would get a push by a giant laser and then use the sun as a means of propulsion. They would travel at about 20% the speed of light. Hawking believes that interstellar travel must be something that we can reach within a human lifetime. The nearest star system is 25 trillion miles or about 4 light years away and the farthest object (Voyager 1) sent from earth has only gone about 135 AU from the Earth.