“And Mr. Musk said, ‘Hello, your new spaceship is ready'”

SpaceX Dragon V2 spacecraft

Behold the Dragon

The Space Shuttle — the re-usable “space truck” that brought us the modern space age and served us so well for three decades — is no more. In one of their more bone-headed decisions, the powers-that-be in Washington both ended the Shuttle program and, under the current administration, ended the program that was to replace the Shuttle program.

That has left us in a position that only a few years ago, would have been thought unthinkable: The world’s greatest and most advanced space-faring nation no longer has any means to send an astronaut into orbit. We can’t even launch supplies to the largely American-built International Space Station.

The result is that for years now what little we’ve been able to do has been by means of renting rides from our former enemies and current rivals, the Russians. And with the rising Russian revanchism under former KGB chief Vladimir Putin, we are facing the loss of even that: Putin has recently made it very plain that he resents even the little token opposition the U.S. has whimpered to Putin’s militaristic threats against his neighboring countries, and in retaliation Putin has stated that the space rides for Americans may soon come to an end.

A Dragon to the rescue?

Continue reading

Don’t forget the meteor shower!

Geminid Meteor Shower

Geminid Meteor Shower, 2012. Credit: NASA & JeffDai950; for much higher resolution version see APOD original posting

Not long ago I posted about the new meteor shower — brand new, one never before seen, so could be quite a humdinger — that will grace the wee hours of the night sky Saturday and Sunday morning (i.e., to see it you’ll need to stay up past midnight Friday and Saturday night).

And there’s not much required to enjoy it: You only need to drive out to some really dark location well away from city lights, stay up after midnight, and use the standard eyeballs God gave you. This could be such a spectacular event that I’m posting this again; here’s a link to the original post with more info.

Latest NASA update and even more info.


Spectacular storm chase

Stormchasers in Wyoming captured time-lapse video of a spectacular super-cell that really shows the amazing power and terrifying beauty of this sky phenomenon.

DON’T go chasing storms like this unless you really know what you’re doing — they can be really dangerous, and driving around near them is very, very dangerous. (Trust me on this — been there, done that, did some things that, in hindsight, were really dangerous and stupid.)

Who gives the most? A curious finding…

Who are the most charitable people and countries in the world? It’s a complex question because charity can be measured so many ways. (The U.S. Navy rushed in and set up massive medical support and provision of water after the giant Indonesian Christmas-day quake in 2004, something that probably no one but the U.S. Navy could have done; it probably saved thousands of lives. But how does one measure something like that?)

Continue reading