More of Captain Kirk’s “Singing”

Image (Credit): William Shatner on the stage a few years ago. (Newsweek)

Time for a little more about our friend William Shatner. You may be aware of his various recordings over the decades where he speaks rather than sings the lyrics of the songs. Some of his albums include The Transformed Man and Has Been. One noteworthy song is his version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” from his album Seeking Major Tom. It’s all a lot of fun.

It gets even better with last night’s show in Washington, DC at the Kennedy. He joined singer Ben Folds, his friend and the organizer of the evening, and the National Symphony Orchestra to sing some of his new songs, including one for Earth Day and another about his adventures into space last year aboard a Blue Origin rocket.

In this premiere show, Mr. Shatner was relaxed and playful throughout the performance, which was impressive for this 91-year-old man who never seems to run out of energy or have enough projects. He came back for multiple standing ovations.

Even with all of the fun, he had a serious message about the need to protect this Earth of ours. He pointed out that sometimes you need to see its fragility from space to understand what is at stake.

One last note. Check out Mr. Shatner’s 1978 version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” He has been at this for quite some time, and I hope we can see much more of him in the years to come.

Not the Remains of a UFO (Really!)

Image (Credit): Remains of the parachute and backshell used to get NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

If you came across the wreckage above if your back yard you might think of a UFO or even Martians. Yet instead it is the remains of Earthlings on Mars.

The image comes from a little helicopter launched from NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The Ingenuity Helicopter spotted the remains of the components used to bring the Perseverance rover to a safe landing on Mars last year. Here is more from NASA:

In the images of the upright backshell and the debris field that resulted from it impacting the surface at about 78 mph (126 kph), the backshell’s protective coating appears to have remained intact during Mars atmospheric entry. Many of the 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the backshell to the parachute are visible and also appear intact. Spread out and covered in dust, only about a third of the orange-and-white parachute – at 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide, it was the biggest ever deployed on Mars – can be seen, but the canopy shows no signs of damage from the supersonic airflow during inflation. Several weeks of analysis will be needed for a more final verdict.

It makes me wonder about all the other debris spread across the martian surface. Martian winds will most likely cover much of the debris with time, unlike the surface of our Moon where the artifacts are likely to be apparent for a long time. You can see the impact of dusk on the Chinese Martial rover in an earlier story.

Image (Credit): Another view of the parachute and backshell used to get NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Pic of the Week: Martian Eclipse

Image (Credit): Eclipse of the Sun by Phobos from the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI)

This week’s pic is actually a video from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover capturing Phobos as it partially blocks out the sun. You can see the video here and read more from NASA here.

It is certainly more dramatic than the two shots below from the Martian rover Opportunity in 2004. Deimos is just a speck within the image on the left.

Image (Credit): Eclipse of the Sun by Deimos (left) and Phobos (right) from the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL/Cornell)

Whatever Happened to Bigelow’s Space Hotels?

Image (Credit): Artist’s rending of Bigelow’s orbiting inflatable hotels. (Bigelow Space Operations)

Do you remember all of the talk about inflatable space hotels? Back in 2018, the U.S. space company Bigelow stated these expandable space station components would be launched by 2021:

With the two launches of B330-1 and B330-2 expected in 2021, the time is now in 2018 to begin BSO activity. These single structures that house humans on a permanent basis will be the largest, most complex structures ever known as stations for human use in space.

Created in 1998, Bigelow licensed the expandable component idea from NASA in 2000 and tried to make it commercially viable. Originally called the TransHab, NASA had developed the idea as a new component for the International Space Station (ISS).  Bigelow eventually sold the idea back to NASA as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which was successfully attached to the ISS in 2016. While NASA originally planned to jettison the BEAM from the ISS after two-years of testing and validation, it remained a part of the ISS.

Bigelow saw possibilities for a lunar depot or base, while NASA saw the BEAM as a model for cargo trips to Mars:

The journey to Mars is complex and filled with challenges that NASA and its partners are continuously working to solve. Before sending the first astronauts to the Red Planet, several rockets filled with cargo and supplies will be deployed to await the crews’ arrival. Expandable modules, which are lower-mass and lower-volume systems than metal habitats, can increase the efficiency of cargo shipments, possibly reducing the number of launches needed and overall mission costs.

So after this success with the ISS and ideas for the future, where is Bigelow today? In March 2020, as COVID hit, the company laid off all of its employees and has yet to return to business. That does not mean this idea of expandable components disappears with the company, but it may need a new champion if it is to be part of the future space program.

Maybe Mr. Musk is looking for something to buy as part of his future Martian mission.

Image (Credit): NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik looks through the hatch of the International Space Station’s Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM) on July 31, 2017. (NASA, Randy Bresnik)

Canada Wants its Own Space Force

Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

It was only a matter of time. Canada wants to develop its own version of the US Space Force later this year. According to media reports, the Canadian Space Division would eventually employ about 270 people, versus about 16,000 in the US program.

The two nations are not alone. A quick check on Wikipedia shows space forces in numerous countries, from Italy to Peru, though the definition of “space force” is pretty wide.

Even with their growth, not everyone is a fan. The Cato Institute had this to say in its 2020 report, Space Force: Ahead of Its Time, or Dreadfully Premature?:

This investigation determines that the Space Force’s establishment is hobbled by unclear goals and uncertain effects, contending that the Space Force lacks a clearly defined organizational culture and a clear strategic purpose, both core elements of organizational success, and that the decision to create the service is premature at best and irresponsible at worst.

Not a ringing endorsement, but maybe a sign that some more thinking needs to go into the role of these new organizations. Yet just as the air force was a natural break away from the army, the space force is a natural offspring of the air force. What comes after that? Maybe a Lunar Force or a Martian Force when we start to occupy space. I would love to see those recruitment videos.

Image (Credit): Image from a US Space Force recruitment video. (USSF)