Space Quote: Dandelion-Like Space Probes?

Credit: Swansons Nursery.

“Nevertheless, the coincidences between some orbital parameters of ‘Oumuamua and IM2 inspires us to consider the possibility that an artificial interstellar object could potentially be a parent craft that releases many small probes during its close passage to Earth, an operational construct not too dissimilar from NASA missions. These “dandelion seeds” could be separated from the parent craft by the tidal gravitational force of the Sun or by a maneuvering capability. A small ejection speed far away could lead to a large deviation from the trajectory of the parent craft near the Sun. The changes would manifest both in arrival time and distance of closest approach to Earth. With proper design, these tiny probes would reach the Earth or other Solar system planets for exploration, as the parent craft passes by within a fraction of the Earth-Sun separation – just like ‘Oumuamua did.”

-Statement in a March 7, 2023 draft paper, Physical Constraints on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, written by Harvard astronomer Abraham (Avi) Loeb and US Department of Defense Director Sean M. Kirkpatrick. The paper makes reference to both the interstellar object ‘Oumuamuaa and the meter-size interstellar meteor (IM2) that collided with Earth on March 9, 2023. This research was supported in part by Galileo Project at Harvard University and conducted in partnership with the Department of Defense, All-domain, Anomaly Resolution Office.

Pic of the Week: ISS Expedition 68 Resupply

Image (Credit): SpaceX Dragon approaching the ISS. (NASA)

This week’s image comes from NASA showing a Dragon cargo ship approaching the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this month with supplies for the Expedition 68 crew. In this photo, the Dragon is above the Indian Ocean near Madagascar.

It is an amazing image each and every time. What a workplace and what a view. Telework just isn’t the same.

Good Article: The Sad State of Russia’s Space Program

Image (Credit):  A destroyed Russian tank in the village of Dmytrivka, Ukraine. (CNN/Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/Sipa/Reuters)

Wired magazine’s latest article, “Russia’s Space Program Is in Big Trouble,” summarizes a sad trend since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With all of the nation’s attention on an unnecessary war, the space program, like many things nowadays in Russia, has taken a back seat.

Problems can be seen with the spacecraft – two Russian capsules at the International Space Station (ISS) sprung leaks – as well as ground control. Assets at Russia’s spaceport in Kazakhstan are being seized, while corruption and other problems are delaying a new spaceport within Russia’s borders.

Russia also lacks a partner for a new space station after the ISS, and its mission to the Moon with China look’s tenuous. Does the country have a plan for the future beyond militarizing space?

The article concludes with these words:

The Soviet Union may have put the first human into space—but now, 60 years later, Russia faces a near-future in which it is no longer able to do that. 

No Pyrrhic victory in Ukraine will change this.

Extra: The Wall Street Journal also had a good article about the situation in Russia. The article, “Russia’s Economy is Starting to Come Undone,” includes an interview with Oleg Mansurov, who hoped to create the next SpaceX with his company SR Space. However, the situation in Ukraine has caused his investors to flee. As a result, he is staying afloat as an IT company for now. He notes:

We became more focused not on the development of a long-term product that would make some kind of qualitative leap but on simply becoming a classic business and generating revenue…We understood we just had to survive.

Space Stories: An Exoplanet’s Atmosphere, A Cosmic Explosion, and Stars Halfway to the Andromeda Galaxy

Here are some recent stories of interest. “Weather Report: Expect Scattered, Patchy Clouds Made Up of Silicates on Planet VHS 1256 b

Ever had hot sand whip across your face? That’s a soothing experience compared to the volatile conditions discovered high in the atmosphere of planet VHS 1256 b. Researchers using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope proved that its clouds are made up of silicate particles, ranging from fine specks to small grains. Plus, its near-constant cloud cover is on the move! The team projects that the silicates swirling in these clouds periodically get too heavy and rain into the depths of the planet’s atmosphere. Webb’s observations also show clear signatures of water, methane and carbon monoxide, and provide evidence for carbon dioxide. This is only the beginning of the team’s research – many more findings are expected as they continue to dig in to Webb’s “downpour” of data.

The Guardian: “Cosmic Explosion Last Year May be ‘Brightest Ever Seen’”

A cosmic explosion that blinded space instruments last year may be the brightest ever seen, according to astronomers. The blast took place 2bn light years from Earth, producing a pulse of intense radiation that swept through the solar system in October last year. The cosmic event, known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB), produced some of the strongest and brightest explosions in the universe, triggering detectors on multiple spacecraft. The October blast was deemed so exceptional that astronomers said it was the brightest of all time since the beginning of human civilisation. “Milky Way Stars Found Nearly Halfway to Andromeda Galaxy

Astronomers have discovered a slew of stars lingering in the far fringes of our galaxy. And when we say far, we mean far. The most distant of these stars is located more than 1 million light-years away. That’s almost halfway to our largest galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, which is located some 2.5 million light-years away. “This study is redefining what constitutes the outer limits of our galaxy,” said Raja GuhaThakurta, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, in a news release. “Our galaxy and Andromeda are both so big, there’s hardly any space between the two galaxies.”

A Day in Astronomy: The Death of Yuri Gagarin

Image (Credit): Mourners hold photographs of Gagarin and Seryogin in Red Square on March 30, 1968. (Radio Free Europe)

On this day in 1968, Russian pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human in space, died in a MIG-15 crash northwest of Moscow. The crash killed a second pilot, Vladimir Seryogin.

Following the accident, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the following statement:

YURI GAGARIN’S courageous and pioneering flight into space opened new horizons and set a brilliant example for the spacemen of our two countries. I extend the deep sympathy of the American people to his family and to relatives of Colonel Engineer Vladimir Seryogin.

In 2013, The Daily Mail reported that the cause of the crash was an “unauthorised SU-15 fighter” flying too close to Gagarin’s aircraft. Over the years, there had been plenty of rumors about other causes, but this final report appears to put all of these past rumors to rest.