A Day in Astronomy: The Birth of Kim Stanley Robinson

On this day in 1952, science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson born in Waukegan, Illinois. As a writer, he has won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award

Some of his works include:

  • Mars Trilogy
  • Aurora
  • The Ministry of the Future
  • 2312
  • New York 2140
  • The Years of Rice and Salt
  • Three Californias Triptych

You can learn a lot more about the man and his work at this Kim Stanley Robinson reference site.

You might also enjoy this podcast, Crafting with Ursula : Kim Stanley Robinson on Ambiguous Utopias, where Mr. Robinson discusses his encounters with science fiction author Ursula LeGuin as well as his ideas about utopian novels.

A UFO Over California?

Image (Credit): Night sky over Sacramento, CA on March 17, 2023. (Associated Press)

UFOs came up again last week pertaining to lights over Sacramento, California. As fireballs streaked across the night sky, a few citizens thought they might be watching fireworks or even the arrival of distant visitors to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

The explanation for the lights was interesting, but not because it was a UFO. It turns out the International Space Station (ISS) dumped a 683 pounds of Japanese communications equipment back in 2020. It took that long for the equipment to return towards Earth as a molten mass. The US Space Force later confirmed this explanation.

As noted in an earlier post, this ISS debris is not unusual, and can contain huge objects such as a cargo capsule.

The BBC recently noted that your chance of being struck by space debris is one in a trillion. So you can look up, but don’t worry about covering your head.

Space Stories: Possible Starship Launch, South Korean Rocket Test, and Massive Early Stars

Here are some recent stories of interest.

Forbes: “Elon Musk Gets More Specific About Starship’s First Rocket Launch to Space

We’ve been waiting for nearly two years to see Elon Musk’s big rocket blast off again, and now the SpaceX founder is starting to narrow the targeted time frame for Starship’s first orbital attempt. The controversial entrepreneur said on Twitter last week that the next generation vehicle destined to take astronauts to the moon and perhaps start a civilization on Mars “will be ready to launch… in a few weeks, then launch timing depends on FAA license approval.”

Space News: “South Korea’s Innospace Succeeds in Test Launch

South Korean rocket startup Innospace successfully launched a suborbital rocket from Brazil over the weekend, demonstrating a hybrid motor it plans to scale up into a small orbital launch vehicle. The launch of Innospace’s HANBIT-TLV suborbital rocket took place March 19 from the Alcântara Space Center, and the company called the flight a success, although it did not disclose the rocket’s peak altitude. 

Space.com: “The Early Universe was Crammed with Stars 10,000 Times the Size of our Sun, New Study Suggests

The first stars in the cosmos may have topped out at over 10,000 times the mass of the sun, roughly 1,000 times bigger than the biggest stars alive today, a new study has found. Nowadays, the biggest stars are 100 solar masses. But the early universe was a far more exotic place, filled with mega-giant stars that lived fast and died very, very young, the researchers found.

Space Quote: Firefly is Going to the Far Side of the Moon

“We look forward to Firefly providing this [Commercial Lunar Payload Services] delivery… This lunar landing should enable new scientific discoveries from the far side of the Moon during the lunar night. This particular group of payloads should not only generate new science but should be a pathfinder for future investigations exploiting this unique vantage point in our solar system.”

Statement by Joel Kearns, Deputy Associate Administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, regarding the $112 million contract award to Firefly for a commercial lunar delivery targeted to launch in 2026 through NASA’s CLPS initiative that support the Agency’s Artemis program. NASA noted that the three payloads are (1) the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night), (2) Lunar Pathfinder, and (3) User Terminal. You can read more about the Firefly mission here. Firefly also issued its own press release.

Blast from the Past: Adventures on Mars

Credit: NASA

Back in 2016, NASA put a few fun posters online advertising opportunities on Mars. The posters were originally originally commissioned by NASA to be part of an exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in 2009.

Visit the NASA poster site if you want the files for these images and others. They are great for framing, note cards, or post cards.

Credit: NASA