Thursday, August 11, 2005

SPACE STORMS

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From "Science Fiction Art" by Brian Aldiss

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I know that NASA scientists and developers are extremely intelligent and think ahead a lot. They tend to see outerspace very clearly. They are also ignored by politicians when they give advice, doesn't that surprise anyone? Heh.

When Bush suddenly drunkenly lurched NASA into the return to the moon and on to Mars jag, he never explained why he wanted to change our direction but I do have guesses. He hates modern science and so he wants to kill all those probes and observatories that are looking all the way back in time to the very Beginning. This is why his bold venture included killing the Hubble Space Telescope.

He also wanted to court the lunatic fringers who are very busy people and very involved in various powerful groups that have weird religions (name your favorite here) that backed his "elections." There are those who believe in aliens on Mars, those who believe there is a lot of water on Mars that hasn't evaporated into space, there are all sorts of people who want to go there for various reasons that have little to do with either science or long range plans for humanity.

Then there are the "hardware" people. The industrialists who want to make money building stuff. They feast on our military and need other schemes just in case Americans weary of war.

The scheme for putting humans on Mars has vast challenges. From the National Geographic:
The dangers of space weather could effectively scrub plans for a manned mission to Mars, a new study reports. Astronauts could be exposed to hazardous levels of radiation—unless forecasters improve their predictions and mission planners adequately protect their crews.

Radiation can be a major hazard for astronauts in space. Enormous disturbances within the sun can send blasts of highly charged particles toward the Earth and beyond.

These storms are massive explosions millions of times stronger than a nuclear bomb, triggered by colliding magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere.

Current manned missions, like those of the space shuttle and International Space Station, take place in low-Earth orbits. Such missions generally enjoy the protection of Earth's magnetic field.
You don't say? Most humans are unaware as to how energetic and erratic and downright dangerous our little increasingly unstable star is. NOAA's space weather site is a delight. Space Weather.com is a fun place to visit, too. When the huge blackout hit the NE and the same month saw this happen in Europe and all over the place was a month our local star was spitting out some very serious cosmic stuff. As I was going to work, I gloomily told my boss that the protective sheaths surrounding our planet were being seriouslybreachedd and I didn't feel very good about it and then the lights went off. He jumped.

My parents told us, as kids, that space isn't empty, we just can't see everything there. As humans launch various probes that use different wave lengths to observe space, the complexity and density of both molecular and radiational material is astonishing within the confines of our galactic plane. We can't travel the speed of light because of this. Any package bigger than a photon unit would cause a spectacular explosion as soon as it hits anything. Even approaching one quarter the speed of light is impossible for any large object for the same reason.

The galaxies are giant vacuum cleaners that suck up all the intergalactic material. Gravitational pools are the eddies within the great churning systems and we live on the compressed debrie that older stars crushed and then exploded back into space.
One of the biggest recorded solar storms occurred in August 1972, between NASA's Apollo 16 and 17 missions to the moon.

Simulations conducted after the missions convinced many scientists that an astronaut in space during the event would have absorbed fatal levels of radiation within 10 hours.
The early space missions were dice rolls. We were anxious, for political reasons, to get to the moon. Once there, we sort of dwaddled about, amazed and bemused but without any idea of what to do next. Then a great debate broke out over exactly that and the result was Americans in general decided to ignore the whole thing because in 1973, a greater crisis broke out: our dependence on Saudi oil was suddenly revealed to us and we freaked out.

So here we are, closing the circle, fretting about how to get all that Saudi oil, making political moves in space that are meaningless because it is unattached to any probable long range plans and at war in distant lands with peasants who stubbornly refuse to surrender to us.

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