Category Archives: Space

Short Science Fiction Film “Explorers”

Short Films – The short (5:27) science fiction film “Explorers” was published on YouTube in October of 2017 by DUST. The Synopsis:

A short film which shows an idealistic look at the future of space travel, seen from the perspective of those who dare to venture into the unknown.

The film was made by Rob McLellan as a tribute to the science fiction films of his youth and to those real life pioneers that inspire it. This was a solo project of his completed in six weeks (in his spare time) and produced entirely in Unreal Engine 4.

I thought that this was a very enjoyable and well done animated film. It is a film that might be of use in stimulating kids to have an interest in STEM, especially space science.

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An Overview of the New space Race

Space – I came across the article “Private companies are launching a new space race – here’s what to expect” this morning. it gives a very good overview of the companies and governments that are currently pursuing space programs.

If you are interested in space exploration, as I am, you will find this article of interest. The next decade will see many significant events if todays forecasts can be believed.

Future of Interstellar Travel

Space – I came across the article “Here Is the Future of Interstellar Spacecraft” yesterday and thought it was a good overview of the propulsion technologies that are likely to take future spacecraft beyond the Solar System.

In short the alternatives that are covered are:

  1. Thermonuclear propulsion
  2. Lightsail
  3. Bussard ramjet
  4. Antimatter rockets
  5. NASA’s Eagleworks Lab “Warp bubble” drive

None of these are really going to be ready in the near future, with possibly the exception of the Lightsail. I am glad to see though that the ideas are being kept in front of people, particularly those budding STEM students who will lead the way over the next few decades.

Is a ‘Warp’ Drive Feasible?

We have all heard of Warp or other Faster Than Light (FTL) drives in science fiction, but are they really possible?

This short (11:54) video goes into the details of the Alcubierre Drive. While so far this drive is just theoretical, there is a strong technical basis for the drive. Certainly there are several barriers to building one of these today, but there are new achievements and discoveries every day that may break down some of these.

There has been some experimental results out of NASA that tends to support some of the aspects of the Alcubierre Drive, but at this point the Alcubierre Drive is mostly theory.

USA, New York, New York – Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

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We like visiting museums. We also like visiting and exploring older military vessels. We like NASA and the Space program. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum (https://www.intrepidmuseum.org) combines these.

The Intrepid Museum Complex is located at located in New York City on the West side of Manhattan on Pier 86, 12th Ave. & 46th Street. As they say on their website:

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a non-profit, educational institution featuring the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets and a guided missile submarine. Through exhibitions, educational programming and the foremost collection of technologically groundbreaking aircraft and vessels, visitors of all ages and abilities are taken on an interactive journey through history to learn about American innovation and bravery.

The Intrepid Museum was founded in 1982 with the acquisition of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, now a National Historic Landmark, which served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War, and was a recovery vessel for the Gemini and Mercury space missions.

The three primary parts of the museum are the USS Intrepid, The USS Growler and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

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The Intrepid was launched in 1943. The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid fought in World War II, surviving five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Intrepid also served as a NASA recovery vessel in the 1960s. It was decommissioned in 1974. You are able to walk through the bridge shown above as well as part of the crew quarters and mess.

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On the flight deck of the Intrepid is a display of several aircraft, mostly from the US, but a few from other countries including two MIGs. The ship is in good shape and to certainly have a good view of the massive hanger deck. We found the areas available to tour less satisfying that the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, TX.

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The submarine USS Growler is also on display for tours. This is the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. You are able to enter in the bow through stairs installed in place of one of the missile storage bays, walk through the ship, then up stairs in the aft of the vessel.

This 318 foot long and 26 foot wide vessel would spend around 70 days at a time patrolling the Russian coast as part of the US nuclear deterrent force during the cold war. So for more than two months her and her crew of 80-100 would be submerged in the North Pacific.

As we walked through the ship it was hard to conceive of that many men be crammed in so little space for such a long period of time.

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The third major part of the museum is a display of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The Space Shuttle Pavilion showcases the space shuttle Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for America’s successful space shuttle program.

If you like military displays, aircraft or space, you will enjoy visiting the Intrepid Museum Complex.


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Finding the ISS

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If you are interested in space, you may have tried to get away from the city lights and look up at the night sky. One of the bright objects in orbit is the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS is in a fast orbit of the Earth, traveling at over 17,000 mile per hour. This means that the ISS completes an orbit about every 90 minutes. If you are in a spot that is relatively free of light pollution, seeing the ISS is easy.

To plan ahead for such an excursion you can use the “Spot the Station” site from NASA. You can enter where you will be into the site and it will then give you a list of the dates and times the ISS will be visible from that location. The site also gives you directions as to where to look for the ISS in the evening sky.

You can even sign up for alerts for when the ISS will be passing within view of your location. Taking advantage of this would be a great way to involve kids in STEM activities. For me the current closest location with a list of sighting opportunities is for Georgetown, TX, just a few miles north of where I live. The next viewing opportunities will be at:

Date Visible Max Height Appears Disappears
Tue May 2, 5:42 AM 4 min 26° 11° above S 21° above E
Wed May 3, 4:52 AM 2 min 12° 11° above SE 10° above ESE
Thu May 4, 5:35 AM 3 min 88° 30° above SW 28° above NE

“Into the Unknown”- The Story of the James Webb Telescope

Space – This video is a great, 38+ minute story of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWT) which is scheduled for launch in 2018. The video has a good explanation of why the infrared capabilities of the JWT will vastly extend our view into the universe. It is also hoped that by identifying the gasses in exoplanet atmospheres it will be able to discover any exoplanets that support life.

Tourists Visiting the Dark Side of the Moon

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Elon Musk and SpaceX don’t have a reputation of taking small steps. For the private space company, bigger is better. The next big step? Musk plans to send two private passengers on a one week journey around the moon some time next year.

The passengers have made sizable investments in the company and are “serious” about making the trip. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will carry the two intrepid travelers. A Falcon Heavy rocket will carry the capsule into Earth orbit. One of the things that makes the journey so ambitious is that the Falcon Heavy has yet to launch on an operational flight. That there will be few successful launches before this moon shot, has to raise the pucker factor of the two passengers up a few notches.

What is the Falcon Heavy?

pad_39_a_falcon_heavy_artist_cropped Artist depiction of the Falcon Heavy (SpaceX)

Previously called the Falcon 9 Heavy, the Falcon Heavy will be…

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Popular Engineering Related Channels on YouTube

EWeek – With this being the first day of Engineers Week 2017 I thought that these videos and YouTube channels might be of interest.

  1. Grant Thompson’s YouTube channel “The King of Random” includes videos with a range of experiments and DIY projects. Some recent titles are : “Making Homemade Missiles That Explode“, “Is It a Good Idea to Make Party Poppers With Hydrogen?” and “Making Glass Vacuum Chambers Implode“.
  2. Bill Hammack’s YouTube channel “engineerguy” where the University of Illinois Chemical Engineering professor gives “the engineering details of all the stuff you wanna know about“. From his web site: Make called Bill a “brilliant science-and-technology documentarian”, whose “videos should be held up as models of how to present complex technical information visually” Wired called them “dazzling.” Scientific American’s blog called him a “smart, easygoing everyman with a firm understanding of the science.”
  3. Jason Fenske’s YouTube channel “Engineering Explained” has a more narrow focus on the subject of “How Cars Work”.
  4. The YouTube channel “Cody’s Lab” includes various experiments and adventures, most science or engineering related.
  5. NASA’s “NASA Goddard” YouTube Channel features views of various NASA technology. Expect to see the latest in NASA’s research into planetary science, astrophysics, Earth observing, and solar science on the channel.
  6. The YouTube channel “SciShow Space“, as the name implies, focuses on space exploration. The hosts, Hank Green, Caitlin Hofmeister, and Reid Reimers, cover topics ranging from what happened after the ‘Big Bang’ to the latest space related news.
  7. The “Numberphile” YouTube channel from the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) covers a variety of mathematic topics.

Some of these may be good to share with K-12 students interested in STEM careers.