A Really Cool Blog

… about science & space, people & politics, various musings & other cool things too.

Month: June 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

The JOOL Program: A Kerbal Space Program Story, Pt. 1

(Click on images to expand them)KSP 2013-06-27 22-49-17-51Background

For millennia, Kerbals gazed in wonder at their night sky. Early societies had a fascination with the movement and location of the celestial bodies, and studied them in great detail. They noticed how some points of light traveled across the night sky, and attributed mythological significance to them. These points of light, the planets, were recorded as they progressed along their paths across the night sky; complex sky charts were developed. As time and technology progressed the Kerbals studied these further and in greater detail. They realized and calculated that they must be quite close to Kerbin and perhaps orbited it or orbited the Sun. One of these points of light traveled far slower than the others. It was calculated that this planet must be much farther away. The invention of the telescope revolutionized their study of the planets. Its inventor, Jebileo Kerman, had a particular interest in this distant planet. One night, peering at it through his telescope, he discovered that it was orbited by other worlds, its moons. He described the planet as a “beautiful jewel, which graces the night sky as it passes by.” Through an act of accidental misspelling on Jebileo’s part, this planet was named “Jool”, and the name stuck. Though the planets were of great interest to Kerbals, they were limited in their ability to study them because of the basic technology of the time. Jool’s secrets continued to remained hidden.

The advent of the space age enabled Kerbals to study the planets in much greater detail and depth. Probes to the planets could perform a wide array of studies and observations, and could relay fantastic images back to Kerbin. Through much of the early space age, however, limited technology and inexperience forced the Kerbals to send missions to only the inner worlds. A number of probes sent to Kerbin’s moon and the inner terrestrial planets of Eve and Duna were successful, and these probes studied them extensively. As technology progressed, scientists turned their eyes towards Jool. A program was drawn up and designed for the spacecraft study of Jool. This program, aptly named Project JOOL, would hopefully enable scientists to unlock the mysteries the giant gassy outer world held and help them build a better understanding of the Kerbin solar system. JOOL, which stood for Jool Orbit Observation and Landing, was both the name of the world the program intended to study and the main goals of its designers. They hoped to study and photograph the planet and its moons in great detail. Space probes would be placed into orbit around the planet and possibly one of its moons. Eventually, a probe would be sent which would carry and deploy a lander which would land on one of these moons. Soon after the program was announced, work went underway.

PART 1: The JEFF (Jool Encounter First Flyby) Mission

Though it would take years for the more complex missions to be designed and developed, the first spacecraft sent to Jool took flight soon after the JOOL program was announced. In many ways, it was a precursor mission to the later ones. The probe was not actually designed or constructed for a mission to Jool. Instead, it had been a leftover 1.74 ton probe from early in the program to study Eve which was refitted and commissioned as a Jool probe. It had a basic and limited camera, but carried a number of instruments which could take complex measurements of the planet and space around it. It was intended that the probe intercept and fly past Jool, taking pictures of the planet and its moons and making measurements as it passed. It would then likely be flung out of the solar system.

KSP 2013-06-28 21-10-53-80One side of the JEFF probe. RCS tanks and thrusters are on the bottom, the solar panel is on the right side, the instruments and antenna array is on the left side. On the top is a small relay dish.

KSP 2013-06-28 21-10-50-55

Opposite side of the JEFF probe. On the right are batteries, on the left is the computer guidance device and a small electrical generator.

JEFF was launched from the Kerbal Space Center aboard a Warrior II-H Launch Vehicle at 11:25 pm. The launch vehicle and launch configuration was essentially the same as what it had been the case for the EVE missions. The launch went perfectly, and the Warrior II-H performed better than had been expected. JEFF was placed into a orbit of 90 km around Kerbin. It spent 11 days in orbit around the planet, during which time flight controllers ran checks to make sure all systems were nominal.

KSP 2013-06-28 21-22-51-82The Warrior II-H Launch Vehicle prepares for launch with the JEFF probe onboard.

11 days, 3 hours. and 6 minutes into flight, the rocket sprung to life and boosted the probe out of Kerbin orbit. The first stage’s fuel burnt through and was detached from the craft, and the second stage carried the craft towards Jool during a burn of 35 seconds.KSP 2013-06-28 21-25-18-25The launch vehicle lifting the probe into orbit around Kerbin. KSP 2013-06-28 21-58-42-39The second stage ignites, sending JEFF towards Jool.

As the probe left Kerbin’s sphere of influence, flight controllers turned it around and made it take pictures of Kerbin. These images demonstrated the probe’s imaging capabilities for the Jool flyby and also provided a fantastic look at the Kerbin-Mun system. The spacecraft now begun its long journey. 187 days later, the upper stage rocket relit and burnt for 5 seconds, placing the probe into a lower flyby altitude. KSP 2013-06-28 22-02-58-25

JEFF turns and images the Earth and the Mun as it leaves for Jool.KSP 2013-06-28 22-23-02-27 JEFF in flight towards Jool.

274 days after launch, the JEFF probe entered Jool’s gravitational sphere of influence. As it did, the probe oriented itself towards Jool and turned its instruments online. It began to continuously take photographs and stream them back to Kerbin. It approached Jool and took measurements and readings of its magnetic sphere, atmosphere, and gravitational pull. The moons orbiting it were also imaged and studied for the first time. The innermost moon, Laythe, was revealed to be a world with an atmosphere and an ocean. Tylo, the third moon, was measured to be as big as Moho, the innermost planet. KSP 2013-06-28 22-25-36-82

JEFF encounters Jool and produces the first images of the planet. KSP 2013-06-28 22-26-01-49

Approaching Jool. KSP 2013-06-28 22-26-59-10

Close encounter with the planet, with Laythe in the background.      KSP 2013-06-28 22-27-19-39

Laythe and Tylo imaged and studied.

The craft flew past Jool at a closest altitude of 250,000 km, and then was launched into a trajectory that would take it out of the solar system. As it left, it imaged the slowly receding Jool. The data collected by JEFF was invaluable for scientists back at Kerbin. A number of small moons were discovered orbiting Jool from a farther distance. The atmosphere of Jool was studied and reveled to be 138,000 km thick with a pressure of 15 atm. The photos that JEFF took were the first photos of Jool and its moon ever, and provided scientists with a trove of data and information about the Jool system. JEFF also demonstrated that it was entirely possible to send a complex probe as far as Jool successfully and receive adequate data. The experience gained from the flight was incredibly helpful to the scientists designing the plans and probes for the subsequent JOOL program missions.KSP 2013-06-28 22-27-50-40Jool receding into the darkness of space.

Ride and Tereshkova: The First Women in Space

Last week marked the anniversary of two significant events in the history of space exploration–the flight of Valentina Tereshkova 50 years ago on June 16 and of Sally Ride 30 years ago on June 18. With the exception of the single flight by Tereshkova, human spaceflight during the early years of the space race was the province of men only. Women demonstrated their ability to withstand the rigors of space missions, and indeed a hardy group of American women pilots passed the same medical tests as the Mercury 7 with excellent scores. However, NASA policy at the time required qualification as a military test pilot. The policy, originally established by President Eisenhower in December 1958, stood until the mid-1960s when the first scientist-astronauts were selected. Although the Eisenhower selection policy did not specifically discriminate on the basis of gender, the fact that there were no women military pilots (never mind test pilots) made it clear that women would not become U.S. astronauts at that time. For its part, the Soviet Union decided to send a woman into space in order to score propaganda points against the U.S. In April 1962, five women were chosen for the program. Among them only the 25-year-old Valentina Tereshkova ever flew in space. Nineteen years later, after the U.S. had recruited women into the astronaut corps the Soviet Union trained Svetlana Savitskaya and launched her on a mission to the Salyut 7 space station in the summer of 1982; thus making sure that the first two women in space were Soviet citizens. (Savitskaya flew a second time in 1984 and became the first woman to do a space walk, but only one other Russian woman has flown since that time.)One of six women selected in NASA’s 1978 astronaut class, Sally Ride was the first of them to fly. When she rode aboard the space shuttle Challenger as it lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space and captured the nation’s attention and imagination as a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers. As one of the three mission specialists on the STS-7 mission, she played a vital role in helping the crew deploy communications satellites, conduct experiments and make use of the first Shuttle Pallet Satellite. Her pioneering voyage and remarkable life helped, as President Barack Obama said soon after her death last summer, “inspire generations of young girls to reach for the stars” for she “showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”

Sally Ride was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 26, 1951. Fascinated by science from a young age, she pursued the study of physics, along with English, in school. As she was graduating from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in physics, having done research in astrophysics and free electron laser physics, Ride noticed a newspaper ad for NASA astronauts. She turned in an application, along with 8,000 other people, and was one of only 35 chosen to join the astronaut corps. Joining NASA in 1978, she served as the ground-based capsule communicator, or capcom, for the second and third space shuttle missions (STS- 2 and STS-3) and helped with development of the space shuttle’s robotic arm.

After her selection for the crew of STS-7, and thereby becoming the first American woman in space, Ride faced intense media attention. But, Ride had no time for many of the questions the press asked her; questions like “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” She saw herself first and foremost as an astronaut and a scientist, and felt that “one thing I probably share with everyone else in the astronaut office is composure.” Talking about her fellow astronauts in the class of 1978, she said, “We’re all people who are dedicated to the space program and who really want to fly in the space shuttle. That’s a common characteristic that we all have that transcends the different backgrounds.” (It is worth noting that the astronaut class of 1978 also included the first three African-Americans and the first Asian-American to serve in the astronaut corps.) Her commander on STS-7, Bob Crippen, agreed that Sally was more than capable of flying in space, saying, “I wanted a competent engineer who was cool under stress. Sally had demonstrated that talent.”Ride continued her career with NASA after her historic flight, flying on a second shuttle mission (STS-41G) in October 1984. She later served on the presidential commission that investigated the Challenger accident and led NASA’s strategic planning effort in the mid-1980s. Retiring from NASA in 1987, she became a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University and, in 1989, joined the University of California-San Diego as a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, to pursue her passion for motivating girls and boys to study the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math. The company creates innovative classroom materials, programs and professional development training for teachers. In 2003 she also served on the presidential commission investigating the Columbia accident (the only person to serve on both commissions). In addition to this work, she wrote a number of science books for children, including The Third Planet, which won the American Institute of Physics Children’s Science Writing Award in 1995. Following a 17-month long battle with pancreatic cancer, Sally Ride died on June 23, 2012, leaving behind a heroic legacy.

Almost exactly 20 years prior to Sally Ride’s first Shuttle mission, on the morning of June 16, 1963, Vostok 6 blasted off on a mission of 48 orbits around the Earth. While orbiting the Earth for almost three days, Valentina Tereshkova conducted a number of experiments, took photographs and recorded flight notes. Although she would never fly again, her role in the historic flight was a significant public relations coup for the Soviet Union and her moving life story and accomplishments were held up as an example for others to follow. Her voyage, like Sally Ride’s, inspired women around the world to reach for their dreams and shoot for the stars.

Born on March 6, 1937, in the Yaroslavl Oblast in central Russia, Tereshkova’s father had been killed during the Second World War and after school she found employment as a textile worker in a local factory. Interested in parachuting from a young age, it was during this time that she became an experienced parachutist. She also became a member of the local Young Communist League, and later joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Her parachuting expertise and party affiliation helped win her selection to, and made her a leading candidate in, the woman cosmonaut program. Major General Nikolai Kamanin, the official in charge of cosmonaut training, felt that Tereshkova should fly first, noting in his diary that “she is active in society, is especially pleasing in appearance, makes use of her great authority among everyone who she knows…. We must first send Tereshkova into space.”

Following her flight, Tereshkova was swept into Soviet politics, serving as a member of the Supreme Soviet, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. She also became a well-known representative of the Soviet Union abroad, acting as the Soviet representative to the UN Conference for the International Women’s Year in 1975 and leading the Soviet delegation to the World Conference on Women in Copenhagen. She was awarded the Joliot-Curie Gold Medal of Peace for her work with the World Peace Council.

Sally Ride and Valentina Tereshkova, as the first women from their respective countries to fly in space, helped to usher in an era of equality in human spaceflight. On the anniversary of the missions which launched them off the Earth, the legacies of their historic flights remind us of the hard work, passion and dedication of the women who have worked on the ground and in space to pave the way for 55 more women (and counting) who have since journeyed into space.

Introspection # 15: “Our Place in History”

The verified oldest person alive today is Misao Okawa, a Japanese woman born on the 5th of March, 1898. The 115 years she has lived have been full of dramatic changes, revolutionary new ideas, incredible new discoveries and inventions, catastrophic tragedies and conflicts, wonderful triumphs and achievements. She has lived through the First and Second World Wars, read about the sinking of the Titanic, was alive during the first flight of the airplane, and likely witnessed the first landing on the Moon. The memories of the entire last century belong to her. When she dies, she will take with her all of these experiences. There will be no more memories of the times before 1898. The humans of that era will all be gone; the entire collective human experience of living during those years will have been extinguished.

Consider every person you have met in your life. Every single one of them will be gone within 150 years. All of their memories, all of their experiences, all of their dreams, thoughts, hopes, and worries will be nothing more than the memories of those who survive them. One of the most powerful developments in the course of human progress has thus been the creation of history. The ability to recall and retell the experiences of the past, which would otherwise have been lost, allows us in our current time to understand why and how the humans who preceded us did what they did. It allows us to understand the world as it was before any human alive today came into being. History is a running record of the generations of humans who have been born into the world, changed it, and then left it in death. Although everyone in the distant past has long since been gone, and although everyone alive today will one day be gone as well, history allows our memories, our experiences, our dreams, our thoughts, our hopes, and our worries to live on forever.

This is how our world works. This is how history is made. This is how our civilization develops. We, the humans of the early 21st century, are along for a ride through a lifetime of events, happenings, and changes. It is our time and turn to transform and develop the world, just like those who have come before us. We live in a society and a civilization which owes its existence and its present form to the past generations of humans which have developed it. They looked towards the mysterious future as we do today, and tried to shape their world and their time in anticipation of it. They ventured through a quest called life, a journey of growth, change, and then death. Today, we ourselves begin this journey.

We must remember our place in history. We live in an era of progress and modernity, of rapid change and development. 7 billion humans, more than at any point in the past, inhabit this Earth today, preparing to leave their mark on it. Even still, the humans of today are no different, and no more special, than the humans of the past and the humans of the future. We cannot predict our future, and instead march towards it by responding to the current situations, circumstances, and conditions in our world. We build upon the developments of the past, adding our name and our efforts to the growing list of humans who have made a difference. We continue to push our species towards the boundaries of the known, and probe the mysterious unknown. Today we live at the pinnacle of progress and development.

This, however, can be said about the human race at any point in time, both past and present. One day, the humans of the 21st century will be viewed from the same distant position and the same disconnect that we view the humans of the 1st and 2nd centuries. Our technology and our science, now the most modern and advanced that humanity has ever produced, will be as simple and ancient as the basic tools of the first agricultural civilizations.

One day, all of the experiences of the humans of the 21st century will be as distant and unfamiliar a memory as the experiences of the humans of the 1st century is to us. Eventually, all of the experiences of life before 1998 will be gone, like how all of those before 1898 will soon be. We thus cannot be arrogant in our belief that we in our present time are special, unique, or privileged. We are no different than the humans of the past, both in the way we have changed the world and in the way we experience the world. We must always remember that, though one day we will all be gone, a new generation of humanity will be born in our place. They will continue to push the boundaries; they will continue to develop our world. Humanity will march forward into the future, and we, the humans of the early 21st century, will be remembered as its past.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén