The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Space News and Science Fiction: Getting Harder to Tell Them Apart

It seems the recent space-related news is getting ever more like science fiction ... which I've said before and I haven't been wrong yet. I was raised on Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, among others and recent events are starting to sound like what they wrote years ago.

Let's start with my favorite private space company, SpaceX. SpaceX completed their third delivery to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9, new and improved version, was fitted with landing legs. The idea is that in time every stage of a SpaceX rocket will return from space to solid ground on landing legs to be refurbished, refueled, and reused. That will keep the costs down. This first Falcon 9 experiment, to follow the reignition of 2 rockets of the 9, bringing the first stage back through the atmosphere under control and in one piece, the deployment of the landing legs with the rocket in the upright position, and "landing" in the ocean, was give only a 30 to 40% chance of success. From what I've heard, it succeeded. Recovery was in doubt due to rough seas. Since I've heard no final word on the rocket's recovery, I assume it was lost after landing, sinking in the choppy waves. However, if what I hear is true, a landing attempt on dry ground may occur within the year. There's something to look forward to.

Aboard the Dragon capsule arriving at the station, were the legs for Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot astronaut. When attached and functional, R2 will have a 9' reach and will be ready to experiment with spacewalks. This could save astronauts from excursions for balky backup computer replacements, as recently occurred. Isaac Asimov's robotic world draws a bit nearer.

In deep space, 490 light years from earth, an earth-like planet has been found circling a red dwarf star in its habitable zone. Kepler 186f is the first planet found to be earth size in the right place where it may well have life. It depends in part on whether the red dwarf can impart enough energy to the planet to allow life to thrive. If it can, then life will have a much greater span in which to evolve as red dwarf stars have much longer lives than our own sun. Imagine the civilizations that could arise with many billions more years available to them than we have. The possibilities are staggering.

Closer to home, Cold War era satellites are being repurposed for much better uses than spying on other nations. Archaeologists have gotten hold of these aging technological wonders and are finding buried and long-lost structures and towns buried by the ages. This is being done without lifting a single trowel or conducting a single shovel probe. What a savings in time and effort. What a way to discover many lost habitations and learn a great deal more of our common story, the shared story of humanity. Many sci-fi writers have explored that topic.

So there you have it with more to come. The world of science and science fiction draw closer once again. Who knows what tomorrow might bring!  

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