Ever since NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011, the only way to get up to the International Space Station is on a Russian Soyuz. That’s why the six humans currently orbiting in space—including two Americans and three Russians—might be paying attention to what’s happening on earth two hundred miles below.
As tensions run high between the U.S. and Russia over the situation in Ukraine, geopolitics may find its way into space again. Over at the blog Looking Up, Duncan Geere has written an excellent piece laying out possible astro-political scenarios in space.
While all-out war remains unlikely, astronauts could become a point of leverage for Vladimir Putin in a larger conflict. “It’s not inconceivable that the International Space Station may play some part in this — either by denying the U.S. the use of Soyuz, or simply by charging exorbitant amounts for it,” Geere writes.
With ISS trips planned years in advance, there are only ten Soyuz launches scheduled from now until 2016. In addition, NASA has to be granted special exemptions to the Iran North Korea Syria Nonproliferation Act, which normally prohibits the U.S. from buying space-related goods and services from Russia while it’s selling nuclear technology to Iran. NASA’s exemption expires in 2016, and, if the relationship between the U.S. and Russia worsens, this could become a tougher sell.
On This Date In 1965: The First American Spacewalk
Eyes glued to television sets, millions waited tensely to hear from astronaut Edward White as he climbed out of his capsule high over the pacific ocean. Then came the verdict: “This is fun!” said white, and men everywhere shared his boyish glee.
Newsweek June 14, 1965
Hidden deep in Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget is this item: “Begins work on a mission to rendezvous with—and then move—a small asteroid.”
A budget plan that President Barack Obama will release Wednesday would charge NASA Glenn Research Center with developing a solar electric propulsion system for a spaceship that will collect an asteroid and park it in the moon’s orbit so astronauts can conduct research on it.
Moving the giant space rock would give NASA experience deflecting asteroids that could prove vital to averting potential Earth collisions such as one believed to have caused a mass dinosaur extinction millions of years ago. Some asteroids also contain rare elements that mining companies are eager to exploit, NASA officials said.
Minor Planet (4015) / Comet Wilson–Harrington
Planet Mouse Cursor is clearly where nwktumblr must one day reside.
This week’s cover is awesomely designed—and terrifying. Will asteroids destroy earth? Professor of theoretical physics at CUNY Michio Kaku is the cover story author, diving deep into the impending asteroid apocalypse (pro tip: keep your calendars free for the year 2036).
Maybe Chicken Little was right after all.
It was an amazing spectacle, a rapid succession of giant asteroids blazing across the sky. First, on February 15, Russia was hit with the biggest asteroid in 100 years. Barely a few hours later, an even bigger one made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded for an asteroid of its size. Then the residents of San Francisco, Cuba, and south Florida looked up and saw meteors streak across the sky, rattling their nerves.
It was a historic display of nature’s cosmic firepower, something I never expected to see in my lifetime. Mother Nature was showing Hollywood who’s boss.
The city of Chelyabinsk in Russia bore the brunt of the celestial fireworks. A piece of rock, about 50 feet across and weighing more than 7,000 tons, came crashing to Earth. Traveling at a blinding speed of over 40,000 miles per hour, it created a sonic boom and shock wave that shattered windows across the city: 1,200 people were injured, mainly by the flying pieces of glass, and 52 were hospitalized, 2 of them in serious condition. Chelyabinsk, once known as one of the most polluted places in the world due to its storage of nuclear waste, will now be known as “meteor city.”
The asteroid packed a huge punch, the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. It was a “city buster,” capable of flattening a modern metropolis and reducing it to rubble. It was a miracle that the asteroid exploded roughly 10 to 15 miles above ground: had there been a ground burst, it would have caused tens of thousands of casualties. If that asteroid had hit just a few seconds later, it would have created a tragedy on Earth.
While Russia was still reeling from the shock of this meteor impact, just a few hours later, 17,200 miles in space, an asteroid three times larger than the Russian one came within a whisker of hitting Earth. Called 2012 DA14, it actually sailed about 5,000 miles closer to Earth than our communications satellites (which orbit at 22,000 miles). If the asteroid had arrived just a few minutes earlier, it might have hit Earth, with truly cataclysmic consequences.
To see what might have happened in the case of a collision with DA14, one can study the 1908 Tunguska impact, which hit Siberia with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs, giving Earth a black eye. That meteorite was about the same size as DA14, i.e., the size of an apartment building. The energy of the impact was so great that it devastated 830 square miles of Siberia, including 80 million trees. Pictures of the area show millions of trees lying on their sides, as if a giant hand came down and flattened every tree in sight. The impact was so spectacular that the blast was heard hundreds of miles away, and strange lights were seen as far away as Europe.
Fortunately, the 1908 and 2013 asteroids that hit Russia missed hitting a major metropolitan area like Moscow. However, because of the similarity with nuclear blasts, one can imagine what might happen if such an object had hit, say, New York.
Asteroid Apocalypse, Newsweek
Watch daredevil Felix Baumgartner head off to the edge of space in a stratospheric balloon where he’ll then do the obvious thing: jump.
So begins our 1983 cover story on astronaut and pioneer Sally Ride. Read on.