Amazing

Kjell N. Lindgren (M.D.)
NASA Astronaut

Lindgren is described by Scott Kelly in his book Endurance, as being “religious but tolerant and respectful of other people’s beliefs.”

I’ve so far been unable to find out anything about his religious beliefs, but it seems they must have been expressed in some way for Kelly to make that observation.

 

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Lindgren in “the cupola”, a seven windowed observation module looking down on earth.

ISS Expeditions 44/45

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Political Push: Back to the Moon

As someone who grew up during the height of the 1960s “space race”, I’m excited by the thought of a return to the moon. In particular the plan for the first woman to set foot on the lunar surface. The woman who will get the honour will be among NASA’s dozen or so currently active female astronauts, so to a degree I can say that she won’t be unknown to me.  .

My excitement about a proposed return to the moon is significantly tempered by some reservations. I’m not surprised that some of those concerns have also been expressed by someone with far more understanding and knowledge of the matter than myself.

Australian astronaut warns of future risk of deaths in space race

Andy Thomas, Australia’s most accomplished astronaut, who is in the country from the US to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, has expressed severe concerns about the new international space race.

Dr Thomas, the first Australian to walk in space and who lived on the Mir space station for five months, says politics is driving the US to have men back on the moon by 2024, which risks a repeat of past spectacular tragedies.

“The very big risk that I see NASA is facing is that it is under incredible pressure from the administration, the White House, to bring the human return to the moon way earlier than perhaps the engineering should demand,” he said.

“The 2024 date is driven by politics, not by the engineering and that’s a very dangerous thing to do because you can’t change engineering to suit politics. You can change politics to suit engineering.

“We run the risk of killing further astronauts if we have unrealistic schedule pressure”.

I think the following political rhetoric shows that Thomas’s concerns aren’t without foundation.

US Vice-President Mike Pence in March this year said if NASA couldn’t put astronauts on the moon by 2024, “we need to change the organisation, not the mission”.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-astronaut-warns-of-future-risk-of-deaths-in-space-race-20190715-p527d8.html

Mike Pence’s message in that video is clear. A space program that for years has been International in nature, with co-operation between many countries associated with the International Space Station – that for a decade has relied entirely on Russian transport of astronauts between earth and the ISS, and participants from Europe, Canada, Japan, Russia as well as the USA, is soon to be cast aside for American glory.

Just as the United States was first to reach the moon in the 20th Century, so too will we be the first nation to return astronauts to the moon in the 21st Century.

It is the policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the next five years.

Let me be clear. The first woman and next man on the moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets from American soil

Such nationalistic, backward thinking, cold war era jingoism can only be detrimental to a space program that for the past decade has NEEDED international co-operation. Since the end of the shuttle program, the US has been incapable of putting its own astronauts into space and had to rely on Russian help to do it.

The rush to the moon, presented with clear nationalistic ambition has the potential to end the American manned space program. Such an outcome is potentially only one tragedy away, particularly with super-hyped expectations being raised, mainly for political rather than scientific or technological reasons.

This fast-tracked moon landing program now becomes the priority, bypassing the previous plan for the Gateway,  a type of lunar space station (see illustration below), with international input and co-operation, from which possible future moon landings could be conducted in a more practical and sustainable way.

It seems instead that a risk-laden rush is now being conducted in the hope of achieving an historic moon landing within a possible (probable?) second term Trump presidency.

 

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62 Years Ago Today: Rick Douglas Husband (July 12, 1957 – February 1, 2003)

Another space programme related anniversary. The birth of Rick Husband.

High Calling by Evelyn Husband with Donna Vanliere

high callingOn February 1st 2003, space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry, killing all seven crew members. Rick Husband was the commander of the mission.

Evelyn Husband and their children, were waiting for Rick’s return at the Kennedy Space Centre, and it became clear that something was wrong when the clock counting down to the shuttle’s return, passed zero and started to count upwards.

Evelyn wrote High Calling only months after she lost her husband.
It is the story of Rick’s desire to become an astronaut, the difficulties he faced trying to be accepted into NASA’s space program, and the Christian faith motivating him, no matter what the career outcomes.

Rick Husband seems to have been a well-liked team leader of a very close-knit crew. Their bond strengthened by the extra time together caused by launch date delays. Husband’s STS-107 mission was leap-frogged by several other missions, their launch finally coming after STS-113.

The flight had added significance with the first Israeli astronaut being part of the crew, increasing security concerns prior to launch.

It’s a challenging book on many levels, that I found potentially raised questions about God, faith in Him, and the value of prayer.

“Why (or how) could God allow such a thing to happen to a crew headed by a devoted Christian?” Considering the outcome, what’s the point of praying for safety and success during a presumed “God given” task?

Are those two questions based upon wrong assumptions about the nature of a person’s faith (in God’s eyes rather than our own), and the reality of God’s will (as it actually is rather than our perception of it?)

Are the potential doubts at the heart of questions like those merely an expression of a lack of appreciation that God’s ways are not our ways? Maybe, what seems like a tragedy and a failure to man is in reality God’s way of moving towards eternal outcomes about which we know nothing and therefore currently can’t appreciate.

Rick Husband faced life with a favoured bible reference  in mind.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Trusting Him would include being careful not to draw glib and presumptuous conclusions that lead to unwise judgements.  To me that seems to be the message of the book of Job, and it seems relevant to this situation. After incredible suffering, and enduring the theological opinions of well-meaning, but ill-informed friends, Job is addressed by God who highlights the limits of man’s understanding.

Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?

To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?   (Job 39: 2-7) (See Job 38-41 for full discourse)

Rick Husband and Mike Anderson, friends, crewmates on Columbia mission STS- 107 and brothers in Jesus.

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Mission patch.

The central element of the patch is the microgravity symbol, µg, flowing into the rays of the astronaut symbol.
The sunrise is representative of the numerous experiments that are the dawn of a new era for continued microgravity research on the International Space Station and beyond.
The constellation Columba (the dove) was chosen to symbolise peace on Earth and the Space Shuttle Columbia. The seven stars also represent the mission crewmembers and honour the original Mercury astronauts who paved the way to make research in space possible.
The Israeli flag is adjacent to the name of the payload specialist who is the first person from that country to fly on the Space Shuttle.

(adapted from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-107#/media/File:STS-107_Flight_Insignia.svg )

 

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How many astronauts does it take to change a light bulb?

 

Gloria and I have been following the International Space Station and its crew for the past few months, after seeing it pass overhead back in February.

Since then we’ve subscribed to NASA’s Spot the Station, receiving email advices about when it will be visible from our town. We have seen it many times now, most recently last night. We were hoping for another viewing this evening, but it seems like it will be too cloudy.

The crew inhabiting the station throughout our observation period has come to the end of their mission and will be returning to earth in a couple of days.

In the following video, Anne McClain, one of the three imminent returnees demonstrates the answer to the question “how many astronauts does it take to change a lightbulb?@

Life Beyond Earth

One of the aims of the Mars mission mentioned in my previous post, is to seek out evidence of some kind of life on Mars.
Last year I posted thoughts about the implications of the search for life beyond earth.

https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/life-on-mars/

Within the comments section after that article I noted that any search for life elsewhere in space has already, most likely, been compromised by the many space craft and associated vehicles that mankind has already sent out there.

Can it be guaranteed that on all of that space-borne equipment not a single element of biological contamination has taken place? That every mission sent from various nations hasn’t transported a viable population of bacteria to the planets that were being explored?

No it can’t be guaranteed.

surevyor 3.jpgIn fact life has already been found on the moon, by the Apollo 12 mission. They retrieved equipment from the Surveyor 3 spacecraft that had previously landed on the moon. Upon that equipment they reportedly found biological contamination, the common bacterium Streptococcus mitis, possibly deposited by a technician sneezing on it during its preparation for launch.
Later assertions have been made that the contamination was caused during or after the return to earth – but could that be a case of attempting to convince the public that the stable door had remained securely closed, and that the bacterial horse had not actually bolted?

No matter how strenuous those assertions may be, it is clear that the possibility of contamination from earth remains a viable possibility.

…despite using plasma (matter composed of electrically charged particles), intense radiation and heat to sterilise the components, and using special “clean rooms” to assemble them, it has proved impossible to construct a microbe-free spacecraft. The heat, cold, vacuum and harsh radiation encountered during spaceflight will kill most of them, but some will probably remain alive long enough to reach the destination. Experiments on the International Space Station have proved that spore-forming bacteria can remain viable in space for at least as long as it takes to get to Mars. [my emphasis in bold – onesimus]  (from https://phys.org/news/2017-06-strict-contamination-hamper-exploration-life.html )

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In last year’s blog post I suggested why the search for life beyond earth is so important to many people.

If life could spontaneously start on earth without the need for Divine involvement then surely it ought to have started elsewhere too.

The more widespread life is out there in the universe, the more it could seem to legitimize the possibility that life doesn’t need a God to create it.

On the flip side – a completely barren universe (apart from earth) would tend to legitimize the Bible account of Creator God. If life can spontaneously come into being, why hasn’t it done so elsewhere? Why earth only?

Therefore scientists with an atheistic bent are desperate to find life elsewhere. It NEEDS to find evidence of widespread universal life.

Maybe there’s a degree of irony in the possibility that mankind’s attempts to find definitive, incontrovertible evidence of extra-terrestrial life is being made impossible by the search itself.

Destination Mars

Gloria and I have our places booked upon the Mars 2020 space craft, due to be launched in July next year. Here is my boarding pass.

Tim BoardingPass_MyNameOnMars2020 EDIT

NASA are launching this new mission to Mars and have invited the public to submit their names to be sent on the Mars 2020 Rover.

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-size chip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-invites-public-to-submit-names-to-fly-aboard-next-mars-rover

Souvenir boarding passes can be downloaded by everyone who registers.

I’m now considering how to make the best use of my frequent flyer points.