September 16, 2016
(Editor’s note: Galactic Sandbox will be taking a two-week hiatus, and will be back in the swing of things (or swinging at things) on October 3rd)
S t a r P o w e r
When it comes to being the leader of the “free world,” the most important prerequisite for any viable candidate is a solid and current understanding of science. Science, and its role in interdisciplinary solutions to global troubles, will be the guiding light to the salvation of this polluted, over-populated, greed-ridden planet.
An organization called Science Debate just let loose with the answers they received to questionnaires they sent to the four presidential candidates, requesting statements on how they would deal with the issues of (and in this order): Innovation, Research, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Research, Mental Health, Energy, Education, Public Health, Water, Nuclear Power, Food, Global Challenges, Regulations, Vaccination, Space, Opioids, Ocean Health, Immigration and Scientific Integrity. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Green Party Jill Stein sent back the only statements that were well thought out; indeed, their answers were quite compatible. Republican Donald Trump revealed an idiotic toddler’s grasp – on all subjects. And Libertarian Gary Johnson didn’t even bother replying to any of the issues. (“What’s Aleppo?”) All in all, the differences between the men and women in this quartet couldn’t be more stark.
Regarding outer space, Clinton said she fully supports human exploration of Mars, in step with the Obama Administration, and added she would work with Congress to keep the timeline on this quest fully funded. She also showed a contemporary knowledge of discoveries, such as the brine water found on Mars. Trump, in contrast, doesn’t appear to realize there is even a plan to get to Mars. His statements were homogenized, lofty generalizations, such as, “All humankind benefits from reaching into the stars.” Of course, since his rally speeches indicate a shaky perception of proper grammatical subject and predicate usage, we are well aware that his replies were written by some underpaid hack.
It was no surprise to see the diametrically disparate views on “Climate Change” and “Biodiversity.” Clinton has a clear vision toward ending the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, including incentives to states that improve solar and wind production, as well as providing millions of jobs in the clean energy fields. But Trump, while not blurting his usual line about global warming being a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, said, “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.’” He added we would be better off eliminating malaria and other diseases or maybe improving food yields. I wish I were making that up. Does he not realize that killing off our flora and fauna helps create disease?? It’s worth noting that Trump, during several interviews, has vowed to pull out of the international climate accord made in Paris last year. Clinton realizes the importance of biodiversity and preserving habitats for all creatures. Trump believes we need to abolish all environmental regulations and blames the “bureaucrats” for taking over public lands. I wish I were making that up, too.
To be fair, Jill Stein had beautiful answers on just about everything. But let’s face it folks, she doesn’t have a snowball’s chance on Venus of winning. If she had even 30 percent of the polls, believe me, Galactic Sandbox would be endorsing her. Alas, she has but 2 percent. We strongly recommend Hillary Clinton for this job, and know that her supreme intelligence on so many issues and her tenacious focus will put us in a better place.
To see all the statements provided by the candidates (except Gary “What’s Aleppo” Johnson), go to: http://sciencedebate.org/20answers – Kate Woods and Agnett Bonwitt
R i d d l e d W i t h D o u b t
Based on comments tweeted last Friday, Space X chief Elon Musk is talking on an uncharacteristically less confident tone as his company appears stumped on why its Falcon 9 rocket blew up during a routine pre-launch test on September 1. Remarking on the fireball that also destroyed a $200 million AMOS-6 communications satellite co-leased by Facebook, Musk called the incident the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years.” Musk also asked for anyone having any audio, photos, or videos of the incident to sent them to the company, adding that these materials ” may be useful for [our] investigation.”
There were some additional details Musk disclosed about the “anomaly,” such as the explosion occurred “during a routine filling operation,” and that “there was no apparent heat source” since the engines were not on. Musk also brought up the possibility (hold on to your Tin Foil Hats!) that the cause of the blast may have been triggered by “something else” other than the rocket, since they’re “trying to understand the quieter bang sound a few seconds before the fireball [went] off.” . According to Tech Crunch, Musk, in responding to a Twitter question, said his team hasn’t ruled out the possibility that an external object struck the rocket just before it blew to smithereens (and no, we don’t think he means Faceybook-hating aliens).
O u t o f t h e B l u e
Blue Origin CEO and bazillionaire Jeff Bezos took the opportunity earlier this week to kick stardust in the face of struggling Space X with the announcement of its “New Glenn” rocket designed to loft satellites and humans into Earth orbit and beyond. According to CBS News, Bezos unveiled details of his commercial space company’s new heavy-life rocket named after legendary astronaut John Glenn. The new booster will come in two versions: a 270-foot-tall variant capable of generating 3.85 million pounds of thrust using liquiefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, and a three-stage, 313-foot tall, behemoth capable of delivering beyond low-Earth orbital missions. Bezos boasted that the New Glenn should fly for the first time before 2020 from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, FL, and represents a “very important step,” towards enabling “millions of people living and working in space.” Always the salesman, Bezos bragged of an even more advanced “New Armstrong” rocket that’s “up next on our drawing board.”
S p a c e C h a s e
At the same time Elon Musk is licking his wounds and contemplating Faceybook-hating aliens, his competition is storming ahead. Virgin Galactic boss Richard Branson is once again jubilant – not for the failure of the latest Falcon 9 last week – but that his SpaceShip2 had a flawless “air launch” over the Mojave Desert this week. It has been nearly two years since the spacecraft fell apart in the same Mojave sky, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring Peter Siebold.
On the heels of the successful test, Virgin Galactic big-wigs signed a deal Tuesday with the Australian communications company Sky and Space Global to launch four of its satellites. SpaceShip2 will vroom off a Boeing 747 to place the sats in a low inclination orbit, but no mention yet of when this will start happening. Space watchers deduce that each launch will cost “less than $10 million,” since that is what Virgin offered the company previously before the fatal test flight of 2014, placing the kibosh on Virgin’s aspirations. Luckily it was only temporary.
And move over again, Space X, because Amazon emperor Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin will be performing a key trial for its “space tourist” capsule in west Texas later this month, with a test launch of its New Shepard rocket. Like Virgin’s 747, the rocket is expected to perform an “in-flight” escape: it will blast off the Blue Origin capsule (which someday will carry paying passengers), and the capsule is to land safely with the help of massive parachutes.
D i g g i n g U p D i r t
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe was successfully launched last week, and is on its way to an eventual 2018 rendezvous with asteroid Bennu. (Apparently, the spacecraft escaped being destroyed in the fiery Space-X explosion on September 1.) Once it arrives at the mountain-sized space rock, OSIRIS will spend two years mapping the near-Earth asteroid in preparation of its July 2020 maneuver in which the craft’s 11-foot arm will reach out and perform a cosmic”high-five,” stirring up surface material and scooping up 2 ounces of rock and dust. The spacecraft will return the asteroid sample in September 2023, where it will studied at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. (According to the space agency, this will be the largest extraterrestrial soil specimen delivered from space since the Apollo era.) Scientists hope that the pristine celestial loot will enable more precise clues on asteroids’ role in providing water and organic molecules for the early Earth back four billion years ago.
W h a t a B e a u t
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover sent back dramatic detailed photos last week of ancient sandstone formations that look like they could have be taken from a number of US National Parks or along California’s Newport coast. Bumping along the “Murray Buttes” region of the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, Curiosity is also drilling for soil samples in this area before it heads further south toward higher elevations. “Studying these buttes up close has given us a better understanding of ancient sand dunes that formed and were buried, chemically changed by groundwater, exhumed and eroded to form the landscape that we see today,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada. However, don’t be surprised that these photos will generate a new crop of absurdist reports from the carnival barkers at UFO Sightings Daily claiming that Curiosity has discovered proof of the existence of an ancient Martian beach blanket bingo party (don’t worry – we have plenty of Tin Foil Hats in stock in case you’ve misplaced yours!).
R o c k i n g t h e B o a t
The same gravitational pull from our Moon that keeps the Earth’s axis steady and causes tidal ebbs and flows may also be responsible for triggering earthquakes at some of the most volatile global faults, according to a recent study published in Nature Geoscience. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have found high levels of “tidal stress” occurring just before major earthquakes in the past few decades, concluding that “large earthquakes are more probable during periods of high tidal stress.” Whiles these findings need to be verified, some of the major temblors likely associated with dramatic high tides during full and new moons include the 2004 magnitude 9.1 quake in Indonesia which caused the tsunami that killed 230,000 people and the 2011 seismic ripple in Japan that spawned the tidal wave that damaged and led to the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor.
S p i n C y c l e
NASA brains have announced the rare discovery of a magnetar (incredibly dense neutron stars with magnetic fields trillions of times stronger than our Sun’s), but this one is an oddball critter unto itself. The magnetar 1E 1613 is only the 30th ever found, and it’s 10,700 light years away. But what makes it different from other magnetars is that it spins glacially slow, in comparison. Most magnetars spin fully around every 10 seconds, but 1E 1613 rotates once every 6.67 hours. Astronomers believe magnetars slow down with age, but this one is a babe in the woods, estimated to be only 2,000 years old. One theory is that since the newborn is found at the center of RCW 103, which is the name of a cloud of dust leftover from a supernova, debris from the original star’s death somehow impacted its spin.
P i c t u r e P e r f e c t
Hubble Space Telescope operators are giddy over a new photo the engineering marvel snapped of a close-up of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a “satellite” galaxy within our local group that orbits the Milky Way some 163,000 light-years away. Hubble zoomed in on a stellar nursery called N159 within the LMC, and within N159 is the butterfly-shaped Papillon Nebula consisting of super-dense gas that gives birth to a litter of hot new stars. N159 measures 150 light-years across and exudes ultraviolet light and torrential solar winds which causes the region to glow with wispy colors.
S h o c k a n d A w e
You’ve heard of radioactive solar winds, but get ready for the new monsters called “electric winds.” NASA Goddard researchers say they are “shocked” (we believe that pun is intended) by the power of newly discovered electric winds on Venus, which they say are so strong that the force literally sucked off whatever oxygen the planet of love had going for it in its atmosphere, effectively scrubbing out any chance of water forming on the hellish sphere. The researchers recently found the “amazing” phenomena by using the electron spectrometer aboard the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft. It’s significant because Venus is considered Earth’s unfortunate twin, and by studying how this electric wind literally pushes the layers of the planet’s upper atmosphere off into space, scientists may better understand where the Earth’s greenhouse gas problem is headed.