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Links 1 through 10 of 148 by Chad Orzel tagged space

By the 1970s, space had become a laboratory rather than a frontier. Despite its status as "space station," Skylab was first called Orbital Workshop, making it sound more like dad's vision for his garage than like Kubrik's vision of 2001. The fact that Skylab was permanently disfigured during launch only concretized the program's ennui. Space exploration became self-referential: missions were sent to SkyLab in order to repair SkyLab.

The Space Shuttle turned the workaday space lab into a suburban delivery and odd-jobs service. Satellites were deployed, space labs serviced, probes released, crystals grown. Meanwhile, the aspects of space travel that really interest people--such as the fact that it's travel in motherfucking outer space--were downplayed or eliminated.

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if they had actually been used as spy satellites, what would these super telescopes have been able to see on the ground?  It’s a fascinating question, and leads into a nice basic discussion of the optical resolution of imaging systems.  In other words, what is the smallest detail that could be picked up by one of these telescopes in orbit?

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Science fiction writers can make use of worm holes or warp drives to overcome this restriction, but it is not clear that such things can ever be made to work in reality.  Another way to get around the problem may be to use the relativistic effects of time dilation and length contraction to cover large distances within a reasonable time span for those aboard a space ship.  If a rocket accelerates at 1g (9.81 m/s2) the crew will experience the equivalent of a gravitational field with the same strength as that on Earth.  If this could be maintained for long enough they would eventually receive the benefits of the relativistic effects which improve the effective rate of travel.

What then, are the appropriate equations for the relativistic rocket?

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In summary, robotic exploration of space in the last 50 years has allowed us to begin the search for life on the planets in our solar system, find and characterize thousands of planets orbiting other stars to determine whether Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of stars like the sun are common or rare in our galaxy and to explore the interior of stars to understand their evolution.

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A nice write-up, with some additional background and details about the proposed asteroid mining business.

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I am less impressed with this than a lot of people who have linked it. Someday, I hope to have enough time to explain why.

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Lest you get too depressed about the mothballing of the Space Shuttles, a roundup of all the cool space probes out there producing real science.

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In late autumn of last year, more than six months after Discovery landed for the final time, NASA crews began peeling back the orbiter’s skin, clipping wires, and pulling hydraulics. They removed and analyzed propellant tanks and valves and scrutinized electronics, looking for evidence of deterioration the way coroners look for signs of illness during autopsies.

“ ‘Autopsy’ is a sad way of putting it—these vehicles are almost like our friends—but it’s what we are doing,” says Joyce M. Seriale-Grush, orbiter chief engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “We have been evaluating this hardware with nondestructive tests throughout their history. Now we can actually tear some of this hardware down.”

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From my orbital perspective, I am sitting still and Earth is moving. I sit above the grandest of all globes spinning below my feet, and watch the world speed by at an amazing eight kilometers per second (288 miles per minute, or 17,300 miles per hour).

This makes Earth photography complicated.

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The Doomsday Asteroid is coming. An immense boulder with our name on it is cruising through the Solar System, and we all know what will happen when it arrives.

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