The Science Behind “Chasing UFOs” – Episode 4

16 07 2012

https://i2.wp.com/tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/files/2012/07/RoswellTopCongrid.jpg

For those who might like to dig farther into (or simply know more about the science behind) the National Geographic Channel series “Chasing UFOs,” including debris field surveys, exploding rockets, and the classic argument from ignorance, look no further!

Direct link-through to my article on the NatGeo TV blog can be found here:

http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/16/the-science-of-chasing-ufos-ufo-landing-zone-2/

Cheers!

Ben





Boeing, Bigelow conduct CST-100 drop test over Nevada desert

30 04 2012

The CST-100 successfully touches down on the playa amid a puff of dust. (Credit: BLM)

Aerospace giant Boeing and commercial space-station manufacturer Bigelow Aerospace, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management Ely District’s Caliente Field Office, conducted a relatively quiet spacecraft parachute drop test of Boeing’s Apollo-styled Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft this past April 3rd.  The event, attended by local media and several bystanders, occurred over a remote playa in Delamar Valley, located 50 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Aside from the fact that the test was a success and another commercial orbital spacecraft is that much closer to operation, (see SpaceX’s upcoming launch of their commercial spacecraft, Dragon,) most noteworty in my view is the fact that the event experienced a near-complete lack of media coverage.  To me, this hints at the exciting, implicit truth that an increasingly hum-drum attitude toward commercial space events, (oh, another private spacecraft test,) seems to indicate that the commercial spacecraft market is becoming firmly established. 

-It isn’t necessarily “news” anymore.  It’s (finally!) just reality.  Welcome to the 21st Century.

Personnel inspect the CST-100 following the parachute drop test. (Credit: BLM)

Using an Erickson Sky Crane helicopter, the Boeing-Bigelow joint test was carried out by lofting a test capsule to an altitude of 7,000 feet and releasing it, putting the parachute deployment systems through their paces under true field conditions.

Boeing Commercial Programs Vice-President and Program Manager John Mulholland called the parachute drop test of the CST-100 a “…tremendous milestone that brings Boeing one step closer to completing development of a system that will provide safe, reliable and affordable crewed access to space.”

Additional tests scheduled in 2012 include a second parachute drop test, a series of landing air bag tests, a jettison test of the forward heat shield, and a hot fire test of the maneuvering and attitude control engine.

The ultimate success of the CST-100 is strategically-important to Bigelow Aerospace, which has continually delayed the launch of their first human-rated space modules until comemrcial spacecraft like the CST-100 have been proven spaceworthy.  (Also, a preferred partnership with Boeing means the CST-100 is first in line to transport paying customers to future Bigelow space stations.)

For the complete set of photos of the successful test, click here for the BLM Nevada Flickr image collection.





Leaving Hydrology, back to Spectroscopy

31 03 2010

On my way out of the central Nevada project area for the last time. 03.30.10

Well, this is again a tactical time of transition for me.  I’ve worked the last two years as a geohydrologist with Parsons in the deep Neavda wilderness performing hydrologic and meteorological measurements and analyses for the Southern Neavda Water Authority.  Tomorrow, due to budget cuts, is my last day.

I’ve been lucky enough to use this unfortunate (and terrifying) turn of events as an opportunity to shift back to the Nevada Test Site, this time leaning on my gamma spectroscopy experience.  I think a foray into Health Physics can only be beneficial to someone interested in working in an environment where high-energy radiation is one of the greatest threats:  Orbit. 

We’ll see.  I’m thinking of also taking this opportunity to engage in masters work, specifically using resourced-asteroid material as radiation shielding, which seems like a clever health physics/planetary geology crossover…

In any event, one can’t help but be retrospective at a time like this, and I’m hoping time will prove that having worked on the East-Central Nevada Groundwater Development Project, a project both so unbelievably vast (can swallow Rhode Island) and remote (far fewer than one person per square mile,) can only been seen as uniquely advantageous experience for a hopeful future field planetary scientist.

Wheeler Peak from Bastian Creek during a fairly substantial dust storm, 03.30.10.

Thus closes one chapter, and thus another begins.








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