Mars ‘space station’

We have all heard of little green men from Mars.

But now an American ‘armchair astronaut’ claims to have discovered a mysterious structure on the surface of the red planet – by looking on Google earth.

David Martines, whose YouTube video of the ‘station’ has racked up over 200,000 hits so far, claims to have randomly uncovered the picture while scanning the surface of the planet one day.


Isaac Asimov – Visions of the Future (1992)

two years before he died, Asimov was prepping a TV series about the thin line between science and science fiction – and how we need to embrace the future. Now you can see footage from it for free online.



Commercial Spaceport to Open in New Mexico

British millionaire and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is one step closer to his dream of providing commercial flights into space with the construction of a spaceport in Upham, New Mexico. What is certainly the product of the commercialization of the space industry, Spaceport America is destined to become the “flagship” of other spaceports throughout the world. In fact a similar spaceport project is already underway in Singapore.

Ticket pre-sales for the pricey space flights have already reached over $45 million dollars. Each ticket, costing approximately $200,000 will take you on a sub orbital flight on the VSS Enterprise. Boasting only 6 seats, it is sure to be an adventure to brag about.

The Taxpayer funded, $198 million spaceport will take tourists on short hops into space at first, but plans are already underway for more extended flights that Branson hopes will one day include orbit flights and stays in a space hotel.

Fortunately, the design allows for “green technology” by incorporating a core design implementing renewable energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, southern New Mexico has the second highest potential for solar power in the nation. The videos at the bottom of the page contain more information on some of the methods being incorporated into planning.

In addition, cooling methods such as buried air pipes will assist traditional methods. According to the Spaceport America site, ” By powering the nation’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, with clean, abundant solar energy, the world will look to New Mexico as the leader in implementing renewable energy solutions!”

fosters + partners, LEED Spaceport, spaceport america, virgin galactic, LEED platinum, space transportation, new mexico space, Brandson space terminal,
This image from the October dedication ceremony shows the terminal under construction

Weekly flights are set to begin in approximately April, 2012. Also on the agenda for the new spaceport are several companies who will be specializing in research and in transporting payload to space.

According to Executive Director Steve Landeene of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA), “The groundbreaking for Spaceport America is the beginning of a historic new chapter in New Mexico’s long legacy of space and cutting-edge technology. From the pioneering rocketry work of Robert J. Goddard in New Mexico in 1930, the beginnings of America’s space program in the 1940’s and 50’s to the ongoing NASA programs at White Sands Missile Range and now to Spaceport America, the Gateway to the Future.”


Construction Images
This image shows the runway, along with the terminal (seen above the runway)

This is a cross section image of the foundation work and surfacing material being applied to the runway.

This video documents a test flight of the VSS Enterprise. As you will see in the video, the design allows for a traditional take off, with the actual suborbital capsule being released after gaining altitude. As you can see, the VSS Enterprise is designed for optimal lift from the enormous wings, thus optimizing fuel consumption. (Side thought: It would be great if they could outfit the top of the unit with solar panels….dare to dream)

Here is a great interview with Spaceport America Executive Director Steve Landeene. Except for the inane text chat scrolling at the bottom, it is a good interview.

Extreme Super Moon To Cause Major Earthquakes?

Coming up later this month (March 19 to be exact) the moon will make its closest approach to Earth (called lunar perigee) in 18 years. A new or full moon at 90% or greater of its closest perigee to Earth has been named a “SuperMoon” by astrologer Richard Nolle.

This term has recently been picked up by astronomers as well. An extreme “SuperMoon” is when the moon is full or new as well as at its 100% greater mean perigee (closest) distance to earth.

Can this Super Moon contribute to extreme weather?

AccuWeather member Daniel Vogler says, “The last extreme super moon occurred was on January 10th, 2005, right around the time of the 9.0 Indonesia earthquake.

“That extreme super moon was a new moon. So be forewarned. Something BIG could happen on or around this date. So what can we expect this time? Earthquakes? Volcanic eruptions? I guess we can only wait and see.”

What are the actual chances?

Astronomer and lecturer David Reneke claims there’s more cause for alarm about the extent of human paranoia than any sort of impending apocalypse.

“If you try hard enough you can chronologically associate almost any natural disaster/event to anything in the night sky … comet, planet, sun,” he said.

“Remember in the past, planetary alignments were going to pull the sun apart. It didn”t. Astrologers draw a very long bow most times. Normal king tides are about all I would expect out of this SuperMoon prediction.”

From what I have read on various sites, with all the recent seismic tremors shaking the planet and new fissure eruptions (more on that in coming posts), I would say something major is about to happen.

I think that our planet has finally come to its boiling point. We have destroyed it with mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). Mining and oil and gas drilling have poisoned its water and atmosphere.

But let’s just hope Mr. Vogler is wrong on his prediction and Mr. Reneke is right. The people around the world have suffered enough from natural disasters in recent years. Which, in return, brings more death and destruction to our planet and its people.

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The Risks of Rising Solar Storm Activity

Sun Unleashes Impressive Solar Flare
This snapshot from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a stunning prominence associated with a Sept. 8, 2010 solar flare.

The sun let loose its most powerful eruption in more than four years Monday night (Feb. 14), disrupting radio communications in China and generating concern around the world. But it could have been a lot worse, experts say.

Despite its strength, Monday’s solar storm was a baby compared to several previous blasts, and it provides just a hint of what the sun is capable of. A true monster storm has the potential to wreak havoc on a global scale, knocking out communications systems, endangering satellites and astronauts and causing perhaps trillions of dollars in damages.

The sun’s activity cycle is ramping up, so more storms will likely be coming our way over the next few years. The sun has grown more active over the last several months after rousing from a quiet period in its 11-year weather cycle last year.

That’s not to say the big one is imminent, experts say — but you never can tell. And analysts warn that with humanity more dependent than ever on the high-tech equipment that can be affected by a solar storm, the stakes are higher than in the past.

“Even if this is a really lackluster solar cycle — as it looks like it’s shaping up to be — that doesn’t mean you can’t have a real bell-ringing event,” said Joe Gurman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, project scientist for the agency’s sun-studying STEREO spacecraft.

The roots of solar storms

Solar storm events come in several different flavors.

Solar flares are intense bursts of radiation that send waves of photons streaming toward Earth. The scale measuring their strength has three general categories – Class C, Class M and Class X – with Class X flares being the most powerful.

Monday’s Valentine’s Day solar flare registered a Class X2.2 on that scale.

Other storms, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun’s surface, sending lots of particles our way.

Both flares and CMEs have the same root cause — a disruption of the magnetic field in the sun’s outer atmosphere. And both events can affect life here on Earth. Major flares, for example, can interfere with satellites, causing disruptions in GPS and high-frequency radio communications that can last from a few minutes to a few hours.

These impacts are felt almost immediately, since it only takes light about 8 minutes to travel from the sun to Earth.

“It’s like the sun is a giant noise source,” said Bob Rutledge, head of the forecast office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “It can disrupt anything that depends on a link between the ground and satellites.”

But the most severe damage comes from powerful CMEs. The particles from these outbursts take longer to reach us — up to three days or so. But when they get here, their interaction with Earth’s magnetic field can cause massive “geomagnetic storms,” which have the potential to wreak long-lasting havoc on power and communications infrastructure around the globe.

“They can cause a lot of trouble,” Rutledge told

Last year, NASA launched its so-called Solar Shield project to serve as an early-warning system for serious space weather events.

Powerful impacts possible

Monday night’s storm produced both a big solar flare and a CME. Wdespread satellite or communications disruption, however, is likely not in the cards.

“We don’t expect this to cause any kind of lasting damage to our infrastructure,” Rutledge said.

But Earth has been walloped by monster solar storms before. One of the most powerful hit us in 1859, a blast that Rutledge estimates may have been 30 times more powerful than Monday’s event, though it’s tough to put hard numbers on such comparisons.

The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, and spawned spectacular auroras — the light shows visible near Earth’s poles — bright enough to read by, according to some accounts.

If the 1859 storm occured these days, it would likely have devastating impacts, since our electrical and communications infrastructures are so much more developed. A recent report by the U.S National Academy of Sciences found that such a severe storm could cause up to $2 trillion in initial damages by crippling communications on Earth and fueling chaos around the world.

It might take up to 10 years for authorities to re-assert control and get everyting fixed, the report concluded. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina likely inflicted somewhere between $80 billion and $125 billion in damage.

What does the future hold?

The sun works on an 11-year activity cycle, and it’s currently gaining strength. Forecasters now expect peak activity might occur in 2013 or 2014, Rutledge said, though nobody knows for sure.

So more flares and CMEs should be headed our way over the next several years. So far, the sun has been relatively quiescent during this cycle, so perhaps peak activity won’t compare to the maxima of previous cycles, researchers said.

But a big, Earth-shaking blast could come screaming at us all the same, and researchers are monitoring the sun closely.

M-class solar flares now heading our way.

Several M class flares projected Monday glancing off EarthWatch for seismic and volcanic reactions…

HIGH SOLAR ACTIVITY: Solar Cycle 24 is heating up. No fewer than three sunspots (1164, 1165, and 1166) are crackling with M-class solar flares, and each of them has a delta-class magnetic field capable of producing even more powerful X-flares. Scroll past the double flybys for information about a CME now heading our way..

M1.5 Flare / No Sunspots Needed: An M1.5 Solar Flare took place at 03:58 UTC Tuesday and was centered around the spotless plage region located in the south eastern quadrant of the visible solar disk.

M-Class Flares and two CME’s – Several M-Class flares took place on Monday around Sunspots 1164, 1165 and 1166. Two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) did take place however both do not appear to be fully earth directed. These expanding clouds could deliver a minor blow to earths geomagnetic field within the next 72 hours. The largest flare thus far was an M3.7 which took place at 20:12 UTC Monday.

Solar Update – As reported above, several M-Class flares (7) took place during the day on Monday. Sunspot 1165 which is located in the southern hemisphere is in the process of rotating onto the western limb and will soon be out of direct earth view. Sunspot 1164 which is in the northern hemisphere will also rotate onto the western limb soon after 1165. The chances for strong solar flares will decrease somewhat once these regions are out of view, however there will remain the possibility for further flares around Sunspot 1166. Just to the east of 1166, Sunspot 1169 did show some minor growth during the day on Monday.
Solar Flux Update: Not to sound like a broken record, but the Solar Flux reading on Monday is 153 (No pun intended). This is yet again another high for Cycle 24. The last time the solar flux was as this level, was July of 2004. Please note that this flux reading is an estimate due to the Flare activity in progress The high-sensitivity channels on the measurement device were completely overloaded by the long duration flare and produced a SFI reading of 938.6 at 20:00z.

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