THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 174

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 174

…“I wanted to drag the spiteful twerp from the car and kick his butt all the way home, but my father took me aside and told me to take the high road…

Take the High Road | by nixter

Candidate Crippen launches into a spontaneous analogy.

“I had/haven’t seen my cousin Harold for a while, a nasty spoiled city boy who came to visit my family’s house one summer. Now I had a large collection of plastic handmade models, the kind with a thousand little pieces that you glue together. There were nuclear carriers, supersonic jets, and yes, even an old Space Shuttle docking with the ISS (International Space Station) and this shirttail relative wanted to take some home with him. Well I had worked way too hard on this display to break up the collection, so I told him no.

“When it was time for him to leave, while I loaded his suitcases into my dad’s car to take him to the airport, it turns out he loaded programmable firecrackers into many of them and they were blown to bits after he was safely locked inside the car.

“I wanted to drag the spiteful twerp from the car and kick his ass all the way home, but my father took me aside and told me to take the high road. He knew the boy’s parents and how they would never believe that their dear little blankety-blank would never do such a thing.

“That very same cousin called me not long ago to apologize, telling me that he appreciated the way we handled the situation and he never did another mean thing the rest of his life.”

“That’s an interesting analogy Mr. Crippen,” the young woman compliments. But did she make the intellectual connection between Harold Ivey and the United Korean Peninsula?

“Thank you and,” Roy stares directly into the biggest camera in the lot, “if you are watching Harold Ivey, you and your family are welcomed to visit me in the White House!”

The captivated sidewalk audience goes wild. Once again his down home style comes in handy, making Freelove’s clichéd rhetoric appear petty and small. He shakes hundreds of hands on the 20 foot walk into Chicago’s first and only gambling establishment.

Francine, who 20 years ago could have been that overly aggressive reporter, could not resist asking, “Was that story for real?”

“Every word,” he shoots back.

All she can do is shake her head, “I love you Roy Crippen.”


True Story by Tim Hussey

Episode 174

page 165

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 27

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 27

Too many questions and so little time…


Roy Crippen halts his advance when he is close enough to catch a glimpse of poor Philip Jansky’s former display. It is not for him to know what is or what is not supposed to be up there, but icons & etchings depicting the precise location and path of every piece of galactic wanderer {larger than a baseball} in the Mars parsec, is the responsibility of this man.

“How are things… Mister Gurk__,” he extends his hand. “Director Roy here.”

Soviet Cosmodrome Dhangotma stands to respond, but could use a step ladder in order to complete the exchange of palms. His English is fractured, like many World Space Consortium techs, but this one makes little effort to excel. His answers to questions are choppy and incomplete, but Roy manages to get a thumbs-up, with a couple of references to his involvement in the Russian Spaceflight program at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the former Kazakhstan.

international-space-stationAstronaut Crippen had spent some time at the former Soviet Union’s Cosmodrome in the past, as did every traveler to the International Space Station. Did he mention the shortsighted senseless budget cuts imposed by the “myopically socialist President of the USA from 2008-2015 that put in that fix”? No. Those are Roy’s words uttered freely, in a free society, free of oppression, clear of any retribution…probably, though he encrypts all outgoing and incoming Soyuzcommunications with his phone.

Back to the Soyuz experience where Roy seems to recall that fluent English was an uncompromising requirement for program participation. Then why does this Katmandu Tomcat speak the requisite tongue as if he just crawled out of his Himalayan Hut?

Too many questions and so little time. His inspection tour is snipped by Braden King background chatter, which by now is nearly nonstop. It seems things are actually ahead of schedule, a welcome change Image result for drag racing lightsfrom recent events. The Tycho driver is metaphorically honking his horn anxious to get going.tycho-001

Sam McKinney looks like a drag racer; his pride-and-joy muscle car poised and seated next to him, his best girl. Together they are ready to go down and press som

“Are you guys ready to go,” asks Roy Crippen?

“Turn us loose,” the McKinneys answer as one voice.

The hanger-bay doors of Space Colony 1 slowly widen, exposing a view shared by both Tycho and its distant earthbound counterparts; wide eyes, motivated spirits, and hopeful hearts.




Episode 27

page 26


Big Better Building Part II – WIF Engineering Feats

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Incredible Modern

Engineering Achievements

Humanity likes nothing more than building insanely large and complicated structures, except maybe reading about large and complicated structures built by other people. Today, we’re going to do the latter. While the ancient people had some amazing engineering achievements, we’ve all seen an article or six about the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. As such, let’s focus on the amazing achievements of relatively modern engineering, such as…

Perspective on the Universe – WIF Space Videos

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WIF Space2-001

Video Edition

Video Perspective

on the Universe

As we’ve mentioned a few times before, the fact that we are alive here is astonishing. In order to demonstrate exactly how amazing it is, we’ve rounded up a collection of videos that show our remarkable journey from the Big Bang, to the creation of the solar system, to the formation of the Earth, and finally the rise of humanity.

10. The History of the Universe

According to estimates from astrophysicists, the universe is 13.7 billion years oldand started with the Big Bang. In the first moments after the Big Bang, the universe was almost impossibly tiny. In a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, there was a period known as inflation and the universe grew to the size of an orange. Then three to 20 seconds after the Big Bang, the universe started to cool and expand, and hydrogen and helium, the simplest chemical elements, were born.

380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe became transparent. After 400 million years of darkness, the first stars started lighting up. Then 300 million years later, when the solar system was only 700 million years old, galaxies began to form. Our solar system didn’t form until 9 billion years after the Big Bang. That means that our solar system is actually quite young in the universe, and just for some perspective of how young, please check out the simulation of the creation of the universe posted above.

9. The Known Universe

The video for this entry, from the American Natural History Museum, was created using their Digital Universe Atlas. The atlas is an ongoing project where researchers are mapping out the observable universe, and all the planets and stars are correct to scale. The simulation starts off in the Himalayan mountains and after a short time, Earth disappears into the distance as the simulation pushes us out billions of light years away from Earth.

What is perhaps more amazing than the size of the known universe is that by estimates, we only see four percent of the universe. The rest of the universe is full of mysterious substances called Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Yet, that four percent we do see is unfathomably big, even when we see a simulation of it.

8. The Size of Earth Compared to Other Stars and Suns

For millennia, the Earth was too big to consider traversing even small parts of it. Even with modern air travel, it still takes two days and 19 hours to circumvent it in a plane. But in cosmic terms, the Earth is actually rather small and there are four other planets in our solar system that are much bigger. As seen in the video above from BuzzFeed Blue, five Earths could fit into the ring of Saturn and compared to Jupiter, Earth looks like a marble because Jupiter is 11.2 times the size of Earth. When compared to the sun, the Earth is a barely visible dot because the sun is 109 times larger. But our sun is an insignificant speck compared to an Alpha Scorpii A. star, which is 700 times the diameter of the sun, and that isn’t even the biggest known star. That title belongs to the VY Canis Majoris, which is 1,540 times the size of the sun. If VY Canis Majoris was in the place of our sun, it would extend out past the orbit of Saturn.

What’s even more mind blowing is that stars are tiny compared to galaxies. For example, our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light years in diameter, meaning it is about 678 trillion times the size of the sun. And again, that is small in comparison; the IC 1011 galaxy is 6 million light years wide, or 60 times the size of the Milky Way.

7.The Solar System and the Formation of the Earth

Our solar system has at least eight planets and five recognized dwarf planets that orbit a yellow dwarf star. Before our solar system existed, there was a cloud of helium, hydrogen, dust, and then over 4.5 billion years ago, a nearby star exploded in what is called a supernova, which caused the cloud to collapse. Over the course of 100,000 years, the cloud was flattened into a disc.

In the center of the disc, where the molecules are packed tightest, a proto-star developed and it got so hot that it underwent fusion, giving birth to our sun. The heat from the sun turned the dust into rocks and a number of these rocksclumped together, starting the formation of Earth.

6. How Deep is the Ocean

Around 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth first formed under heat and pressure and was bombarded with asteroids, meteors, and comets. It had an atmosphere that was poisonous and too hot for water to remain on the surface. A second atmosphere was made because of constant volcanic eruptions, and gases like methane and carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere.

Then about 4.1 billion years ago, the Earth’s surface started to cool and the surface became rocky, which allowed rainwater to fill the oceans. The oceans are an amazing part of Earth and it is a requirement for life. Have you ever thought about how deep the ocean actually is? The video from BuzzFeed Blue gives an interesting cartoon to give some perspective on just how far down it goes.

5. How Tall is Mount Everest

On the other end of the spectrum from the deepest part of the ocean is the highest land point, which is the peak of Mount Everest, located in the Himalayas. Its creation started over 250 million years ago when the Earth had one continent called Pangaea. At the time, what is now India was in the Southern Hemisphere, attached to what are today Australia, South America, and Africa. After the super continent broke up, India spent millions of years moving towards its present day home in EuroAsia. When India hit the continent, it acted like a bulldozer and it pushed up the mountain range about 60 million years ago.

Mount Everest is 29,035 feet tall, more than 10 times higher than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. To get an even better idea as to how tall it is, check out the video above. Also, in case you’re wondering what the distance from the lowest depth to the highest mountain peak, it is 65,236 feet, or 12.35 miles.

4. The Migration of Humans

Homo sapiens first appeared about 200,000 years ago and they most likely came from a single point in Africa. Around 130,000 years later, the weather changed because the Earth was in an ice age, and it is believed that the number of humans dwindled to just under 10,000. Luckily for us, the weather got better and human numbers went up.

60,000 years ago, the first group of humans left Africa. They migrated along the North Indian Ocean, through what is now the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Southeast Asia. 10,000 years after leaving, they reached Australia. A second group left Africa around 50,000 years ago, crossed the Red Sea and then over the next 15,000 years became the populations of the Middle East and Central Asia.

About 40,000 years later, humans migrated to Europe from the Southeast. Then about 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum, a group of Asian hunters were able to cross a land bridge connecting Asia with North America because ice sheets in the North and South Poles had sucked up water, decreasing sea levels by more than 300 feet. 15,000 years ago, the Asian hunters reached the land surface of North America, and then within 1,000 years they made it all the way to the southern part of South America.

When agriculture was discovered 10,000 years ago, it became a cornerstone of human civilization and the first civilization is believed to have started about 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, which is modern day Iraq.

3. Time Lapse From the International Space Station

The discovery of agriculture was a pivotal moment in human history because one farmer could grow food for a group of people, so not everyone was needed for food collection like it was during hunter and gatherer days. This led to a division of labor, which, in turn, led to people being able to do different jobs. Having different jobs led to commerce and since people have never had a history of being fair with each other, this led to the court system and government, which in turn led to religion, and writing. All of this lay the foundation for societies that we live in today.

While humans were an endangered species 130,000 years ago, humans have recovered remarkably. By 1804, there were 1 billion people living on Earth. That population doubled 123 years later in 1927. In 1960, the population reached 3 billion and just 14 years later there were 4 billion people residing on Earth. Then, Earth reached the 5 billion mark in 1987, and surpassed 6 billion in 1999.

When the video above was posted in 2011, the population of the world reached 7 billion people. The video is a time lapse video from the International Space Station that shows both the beauty of the natural Earth, like the Aurora Borealis, and how much of an impact seven billion humans have on the planet.

2. Modern Human Life

One of the amazing things about human life is that we are all individuals with our own thoughts and feelings, yet we all came from the same place. We, and all our ancestors that came before us, were created through the fertilization of an egg from one of billions of sperm. We survived nine months in the womb and were born. We survived infancy and have survived every day until we have gotten to this very point in time.

For a lot of us, and this is especially true the older you get, sometimes it seems that time just flies by. Nothing perhaps represents that more than this video by Frans Hofmeester, who recorded his daughter, Lotte, for 15 seconds every day and then created this video in 2015, when Lotte was 16. It is a perfect metaphor for how quickly our life goes by, even if our lives are short in the cosmic sense.

1. The Future of Humanity

The universe has come a long way in 13.8 billion years. It started off as a tiny speck, then grew to the size of an orange and then expanded to encompass everything we know as existence. It is full of billions of galaxies, and one of those galaxies had a planet with rocky mountains and deep oceans, that was the perfect distance away from a perfect sized star and life developed on it. From that single cell of life, life forms evolved over millions of years, eventually becoming apes, who became homo sapiens and they migrated all over the world. About 10,000 years ago, we started the transition from hunters and gatherers to civilizations and our population has grown steadily since. There are currently 7.4 billion free thinking, emotional beings living on Earth and we all started from the same place. We’ve come so far and yet, there are so many places we have yet to go.

This video features famed silent film star Charlie Chaplin from his first film with sound, The Great Dictator. In it, Chaplin explains the stark beauty of humanity and what we can do when we work together. Because while we’re all individuals, we all come from the same place and all that can be traced back to the microscopic speck at the start of the Big Bang.

Perspective on the Universe

– WIF Space Videos

Space Fact Saturday

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WIF Space-001

 Out of this World

Facts about Space

William Shatner hit the nail on the head when he uttered the famous phrase, “Space, the final frontier.” Why? Well, contrary to what some scientists will have you believe, space remains mankind’s final and rather obscure frontier. After all there is so much we have yet to understand about space, and much that we thought we knew is starting to look ‘shaky’.

For example, if you were to approach a couple of astrophysicists and ask them about their views on ‘black holes’ you will, more often than not, open up a cosmic size Pandora’s box of never-ending debate. While it is feasible that many of you might enjoy such a conversation, it is equally likely that you will walk away from the whole episode with a tangible sense that as much as science likes to think it knows a lot about space… it really doesn’t.

However hope is not lost! For amongst all the dull theoretical extrapolations and mind numbing confusion, there remain a number of facts that will challenge some of the ‘cast iron’ perceptions you have about the universe. As a starting point read on and discover 10 of the most mind boggling facts about space!

10. Water Pools In Space


In 2011 astronomers discovered a gigantic vapour cloud caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole deep within the universe, making it the largest discovery of water anywhere. According toUniverse Today, the cloud, known as a ‘reservoir’ in astronomical circles, is believed to be capable of holding all of the Earth’s oceans 140 trillion times over!

While the discovery of water in space is not headline news, it is the sheer volume of water discovered and the fact that the reservoir seems to be slightly younger than the big bang itself that has caught the attention of scientists. Matt Bradford from NASA has stated that, “[The discovery] is another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

So if the Earth ever runs out of water, at least we know where we can find ourselves an intergalactic water pump. The only problem is how we would get there, as it currently resides 10 billion light years from Earth.

9. It Would Take 225 Million Years To Walk A Light Year

light year-space

It would take 225 million years to walk a light year. Don’t believe me? Well as all great mathematicians suggest, let us show our workings!

  1. One light year (the distance light travels in a year) is about 5.9 trillion miles.
  2. If you briskly walked 5.9 trillion miles at 20 minutes per mile constantly without any breaks, you would complete your light year stroll in 225 million years.

In other words if you started your walk just before the emergence of the dinosaurs you would be about to finish walking now!

On an interesting side note, according to Jessica Cheng in the September 2008 edition of ‘Popular Science’ magazine, the long trip would come with a unique set of problems. She estimates that in order to complete the journey you would need about 11.8 billion pairs of shoes! Not to mention the fact that you would be burning 80 calories per mile and would therefore need an average of 2 trillion power bars to fuel your body for the trip!

Cheng also goes on to suggest that after such a journey, you wouldn’t have got very far. In an astronomical sense 1 light year is the equivalent of you just about reaching the end of Earth’s garden path. The nearest star from Earth, Proxima Centauri, is a staggering 4.22 light years away.

8. Eros Asteroid Of Riches


In 1998 the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft passed close to the asteroid Eros and relayed back to Earth its findings. It discovered that Eros was a floating treasure chest of unprecedented riches. Due to its size, NASA has suggested that if Eros consists of 3% metal, like so many meteorites that fall to Earth, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Eros might indeed contain 1.8 billion metric tons of gold and other precious metals such as platinum.

According to Dr. David Whitehouse, then Science Editor for the BBC, in an article entitled, ‘Gold rush in space’, Eros is indeed a large but by no means the largest of asteroids. That being said he believes that since Eros is speculated to contain a multitude of rare elements, the asteroid has a total monetary worth of close to $20,000 bn. Of course it goes without saying that if Eros ever impacted the Earth, its priceless metal content and indeed monetary value will be of little consolation (or, for that matter, use) for what would most certainly be an extinct mankind.

7. There Are 1,397 Known Asteroids That Could End Mankind


In an attempt to prevent the dramatic scenes of movies such asArmageddon, NASA has its eyes fixed on the 1,397 asteroids in and around our solar system that could, upon impact with the Earth, bring about the end of the human race. You can rest assured that should anything larger than 350 feet in diameter come within 4.6 million miles of the Earth, NASA will be on critical alert.

The extent to which NASA is aware of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) is both impressive and frightening. Rather ominously NASA has released an orbit plan for each of the 1,397 known PHAs. Aside from looking like somebody’s overzealous attempt at getting to grips with Spirograph, the image does not fail to impress the severity of PHAs and the real and continual threat that they pose to mankind. As Dan Nosowitz suggests in the August 5th 2013 edition of the ‘Popular Science’ magazine, it is hard to believe that we have yet to be impacted by one of these ‘destruction max’ asteroids.

6. The International Space Station Travels At Five Miles A Second


According to CoolCosmos, a NASA education and outreach website, the International Space Station orbits the Earth at a speed of (roughly) 17,150 miles per hour! This equates to the station travelling five miles every second with its crew witnessing a sunrise every 92 minutes. To see the International Space Station in action you can log onto the following website and watch its orbit of the Earth live and in real time here.

5. There Are More Stars Than Words Spoken


According to Scientific American, there are more stars in the universe than words have been spoken by every human who has ever lived. As much as this sounds a gross exaggeration of fact, the true number of stars in the universe is probably a number so vast that it is beyond the comprehension of the human brain. For example, Nicola Willett of The Mars Society estimates that there are at least 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (70 sextillion x10 to the power of 22) stars in the universe. She goes on to suggest that the universe itself probably contains more than 100 billion galaxies, each likely to contain billions of stars. Don’t worry if this confuses you, as these are the sort of numbers that we will never truly begin to understand.

Our only certainty in the process of comprehending the total amount of stars in the universe is that we are likely to never know the true answer, as star counting is a process of hypothesising with a large, and a very large at that, margin of error. In other words, nobody has known, knows presently and will never likely know the true figure of the sum of all the stars in the universe.

4. The Moon Suffers From Moonquakes


When Clive. R. Neal, associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, and a team of 15 planetary scientists re-examined Apollo data from the 1970s, he concluded that ‘The moon is seismically active.’

Seismometers placed at the landing sites of the Apollo missionsbetween 1969 and 1972 radioed data back to Earth until they were taken offline in 1977. The results were surprising, suggesting that there are at least four types of moonquakes:

  1. Deep moonquakes that occur on average around 700km below the moon’s surface and are probably triggered by the Earth’s tidal forces.
  1. Usual vibrations and minor moonquakes as a result of meteorite impact.
  1. Thermal moonquakes caused by the Sun when illuminating and expanding the frigid crust on the moon’s surface following a two week deep-freeze lunar night.
  1. Shallow moonquakes that occur frequently at a depth of 20-30km below the moon’s surface.

In truth nobody is really certain what exactly causes moonquakes.Speculation is rife among scientists. All that is known is that unlike earthquakes, moonquakes last longer. This is because, unlike the earth, the moon’s crust is hard and uncompressible. Therefore a moonquake tends to vibrate the moon like a tuning fork, whereas the Earth has elements of compression (like water and minerals) that act like a sponge during an earthquake and disperse the tremors within a matter of minutes. On the moon, a moonquake has been known to last 10 minutes!

3. Planet HD189733b


The Hubble Telescope has identified a deep azure blue planet in distant space. The planet, called HD189733b, is a huge gas giant orbiting very close to its star. Its atmosphere is a hellish environment of 4,000mph (7,000kmph) winds and molten glass that rains sideways! The estimated temperature of this deep space ‘beast’ is a scorching 1,000 degrees Celsius!

The planet might outwardly look serene and earth-like, but its bluish hue is a result of silicate particles scattering blue light rather than any reflection of a serene tropical ocean. If mankind were to ever find itself in a situation similar to the movie Interstellar, this planet would be one of the most hostile environments in the known universe. Not that we would be able to reach it, as it currently resides 63 light years from Earth!

2. The Earth Has More Than One Moon


If you thought the Earth has only one moon, it might surprise you to discover that this is actually false. While the moon is indeed the only celestial body to observe a strict orbit of the Earth, there are in fact a number of other ‘near-Earth’ asteroids which follow the Earth as it orbits the Sun. These are called ‘co-orbitals’ and there are at least 6 known ‘co-orbitals’ caught in the Earth’s gravitational pull. However don’t think you can gaze into the night sky to find them, as most can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Of course you might agree with many astronomers and suggest that these co-orbitals are not technically moons. However, what is clear is that while they might not be moons in the traditional sense, they are far from your average asteroid.  Like the Earth they orbit the Sun in roughly a year and occasionally pass close enough to the Earth to exert a slight gravitational influence. In astronomical terms this means that the suggestion that they are in facts moons is all the more realistic.

Robert Jedicke, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, has suggested that, “At any one time there are one or two 1 meter diameter asteroids in orbit around the Earth.” Perhaps when we think of the moon we should consider the possibility that rather than the Earth having one solitary moon in Luna, the Earth has in fact a number of fluctuating moons that come and go throughout the year!

1. There Are Less Than Nine Planets In Our Solar System


Despite what you were taught in your science lessons, our solar system has less than 9 planets. Don’t be fooled, you would be right in thinking that there were 9 planets 10 years ago but in recent years the International Astronomical Union has decided it would be a good idea to apply its own criteria of what constitutes a planet to our solar system.

The criteria stipulate that in order for something to be defined as a planet it must:

  1. Orbit the Sun
  2. Have enough mass to be round in shape (but doesn’t have to be perfectly spherical)
  3. Have cleared ‘their neighbourhood’ or immediate orbit.

The first planet to fail the criteria was Pluto in 2006 when it was demoted from a planet to a ‘dwarf planet.’ This is perhaps not surprising as there has been much debate since Pluto’s discovery about whether it is actually a planet. For years it was seen as an icy rock not too dissimilar to an oversized asteroid confined to the region of space at the very edge of the solar system. That makes 8 planets.

Space Fact Saturday

And Pluto