Greetings from Palmia Observatory
In astronomy related news this week is this interesting article in Science that identifies what might be a more important explanation for why Mars today is a dry and arid planet.
The common explanation is that atmospheric escape of water from Mars is easy because it is s smaller planet and its gravity is less and there cannot hold on its water as easily as a bigger planet like Earth. But robotic exploration of Mars shows that it once had to have had much more water and it is hard to explain how atmospheric escape is high enough to explain the loss of that larger amount of water. Data from the orbiting spacecraft MAVEN indicates that atmospheric loss is just not explaining all the loss of that amount of water.
So, this April 2 issue of Science, describes how the water might just be stored in Martian hydrated crust. This process of crustal hydration happens on Earth too, but Earth has plate tectonics that recycles the subducted crust and releases the trapped water. But Mars is not known to have active plate tectonics, so the water could still be trapped below the surface. This new theory has important features that can be tested with future exploration and investigation.
|Iceland is a Portal to Mars (Source: Quanta Magazine)
As reported in the blog post from last week, we are planning on returning to Iceland for a cruise around the whole island. If you want a little bit of the backstory for our trip to Iceland, back in September 2017, with some photos of geysers and the spreading center between two continents, check out this blog post: http://www.palmiaobservatory.com/2017/09/greetings-from-paloma-observatory.html
In other space related news, while we wait for the upcoming launch of SpaceX Starship SN15 from Boca Chica, we find that Blue Origin has just reported on the successful test hop of the New Shepard prototype.
Blue Origin is developing a reusable booster rocket with a space capsule that returns to Earth with parachutes while the booster relights its engine and lands much like Starship.
|Blue Origin concept for New Shepard reusable system (Source: www.blueorigin.com)
Spaceflightnow.com provided online viewing of the launch and recovery of the space capsule and landing of the booster. Blue Origin does its prototype testing from west Texas location called Launch Site One.
|New Shepard test launch site near Van Horn in west Texas (Source: www.spaceflightnow.com)
If you want a little bit more on the launch site near Van Horn, TX, check out this blog post for the backstory with some news at that time about Starship too: http://www.palmiaobservatory.com/2020/08/hooray-dragon-returns-to-earth-blue.html
For now let's follow through with some screenshots showing the New Shepard test hop. Here we see the rocket just 13 seconds after liftoff.
Then about 4 minutes into the test flight, the space capsule separates from the booster and each make their separate paths back to the ground. The altitude shown in this screenshot is 348, 753 feet or about 66 miles. This altitude is higher than the Karman Line, which is an arbitrary line, at 100 km, used to define the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space. Wow, that is pretty impressive for a test hop.
|Near maximum altitude and the capsule separates from the booster (Source: www.spaceflightnow.com)
Then after seven minutes of flight the booster has engine relit and it lands on the landing pad.
Finally at T+7:31 minutes, the booster is safely back on the ground.
So what are we to make of this successful test flight of the New Shepard when we look at the ongoing development and test flights of the Starship? It is not clear if New Shepard has plans to leave Earth orbit and go to Mars, for example, as is the plan for Starship. Anyway, we will have to now start following activity with New Shepard in addition to Starship. We note that like we have heard Jeff Bezos say before that Blue Origin is content to just make quiet predictable progress and does not need to always be in the public eye. Blue Origin also did give a couple of days advance notice of the pending flight so maybe we can take advantage of that in the future and get back down to Texas to the Van Horn site as well as the Boca Chica site.
Until next time, here from our burrow, stay safe, as we recover more of our freedom,