Greetings from Palmia Observatory
Well this past week we watch and enjoyed the two of the billionaire rocketeers blast into space for a short experience of weightlessness.
Here we see Richard Branson and other crew members, aboard the Virgin Galactic rocket plane, enjoying the thrill of seeing the blackness of space and of just free falling and experiencing weightlessness. Congrats to Branson and the whole Virgin Galactic team!
|Richard Branson and crew float in zero gravity (Source: BusinessInsider)|
Then, about a week later, we watch Jeff Bezos and crew blast off in the Blue Origin New Shepard. Along for the ride was 82-year old Wally Funk, who trained to be an astronaut but never made it into space. Congrats to Wally and Bezos and the whole Blue Origin team!
|82-year old, Wally Funk, rides along into space with Bezos (Source: NBC News)|
Well, after watching these two commercial groups of tourists blast off and experience and enjoy a few minutes of weightlessness, I said maybe we can sign up for some future trip into space too? This idea of experiencing weightlessness also ties directly back to physics and the development of general relativity. Check out what Einstein described as his happiest thought, when he recognized or intuited that we cannot tell the difference between gravity and acceleration if we fall of the roof or are in an elevator.
So, we see that looking for a chance to experience zero gravity is a worthwhile experience. For this physicist wannabe, I want to experience weightlessness, not because of some Earth shattering intuition, but just to have that as part of my life experience.
|Einstein's happiest thought (Source: James Overduin as posted by Gatot Soedarto)|
It turns out private individuals can schedule aircraft flights to experience a few minutes of weightlessness. An aircraft can be piloted through a series of parabolic flight maneuvers, first climbing to a higher altitude and then nose diving down to a lower altitude. The flight is controlled on the nose dive so that aircraft just falls as fast as it would if just under the influence of gravity, so passengers too are then just freely falling in the Earth's gravitational field.
Here is a photo from an earlier weightlessness flight scheduled by Zero Gravity Corporation, who offers these flights to passengers at various airports around the US. The excited passengers move toward the modified 727 aircraft.
|Happy folks waiting to board the modified 727 aircraft (Source: gozerog.com)|
This next image from the gozerog website shows the happy group experiencing and enjoying weightlessness. Check out the details at: https://www.gozerog.com/
|Happy folks enjoying zero g flight in modified 727 aircraft (Source: gozerog.com)|
This diagram shows some of the details of the parabolic flight maneuver, As you see as the aircraft goes through each cycle of the parabolic maneuver, the passengers experience abouot 22 seconds of weightlessness during each cycle when the aircraft descends and then about 20 seconds of hypergravity, or about 1.8 times normal Earth gravity.
|The parabolic flight maneuver used on the modified 727 aircraft (Source: gozerog.com)|
Hmm, maybe we should sign up for one of these flights. We wouldn't have to win the lottery of being selected on one of the future billionaire rockets and its not as expensive as it would be to shell out the supposed $250k to ride on the Virgin Galactic space plane. Something like 600 people have already put a deposit down on those flights. Down to Earth, for the rest of us, there is a gozerog flight in October 2021 out of Long Beach Airport, which is very local to us. See you all on board!
|In a city near you, you can experience zero-g conditions yourself (Source: gozerog.com)|
Ok, settle down, the October flight date is a couple of months away, so in the meantime let's consider a little fly/drive trip to go down to Texas and look around at the launch sites used by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, so they could experience weightlessness and see the dark sky around the Earth. Virgin Galactic conducted their journey into space from Spaceport America, located near Truth or Consequences, NM. Blue Origin has a launch site and a landing site in the west Texas desert near Van Horn, TX. This map shows that the two sites are within a 4 hour drive of each other.
|Just a 4 hour drive between Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin launch sites (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
|Hopefully, we will see more than the launch sites than a typical guard gate (Source: Sergio Martinez)|
But as long as we are planning on seeing those rocket test sites, we had better also get back to Boca Chica, TX and see how the SpaceX Starbase construction is going on. There is so much construction traffic down there and the orbital launch tower is almost completely stacked. Here you can see the launch tower in the left and the Super Heavy booster on the right has completed some static fire testing.
|SpaceX South Texas Launch Site (Source: @Whataboutit)|
Seeing ongoing SpaceX construction activity is pretty easy to do in Boca Chica because you just have to drive down Highway 4 to the beach and see everything going on. In this next photo you get another image of the scale of the launch tower and crane and super heavy booster. There is so much construction activity going on in Boca Chica that I really do indeed look forward to just watching all the activity and the cranes and the concrete pumping trucks and welders and all of it.
|9th Section lifted to top of launch tower (Source: NASASpaceflight.com)|
For this little trip to Boca Chica, the plan this time is to stay on South Padre Island and check out the possible launch viewing sites there. An ideal viewing site on South Padre Island would be on the balcony of a hotel room facing south toward the ship channel. I phoned on hotel and asked if they had any rooms facing toward SpaceX and they said they had only one called the SpaceX suite. Hmm, sounds like it has a good view but might be pretty expensive. Anyway, I will check some of those places out.
It is still about an hour drive from there to the SpaceX launch site, even though the linear distance is only 4-5 miles. You can get very close to the construction there unless the road is closed due to some test operation going on.
|Road trip to scope out viewing locations for Starship launches (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Until next time,