Monday, May 9, 2011

Sex in Space: The Next Giant Leap?

After humanity's 50 year long space exploration, is sex in space the next "Giant Leap"?

By: Ringo Bones

Officially, NASA neither confirms nor denies that their tenured astronauts ever had sex in space at the expense of American taxpayers. But with the advent of space tourism, will the very rich and adventurous pioneer to be the first members of the fabled 200-mile-high club?

Isaac Newton's Third law of Motion could make sex in the weightless conditions of space - or technically a spacecraft in Earth orbit - a somewhat "clumsy" affair, but famed science fiction writer Vanna Bonta - better known as the author of Flight had recently invented the Two Suit, an outfit with strategically placed Velcro attachments to make sex in the weightlessness of space a much more romantic and less clumsy affair.

Recently tested on G Force One - a plane capable of simulating weightlessness 30 seconds at a time by performing a series of parabolic dives to neutralize the pull of Earth's gravity. Vanna Bonta's Two Suit managed to make sex in weightless near-space conditions a less clumsy affair, although couples need to practice more often in order to master the skills of lovemaking in a weightless environment. In short, sex in space - like astronauts performing EVAs - is a not so easily acquired skill.

But to really make sex in the weightless conditions of space, a much more romantic contrivance is needed - like the construction of a "Snuggle Room". Snuggle Rooms are proposed special rooms or sections likely to be attached in space tourism firm operated space vehicles and space stations. It consists of a cozy padded room with a large enough window to provide a panoramic view of the cosmos or more likely our planet seen from 250 miles up.

Humanity's 50 Years in Space: What's Next?

It's been 50 years since humanity's first forays into space, what's the next "Giant Leap" gonna be?

By: Ringo Bones

Back in April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first ever human to went into space as his VOSTOK 1 (BOCTOK 1 in Cyrillic Russian) capsule whirled one full orbit, then landed on a farm. %0 years and a few days after Gagarin and humanity's first forays into space, most of us are probably asking what's the next "Giant Leap" gonna be?

Space tourism has been slated as the next Giant Leap when it comes to space exploration as Virgin Galactic - the Richard Branson owned space tourism business - probably has no competitors yet business wise has been very busy during the last few years in developing their space tourism infrastructure. While government paid return trips to the Moon and epic missions to the planet Mars are still a few decades away, space tourism would probably be humanity's de facto next "Giant Leap" when it comes to space exploration.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Who Was The First African-American Astronaut?

Even though Black History Month have come and gone for a number of times over the years, how many of us can answer with true confidence when asked: “Who was the first African-American astronaut?

By: Ringo Bones

No, it is not Astronaut Jones from that famous SNL comic routine played by Tracey Morgan – in fact, there are two contenders that could qualify as the first African-American astronaut – and one of them, during his training, has even paved way for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. As with the state of the space race when there was still a Soviet Union, the first person of black African descent to go to space was Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez during the then Soviet Union’s space program.

One very worthy contender as the first African-American astronaut was Major Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. Even though he tragically dies during a training accident back in December 8, 1967 at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Major Lawrence’s training flight in a modified F-104 Starfighter equipped with hydrogen peroxide maneuvering jets that can enable it to maneuver in altitudes where the air is too thin for conventional flaps and other aerodynamic control surfaces to work. The data gathered during Major Lawrence’s training flight proved very useful in NASA’s Space Shuttle program several years later. Major Lawrence officially became a NASA astronaut after being selected by the US Air Force’s Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program back in June 1967.

Another very worthy contender as the first African-American astronaut is Guyon “Guy” Bluford, Jr., although he is indisputably the first African-American astronaut because he actually got into low-Earth-orbit. Bluford is now a retired Colonel of the US Air Force and a former NASA astronaut who during his heyday participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. In 1983, as a member of the crew of of the Space Shuttle Challenger on Mission STS-8, Bluford became the first African-American in space.

Before being selected by the 1978 NASA Group to become a full-fledged astronaut in August 1979, Bluford’s career mirrors that of some “adventurous” Starfleet officer in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek because after attending pilot training at Williams Air Force Base and receiving his pilot wings in January 1966, Bluford then went to an F-4C Phantom combat crew training in Arizona and Florida and was then assigned to the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Cam Ranh Bay, of then South Vietnam. Bluford flew 144 combat missions, 65 of which were over the then North Vietnam.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is President Obama Against Manned Space Exploration?

Though currently busy deciding which truly unnecessary government expenditures to cut in order to rein-in on a runaway deficit, is there truth to the rumours that President Obama is against manned space exploration?

By: Ringo Bones

I’ve just heard President Obama's staunchest critics - both famous and the not-so - after finishing this year’s State-of-the-Nation Address. Quite a number of them voiced criticisms aimed at President Obama worded in a way that can be defined as no longer politically-correct in this day and age. But the question now remains, is President Obama really against manned space exploration?

It might be just an unfortunate coincidence that NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet is slated to be retired during President Obama's first term in office that's already mired in a weak economy and runaway deficit spending noting that the myriad of parts of the Space Shuttle can no longer guaranty the safety of its crew and reliability of operation. Not to mention that the Shuttle fleet might at the present austere fiscal environment of post-subprime mortgage crisis America be seen as an unnecessary government expense that is driving the US government’s runaway deficit.

Though a search for a better and low-operating-cost replacement for NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet is already under way – under the Obama administration’s watch I might add, it is worth noting that historically, the US Republican party – unlike their Democratic counterparts – has been largely anti-scientific research since the end of World War II.

Back in the mid-1950s when the XB-70 Valkyrie program was slated to replace the B-52 as a Mach 3-capable strategic heavy bomber, then Republican President “Ike” Eisenhower wanted the program scrapped because it was too expensive and might only be marginally better than the existing fleet of B-52s. Fortunately, when Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy got elected, the XB-70 program got a new lease of life as a platform for aviation and aerospace research. The XB-70 program only got cancelled when a tragic crash destroyed one of the three prototype planes.

So is President Obama – which is a Democrat lest you forget – really against manned space exploration? While the other camp – ie. The Republicans – obsessing over Creationism / Intelligent Design / Bible-based sham science to be taught in American schools, President Obama’s renewable energy programs that would grant America one more step to be independent from Arab crude are blocked by now-Republican majority congress. Not to mention other scientific programs that would eventually lead into a low-cost and more reliable replacement for NASA’s ageing Space Shuttle Fleet. President' Obama's plans to out-compete and out-innovate the People's Republic of China could might as well be shot-down by the US Republican party who unfortunately has been "cozy" with Mainland China since Bush senior was President.

The rumours behind President Obama’s disdain for America’s manned space exploration and intentions to scrap it are more likely to be politically motivated by the other camp and very likely to be untrue. After all, will our kids still be able to navigate all the way to the Moon if American schools start teaching that the Earth is the “center” of the Universe?

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster – 25 Years On

Even though this tragic event never managed to halt America’s manned space exploration program, has the lessons learned from the Challenger disaster been heeded?

By: Ringo Bones

To us space exploration enthusiasts, January 28, 1986 seems like almost yesterday, and yet the date marking one of the tragic events in the history of America’s manned space exploration program as always has been observed in the usual low-key and solemn manner as the years go by. As the date marking the tragic event is now 25 years behind us, it has never seemed to dampen the folks at NASA on their drive to explore humanity’s final frontier.

At 73 seconds after lift-off, it wasn’t just the tenured crew members and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe that had perished 25 years ago, the inner drive of space enthusiasts around the world almost perished along with Challenger’s crew. The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope was delayed to the near-detriment of the now-famed space-based telescope. The Galileo spacecraft – after a long launch delay – was launched without its famed powerful rocket boosters to be launched from low-Earth-orbit deemed too dangerous in the wake of the Challenger disaster. Instead was launched via gravity assist to a circuitous path that sent it to a detour to the planet Venus before going en route to Jupiter.

Though the faulty O-Rings on the SRBs have been deemed the primary culprits of the Challenger explosion, the weak links of NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet was not given due diligence when falling chunks of insulation foam from the main fuel tanks caused the tragic break-up during re-entry of the Space Shuttle Columbia back in February 2003. Has the lessons of the Challenger disaster been heeded?

As America’s Space Shuttle fleet is slated to be retired because it has become increasingly uneconomic to operate and the myriad parts needed to operate them are too complex to guarantee the safety of the crew, NASA’s final Shuttle flight could happen this year. Nonetheless, we live in hope that something better and cheaper will replace NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet because manned space exploration is just too costly for all mankind to be discontinued.