Category Archives: Space Exploration

19th Century Foreground, 20th Century Background

Although some early aviation aficionados allege other flights (or hops) preceding the Wright brothers’ experiments at Kitty Hawk on 1903 December 17, the Wright Flyer did fly four times that day, including a final flight nearly one minute long, with … Continue reading

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It’s Geology, But Not As We Know It

In a famous Star Trek misquotation, Mr. Spock says to Captain Kirk, “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it”. Well, yesterday the New Horizons spacecraft returned its first closeup of Pluto, and it’s geology, but not as we … Continue reading

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The Double Planet

Next week the New Horizons spacecraft falls through (or “flies by”) the Pluto-Charon binary system. This week New Horizons photos reveal dramatic differences between Pluto and Charon, despite their presumed common origin in an interplanetary collision. (By the way, some … Continue reading

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Chaos in the Clockwork

The work of Newton and Laplace suggested to many that the solar system was like a giant clockwork, which was illustrated by beautiful mechanical models called orreries. The controversial Molchanov hypothesis avers that every oscillatory system evolves to a resonance … Continue reading

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The Flight of the Dragon

Last week, SpaceX conducted a successful pad abort test of its innovative Crew Dragon spacecraft. Powered by hypergolic monomethylhydrazine CH3(NH)NH2 fuel and nitrogen tetroxide N2O2 oxidizer, which ignite on contact, the Super Draco engines accelerated Dragon from 0 to 100 mph in … Continue reading

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The Unveiling of Pluto

As a kid, I poured over diagrams in Popular Science magazine describing possible Grand Tours of the outer solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) made possible by a rare alignment of the planets. Unfortunately, budget cuts reduced the Grand … Continue reading

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