Archive for the ‘Deep Space Explorations’ category

A CASE FOR UNCOMMON SENSE.

June 30, 2011

Ages hence will remember our century not for its barbaric wars, but for its major contributions to fundamental scientific knowledge…..Whatever the scientific discoveries of future ages, they will be based upon the body of twentieth century science.” 

From: “Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science” by Alan Cromer ISBN 0-19-509636- 3(Pbk.)

When the brothers Robert and Courtland Gross hocked just about everything they owned to raised the $40,000+ to buy Lockheed from the Scottish Loughead brothers it was a very bold, very innovative move. One could say they definitely used uncommon sense, considering the fledgling world of aviation at that time. I personally hope, they regularly shake hands, even hug, as they look down on their dream today.

When that young, bold airmail pilot, Charles Lindbergh decided to enter the contest for a transoceanic flight to Paris, he had a dream far beyond that of winning the challenge money. Like the Gross brothers, Lindbergh was motivated to boost aviation as an up and coming means of safe transportation that also would spell great opportunity for humankind. When he declared he would enter the contest as a solo pilot in a single engine plane he used brave, stunning uncommon sense to fulfill his dream. I hope he and the Gross brothers, whom he knew well, gleefully join in frequent celebration as they look over the results of their efforts.

The above stories are just two examples of many, many cases where bold entrepreneurs have used uncommon sense to make dreams and ideas into productive reality. Well, right now in this country, we are running low on uncommon sense and running high or finger pointing and blame dodging which produces screeching halts in our reputation for striking, and successful innovation. Yes, the political cries calling for common sense in this and that is a daily diatribe. Once in awhile we here a faint whisper calling for more uncommon sense. The problem is, the investor, the bold entrepreneurs of the Gross and Loughead brothers type are today playing with paper (stocks and bonds, etc) rather than dreams and ideas. We have essentially ceded to EurAsia (Europe, India, China, etc) the uncommon sense modus operandi. Interesting enough, in America the continuing examples of that uncommon sense rests with those early pioneers that produced Lockheed, Boeing, Northrup, Ryan, Douglas and many other dreamers. So, why have we given up on what we do best – innovation?

When the shuttle Atlantis launches next month in its final flight and the closing chapter of NASA’s glorious, innovative shuttle program, the book of uncommon sense stands the chance of being slammed shut. Yes, just like in those earlier, innovative days, there are young design and development companies out there struggling to break out on their own. They are trying to do this in a national atmosphere of fear. Fear of deficit an arch enemy of innovation. This barrier is exacerbated by political opportunists who see the deficit as the lever to bring the nation into a sharp turn backwards. If this should come to pass then both common and uncommon sense will be locked away. The best and saving solution is an immediate burst of uncommon sense, or more practically speaking, an outburst of innovation.

Now, President Obama has spoken eloquently about the importance of innovation in our future and as a mechanism to invigorate our economy, but he too is hampered by the deficit aura. This is where the breakout must occur. The White House and Congress must exercise uncommon sense to defy the deficit by directly stimulating innovation in our automobile, energy, science research, and space systems activities. Yes, there are other areas, but these areas will respond most quickly to uncommon sense by exercising it themselves to design, develop, and discover new paths of growth for this nation and for humankind.  We need:

  • Fuel efficient cars – not legislation, but actual vehicles that use other energy sources efficiently and inexpensively.
  • To accept the responsibility of nuclear power generation as the greenest method of high energy production. The challenge is not design, the challenge is to innovate safety and endurance.
  • To discourage political opportunists who seek to stifle science not recognizing that our future existence depends on a broadly aggressive scientific research environment.
  • To prevent the stifling of our exploration of our solar system and deep space. To ignore this urgent matter is to essentially return humankind to darkened caves at a time when our continuing evolution demands that we seek understanding of all that surrounds us.
  • To acknowledge the warnings and cries for help from our environment and in doing so begin to recognize that a safe and living Earth is the most vital resource we have for our continuing existence.
So, uncommon sense, long in use to move humankind beneficially forward must not be discouraged or disabled. If  boosted by government support and allowed its fullest expression, we will see that deficit dragon diminish in pace with the increased innovation that will set us free again. Mr.  President, Congress, don’t tell us about it, DO IT,  get uncommon and sensible now and save this nation.

IMAGE CREDIT: Wright brothers first flight at KittyHawk, NC  http://tinyurl.com/3kjuhlj

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LUNAR LUNACY or LUNAR SMARTS

June 7, 2011

Well lunacy got its first use as a way to describe the suspected effects of our Moon (lovely Luna) on human behavior.  Luna, of course is the Roman Moon Goddess and it did not take long for early philosophers to assign strange human mental behaviors to the work of Lady Luna and lunatic has been with us ever since.

There is no denying the many influences Luna has had on human history. One could fill an entire library with all the scientific studies, novels, plays, movies and music that talk about or talk to our Moon. For most of us, all the above represent deep expressions of endearment we all feel for Luna. In fact the Moon affects most of life. Wolves and dogs howl at Luna, owls hoot hello, bats dance in her light, some exotic flowers wait to bloom at her bidding, and legions of tiny creatures break into boisterous song upon her appearance. So, should we Earthlings be satisfied with just one, brief visit with Luna? Can we really be satisfied with that fleeting assignation and go galloping off to Mars and beyond?

Now some serious space exploration advocates believe a return to the Moon at this point would be a bit loony when there is Mars out there waiting for us. Well, we will go to Mars, the important thing is how we go, and how well we stay there. The establishment of a fully active and fully international Lunar Research Base will offer a host of scientific knowledge that will directly affect all of our future space explorations. There are cosmic messages waiting to be discovered and read on Luna that relate to the evolution of our solar system, and most likely to the development of exo-systems like the newly discovered GL581 system. So, returning to Luna with an international team would be what we see as Lunar Smarts. Nothing loony and filled with both scientific and promising commercial discoveries that will hold promises for both research and private development.

There will be obstacles, even life threatening ones, as well as revelations about humans existing functionally in the rather unfriendly environments of Luna and certainly Mars. What is learned in working on Luna will better ensure a safe and highly productive exploration of Mars and beyond. All of these lessons will be provided at a lower cost, than a gallop to Mars that is fueled more by “guts and glory” than by careful and concentrated scientific investigations. Of equal importance, is that while we are learning on Luna, when serious things happen that need rescue, it will come quickly whereas on Mars, it most likely will not come at all.  This development will not deter our exploration of Mars, but when we do make the trip we will go with extensive Lunar foreknowledge and an established rescue protocol based on time and distance from Earth.

Lastly, if we bypass Luna, others will not, and we will immediately lose any leverage about what should happen both scientifically and commercially on our only Moon. Those kinds of assessments and decisions should be derived and followed internationally. We can assure that only if we, this nation, take the initiative to bring it about in an orderly manner. If we wait and in a startled and rushed response seek to resolve that problem. it most likely will fail.

Brave men, dedicated support staff, tons of money were spent to visit Luna. Let us not waste all of that great achievement by casting aside those first, magnificent steps across the wide, wide river of space. Luna awaits with open arms, a greater supply of water than we initially thought, and as stated above a glorious and important history lesson about how we all came to be. So lets be Lunar Smart and set sail, soon, for lovely, lovely Luna.

IMAGE CREDIT: Image of Orion spacecraft approaching Luna courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

SPACE EXPLORATION MOMENTUM: About Focus and Vitality

May 26, 2011

Alone and blurred by the elements and time, Pad 39A longs for its shuttles.

“You can actually feel it” That comment refers, with sadness, to the decline of momentum in NASA’s space exploration programs. The approaching last launch of the space shuttle snaps shut NASA’s only current human space exploration activity. Most importantly it is entirely unrealistic and unfair to assume this decline  is NASA’s doing.

Throughout its fifty year history, NASA has been fiscally underprivileged and yet has managed to accomplish astounding missions. Its relations with its main funding source, the U. S. Congress, is similar to an orphaned child in a foster home limbo. Despite segments of support within that foster care setting, there is little assurance of sustained fiscal and policy support for America‘s space program.  At best, there are bushels of lip service and thimbles-full of dollars all tied together in a discouraging package.

We are past the glorious experiment and global supremacy stage. Space exploration, both robotic and human, is now a vital and integral part of our national profile. Additionally it is also a growing profile element around the globe. The esteemed Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Science defines this as an aggressive scientific and engineering effort to address a wide range of factors related to space exploration. In this regard, the SSB envisions a lunar base as the successor to the ISS after 2020 (see “Recapturing A Future For Space Exploration” NAS Space Studies Board, Document  13048.pdf  page 432). The SSB supports this recommendation with a long and detailed list of research projects all related to improving and extending the success of human space exploration. Please see the reference list at the end of this article for links to the referenced documents.

What, no Mars exploration? This is not what the study means, in fact it fully acknowledges human exploration of Mars, but first there are a host of questions that need complete answers before we put humans on the surface of Mars. The referenced report details those research objectives.

Establishing a Lunar Research Facility will enable us to fully address many of those objectives in the ideal mico-gravity and essentially hostile environment. Most  importantly that lunar environment is in close proximity to Earth and as such it can be serviced and supported with lower costs, and with the necessary reaction speeds to reduce or eliminate loss of human life. A Lunar Express shuttle would be the ideal transport vehicle connecting Earth and its new Lunar Research Facility. Yes, there would also have to be a recoverable lunar lander to complete the transportation process.  Most importantly, the research environment is no longer a low Earth orbit setting.

About Focus and Vitality: Following the range of research objectives and goals outlined in the SSB study would restore NASA’s and its host of private-sector partners’ space exploration focus and vitality by targeting a Lunar Research Facility. All the envisioned development and research activities either underway or planned now have focus and specificity. Linking all of this to an expanded research facility that duplicates but enhances the ideals of the ISS imparts renewed momentum to this nation’s space science and technology activities. Most importantly all that NASA is undertaking now in the aftermath of its shuttle program gain new direction and impetus because they become linked to the next stage of our space exploration goals. We have revived space research with the elixir of “purpose.” Return to the moon and a Lunar Research Base before others opt us out of it.

The vitality of partnerships with the attendant array of various scientific and engineering expertise fills the project with both eagerness and the cross fertilization of ideas that will grow new breakthroughs in the entire process of exploring space. Believe it,  returning to the Moon in this kind of joint effort from both government and industry will establish the operating style that will move us forward from lovely Luna to Mars and onward. Yes, politicos ramble around muttering about “common ground, shared objetives”, etc, but do little more than jiggle and talk. A cooperative, joint and global exploration program to Luna with the establishment of a true research base IS that sought after common ground.

The new international lead is this united space exploration effort. Instead of remaining a pleading, plaintive for support, a global space society lays the foundation for an entirely new focus on life here on this planet and beyond. We stop shriveling (especially psychologically) and once again, and together, stand tall. Yes, tall all across the Cosmos.

Are you coming?

IMAGE CREDIT: The image of a shuttle launch pad is courtesy of Phil Konstantin (http://tinyurl.com/3hjtd5w), the modifications of that image for the purpose of this blog article is by the author.

REFERENCES: National Academies of Science Space Studies Board: Recapturing A Future For Space Exploration:  http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13048.html

The inseparable and critical relationship between science and government: http://tinyurl.com/427x5go

Returning to the Moon and a Lunar Research Facility: http://tinyurl.com/3mpc2xz

The Lunar Research Institute: http://tinyurl.com/4y2u9pf

Bill introduced in House of Representatives for a 2022 Lunar Mission and Base.Link: http://tinyurl.com/3mktwez

THE GUARDIAN of the RMS Rhone

May 9, 2011


Excited estimates of his size and weight varied with a visiting diver’s ability to calmly assess the Guardian. The Guardian, as shown in the above image was a Goliath (Giant) Grouper that usually resided in the shaft tunnel of the shipwreck RMS Rhone. The general consensus was that he was in the range of between 600 to 800 pounds.

Not all divers referred to him as the Guardian. That was the name that a group of divers that I usually toured with had given him. To them and for me, it was a fitting name. Although he was never hostile, his girth was imposing and explorers of the shaft tunnel would quickly back away when they came upon him. Yes, he moved around, but the tunnel was his regular hang-out and that is where we would take SCUBA guests on our visit to RMS Rhone. Take a look at the image above and consider a face to face meetup with this fellow; all of which would occur in the restricted area of the shaft tunnel.  It would not be unusual to suck up at least half of your air supply during that encounter.

The dramatic and sad true story of the demise of RMS Rhone was, of course, the main attraction.  Guardian was a perfect special effect to go along with the entire history-based dive. You are urged to click here to learn more about RMS Rhone and its unfortunate end. For me RMS Rhone became the motivation for my short blog  and true adventure story, “Where Do Ships Go When They Die.”

None of our group ever made a dive tour to RMS Rhone without at least a quick hello to the Guardian. Sometimes we would not find him in the tunnel, but would find him lounging nearby in another area of the scattered wreck. The image on the left gives you some idea of the shaft tunnel area.  To enjoy more images of RMS Rhone you may go here.

One day, we arrived with a group of SCUBA visitors and regardless where we searched we could not find Guardian. This was quite unusual and we became concerned about what may have happened. Since we were conducting a tour we could not spend our entire air/dive time searching for Guardian so we worriedly continued the tour and left still not finding any sign of Guardian.

Two days later, we learned from a fellow diver that a fisherman had taken Guardian and actually had pictures taken of him and ‘his catch” at the waterfront on Tortola of the British Virgin Islands. The Guardian was gone! RMS Rhone had lost a vital part of its glorious mystery and we had lost a very much-loved friend. It has been 31 years since that happened and I still feel the sorrow and sense of loss.

Life in our watery universe is always endearing and makes an indelible impression that is rarely ever forgotten. Creatures such as Guardian and historic shipwrecks such as RMS Rhone are locked forever in our hearts.

Guardian, you are loved and missed to this very day.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Goliath Grouper: courtesy of Hooked In http://tinyurl.com/3ok9rlz

RMS Rhone: courtesy of Steve Simonsen Photography http://tinyurl.com/3reph3y

HUBBLE HISTORY: A Belated Tribute

May 1, 2011

BLOG NOTE: The following is a reprise of an Op Ed piece I submitted to the “Christian Science Monitor” during the public action to support the upgrade of the Hubble Space Telescope to keep it alive and well. I repeat it here as history and in tribute to our astronauts who stepped up and reached out to keep Hubble sharp-eyed as ever.

Growing up in the mountainous regions of Arizona meant that on any clear night I could step outside, lie back, look up and wander the universe. Now, many years later, I am a city dweller blinded by light pollution, but still longing for those starry, starry nights.

Enter the Hubble Space Telescope and I am home again. Using Hubble’s discoveries, I go deep into the universe. Galaxies and nebulae are not simply bright whirls of light, they are each a universe unto themselves and all equally awesome and compelling. The telescope also takes me to places never conceived or seen by anyone, and I then know just how Galileo felt. The instrument is also a time machine taking me back millions of years, and close to the beginning of everything. In wonderment, I guide my computer through these Hubble moments, and I become choked with emotion, as I realize I am traveling deep back into time to our beginnings.

Darkness is again on the horizon. They, our government, are talking about letting the Hubble die. The telescope requires regular upkeep and upgrading. Our astronauts using the space shuttle have successfully done this four times in the past. Now, as most of us have read or heard, Hubble is due another upkeep. Without this upkeep it will soon run out of energy and its probing eye on the universe will close forever.

Thirty astronauts, of which twenty-seven have flown Hubble servicing missions signed a petition to President Bush saying they will willingly go again. This was said, in spite of NASA’s timidity about safely launching a shuttle to support the Hubble. These heroic men and women stated in their petition that, ”we, the real risk takers, believe the attendant risks of the Hubble servicing mission are no more than the 90 previous manned missions to similar orbits, and are justified by the Hubble Space Telescope’s immense contributions to the space sciences.”

Claiming anxiety over the dangers of a shuttle flight to the telescope NASA’s leadership continues to stonewall everyone including Nobel Laureate scientists who advocate saving the Hubble. Today, both scientists and politicians twist and turn in efforts to either defend NASA’s decision or argue for full restoration of the budget and the servicing mission. Costs ranging as high as I billion dollars have been reported in committees and in the press, but the real incremental costs for the mission remain as originally budgeted, between 300 million to 400 million dollars spread over four years. Most importantly, the money is there, it has just been pulled out of the Hubble account.

So, why all the worry and fuss? There are certainly many powerful new telescopes in the works that can see as well or better than the Hubble. This is true, but there are several key factors to consider. Those other powerful eyes are on the horizon. They are not yet fully in place and at work. Hubble is on station and at work. Many of the other telescopes are far more exclusive with respect to shared information than the space telescope program.. The very manner in which The Space Telescope Science Institute manages Hubble’s discoveries have made it the “people’s eye on the universe.” These people are from all over the world and they are both novices and experts and all treasure the space telescope’s astounding revelations.

Some politicians and scientists say Hubble has completed an astounding job with amazing discoveries implying that it is finished. This is not so. It is not what we already know, but what Hubble is yet to tell us that is so critical, and the universe won’t wait while we ponder the telescope’s future. There are many reasons why the Hubble must be kept alive and on station, but for me, the words of our astronauts who put this instrument in place and have kept it alive say it best.

Sacrificing the Hubble Space Telescope at this stage of the initiative’s development would be putting a damper on some of the greatest advances made to date in our understanding of the universe. Mr. President, each of us have risked our lives to bring about many of those advances, including twenty-seven individuals who have flown in direct support of the Hubble Space Telescope. We, therefore, cannot accept that all our efforts and risks taken were for naught…”

We must keep this eye on the universe. Save the Hubble.

UPDATE NOTE: Fortunately, as we all know, the upgrade mission was approved and STS125 carried those dedicated and courageous astronauts up to keep Hubble alive and well. If you would like to view that petition to President Bush you may do so here. As you read over it, look up and send best wishes to our esteemed eye in the sky, and send both cheers and applause to all those astronauts who stood tall for Hubble.


A FLIGHT TO REMEMBER!

April 22, 2011

The image above is of Thatch Cay a small island off St. Thomas of the U. S. Virgin Islands. This is where we all took the flight we shall always remember.

It was December 24, 1981 and the four of us were in a great holiday mood. It was then we decided we needed to go diving, but at a very quiet and peaceful spot. The small island, Thatch Cay, within the U. S. Virgin Islands was ideal. It was rarely crowded with snorkelers and divers and had a number of glorious coral communities in the half-moon bay on the Atlantic side of the cay.

We headed out for Thatch Cay and its lovely bay. It was an absolutely glorious day. The weather was perfect and our dives in the bay area was so peaceful. We had the area all to ourselves; well except for all the friendly fish that joined our exploration. Of course, their friendliness was inspired by the little waterproof sacks of dry cat-food we brought with us. The fish love it, and they were all around us; even aggressively brushing against us to hurry us up to hand out the snacks. The idea of fish eating cat-food always makes me chuckle.

Since the dive in the bay took us to around 70 feet we cut it short because we also wanted to dive along the other side of the cay. We dove in the area just to the left of the arrow shown in the above image. That was the Caribbean side and the coral reef there was different, but strikingly beautiful and full of life. We were very careful to not create disturbing currents around the coral life with our dive-fins.  Of course, some of our fish friends from the other side had followed us around to the second dive site. Characters all of them. They are like house pets and just as apparently affectionate.

In settings like the ones we were enjoying, it is very easy to ignore your dive time and air status. I learned my lesson about this the previous year when I was so fascinated with a dozen or more Barracuda that had surrounded me that I ran out of air. I was at 90 feet! Fortunately my dive partner. a young lady, had air to spare and an octopus rig, so we shared her air as we ascended and returned to our boat. Dive partners are an essential both for safety and shared enjoyment. So, taking that lesson seriously I beckoned for all of us to begin to ascend and head for the boat.

As we were swimming up and toward our boat, on our right there appeared 9 very large and very relaxed Manta Rays, swimming along in loose formation. We immediately turned an swam towards them. This was in the area marked by the arrow in the above image. They did not shy away, but instead spread out a bit and appeared to welcome us as we joined up and begin to swim with them. Actually it is more like flying with them than swimming. These gentle giants, and members of the shark family are so magnificent, and here we humans were sharing space and time with them in their glorious universe.  I looked across at my dive partner, a beautiful, casting director for major motion picture companies, and saw that she was alternatively smiling and crying as we swam up close and personal with our ray escorts. Well, I was so excited I was sucking up air at a monstrous rate, so I knew I had to surface. I did so with regret and sadly bubbled goodbye to our Manta Ray buddies.

When we all got back to the boat, we just sat silently, not saying a word. It was obvious that we were deeply affected by what we had just experienced. To be welcomed so completely by another life form, in their environment was emotionally overwhelming and unforgettable.

We remained silent even during our trip back to St. Thomas and it was not until we were ashore that we reached out hugging each other, laughing, wiping away tears and each vowing to never forget our brief and glorious adventure. We had been in another world where we shared flight time with some of its most gentle and friendly citizens.

If you wish, click HERE to view a video that will give you a small taste of what we experienced. May it also leave with you, even vicariously, a deep and lasting appreciation for all that surrounds us here on Earth and throughout the Cosmos.

IMAGE CREDIT: The image of Thatch Cay is from Private Islands Online: http://tinyurl.com/2nku

THE MEET-UP: A Ceres Encounter

April 19, 2011

The following is an imaginary voyage to the dwarf planet Ceres by an astronaut and his robonaut partner. The meet-up described may, in the future, be a real event, and one which we should expect with both curiosity and delight. We hope you will follow along here and enjoy the meet-up.

At a sustained speed of 75km/s (167,770.2 mph), it had taken my partner and I 35.4 Earth days (See Note 1) to reach the dwarf planet Ceres. Well before we descended onto the planet we knew someone else had already been there. At the time of that discovery, we did not yet know if they were still there. We also did not know if they were live or robotic or both. Since my partner was a robonaut named Carl, he was especially interested in who or what may still be on Ceres. We knew this much because we had detected both an orbiting spacecraft as well as  a lander-craft on the surface of Ceres. We also knew this planetary body could support a visit by a lander based upon an earlier flyby survey of Ceres by  the NASA spacecraft Dawn in 2015.

Our spacecraft was a brilliant blend of the Apollo and Orion concepts that included an exploratory lander and rover. It also was designed to work independently of our presence so that both Carl and I could descend to Cere’s surface and conduct our exploration. The spacecraft’s VASIMR style propulsion system is what enabled us to sustain that 75km/s speed. This was the first human spaceflight mission of this distance that used a new spacecraft design with a new and powerful propulsion system.

We set up our spacecraft into its automatic parking orbit and boarded the lander for our trip to Ceres. We also had our rover along. The approach and landing were uneventful and Ceres’ surface was moon-like but less battered than the Moon or Mars.  At its warmest, Ceres boasts a temperature of -35 degrees Centigrade. There was a hint of an atmosphere and gravity, but neither were such that we could abandon our protective space suits. Similarly travel in the rover had to be very slow and cautious else we could probably bounce right off Ceres’ surface.

Before and during our landing approach we got a fix on the other lander. We picked a landing site that put us in close rover distance to that craft. After carefully anchoring our lander and assembling and testing the rover, we set out to visit the other nearby lander. My versatile robonaut partner managed a quick snapshot of the lander, which looked very similar to our earlier Viking landers.  It took us well over an hour to carefully drive the rover to the foreign lander. As we approached, we saw movement near the other lander and we stopped. We were unsure just what we were coming upon.

It appeared to be a robot of some sort. It approached us from the rear of its lander in a slow, almost staggering movement. It was articulated, but was not humanoid in form. Again, Carl, my robonaut partner, was able to snap a quick picture as it approached us. Because of its leggy design we, at first, were not sure if this was ET in some sort of spacesuit or a robot, as we suspected. It continued toward us and appeared to not be hostile. We dismounted from our rover and moved towards it. We continued towards each other until we were about 5 feet apart. As we observed it, it was obvious we were being observed; actually scanned. There was no communication between us, just a weird, silent mutual assessment.

Carl, very humanoid in design and capabilities, reached across and tapped my arm. Since he could speak, he informed me in his hum-like, echo-voice that ET or the ET robot was trying to communicate digitally. Excitedly I urged Carl to try to decipher and respond. As I watched both Carl and ETBot, I sensed a steady stream of data exchanges going on. Very quickly it we confirmed that ET was a robot who we named ETBot. Everything coming from ETBot was both digital and in binary numbers. Fortunately, Carl and his impressive onboard computer was able to quickly decipher the long, continuous string of data coming from ETBot. Carl, rapidly learned how ETBot was using binary and begin to directly communicate. Information exchange was now two-way.

For the next three days, Carl and I continued to converse with ETBot. Carl served as the translator for both of us. In summary here is what we learned and what we were able to do to help ETBot:

ETBot was from planet 57266 within the cluster G1 (MayallII) located in the Andromeda galaxy(See Note 2). His parent star was identified as 57 and his home was 266 with the full designation above, all expressed in binary form. ETBot transmitted a picture of his G1 home cluster, shown here.  I was overwhelmed. Here was contact with an extra-terrestrial robot from our neighbor galaxy some 2.5 million light years away.

ETBot arrived on Ceres by accident. Apparently a series of system problems forced him to find some place in our solar system to land and make repairs. His original target for exploration was Mars!. He had been sent here as part of a widespread exploration of our Milky Way galaxy. When we asked ETbot who sent him, he indicated he did not know. The entire population of his home, planet 266, was populated by robots. They all took commands from another distant planet. He had no idea what existed on that other planet. So we had no real idea what kind of life-form existed on another planet in the G1 cluster in the Andromeda galaxy. We wondered if we would be believed when we got home. At least we had Carl’s pictures and the picture ETBot shared with us.

ETBot’s lander was trashed. He was stuck on Ceres unless we could come up with some way to help him get back to his orbiting spacecraft. Carl made some calculations and suggested we abandon our rover and uses its storage space as temporary housing for ETBot. Carl also advised that if we were very careful we had enough fuel to allow us to rendezvous with ETBot’s spacecraft and then still get back to our own. ETBot declined to explain to us how he would be able to travel that immense distance back to his G1 home. He was receptive to our offer and indicated he could compact himself to easily fit in our lander’s storage space. We set about loading ETBot on our rover and begin the slow, tedious journey back to our lander.

The loading of ETBot into our lander’s storage space worked. We were also successful in our launch and rendezvous with ETBot’s spacecraft. It looked quite small in comparison to ours and we realized that somewhere out there, ETBot would link up with a larger, faster spacecraft that would take him home. Again, ETBot declined to give us any information about that other spacecraft. As far as we knew, ETBot was named a binary number, from a distant planet in our sister galaxy. We learned absolutely nothing about ETBot’s masters. In summary, an exciting, but disappointing encounter. When we finally got back to our spacecraft, ETBot and his spacecraft were gone. Had they ever existed? Were Carl and I in an altered state? Had we simply imagined all of this? Fortunately the pictures and Carl’s detailed recording of our digital communications with ETBot assured us that we were not crazy. We hoped our superiors back on Earth would arrive at the same conclusion. We terminated our full exploration of Ceres and proceeded home to present the results of our strange meet up with ETBot.

Disappointed in this outcome? So were we, but when you consider what we just experienced and all that we DID learn from ETBot it is not a total disappointment. We now know there is some form of intelligent life in a system in another galaxy. We now know we are not alone. Yes, so far, all we have done is exchange digital data with a robot supposedly from another planet that we cannot even see. Conspiracy buffs and other doubters will probably label this as some wild, make-believe story to pump up our lagging space exploration efforts. Well, we will just have to tough it out and begin to plan on our own deep space exploration  across to Andromeda and her G1 globular cluster. Will ETbot be there to greet us and be our guide?

What do you think?

NOTES:

  1. At its ideal distance from Earth, Ceres is 229,321,881km away. The spacecraft at its sustained speed of 75km/s will take the indicated number of days to reach Ceres. Actually, that time factor is a general estimate and is not adjusted for necessary speed changes and course changes to make an orbital intersect with Ceres. Ceres’ distance from Earth is an optimal distance based upon the difference between Earth’s greatest orbital distance (Aphelion) from the Sun and Ceres’ closest orbital distance  (Perihelion) from the Sun. Earth Days=24hours
  2. The G! (Mayall II) globular cluster (GC) as shown in the image above is one of thousands of GCs within the Andromeda galaxy. The image above is from an excellent blog article on G1. Click here to see that discussion. Additionally you may click here to read more detailed information about the G1 cluster. As stated in the link references, it is possible to see G1 with a 10″ or greater reflector telescope. You may also use Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope to visually learn more about G1. If you have the WWT use the coordinates cited in the link references to search for G1.

CREDITS:

In addition to the credits mentioned in the above text the following are:

Header Image: NASA image of shuttle ATLANTIS on its way to LEO.

Orbital Diagram of Solar System and Ceres: Courtesy of AstroBob http://tinyurl.com/3jtaz9q

Image of ETBot landercraft, courtesy of SciencePhoto Library http://tinyurl.com/3t43bvy

Image of ETBot: Artist concept NASA