segunda-feira, 30 de abril de 2007

A música de Mike Oldfield e a Conquista do Espaço

Bom, está visto que passei a manhã (de férias) agarrado ao YouTube! Agora encontrei uma coisa espetacular - parte de um documentário de 1980, com música do álbum 'Incantations', de Mike Oldfield. Na realidade é a 3ª parte do álbum, e eu passei anos e anos da minha adolescência a imaginar o que seria ver o lançamento de um Space Shuttle acompanhado por esta música. Pelos vistos não sou só eu que tenho boas idéias! :) A única coisa que faria de diferente seria não pôr imagens das explosões, e quando a música passa à 'segunda fase' mais calma, poria imagens em órbita. Talvez em me lance num mini-projecto desses, um dia!

Era uma vez... o Espaço

Ainda alguém se lembra disto?

Foi uma série de animação francesa que passou na televisão nos já longínquos anos 80 - aí 83 ou 84. Era ficção, mas este genérico ficou na memória de todos nós, eu incluído.

Grande Internet, que nos permite ver de novo coisas que julgávamos perdidas...

sábado, 28 de abril de 2007

Fotos e vídeo do vôo de Stephen Hawking


O homem não consegue mexer quase nenhum músculo, mas vejam como sorria!

Neste primeiro vídeo, Hawking narra a sua experiência, com o seu típico humor:

O segundo vídeo apresenta os primeiros comentários de Hawking após o vôo.

Fonte - MSNBC

Hawking goes zero-G: ‘Space, here I come’
World-famous physicist takes eight turns on weightless roller-coaster jet
By Alan Boyle
Science editor
Updated: 9:01 p.m. ET April 26, 2007

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking experienced eight rounds of weightlessness on Thursday during a better-than-expected airplane flight that he saw as the first step toward a trip in space.

"It was amazing," Hawking told reporters afterward, using his well-known computerized voice. "The zero-G part was wonderful, and the high-G part was no problem. I could have gone on and on.

"Space, here I come," he said.

Hawking's host, Zero Gravity Corp. co-founder and chief executive officer Peter Diamandis, said before the flight that he'd claim success if Hawking had just a single half-minute float in weightlessness aboard the company's specially modified Boeing 727 jet. It turned out that Hawking took eight turns with ease.

"He would have flown more if we let him," said Noah McMahon, one of Hawking's coaches as well as Zero Gravity's chief marketing officer. "He was all smiles all the time."

Zero Gravity had originally planned to bring Hawking back to NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility here after six ups-and-downs. "We negotiated and agreed to do two more," Diamandis told reporters jokingly. After the landing, Hawking's fellow fliers gave him a round of applause.

Hawking is one of the globe's best-known scientists — not only because of his best-selling works on the mysteries of black holes and the origins of the universe, but also because of his increasing disability due to a degenerative nerve disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He is almost completely paralyzed and can communicate only via facial gestures and a gesture-controlled computer system.

Thursday's flight served an initial test run to see if Hawking had the "Right Stuff" for an even more ambitious journey: a rocket-powered rise to the edge of outer space, perhaps aboard the spaceship now being developed for Virgin Galactic. That craft is due to enter service in 2009 or so, and taking such a flight would check off what Hawking has said is his "next goal."

"I have long wanted to go into space, and the zero-gravity flight is the first step toward space travel," he said before the flight.

Hawking's performance boded well for more ambitious tests, and that's not just according to the professor. Diamandis said Hawking weathered the flight better than his physicians had expected. He noted that the four minutes Hawking spent in weightlessness was about as much time as he would spend in zero-G during a suborbital spaceflight.

Hawking did gymnastic flips that would have been a "gold-medalist" performance on Earth, Diamandis said.

In preflight interviews, Hawking said Thursday's trip was also meant to show "that everyone can participate in this type of weightless experience" — even people with disabilities as serious as his. Diamandis said that Hawking was the first person with his kind of disability to take a weightless flight, and the successful outcome demonstrated that "others can follow in Dr. Hawking's footsteps."

The zero-G airplane flights conducted by Zero Gravity, as well as government space programs, duplicate the sense of weightlessness that astronauts feel in orbit for about a half-minute at a time. The plane follows a parabolic, roller-coaster course through the sky. During the top half of each parabola, airplane passengers feel as if they're in free-fall — but when the plane pulls out of its descent, they feel more than the normal pull of gravity.

Thursday's flight was tweaked to make it easier on the frail physicist:
# The doses of weightlessness didn't last quite as long as usual, and the pullout was slightly gentler.
# Four physicians and two nurses monitored Hawking's blood pressure, cardiac readings and blood oxygen levels throughout the flight to make sure that the up-and-down effect wasn't too taxing.
# Hawking could stop the roller coaster and return to the base at any time, merely by gesturing with a grimace.
# Hawking's personal physician, Edwin Chilvers, said there was enough equipment aboard the plane to set up a "mini-intensive care unit" if needed.

Hawking and the members of his support team weren't the only ones on the plane: Investors in Zero Gravity were invited to go along on the ride, and some of the seats were given to charity in a fund-raising move.

Diamandis said about $150,000 was raised for the X Prize Foundation, which promotes private spaceflight, as well as for three charities serving people with disabilities. Diamandis serves as chairman of the X Prize Foundation as well as chairman and chief executive officer of Zero Gravity Corp.

Additional support for the event was provided by Space Florida, a state agency that promotes Florida's commercial space industry and space-related educational activities; and by the retailer Sharper Image, which recently started marketing Zero Gravity's regular $3,500-a-seat weightless flights.

Boost for commercial spaceflight
Hawking said he hoped his flight would provide a boost for commercial spaceflight, in line with his oft-expressed belief that humanity's future depended on moving beyond Earth. He said he believed "life on earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other danger."

As long as humanity is confined to one planet, the existence of our species will be in question, he told NBC News during a preflight interview.

"I think that getting a portion of the human race permanently off the planet is imperative for our future as a species. It will be difficult to do this with the slow, expensive and risk-averse nature of government space programs," Hawking said, working in a veiled reference to NASA. "We need to engage the entrepreneurial engine that has reduced the cost of everything from airline tickets to personal computers."

He said tourism could represent a future mass market for space-oriented services, "and zero-gravity flights are the first, most affordable step in that direction."

"I am hopeful that if we can engage this mass market, the cost of spaceflight will drop," Hawking said, "and we will be able to gain access to the resources of space, and also spread humanity beyond just the earth."

quinta-feira, 26 de abril de 2007

Stephen Hawking voa em gravidade zero!

O grande físico da actualidade, totalmente paralisado pela doença de que sofre há décadas, vai voar por vários segundos em gravidade zero num avião especial, usado para o treino de astronautas. Naturalmente serão tomadas precauções extraordinárias para este võo, dada a condição físicamente muito frágil de Hawking. Este, no entanto, não esconde o seu entusiasmo pelo vôo, uma vez que lhe seria práticamente impossível sonhar com esta possibilidade, dada a sua condição. E espera que este seja apenas um primeiro passo para um vôo no espaço.

Embora, pessoalmente, não creia que alguma vez vá à Estação Espacial Internacional.

Não que não merecesse...

Fonte: MSNBC

One giant leap for Stephen Hawking
Physicist set for weightless flight; sees it as ‘first step’ to space
By Alan Boyle
Science editor
Updated: 10:26 a.m. ET April 26, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. - Quadriplegic physicist Stephen Hawking is ready to go where no person with his kind of disability has gone before: into weightlessness, aboard a specially outfitted airplane flying from the runway where space shuttles land.

On the eve of Thursday's scheduled flight, Hawking told NBC News that he saw such adventures as "a first step toward space travel" — not only for him personally, but also for the public at large.

"I think the human race doesn't have a future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space," he said in his computer-generated voice, responding to questions submitted in advance.

Hawking has become renowned for his theories on black holes, the workings of gravity, the origins of the universe and other mysteries explained in his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time." The 65-year-old Cambridge cosmologist also has coped for decades with a degenerative nerve disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He has lost virtually all voluntary movement, except for his facial muscles, and can communicate only through a gesture-controlled computer system.

Significant step toward space
Hawking hopes a successful zero-gravity encounter on Thursday will represent a significant step toward his dream of flying in outer space as early as 2009, aboard a suborbital rocket plane now being built for British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic venture. Virgin Galactic's spaceship is a scaled-up version of SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 as the first privately developed craft to take humans to outer space.

"I have wanted to fly into space for many years but never imagined it would really be feasible," Hawking explained. "After the X Prize was won, and private spaceflight became possible, I started thinking about it more seriously."

During the past year, Hawking has been more vocal about his outer-space dream, telling one interviewer that it was his "next goal." In response, Florida-based Zero Gravity Corp. invited him to take a flight on "G-Force One," a Boeing 727 jet that simulates the weightless feeling of space travel by flying a series of roller-coaster parabolas at an altitude of roughly30,000 feet.

Every one of the five millionaires who have flown to the international space station has been on such flights — as have celebrities ranging from moonwalker Buzz Aldrin to lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. The going rate for Zero Gravity's commercial service is $3,500 per person, but the company waived the cost for Hawking and his team.

"When Zero Gravity Corp. offered me this flight, I accepted immediately," Hawking told NBC.

Pioneer for people with disabilities
Hawking will be Zero Gravity's first wheelchair-using passenger, according to the company's chief executive officer, Peter Diamandis. The Federal Aviation Administration only recently approved procedures for providing weightless flights to customers with such disabilities, he explained.

"You're our first pioneer in so many ways," Diamandis told Hawking during a preflight briefing at an Orlando hotel on Wednesday.

Takeoff is scheduled for Thursday afternoon from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which has been used for previous Zero Gravity flights as well as shuttle landings.

Hawking told NBC that he expected weightlessness to be a "wonderful" experience. "It has been many years since I've been free of my wheelchair," he said.

However, Thursday's adventure carries medical risks for someone as frail as Hawking.

The risks and the resolutions
The main medical concern has to do with how Hawking's breathing will be affected by the periods of heavier-than-normal gravity that must follow every zero-gravity float, Diamandis told reporters.

There could be an effect on Hawking's heart, and he may experience the motion sickness sometimes associated with weightless flights. Because no person in his condition has flown on a weightless flight before, Hawking's caregivers are not completely sure how serious the effects could get. But those uncertainties will have to be resolved if Hawking ever hopes to take a suborbital spaceflight, which involves greater stresses than weightless airplane flights.

To ensure Hawking's safety, several extraordinary measures are being taken:

  • The doses of zero-gravity on Thursday won't last as long as they usually do — about 15 to 20 seconds as opposed to 25 to 30 seconds. That means the pullout from weightlessness will be milder as well — 1.5 times as strong as normal gravity rather than 1.8.
  • Hawking will be carried from his seat on the plane to an area marked off especially for him, where he will be laid down on a soft head cushion. Two coaches and a nurse will raise Hawking up at the start of each period of weightlessness, and gently bring him down at the end.
  • After each float, medical team will check Hawking's blood pressure, cardiac rate and blood oxygen level. Hawking will raise his eyebrows if he feels up to another parabolic rise to weightlessness. If he grimaces, that means he's had enough.
  • Diamandis has said that he would count the flight as a success if Hawking flies just one parabola — even though Hawking himself has indicated he'd like to do more. Once Hawking is finished, the plane would return to the landing strip.
  • To rehearse the procedures for Thursday's flight, Zero Gravity conducted a practice run on Wednesday, with 14-year-old student Ted Straight standing in for Hawking. Diamandis said the "full-up dress rehearsal" was a success.
  • Hawking and his team won't be the only ones on the flight: More than two dozen people are on the passenger list, including video game designer Richard Garriott, the son of Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott.

    Some of the passengers are on board as the result of a money-raising campaign for the X Prize Foundation, which Diamandis heads, and for several charities serving people with disabilities. Diamandis said about $150,000 had been raised for the charities by selling seats on Wednesday's practice run as well as Thursday's flight.

    Additional support was provided by Space Florida, a state agency that promotes Florida's commercial space industry and space-related educational activities; and by the retailer Sharper Image.

    Boost for commercial spaceflight
    Hawking said he hoped his flight would provide a boost for commercial spaceflight, in line with his oft-expressed belief that humanity's future depended on moving beyond Earth.

    "I think that getting a portion of the human race permanently off the planet is imperative for our future as a species. It will be difficult to do this with the slow, expensive and risk-averse nature of government space programs," Hawking told NBC, working in a veiled reference to NASA. "We need to engage the entrepreneurial engine that has reduced the cost of everything from airline tickets to personal computers."

    He said tourism could represent a future mass market for space-oriented services, "and zero-gravity flights are the first, most affordable step in that direction."

    "I am hopeful that if we can engage this mass market, the cost of spaceflight will drop," Hawking said, "and we will be able to gain access to the resources of space, and also spread humanity beyond just the earth." science editor Alan Boyle is in Florida with a team from NBC News to cover Hawking's flight on Thursday. Look for updates throughout the day on Cosmic Log as well as full reports in's Space News section, on NBC's "Nightly News" and the TODAY show.

    Descoberto o primeiro planeta parecido com a Terra

    Chamaram-lhe Gliese 581C

    Não, esta ainda é a nossa...

    Na realidade é algo optimista, ainda, dizer que o planeta é parecido com a Terra. É um planeta com uma massa que é 1,5 vezes a da Terra, em órbita de uma estrela gigante vermelha - Gliese 581, na constelação da Balança, a 21 anos-luz da Terra - a uma distância que lhe permite beneficiar de temperaturas parecidas com as da Terra, ou seja, em que pode existir água no estado líquido, logo, vida.

    Evidentemente que daí a dizer que o planeta é parecido com a Terra vai uma grande distância. Ainda não se pode analisar a atmosfera do planeta, não se sabe se há água ou oxigénio ou o que quer se seja acerca daquele planeta.

    No entanto é uma descoberta histórica, porque é o primeiro planeta que é descoberto com o tipo de condições que lhe permitirão ser um candidato a 'irmão da Terra'.

    Fonte: Adelaide Now

    Link: Universe Today

    New earth find suggests we are not alone
    April 26, 2007 02:15am

    ASTRONOMERS have found a "new Earth" - the first planet outside our solar system with the potential for life as we know it.

    The Earth-like planet is 20.5 light years away, orbiting the "red dwarf" star Gliese 581 in the constellation Libra.

    It is one of three planets in that solar system, with the Earth-like planet named Gliese 581C.

    Commenting on the discovery by a team of European scientists, University of Adelaide Professor Roger Clay said this was the first time a planet with a mass or weight similar to the Earth's had been found.

    "They believe that its distance from the star would mean the surface temperature is not that different to the surface temperature of Earth," he said.

    This meant water would be in a liquid form.

    "So, potentially, it is the sort of place that you'd start looking to find some sort of life form... it does seem to have the right ingredients."

    The discovery, at the European Southern Observatory's telescope in La Silla, Chile, was made using spectroscopy.

    The technique is based on the principle that light is shifted more towards the blue end of the spectrum when something is moving towards you and more towards red when it is moving away, Professor Clay said.

    It worked in this case because the planet has a tight orbit and the star was relatively lightweight, so movement was easier to detect. The discovery appears to confirm suspicions of astronomers that the universe has many Earth-like worlds.

    The new planet is about 1 1/2 times the diameter of the Earth. It is the first exoplanet (a planet orbiting a star other than our own Sun) that is like our Earth. Of the 220 or so exoplanets found to date, most have either been too big, made of gas rather than solid material, far too hot, or far too cold for life to survive. "On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X," said Xavier Delfosse, one of the scientists who discovered the planet.

    "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life."

    segunda-feira, 23 de abril de 2007

    Astronauta Mike Fossum comenta o caso de Lisa Nowak

    "Somos pessoas normais, com problemas de gente normal"

    Mike Fossum, que voou com Lisa Nowak na missão STS-121 em Julho do ano passado, fez alguns comentários ao actual caso da ex-astronauta Lisa Nowak.

    O julgamento da ex-estronauta está marcado para Setembro.

    Fonte: The Rapid City Journal

    Fossum comments on Lisa Nowak case

    SIOUX FALLS — An astronaut with ties to South Dakota says astronauts are normal people with normal problems.

    During a visit to the McCrossan Boys Ranch this past week, Mike Fossum, a NASA mission specialist who was born in Sioux Falls, was asked about the Lisa Nowak case.

    Nowak, also an astronaut, is accused of trying to kidnap a rival for a space shuttle pilot’s affections.

    Fossum said he considers Nowak a colleague and a friend. He also said he “can’t really fathom what happened to cause this whole situation to unfold the way it did. I can’t understand it.”

    He and Nowak flew a mission to the international space station last summer. Fossum said he has known her for three years.

    “A lot goes into the process of becoming selected to be an astronaut,” he said, “but when you get down to it, we’re normal people with normal kinds of problems.”

    The Nowak case “certainly doesn’t put us in a good light in the news, but I think that people understand this is not representative of the people in our office and the kind of professionalism we hold and the way we conduct our lives,” Fossum said.

    Fossum was born in Sioux Falls in 1957. His family lived in Pierre for about two years during the 1960s and later moved to McAllen, Texas.

    domingo, 22 de abril de 2007

    Como pensávamos que seria o Space Shuttle há 30 anos!

    Ando a ler um livro acerca do desastre do Challenger, em 1986 - The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA - e estou numa parte em que se analisa o impacto das decisões que foram tomadas no início do programa Space Shuttle no acidente que ocorreria mais tarde. E fala lá das promessas que, na altura, pareciam douradas mas realizáveis, de até 60 missões por ano! Porque não? Afinal era uma tecnologia completamente inovadora, e reutilizável.

    E lembrei-me do primeiro artigo que li acerca do Space Shuttle, nas Selecções... Sim, nessas Selecções. Foi na edição de Agosto de 1977, e eu tinha uns tenrinhos 11 anos!

    Fica aqui o artigo para recordar e sorrir um pouco :)

    terça-feira, 17 de abril de 2007

    Lançamento do Space Shuttle previsto para 8 de Junho.

    A NASA decidiu continuar com as reparações no Tanque Externo de combustível, que foi sériamente danificado por uma tempestade de granizo há semanas, em vez de substituír este tanque pelo que iria ser utilizado na missão seguinte.

    Assim, o lançamento não será antes de 8 de Junho. Isto também fará com que o plano ambicioso de lançar 5 missões em 2007 tenha sido reduzido para 4. O que mesmo assim é ambicioso, uma vez que serão 4 missões em 6 meses. Históricamente não tem sido frequentemente alcançado este ritmo de lançamentos.

    Fonte: Damaris Sarria

    NASA cria comissão para avaliar o acompanhamento psicológico dos astronautas

    Na sequência dos infelizes acontecimentos que rodearam a ex-astronauta Lisa Nowak, a NASA decidiu formar um comité para avaliar as formas como está a ser feito o acompanhamento psicológico dos seus astronautas.

    Até agora, todos os candidatos a astronauta eram apenas entrevistados uma vez, durante 2 horas, por um psicólogo, durante o processo de selecção. Apenas os astronautas nomeados para missões de longa duração na Estação Espacial Internacional (ISS) eram sujeitos a exames antes das missões, e entrevistas semanais com um médico via videoconferência.

    Com os acontecimentos recentes, a NASA considerou serem insuficientes, e quem sabe arriscados, os procedimentos actuais, pelo que é previsível uma revisão.

    Faço votos que seja uma revisão que vá beneficiar os astronautas e candidatos a astronauta, em vez de simplesmente os eliminar da 'fila de espera' para um vôo. Se isso acontecer, estão criadas as condições para os astronautas não revelarem realmente o que se possa estar a passar consigo próprios, com óbvios riscos para eles e para as missões em que possam vir a participar. Todos somos pessoas, ninguém é super-homem nem super-mulher, por isso todos podemos ter problemas, por vezes graves, mas isso não significa que não os possamos resolver e voar no espaço mais tarde.

    Fonte: MSNBC

    NASA picks team to review astronaut care
    Committee creation prompted by arrest of now ex-astronaut Lisa Nowak

    By Jeanna Bryner
    Staff writer
    Updated: 6:45 p.m. ET March 26, 2007

    Prompted by the arrest of now ex-astronaut Lisa Nowak, NASA has announced the committee members who will review the mental and other health services available to astronauts.

    The committee, announced today, will review NASA’s current healthcare systems and medical policies, standards and certifications for astronauts. In April, committee members are scheduled to travel to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston to review documents and interview personnel, including astronauts, involved in the agency’s spaceflight program, NASA said.

    Chairing the group of external experts will be Air Force Col. Richard E. Bachmann, who studies aerospace medicine and has provided medical support to people who work in extreme environments like that in space.

    Nowak, a 43-year-old mother of three, was arrested on Feb. 5 after allegedly driving 900 miles from Houston to the Orlando airport, where police say she confronted and pepper-sprayed Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, girlfriend of space shuttle pilot William Oefelein, whom she viewed as a romantic rival for the astronaut’s affections.

    Immediately following the incident, Nowak was charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted kidnapping and three other criminal acts. The charges were later downgraded and Florida prosecutors have entered charges for kidnapping. Nowak’s lawyers have formally entered a not guilty plea and the trial is expected to begin on July 30.

    Meanwhile, the space agency removed Nowak’s flight status and in collaboration with the U.S. Navy, they ousted her from NASA’s astronaut corps. The seeming “breakdown” of an astronaut also spurred the space agency to look into how they screen astronauts for both mental and physical health as well as services available to astronauts during their careers.

    The other external members of the newly-formed committee include:

  • Air Force Col. Timothy Sowin, a neuropsychiatrist James R. Fraser, an expert in aerospace medicine from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Retired Navy Capt. Sandra Yerkes, a clinical psychiatrist
  • Mark Bauer, a clinical psychiatrist from the Veteran's Administration
  • Elizabeth Holmes, a clinical psychologist from the U.S. Naval Academy
  • James Bagian, a former NASA astronaut physician and an expert in aerospace medicine and patient safety from the Veteran's Administration
  • Navy Capt. Paul M. DeLaney, an expert in medical legal matters and medical privacy legislation
  • Ellen Baker, a current NASA astronaut physician, will serve as a consultant to the team. Also, serving as “ex officio” members will be James M. Duncan, the NASA chief of Space Medicine at JSC, and Wayne Frazier of NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance.

    In June, the committee is expected to report their findings to Richard S. Williams, NASA’s chief health and medical officer, who will look over the review and report the findings to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

    quinta-feira, 12 de abril de 2007

    Sobre a NASA e Lisa Nowak

    No dia em que foram divulgados mais pormenores, infelizes, sobre o caso de Lisa Nowak (ver abaixo), li no site do Orlando Sentinel um comentário escrito por um veterano do Exército dos EUA, onde fala sobre o seu 'amor' à NASA e ao programa espacial.

    São palavras inspiradas e lúcidas sobre o que o programa espacial tem de bom, e sobre o que o 'olho público', em geral, tem de mau.

    Fonte: Orlando Sentinel

    Trying to rekindle love affair with NASA
    Americans take the space program for granted.

    Steven Alvarez | Special to the Sentinel
    Posted April 12, 2007

    When I was a boy in New York, I was fascinated by astronauts. As NASA launched rocket after rocket into space, I collected newspaper clippings and looked at them by the glow of a flashlight, imagining myself drifting in space as I drifted off to sleep.

    After my first visit to the Kennedy Space Center, I started to collect mission patches, and I couldn't get enough of the space program. While most kids wanted to go to Disney World, I wanted to go to KSC.

    We moved to Florida, and while I was in high school, a couple of buddies and I drove to see a shuttle launch in 1982. As Columbia stood perched on the pad in the distance, I could feel my soul tingling. When she lifted off, everyone cheered and old men next to us were filled with a youthful energy that sprang them out of their seats. "Go, baby, go!" they yelled. I looked at my two friends and both stood with their mouths agape as Columbia's thunderous roar enveloped us and rattled our car.

    I've not lost my love for the space program, although I admit that with kids and careers, the program has not gotten my full attention for some time. But that's just an excuse, and I've been trying to rekindle my love affair with NASA. While the "Astronaut Love Scandal" was featured on the front page of the Sentinel again Wednesday, the real news was on Page A3, headlined, "Repairs Delay Next Shuttle Liftoff Until at Least June."

    Lançamento do STS-121 em 4 de Julho de 2006,
    missão em que vôou Lisa Nowak.

    As I contemplated the latest delay, I couldn't help but think back to July 4, 2006, as we wrapped up a lazy day in our pool, and the news was on television. Our kids were napping, and I watched as Discovery lifted off. I hustled my wife outside since she had never seen a shuttle launch.

    Outside, I pointed to the east, and Discovery came out from behind the rooftops, ascending hurriedly toward space. "Oh, my God!" was all my wife could say as the rockets burned brightly and faded into the summer sky.

    Months later, NASA was on television news again, only this time it was about U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, the astronaut who had fallen from grace. I came to realize that as we watched Discovery that July day, we had watched Nowak's best moment: the culmination of her life's work.

    The mother of three graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985, later earning a graduate degree at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. She logged more than 1,500 hours in 30 aircraft.

    For months, we have been seeing Nowak's worst moment. Prosecutors charged her with attempted kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily harm, burglary, assault using a weapon and battery for trying to kidnap a woman at the Orlando airport.

    Nowak's newsworthiness shows that the American public loves tragedy. When people of Nowak's caliber fall, the public voraciously gobbles it up because the fall for a seemingly perfect overachiever is that much farther.

    Before her arrest in February, most Americans didn't know Lisa Nowak, despite the fact she had orbited the Earth for 13 days and helped others do the same for more than a decade. Even after her arrest many Americans still don't recognize her name, but ask any man, woman and child who Tiger Woods is, and they can tell you. Ask any person to name one current astronaut and see what reply you get.

    My heroes have always been space cowboys, true frontiersmen who strap themselves in and ride furious rockets that buck them into space. Americans take the space program for granted. We have become so complacent that we've lost our sense of adventure. We're disconnected with the American spirit that brought many of our forefathers from lands far away to explore a new world. The space program is the American spirit incarnate -- it has boundless curiosity and excitement as it explores the last frontier.

    But the other tragedy of the Nowak case is that, sadly, most Americans notice the space program only when there is an accident to showcase or when one of its stars has its wings clipped and falls from the celestial legion. Americans choose to see these fearless, brilliant people only when they're at their worst, ignoring their amazing feats as they cross earthly boundaries.

    Last December, we watched Discovery lift off on television. I told my family to follow me outside, and we ran to our backyard patio. The clouds in the sky were ablaze in fiery orange and red as the shuttle came out from behind the Maitland tree line. The rocket flames illuminated the landscape and rooftops for miles around us.

    I glanced up at my son, who was on my shoulders, and it was like looking at my buddies 25 years ago. He stared toward the heavens, mouth open, and summed up the emotion of the moment simply by saying, "Whoa, cool."

    I stared wide-eyed and said the only thing that came to mind: "Go, baby, go!"

    When the next launch of the shuttle finally rolls around -- whatever its date -- you can be sure the same words will be on my lips again.

    Steven Alvarez is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who lives in Maitland. He wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.

    Abaixo, as imagens de todos os objectos encontrados no carro de Lisa Nowak. Na minha opinião não faz grande sentido, nem é justo, estar a divulgar provas de um processo-crime ainda antes do julgamento, até porque todos somos inocentes perante a Lei, até julgamento em contrário. Não é assim que Lisa Nowak está a ser tratada. Culpada ou não - e neste momento, por definição, é inocente - estes objectos deveriam ser guardados como pessoais. Em caso de juízo de culpa, então sim concordaria, em princípio, com a divulgação de provas.

    Mas talvez seja esta a idéia de transparência que há nos EUA.

    Na realidade está a decorrer um linchamento público da ex-astronauta.

    Aterragem da primeira missão do Space-Shuttle Columbia

    Estamos a poucos anos do fim da vida dos magníficos Space Shuttles. Por ordem presidencial, os vôos do Shuttle deverão acabar em 2010, e toda a frota será retirada do serviço, para ser substituída por um sistema completamente não-inovador e sem inspiração.

    Neste momento é bom recordar a promessa dos primeiros dias, em que ainda se pensava que seria possível fazer mais de 40 vôos por ano! Foram dias magníficos, e esta aterragem no deserto, na base aérea de Edwards, é fantástica. Os aviões T-38 que acompanhavam o Shuttle na fase final do vôo estavam lá para observar o comportamento da (então e ainda hoje) inovadora máquina e orientar John Young, o comandante da primeira missão do Shuttle, durante a aterragem. Além de Young, voava Robert Crippen como piloto.

    Recordo-me bem desta primeira aterragem. Vi-a em directo na televisão, ainda a preto-e-branco. Estávamos em 1981, e as emissões a cores tinham começado ainda há poucos meses. O meu pai ainda não tinha comprado um televisor a cores (eu tinha 15 aninhos na altura). Só vi uma missão do Shuttle a cores poucos meses depois, na segunda missão em Novembro. Faltei às aulas pela primeira vez na vida para ver esse 2º lançamento! :)

    E ainda tenho as cassettes, áudio, claro, ainda não tinha vídeo, com as gravações destes eventos históricos. (Só tive um vídeo no ano seguinte, no fim de 1982, um bom e velho Sony C7, Betamax, que ainda funciona!!!)

    Porcos no Espaço - O Turismo Espacial como extravagância dos Hiper-Ricos

    Um excelente artigo no Yahoo News sobre a viagem de Charles Simonyi à Estação Espacial Internacional - ISS - e sobre a forma como o turismo espacial se está a tornar na última moda extravagante dos hiper-ricos.

    Fonte: Yahoo News

    Pigs in Space

    The Nation
    Sat Apr 7, 6:09 PM ET

    The Nation -- Is there a more perfect symbol of the excesses of global capitalism than Charles Simonyi's 13-day joyride into outer space? Simonyi, a Hungarian-American software programmer who made his fortune at Xerox and Microsoft before launching his own start-up, paid $20 million to be escorted to the Kazakh steppes, packed into a Russian Soyuz rocket and blasted towards the international space station. En route, he'll enjoy a meal of roasted quail, duck breast confit with capers, shredded chicken parmentier and rice pudding with candied fruit -- all carefully selected by his girlfriend, Martha Stewart. (Martha, whatever happened to astronaut ice cream and Tang?) No word yet on the threadcount of his sheets or if there's 24-hour concierge service in orbit.

    The whole saga is Dickens for the new millennium, but without the other half. So it's up to us scolds at The Nation to point out the obvious. Simonyi might have spent his money fighting AIDS, or building housing for Hurricane Katrina survivors, or providing clean water to developing nations, or mosquito netting and medicine for malaria patients, or musical instruments for needy, photogenic, musically-gifted inner city school children or...well, depressingly, the list goes on and on. But picking on the follies of the rich is easy, and in this case, not particularly fun. Just think of the carbon footprint a Soyuz rocket leaves!

    Piiiiiiiiigs in Spaaaaaaaace!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Clique para aumentar.

    But the next time the bards of capitalism sing the praises of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and the outstanding generosity of the mega-rich in the age of extreme wealth (and extreme poverty), I'll trot out Charles Simonyi's space odyssey as counter-example.

    Indeed, Simonyi's spending habits are a window into how the world's wealthiest citizens consume and contribute. Worth about $1 billion, Simonyi's no Scrooge McDuck. He's endowed a chair at Oxford and funded the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In 2003, Simonyi finished 23rd in the Slate 60, the annual ranking of largest American charitable contributions, when he gave $47 million to start the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. But for each act of noblesse oblige, there's an extravagance. In Simonyi's case, not only is he the 5th space tourist ever, he also owns the world's 39th largest yacht, which is so big that one could, as Power and Motoryacht Magazine tell us, "easily mistake her for a military vessel."

    Simonyi's 2003 donation represents less than 5 percent of his net worth. According to Gregg Easterbrook's survey of billionaire philanthropy, this puts Simonyi well behind Buffett, who donated the vast majority of his fortune, and Bill Gates, who's given away about 1/3 of his. But Simonyi fares better in comparison to most billionaires, who on average contribute slightly more than 1 percent of their net worth. As Easterbrook points out, that rate is only marginally better than Americans as a whole, who annually give away about 0.5 percent of their net worth. And it pales in comparison to the 78 percent that Andrew Carnegie gave away in his lifetime.

    As the philosopher Peter Singer pointed out in an article for the New York Times, if the rich and superrich gave away at morally responsible and entirely reasonable rates (say, 33 percent of earnings for those in the top .01 percent and sliding downward), wealthy Americans could generate $808 billion annually for global development -- six times more than what the UN estimates it needs to meet its Millennium Development Goals and 16 times more than the shortfall between what's needed and what donor nations currently contribute.

    But that might mean giving up duck confit in outer space.

    Bill Gates pretende ir ao Espaço!

    Depois de Charles Simonyi, neste momento a divertir-se a bordo da Estação Espacial Internacional (ISS), parece que o bichinho das viagens orbitais pegou na Microsoft, e Bill Gates já terá comentado sobre o seu desejo de ir 'passear' à ISS.

    Embora haja muita gente que se oponha, com excelentes motivos, a este tipo de utilização para fins turísticos da ISS, incluindo a NASA e eu próprio, creio que uma deslocação de Bill Gates à ISS poderia servir excelentes propósitos, se bem aproveitada.

    Bill Gates, com a notoriedade que decorre de ser o homem mais rico do Mundo, poderá chamar a atenção para vários problemas - os crónicos cortes orçamentais nos programas de exploração espacial e a falta de interesse generalizada no público americano pela exploração espacial e pela Ciência em geral.

    Também poderá servir como estímulo ao investimento privado, uma vez que, como sabemos, os 'ricos' passam a vida a exibir-se uns aos outros, e a moda dos vôos espaciais iria pegar entre os hiper-ricos, criando assim excelentes oportunidades de negócio nesta área.

    New Scientist Space


    Is Bill Gates planning a trip to space?

    * 17:32 11 April 2007
    * news service
    * New Scientist Space and AFP

    The world's richest man, Bill Gates, is considering a possible flight into space, a Russian cosmonaut said from the International Space Station on Wednesday, citing Gate's colleague, current space tourist Charles Simonyi.

    "Charles said that Bill Gates is also preparing to visit space," cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin told journalists during a video link-up from the space station, which was broadcast on state television Rossiya. "So the next time someone will be with Bill Gates. For me this is the biggest surprise of our flight."

    Space Adventures, the US-based company that organises the orbital trips, said it had heard nothing from Gates about a possible flight. "Space Adventures has had no contact with Bill Gates," spokeswoman Natalya Dedovets said.

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Russian space agency, Igor Panarin, said Gates "visited us several months ago at the cosmonaut training centre at Star City" near Moscow.
    Nothing official

    "However, for now there are no negotiations on taking part in a tourist flight. We have not had any official request from Mr Gates," he said. "But if Mr Gates expressed interest, we would help him."

    The first slot for a potential Gates flight would be in 2009, he said.

    Simonyi, Yurchikhin and fellow cosmonaut Oleg Kotov docked at the International Space Station on Monday, after a flight that cost the former Microsoft engineer $25 million.

    Simonyi is scheduled to return to Earth on April 20 with current ISS crew members Mikhail Tyurin and Miguel Lopez-Alegria. The two Russian cosmonauts will stay on for a 190-day shift in orbit.

    Simonyi, who made his fortune at Microsoft, is the fifth tourist to travel to the ISS, following US citizens Dennis Tito in 2001 and Greg Olsen in 2005, South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth in 2002, and a US citizen of Iranian origin, Anousheh Ansari in 2006.

    Space Adventures plans to expand its offerings next year to include a $100 million trip around the Moon and a $100,000 budget option: 5 minutes of sub-orbital space flight.

    quarta-feira, 11 de abril de 2007

    Dimensões de todos os objectos no Sistema Solar (com diâmetros maiores do que 200 milhas)

    Este site (espetacular) mostra-nos uma imagem, gigantesca, em que são comparados os diâmetros de todos os objectos do Sistema Solar, desde que tenham mais de 200 milhas de diâmetro (cerca de 322 Kms).

    A imagem é muito grande, mas pode-se deslizar para a direita (ou esquerda) para ver os objectos sucessivamente menores (ou maiores).

    terça-feira, 10 de abril de 2007

    Fotógrafo português 'distinguido' com foto sua no 'Astronomy Picture of the Day'!

    O seu nome é Miguel Claro, e teve a sua foto espetacular da Lua e de Vénus sobre a Ponte 25 de Abril publicada no site Astronomy Picture of the Day no dia 24 de Março de 2007.

    É realmente magnífica a foto. Os meus parabéns!

    Ronald Reagan e o Challenger; George Bush e o Columbia. As Diferenças.

    Recentemente lembrei-me do discurso do ex-Presidente dos EUA Ronald Reagan após a tragédia do Space Shuttle Challenger. Ocorreu-me quão diferente tinha sido do discurso de George Bush quando o Columbia se desintegrou na alta atmosfera, quando regressava à Terra.

    Acho interessante comparar os dois discursos. As diferenças na América da década de 80 e na de hoje ficam estranhamente claras... A atitude construtiva, e direi mesmo corajosa e optimista no futuro de Reagan, com um discurso extremamente expressivo, é substituída por uma atitude de fatalismo e de vazio de Bush, no seu discurso curto e lacónico.

    George Bush: Eles morreram. Não há nada a fazer. Rezemos e leiamos a Bíblia.

    My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At nine o'clock this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.

    On board was a crew of seven: Colonel Rick Husband; Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson; Commander Laurel Clark; Captain David Brown; Commander William McCool; Dr. Kalpana Chawla; and Ilan Ramon, a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force. These men and women assumed great risk in the service to all humanity.

    In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket, and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the Earth. These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage, and daring, and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

    All Americans today are thinking, as well, of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You're not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country. The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand.

    Our journey into space will go on.

    In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see, there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power, and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

    The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

    May God bless the grieving families. And may God continue to bless America.

    Ronald Reagan: Fomos surpreendidos. Hoje choramos os nossos mortos. Amanhã iremos honrá-los, continuando o seu trabalho. Nada acaba aqui!

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

    Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight. We've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

    For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

    We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

    And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off. I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

    I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program. And what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute.

    We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.

    I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA, or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

    There's a coincidence today. On this day three hundred and ninety years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today, we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

    The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

    Thank you.

    As partes que realcei nos dois discursos dispensam mais comentários. Sempre duvidei da 'Iniciativa para a Exploração do Espaço' de Bush, apresentada há poucos anos. O seu discurso lacónico e breve faz-me duvidar ainda mais da sua honestidade. Faço votos para que a América volte a ser o que já foi, e que o seu Programa Espacial volte a ganhar coragem e volte a olhar para a frente, em vez de tentar repetir sucessos passados.


    quarta-feira, 4 de abril de 2007

    Um anel de Saturno criado por uma das suas luas

    Mais uma foto espetacular da sonda Cassini. Há alguns meses descobriu-se que da lua Encélado surgiam 'geisers' de água líquida. Agora, a Cassini fotografou um anel de Saturno, provávelmente constituido quase por inteiro por partículas de gelo de água proveniente dessa lua.

    Fonte: Astronomy Picture Of the Day

    terça-feira, 3 de abril de 2007

    A Escala do Universo

    Um site espetacular, em Flash, que nos mostra uma comparação do tamanho de tudo o que há no Universo, desde as maiores galáxias, ou mesmo o Universo inteiro, às bactérias ou aos átomos.

    Chama-se Universcale, e está muitíssimo bem conseguido. A música, em particular, é excelente a colocar-nos num estado de espírito capaz de apreciar a beleza deste universo imenso, e que apesar de nos parecer familiar, se calhar não é. O texto está à altura.

    Carl Sagan pode já ter falecido, mas continua bem vivo, um pouco em cada um de nós, e sobretudo no espírito de quem é capaz de fazer coisas destas!

    Altamente recomendado!

    Fonte: Crave

    Uma pequena nota - é necessário um monitor com uma resolução razoável para tirar o melhor partido deste site. Se possível um monitor de 19", com uma resolução de 1280 x 1024 pixeis.

    segunda-feira, 2 de abril de 2007

    Como destruír a Terra

    Se tivermos em conta a relativa estabilidade e segurança da nossa vida do dia-a-dia, a Terra parece um sítio seguro para se viver. De tal forma que quando se fala num meteoro que possa caír daqui a 30 anos, todos nos rimos e pensamos que é só ficção científica.

    Na realidade não é bem assim. O Universo é um sítio perigoso, e pouco hospitaleiro para formas de vida como nós. A qualquer momento podemos ser atingidos por um asteróide, ou pode rebentar uma estrela com uma poderosíssima emissão de raios gama perto da Terra, ou poderá passar um buraco negro - práticamente indetectável por natureza - perto do Sol... Há inúmeras maneiras de acabar com o nosso modo de vida.

    Um site na Internet, constantemente actualizado, debate as diversas formas de destruír o nosso planeta.

    É um site ao qual recomendo uma visita, nem que seja para que possa saír à rua, respirar bem fundo, e agradecer mais um dia de vida nesta Terra linda, que nos ocupamos em grande azáfama em... destruír...

    O que me faz pensar... se calhar o melhor a fazer é não fazer nada e deixar tudo andar com está...