Branson Versus Bezos

The successful trip was the first in a series to the edge of space and beyond by billionaire entrepreneurs that seek to make human spaceflight more routine. Soaring more than 50 miles into the hot, glaringly bright skies above New Mexico, Richard Branson at last fulfilled a dream that took decades to realize: He can now call himself an astronaut.

On Sunday morning, a small rocket plane operated by Virgin Galactic, which Mr. Branson founded in 2004, carried him and five other people to the edge of space and back. More than an hour later, Mr. Branson took the stage to celebrate. “The whole thing was magical,” he said.

 Another billionaire with his own rocket companyJeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon — has plans to make a similar jaunt to the edge of space in nine days. In each case, billionaire entrepreneurs are risking injury or death to fulfill their childhood aspirations — and advance the goal of making human spaceflight unexceptional.

They’re putting their money where their mouth is, and they’re putting their body where their money is,” said Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures Limited, a company that charters launches to orbit. “That’s impressive, frankly.

At 8:40 a.m. Mountain time, a carrier aircraft, with the rocket plane, named V.S.S. Unity, tucked underneath, rose off the runway and headed to an altitude of about 45,000 feet. There, Unity was released, and a few moments later, its rocket motor ignited, accelerating the space plane on an upward arc.

Although Unity had made three previous trips to space, this was its first launch that resembled a full commercial flight of the sort that Virgin Galactic has promised to offer the general public, with two pilots — David Mackay and Michael Masucci — and four more crew members including Mr. Branson.

China Now Launches More Rockets Than Anyone In The World

In recent weeks, China‘s space program has made news by revealing some of its long-term ambitions for spaceflight. These include establishing an Earth-Moon space economic zone by 2050, which, if successful, could allow the country to begin to dictate the rules of behavior for future space exploration. Some have questioned whether China, which has flown six human spaceflights in the last 16 years, can really build a large low-Earth space station, send taikonauts to the Moon, return samples from Mars, and more in the coming decade or two. But what seems clear is that the country’s authoritarian government has long-term plans and is taking steps toward becoming a global leader in space exploration.

By one important metric—orbital launchesChina has already reached this goal. In 2018, the country set a goal of 35 orbital launches and ended up with 39 launch attempts. That year, the United States (29 flights) and Russia (20) trailed China, according to Space Launch Report. It marked the first time China led the world in the number of successful orbital launchesThis year, China is set to pace the world again. Through Sunday, the country has launched 27 orbital missions, followed by Russia (19), and the United States (16). Although nearly a month and a half remain in this year, a maximum of six additional orbital launches are likely from the United States in 2019.

To be fair, China’s space launch program has not been without hiccups. The country’s space program is still trying to bring its large Long March 5 vehicle back into service after a catastrophic failure during just its second mission, in July 2017. And the country had three failures in 2018 and 2019, compared to just one in the United States and Russia combined.

The United States has taken a step back this year in part due to decreased activity by SpaceX. The company launched a record 21 missions last year but has so far launched 11 rockets in 2019. A flurry of missions remains possible in the next six weeks for the company, including a space station resupply mission in early December, a commercial satellite launch, and additional Starlink flights.

Another big factor has been a slow year for United Launch Alliance. The Colorado-based company has launched just two Delta IV-Medium rockets this year, one Delta IV-Heavy, and a single Atlas V mission. The company may launch Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft before the end of 2019, giving the Atlas V rocket a second launch. It is possible that Rocket Lab, which has flown its Electron rocket from New Zealand five times in 2019 and is planning at least one more mission before the end of the year, will have more launches than United Launch Alliance for the first time. Sometime next year, Rocket Lab should also begin to add to the US tally for orbital launches as it opens a new facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.

Source: https://arstechnica.com/

Worlds Like Earth Common In The Cosmos

A new way of studying planets in other solar systems – by doing sort of an autopsy on planetary wreckage devoured by a type of star called a white dwarf – is showing that rocky worlds with geochemistry similar to Earth may be quite common in the cosmos. Researchers studied six white dwarfs whose strong gravitational pull had sucked in shredded remnants of planets and other rocky bodies that had been in orbit. This material, they found, was very much like that present in rocky planets such as Earth and Mars in our solar system. Given that Earth harbors an abundance of life, the findings offer the latest tantalizing evidence that planets similarly capable of hosting life exist in large numbers beyond our solar system.

The more we find commonalities between planets made in our solar system and those around other stars, the more the odds are enhanced that the Earth is not unusual,” said Edward Young, a geochemistry and cosmochemistry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who helped lead the study published in the journal Science. “The more Earth-like planets, the greater the odds for life as we understand it.”

The first planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, were spotted in the 1990s, but it has been tough for scientists to determine their composition. Studying white dwarfs offered a new avenue.

A white dwarf is the burned-out core of a sun-like star. In its death exoplanets, the star blows off its outer layer and the rest collapses, forming an extremely dense and relatively small entity that represents one of the universe’s densest forms of matter, exceeded only by neutron stars and black holesPlanets and other objects that once orbited it can be ejected into interstellar space. But if they stray near its immense gravitation field, they “will be shredded into dust, and that dust will begin to fall onto the star and sink out of sight,” said study lead author Alexandra Doyle, a UCLA graduate student in geochemistry and astrochemistry.

This is where that ‘autopsy’ idea comes from,” Doyle added, noting that by observing the elements from the massacred planets and other objects inside the white dwarf scientists can understand their composition.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Counterpart

New experiments are revealing hints of a world and a reality that are complete reflections of ours. This mirrorverse may be able to solve the mystery of the universe’s missing dark matter.

At first glance, everything looks familiar. The clock ticks placidly on the wall, cars motor along outside your window, the story you are reading has the same eye-catching pictures. But something is wrong. The clocks are running backwards. Cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. The article you are reading is written back to front. Suddenly, it clicks. You are looking at your own reflection.

Leah Broussard leads a study of neutron decay to understand correlations between electrons and antineutrinos as well as subtle distortions in the electron energy spectrum. The physicist, who hails from Louisiana, influenced the color scheme of the experiment’s newly installed instrument to reflect her home state’s biggest celebration—its spectrometer sports Mardi Gras green on the magnet, purple on the shielding, and gold inside the magnet and on safety bars.

The uncanny world on the other side of the mirror may not seem real to you. But Leah Broussard thinks parallel universes where everything is flipped might be very real indeed. Along with her colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, she is on the hunt for a universe that is identical to our own, but flipped so that it contains mirror atoms, mirror molecules, mirror stars and planets, and even mirror life. If it exists, it would form a bubble of reality nestling within the fabric of space and time alongside our own familiar universe, with some particles capable of switching between the two.

Source: https://www.ornl.gov/

Rotating Black Holes Might Serve As Portals For Hyperspace Travel

Black holes skirt the line between science fiction and science fact. On the one hand, scientists have seen real black holes in action, consuming unsuspecting stars that pass too close. But where reality ends and fiction takes over is at the edge of a black hole — a place called the event horizon, where no spacecraft has ever gone.

So, whatever happens beyond that boundary, inside of a black hole, is anyone’s guess. Scientists agree that if you travel far enough into a black hole, gravity will eventually become so strong that it kills anything in its path. But sci-fi films are more optimistic, depicting black holes as portals through space and time or gateways to other dimensions. And it turns out, some scientists now think the sci-fi buffs may be onto something. Black holes might be suitable for hyperspace travel, after all; it just takes the right kind of black hole. At the center of every black hole is a point of infinite density, called a singularity. It’s what gives black holes their strong gravitational pull. And for decades, scientists thought singularities were all the same, so anything that passed the event horizon would be destroyed the same way: by being stretched and pulled like an infinitely long piece of spaghetti.

But that all changed in the early 1990s when different research teams in Canada and the US discovered a second singularity called a “mass inflation singularity.” It still has a strong gravitational pull, but it would only stretch you by a finite amount, and potentially NOT kill you in the process, meaning, you might survive the trip through a black hole. More specifically, through a large, rotating black hole, which is where these types of singularities exist.

Now, astronomers obviously can’t travel through a black hole yet to test this theory. In fact, the best place to test this is at the supermassive black hole in the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which is 27,000 light years away. Not conveniently close to the least.

Therefore, scientists instead run computer simulations to see what would happen if we did manage to reach an isolated, rotating black hole, and now, for the first time, a team of scientists at UMass Dartmouth and Georgia Gwinnett College has done exactly that.

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You would feel a slight increase in temperature, but it would not be a dramatic increase. It’s just that you don’t have enough time to respond to the very strong forces. It would just go through you too quickly,” said Lior Burko from Georgia Gwinnett College.  He added that passing through a weak singularity is like quickly running your finger through a candle flame that’s 1,000 degrees Celsius. If you hold your finger in the flame long enough, you’ll get burned, but pass your finger through quickly, and you’ll barely feel a thing. Similarly, if you pass through a weak singularity with the right speed and momentum, and at the right time, you may not feel much at all.

As for what happens once you get through to the other side, no one really knows, but Burko has his own ideas. He says one possibility is that we’d arrive at some other remote part of our galaxy, potentially light years away from any planets or stars, but a second, and perhaps more intriguing, possibility is that we’d arrive in a different galaxy altogether. That’s if you even make it that far. Scientists say more research is needed before we’re anywhere close to successfully traveling through a black hole. But when we are ready, one of the safest passageways might be the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A*, and it might just be our ticket out of the Milky Way.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/
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https://www.ggc.edu/