Aphelion Issue 232, Volume 22
September 2018
 
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Hello folks!

Well, that time has rolled around again. Here in the US we're gearing up for the final month before holding our political elections. It has been exciting to watch all the mud-slinging and thinly-veiled name-calling go on over the last couple of years. Our TV news companies are full of it - That last statement is so true on so many levels! (Grin) Unless this is the first time anyone has mentioned to you that this is an election year here, you've probably  already gotten more broadcast and online information about the candidates than you ever wanted to know. I'm not going to insult your intelligence by adding to that info-flow. I'll content myself with doing my patriotic duty by asking you to go register to vote, pick a candidate, and go vote on election day. That's it- just "go out and vote." You can make a difference, but not if you don't go out and vote.

All right, that's the last I want to say about that subject for another four years.

I want to add my congratulations to SpaceX for getting their latest rocket up and out into orbital space! Well done! With hard work and determination like that, SpaceX is bound to be able to make a real difference in the future of human space exploration. Excitement, adventure, and really hard work!

China's space program recently marked another milestone; their first spacewalk. As far as I've been able to find out, everything went off without a hitch. Mankind now has three space-going nations that have dared to build a ship and put their people out there above the thin blue haze of Earth's "security blanket" of atmosphere. Well done, China! Congratulations! Now, please don't forget that there are human rights problems and pollution problems that you still need to work on down here on the ground. Both can be solved, and space exploration can go on at the same time.

In other news, the Large Hadron Collider went online and Earth wasn't destroyed. Or maybe it was destroyed, and we were all too wrapped up in ourselves to have noticed. (Grin) In any case, some of the equipment broke down and the LHC had to be shut down a little more quickly than the builders had planned, but the repairs are proceeding and the LHC will be running again quite soon. After that, I expect Physics to become even more complicated as more new sub-atomic particles are found and more clues to the nature of the universe reveal themselves.

Speaking of the universe, I hadn't realized that it might just be larger than we humans generally think that it is. I was doing some online reading and came across a paper explaining that, because the universe went through a period of inflation shortly after the Big Bang, there could be more of it out beyond the limit that that we can see. Out past the distance that light has had time to travel, there could be more stars and galaxies than we can see. It's jut so far away that the light from  those stars hasn't had time to get to us. Inflation pushed them out further than we humans are old enough to see. As with most other things in life, time will tell.

In yet other news, part of the main control system on the Hubble Space Telescope has broken down. From what I've read about it, the Hubble can still collect data, but at the moment it has no way to send it down to us. NASA is working on a plan to send up the necessary replacement parts along with the normal service mission that had already been scheduled. But to do the job correctly, they'll have to delay the service mission until the equipment has been made and the astronauts have had time to practice installing it. They'll have to get more work done up there than they had planned on doing, but they won't have any additional time to do it. Everything will have to be planned and practiced before the mission can proceed. In the meantime, there is a secondary, or backup, control system that could be activated and used. But that system has been sitting there for the entire life of the Hubble, without having been switched on. Who's to say that it hasn't aged beyond usefulness? NASA is very cautious about activating it. They don't want things to become worse. In a way, it is a good thing that the system failed now. If it had failed after the scheduled service mission had occurred, Hubble would have been well and truly dead until after the time the Space Shuttle program has been scheduled to end. In between the last shuttle mission and the first mission by the still unbuilt replacement spacecraft, there is going to be several years when the US has no way of putting a crew into space without buying a ride on Russian launches. And the thing about hitching a ride is that you can't very well ask the driver to take a little detour just so you can do a little repair work on your own machine.

Well, I think I've been babbling on quite long enough. It's time for me to shut up and let you get on with your reading.

Dan