“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe”
— Carl Sagan, cosmologist
In this episode, we talk about some of the madness of space. Because the subject of space is so gigantic we handpicked a few points that we’d like to share. This is the first in a series of episodes on space and related topics. As with any good story, best start at the beginning. Mr Beard sums up the history of space exploration since we first set our sights on the moon. There’s discussion about the range of telescope technologies that are used – both Earth and space based observatories.
Paying reference to Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev and the so-called ‘Kardashev Scale’, which is related to technologically advanced civilisations, it’s interesting to imagine a possible future version of our species achieving intergalactic travel. Is this sci-fi inspiring real human ingenuity in the development of fuelless propulsion drives, or is it a case that our best scientists and explorers just play second fiddle to our fantasy writers?
This however seems to be the former in this case when Carl Sagan and Freeman Dyson were asked about the potential of the human race. Carl Sagan, who has done more for the space community and the science of astronomy than most, with the exception of the Albert Einstein’s and Johannes Kepler’s of the world, truly believes that because we are made from the same fabric as the Cosmos, we belong amongst it. Freeman Dyson believes we can become an advanced space faring civilisation exceeding interplanetary travel and exploring our galactic home.
With the phenomenal strides we have already taken, and the fascinating albeit very optimistic missions planned over the next decade, space is definitely back in sharp focus with the recent successful SpaceX flights and docking with the ISS.
Next step the Moon! Then, knocking on the door of our closest neighbours Mars and Venus to check if anyone’s coming out to play!!
For each episode, we will highlight the main topic discussed and share a video from YouTube we think is worth watching.
While Carl Sagan isn’t necessarily the focal point of this episode, he certainly embodies the spirit of it. Humanity’s drive for exploration has been a constant since the dawn of time, and in recent times it seems to be accelerating to a point where a ‘Moon Base’ or a ‘Mars Colony’ are now reasonable and realistic topics up for discussion. Carl Sagan represents the optimism and humility needed if humanity is to ever fulfil it’s true potential among the stars.
Carl Sagan, an astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, poet and science communicator, brought the wonders of space into the living rooms of the general public during the latter decades of the 20th century. A “smooth operator”, he is a joy to listen to speak and his ability to make the daunting and complex seem intuitive and understandable to the lay person is second to none.
Check out this video where he talks about the famous “pale blue dot”, a legacy of his and his work with the Voyager missions.
Found something interesting discussed in this episode? Chances are, we found it interesting too and we went off and did a bunch of reading online about it.
So why not dive further into the topic! Here are some handy links we think you might like.
Major achievements often have humble beginnings. A statement which can certainly be said for humanity’s exploration into space and the telescope. While the original inventor is still up for question, we do know that the telescope was invented in The Netherlands in the 17th century. Likely invented by an eye glass maker, the telescope was made famous by Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler through iterative improvements and refinements.
Now in the 21st century, we have x-ray, gamma-ray telescopes, radio telescopes and others which allow us to see and detect infinitely more information which is not visible to the human eye. But their origins all go back to the 17th century, when while we were not able to travel into space, we were certainly able to look and imagine and dream about future adventures and discoveries.
For more information on the telescope and its history, check out this Wikipedia article on it.
The Voyager Golden Records are two phonograph records that were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The records contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form who may find them. The records are a sort of time capsule.
Although neither Voyager spacecraft is heading toward any particular star, Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years’ distance of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis, in about 40,000 years.
Carl Sagan noted that “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space, but the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
The United Nations YouTube channel, with the help of Bill Nye, has a great video discussing this golden record.
The Artemis program is a US government-funded human spaceflight program that has the goal of landing “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon, specifically at the lunar south pole region by 2024. The program is carried out predominantly by NASA, U.S. commercial spaceflight companies contracted by NASA, and international space agencies. NASA is leading the program, but expects international partnerships to play a key role in advancing Artemis as the next step towards the long-term goal of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon, laying the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy, and eventually sending humans to Mars.
Artemis draws upon ongoing spacecraft programs including Orion, the Gateway, and Commercial Lunar Payload Services, and adds an undeveloped crewed lander. The Space Launch System will serve as the primary launch vehicle for Orion, while commercial launch vehicles are planned for use to launch various other elements of the campaign.
Check out the official NASA website for the Artemis program.
SpaceX Mars program is a development program initiated by Elon Musk and SpaceX in order to facilitate the eventual colonization of Mars. The program includes fully reusable launch vehicles, human-rated spacecraft, on-orbit propellant tankers, rapid-turnaround launch/landing mounts, and local production of rocket fuel on Mars. SpaceX’s goal is to land an uncrewed mission on Mars on 2024, with a crewed mission to follow later.
A key element of the program is planned to be the SpaceX Starship, a fully reusable super-heavy lift launch vehicle under development since 2018. To achieve a large payload, the spacecraft would first enter Earth orbit, where it is expected to be refueled before it departs to Mars. After landing on Mars, the spacecraft would be loaded with locally-produced propellants to return to Earth. The expected payload for the Starship launch vehicle is to inject between 100–150 tonnes (220,000–330,000 lb) to Mars.
SpaceX intends to concentrate its resources on the transportation part of the Mars colonization project, including the design of a propellant plant based on the Sabatier process that will be deployed on Mars to synthesize methane and liquid oxygen as rocket propellants from the local supply of atmospheric carbon dioxide and ground-accessible water ice. However, Musk has advocated since 2016 a larger set of long-term Mars settlement objectives, going far beyond what SpaceX projects to build; any successful colonization would ultimately involve many more economic actors — whether individuals, companies, or governments — to facilitate the growth of the human presence on Mars over many decades.
Check out the SpaceX website for more information on our future colony on Mars.
The surface of Venus can be described as a ‘hell on Earth’ environment, so the idea of setting up a colony on Venus might sound preposterous. But if you go 50-60 kms above the surface into the planets atmosphere, you get the most Earth-like environment in our Solar System! Imagine floating airship cities on another planet!
Building a colony in the atmosphere of Venus instead of (or in conjunction with) on the surface of Mars has many advantages such as being closer to Earth, more solar energy available and a radiation-blocking atmosphere. It might sound a bit more hairbrained than a Mars colony, but NASA are actually planning a hypothetical mission called HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operational Concept).
Crazy? Yes. Facintating? Yes. Possible?! Possibly! Check out NASAs website on the concept mission.
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