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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#156 - Solaris and Sabre

This week we talk with Matthew Lutton the Director of the theatre production of Solaris at London's Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, We are also Joined by Brendan Owens, Astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich to chat about this classic Sci-Fi by Stanisław Lem.

The frontier in space, embodied in the space colony, is one in which the interactions between humans and their environment is so much more sensitive and interactive and less tolerant of irresponsibility than it is on the whole surface of the Earth.

Rusty Schweickart

Solaris at London's Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith 10 Oct ‐ 02 Nov 2019

Photo -Mihaela Bodlovic

A new play by David Greig adapted from Stanisław Lem’s novel. Directed by Matthew Lutton.

On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.

Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.

When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?

Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them? This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.

Born OTD Oct 25th

1935 – Rusty Schweickart, American soldier, pilot, and astronaut

1877 – Henry Norris Russell, American astronomer (d. 1957)

Born in Oyster Bay, New York, the son of Rev Alexander Gatherer Russell and Eliza Hoxie Norris

  • Astronomy at Princeton University, B.A. In 1897 and his

  • Doctorate in 1899, studying under Charles Augustus Young.

1903 to 1905, Cambridge Observatory with Arthur Robert Hinks as a research assistant of the Carnegie Institution and came under the strong influence of George Darwin.

He returned to Princeton;

  • instructor in astronomy (1905–1908),

  • assistant professor (1908–1911),

  • 1910 - developed the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram a scatter plot of stars, very simply, it plots each star on a graph measuring the star's brightness against its temperature (color). Most of the stars occupy the region in the diagram along the line called the main sequence. During the stage of their lives in which stars are found on the main sequence line, they are fusing hydrogen in their cores. The next concentration of stars is on the horizontal branch (helium fusion in the core and hydrogen burning in a shell surrounding the core).

professor (1911–1927)

  • Shapley was one of his students (podcast 105)

  • 1925 - Podcast 132 for full story, but Russell dissuaded Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin from concluding that the composition of the Sun is different from that of the Earth in her thesis, as it contradicted the accepted wisdom at the time. He realized she was correct four years later after deriving the same result by different means. In his paper Russell credited Payne with discovering that the Sun had a different chemical composition from Earth

  • Also pioneer in quantum physics, described spin–orbit coupling or LS Coupling in atoms; and this is called Russell–Saunders coupling after Russell and Frederick Albert Saunders

Research professor (1927–1947).

  • Spitzer was his student

  • 1927 - Russell co-wrote with Dugan and Stewart: Astronomy: A Revision of Young’s Manual of Astronomy

  • The standard astronomy textbook for about two decades.

  • Popularized the idea that a star's properties (radius, surface temperature, luminosity, etc.) were largely determined by the star's mass and chemical composition, which became known as the Vogt-Russell theorem (including Heinrich Vogt who independently discovered the result).

  • Since a star's chemical composition gradually changes with age (usually in a non-homogeneous fashion), stellar evolution results.

He was also the director of the Princeton University Observatory from 1912 to 1947.

He died in Princeton, New Jersey on 18 February 1957 at the age of 79.[12] He is buried in Princeton Cemetery


SpaceX: delivering broadband by the middle of next year. Gwynn Shotwell said that it would require another 6 to 8 batches and user terminals to be finished

Elon Musk said via Twitter that he was attempting to post something via Starlink, 2 minutes later, he tweeted the result: "Whoa, it worked!!"

Military aircraft are testing the starlink and are getting 610 megabits per second whilst in flight!!!

  • 60 up at the moment, launched on a single falcon in my.

  • 400 Starlink craft to provide "minor" coverage and

  • 800 for "moderate" coverage

  • SpaceX has the approval to launch about 12,000 Starlink satellites

  • Applied for permission to loft up to 30,000 more.

  • Just over 2000 sats working currently in TOTAL

  • 9000 hve been launched or their about.

Of course the IAC is going on!!

Ariane6 2023 rideshare mission to the moon. Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël has said

  • It can deliver 8,500 kilograms into a lunar transfer orbit.

  • Government and private customers for that mission.

  • Israël also said Arianespace will push for a European crewed spaceflight program at the European Space Agency's 2022 ministerial meeting.!!!!!

  • ESA are looking for funding to make the prometheus engine, which may be used on a future reusable european vehicle and even on the Ariane 6

Blue Origin announced at IAC on Tuesday it is joining forces "national team" to propose a lunar lander to NASA.

  • Blue Origin will provide the descent module,

  • Lockheed the ascent module,

  • Northrop a transfer stage to take the lander from the Gateway to low lunar orbit,

  • Draper the guidance systems.

  • The companies said the "national priority" created by the 2024 deadline led them to join forces, even after some of the companies proposed developing landers on their own.

  • Proposals for NASA's Human Landing Services program are due to the agency Nov. 1, with initial study contracts likely awarded by the end of the year.

The Chang'e-4 lander and rover have resumed work for the 11th lunar day on the far side of the moon after "sleeping" during the extremely cold night. The lander woke up at 5:11 a.m. Wednesday (Beijing Time), and the rover, Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2), awoke at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday. Both are in normal working conditions, according to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center


Reaction Engines has successfully tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, marking a significant milestone in the development of its SABRE™ engine and paving the way for a revolution in hypersonic flight and space access.

The precooler heat exchanger is a vital component of Reaction Engines’ revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine and is an enabling technology for other precooled propulsion systems and a range of commercial applications.

This ground-based test achieved the highest temperature objective of the Company’s HTX testing programme and

took place at its specially constructed unique facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port, United States.

unique precooler successfully quenched airflow temperatures in excess of 1,000°C (~1,800°F) in less than 1/20th of a second.

demonstrated the precooler’s ability to successfully cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet-engine powered aircraft in history.

Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft – the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">IT&#39;S OFFICIAL! Our HTX test programme has fully validated our precooler technology at Mach 5 – a significant milestone in the development of SABRE, hypersonic flight and space access! Full release here

Commenting, Mark Thomas, Chief Executive, Reaction Engines, said:

“This is a major moment in the development of a breakthrough aerospace technology which has seen Reaction Engines’ precooler tested at Mach 5 airflow temperature conditions, smashing through previous achievements at Mach 3.3 temperatures and paving the way for hypersonic flight. In addition to its use in our SABRE class of air breathing rocket engines, there are numerous exciting commercial applications for our precooler technology, which delivers world-leading heat transfer capabilities at low weight and compact size, and we are seeing significant interest from a range of potential customers and technology partners.”

The major testing milestone is the culmination of 30 years of engineering innovation since Reaction Engines was founded in 1989 by three propulsion engineers from Rolls-Royce, Alan Bond, Richard Varvill and John Scott-Scott.

enhance the performance of existing jet engine technology, along with applications in automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial processes.

keenly supported by the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and European Space Agency (ESA). In March, the two agencies reviewed and validated the preliminary design of the demonstrator engine core of SABRE, which Reaction Engines will use to undertake ground-based testing at its under-construction TF1 test facility at Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK.

The HTX hot heat exchanger test programme was supported under a contract to the Company’s US subsidiary Reaction Engines Inc. by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The precooler test item was designed and constructed at Reaction Engines’ headquarters in the UK, before being shipped to the Company’s Colorado site for testing.

Following this significant testing milestone, the Company will embark on achieving the next steps of the SABRE programme while also pursuing nearer-term opportunities that will benefit from the addition of the Company’s heat exchanger technology.

Over the last four years Reaction Engines has raised over £100m from public and private sources and has secured investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing HorizonX.

Commenting on this achievement, Science Minister Chris Skidmore said:

“The SABRE engine is one of the UK’s most exciting engineering projects which could change forever how we launch satellites into orbit and travel across the world. It’s fantastic to see Reaction Engines passing this significant milestone, which demonstrates how its precooler technology can deal with the extreme temperatures associated with travelling at five times the speed of sound. The government has invested £60 million in SABRE and is committed to taking a more strategic approach to space, developing our national capabilities to complement and expand on the UK’s leading role in the European Space Agency once we leave the EU.”

No defects found in the reproductive ability of male mice returning from a short stay in space

researchers led by Professor Ikawa Masahito from Osaka University, with the University of Tsukuba and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have found

The effect on the reproductive system and fertility of living in a space environment remains unclear.

launch or landing stress, psychological stress, gravity changes, and radiation.

gravity at launch and landing is up to 7.0 gravity3. Hypergravity leads to a decrease of cerebral blood flow and arterial pressure.

Zero gravity causes a deterioration of an astronaut’s muscles and bones and a disorder of the optic nerve7.

The radiation dose per day on the International Space Station (ISS) is comparable to about half a year on Earth resulting in genomic mutations and cancer formation

In a special cage placed in a centrifuge on the International space station, 12 male mice under artificial gravity (≈1 gravity) (AG) or microgravity (MG) stayed for 35 days,

On return they characterized the male reproductive organs after their return to earth.

Mice caged on earth during the 35 days served as a “ground” control (GC).

Only a decrease in accessory gland weight was detected in AG and MG males; however, none of the reproductive organs showed any overt microscopic defects or changes in gene expression as determined by RNA-seq.

The cauda epididymal spermatozoa from AG and MG mice could fertilize oocytes in vitro at comparable levels as GC males.

When the fertilized eggs were transferred into pseudo-pregnant females, there was no significant difference in pups delivered (pups/transferred eggs) among GC, AG, and MG spermatozoa.

In addition, the growth rates and fecundity of the obtained pups were comparable among all groups.

They conclude that short-term stays in outer space do not cause overt defects in the physiological function of male reproductive organs, sperm function, and offspring viability.

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