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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#186 - Nicholas Booth - Mars and Other Space Adventures

We are joined on the Podcast by Nicholas Booth, a fab space journalist and writer, this is only a chunk of a really interesting interview. ...more to come. We also look at some of this week's big news stories.

“Having that perspective allows you to see the Earth for what it is. It’s one body. We’re all in this together.”

From a Great interview in Nature with Jessica Watkins who spent her PhD studying landslides on Mars. Now she is among the few humans with a shot at being the first to walk on the red planet.

NICHOLAS BOOTH has been a writer for over thirty years. He was the youngest Briton to ever work for NASA and read physics at London University before working on Astronomy Now magazine. He then worked for the world’s oldest newspapers: as a science writer for The Observer and then as a technology editor on The Times. He has written a dozen books including an encyclopedia on space, a look at the next century in space as well as a book on the planets and one on the ozone layer. He has broadcast regularly, presented on radio and worked as an editorial director and mobile publisher. With an interest in history and unusual characters, his book Zigzag, about the double agent Eddie Chapman, is being made into a film by Tom Hanks. His most recent is about the most famous forgery in history, The Thieves of Threadneedle Street. In 2020, his first thriller, Messiah, is being published as well as The Search For Life On Mars with Elizabeth Howell.


The Astronaut’s Wife

Annie Glenn, the wife of astronaut John Glenn, has died at age 100 of complications from COVID-19. She overcame a significant speech impediment and became an advocate for others with similar challenges.


Unrest at NASA

Former space shuttle commander Ken Bowersox has taken over from Douglas Loverro after he resigned from his role as the new Chief of Human Exploration. Remarkable timing considering we are only days away from the US return to human space flight.

Turning to Eric Berger for analysis, It appears that Loverro had mucked up part of the procurement process of the lunar landers, by essentially trying to get Boing to get a better bid as he believed their integrated lander (on SLS) was the only way to get humans to the moon by 2024, but this kind of breaks the rules, despite the lack of ill will etc. he’s gone ...not great news.


27 May THE BIG ONE!!!

Crew Dragon Demo 2: Crewed flight test of Dragon 2 as part of the Commercial Crew Development program. Mission duration will be determined after arrival at the International Space Station

  • Doug “Chunky” Hurley was the Pilot of the last American manned mission, way back in 2011 on STS-135. On 27th he will once again don a spacesuit, the SpaceX pressure suit.

  • Dr, Bob Behnken will join him, he also is a veteran of 2 space flights on the Shuttle and married to Astronaut Megan McArthur the last person to ever touch the Hubble Space Telescope.

  • Flight Commander Chunky is married, with one son, to Astronaut Karen Nyberg, whose Nephew Andrew designed the Insignia for the launch

  • Also, look out for the return of the Worm. Making its first official appearance since ‘92

  • The nice fresh booster will land on Of Course I Still Love you in the Atlantic.

  • Crew Dragon is now the only manned capsule to land at sea, ...since the Apollo era? The rocket-assisted landing long abandoned by Musk


Edinburgh, Scotland, 20 May 2020

Skyrora's chief executive officer, Volodymyr Levykin said: "As the launch aspect of the UK's new Space industry starts to emerge, there will be many events that have never happened here previously and this is one of them. This was a mammoth effort in very trying circumstances, so it is quite an achievement to be proud of.

The 2.5 Tonne Skylark L is a single-stage suborbital rocket, guided by rocket gimbals and some cold thruster to control roll. Capable of putting a 50kg to a height of 102km. Useful for University and research facilities and environmentally friendly HTP/Kerosene Combo.

Kerbal Space Program enthusiasts will receive a free update to their space simulator to build an Ariane 5 rocket and tackle real ESA missions in ‘Shared Horizons’ from 1 July.


Nancy Grace Roman, or space legend of the week on podcast 133, is often called the mother of Hubble, the telescope, not the man. Now to celebrate the 100th year of Women's suffrage in the US, NASA has named WFIRST the Roman Telescope.

Scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is essentially Hubble’s wide-eyed cousin. While just as sensitive as Hubble's cameras, the Roman Space Telescope's 300-megapixel Wide Field Instrument will image a sky area 100 times larger. This means a single Roman Space Telescope image will hold the equivalent detail of 100 pictures from Hubble.

Former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who worked with NASA on the Hubble and WFIRST space telescopes, said, "It is well deserved. It recognizes the incredible achievements of women in science and moves us even closer to no more hidden figures and no more hidden galaxies."

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science. “Her name deserves a place in the heavens she studied and opened for so many.”

The Roman Space Telescope is designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets and infrared astrophysics.

Primary mirror; 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in diameter and is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope's primary mirror.

2 main instruments

  1. The Wide Field Instrument

  2. Technology demonstration Coronagraph Instrument. That will perform high contrast imaging and spectroscopy of individual nearby exoplanets

Outer space Treaty?

International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy.

“The empty core stage of the Long March 5B, weighing nearly 20 tons, was in an uncontrolled free fall along a path that carried it over Los Angeles and other densely populated areas," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Ars on Friday morning. "I can think of no better example of why we need the Artemis Accords. It’s vital for the U.S. to lead and establish norms of behaviour against such irresponsible activities. Space exploration should inspire hope and wonder, not fear and danger.”

The big one is the space resources part, which cements America’s interpretation of the OST that despite not owning anything in space, you can use the resources you extract, so this could be a tool to get other nations to essentially agree to that interpretation.

SWARM and the Anomalies of sci-fi nightmares.

Remember back on podcast 131 we talked about Steve? Steve the atmospheric anomaly, that ESA had cracked using a satellite system called SWARM.

Swarm’s trio, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, of satellites maps the Earth’s magnetic field, in 2018 Canada and ESA added a fourth already flying sat to the constellation and called it Echo. Since then they have studied the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly. an area stretching from Africa to South America, Where Earth’s magnetic field is gradually weakening. This strange behaviour has geophysicists puzzled and is causing technical disturbances in satellites orbiting Earth. Over the last 200 years, the magnetic field has lost around 9% of its strength on a global average. And this large region of reduced magnetic intensity has developed between Africa and South America. It has been speculated whether the current weakening of the field is a sign that Earth is heading for an imminent pole reversal – in which the north and south magnetic poles switch places, satellites and other spacecraft flying through the area are more likely to experience technical malfunctions as the magnetic field is weaker in this region, so charged particles can penetrate the altitudes of low-Earth orbit satellites.

X37b Flew up this week. More information than usual. Awesome launch.

The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) experiment has been designed to study ultra-high-energy (UHE) cosmic neutrinos by detecting the radio pulses emitted by their interactions with the Antarctic ice sheet. This is to be accomplished using an array of radio antennas suspended from a helium balloon flying at a height of about 37,000 meters

Back in 2018 P. W. Gorham et al. reported on an upward travelling, radio-detected cosmic-ray-like impulsive event with characteristics closely matching an extensive air shower.

This event, observed in the third flight of the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA), the NASA-sponsored long-duration balloon payload, is consistent with a similar event reported in a previous flight.

These events seem to challenge the standard model.

So which are we to believe that there is a parallel universe that is running backwards in time or that there is something experimentally wrong with Anita.

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. The Standard Model is as stubborn as fuck”!!

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