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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

Podcast 75 - Robert Kurson and Apollo

“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”

Robert H Goddard

Robert Kurson Interview

thanks to Brent Underwood ...who organised getting an advanced copy of Rocket Men a brilliant new book about Apollo 8 to the Podcast

Robert Kurson earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and a law degree from Harvard Law School. His award-winning stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Esquire, where he was a contributing editor. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers, the 2005 American Booksellers Association's nonfiction Book Sense Book of the Year; Crashing Through, based on Kurson's 2006 National Magazine Award-winning profile in Esquire of the blind speed skier, CIA analyst, and entrepreneur Mike May; and Pirate Hunters. He lives in Chicago.

Dozen black holes found at galactic centre

Paper: A density cusp of quiescent X-ray binaries in the central parsec of the Galaxy

Charles J Hailey from Columbia University in New York et al

  • Prof Hailey: "confirms a major theory", adding: "It is going to significantly advance gravitational wave research because knowing the number of black holes in the centre of a typical galaxy can help in better predicting how many gravitational wave events may be associated with them."

  • The existence of a ‘density cusp’—a localized increase in number—of stellar-mass black holes near a supermassive black hole is a fundamental prediction of galactic stellar dynamics

  • The best place to detect such a cusp is in the Galactic Centre, where the nearest supermassive black hole, SagittariusA*, resides.

  • As many as 20,000 black holes are predicted to settle into the central parsec of the Galaxy as a result of dynamical friction;

  • however, so far no density cusp of black holes has been detected.

  • Low-mass X-ray binary systems that contain a stellar-mass black hole are natural tracers of isolated black holes.

  • Chandra: observations of a dozen quiescent (in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy) X-ray binaries in a density cusp within one parsec of SagittariusA*.

  • The lower-energy emission spectra that we observed in these binaries is distinct from the higher-energy spectra associated with the population of accreting white dwarfs that dominates the central eight parsecs of the Galaxy

  • By extrapolating from the properties and distribution of these binaries, the team estimates that there may be 300-500 low-mass binaries and 10,000 isolated low-mass black holes surrounding Sgr A*..

  • We cannot rule out a contribution to the observed emission from a population (of up to about one-half the number of X-ray binaries) of rotationally powered, millisecond pulsars.

  • The spatial distribution of the binary systems is a relic of their formation history, either in the stellar disk around SagittariusA* or through in-fall from globular clusters, and constrains the number density of sources in the modelling of gravitational waves from massive stellar remnants such as neutron stars and black holes

  • Previous attempts to detect this population of black holes have looked for the bright bursts of X-rays that are sometimes emitted by black hole binaries. But those bursts are only strong and bright enough to see about once every 100 to 1,000 years

  • "Isolated, unmated black holes are just black - they don't do anything," said Prof Hailey. "But when black holes mate with a low mass star, the marriage emits X-ray bursts that are weaker, but consistent and detectable."

  • Prof Hailey said the finding "confirms a major theory", adding: "It is going to significantly advance gravitational wave research because knowing the number of black holes in the centre of a typical galaxy can help in better predicting how many gravitational wave events may be associated with them."

The RemoveDebris system

International Space Station where deployment is expected to set the experiment running in late May.

  • 7,500 tonnes of space junk circling the Earth.

  • RemoveDebris will showcase technologies that could be used to clean up some of this techno-garbage.

  • The 100kg demonstrator left Earth on Monday onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

  • RemoveDebris carries its own "junk" - two small cubesats that it will eject and then track.

  • Demo 1 snare cubesat with a net.

  • Demo 2 laser ranging (Lidar) and camera technology needed to monitor and characterise of second cubesat in orbit;

  • Demo 3 There will also be a demonstration of a small harpoon.

  • The RemoveDebris satellite will extend a boom with a target on the end.

  • The sharp projectile will be fired at this to learn more about how such devices move and impact a surface in micro-gravity.

  • Demo 4 At the end of its mission, RemoveDebris will deploy a large membrane. This "sail" will increase the drag from air molecules high in the atmosphere and act to pull the satellite down to Earth much faster than would otherwise be the case.

  • The entire RemoveDebris project is costing €15m (£13m). Half of this is coming from the European Commission; the other half is coming from the 10 partners involved.

  • These include Airbus, which supplied the harpoon technology, and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, which assembled the spacecraft.

  • The mission has been organised through NanoRacks, a Houston, US, company that specialises in deploying small satellites from the space station.

Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM)

Dr. Martin Fullekrug from the University of Bath will see over 15 years of work realised when a scientific experiment his research has contributed towards will be sent into space for the first time.

  • The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) is a state-of-the-art unique collection of optical cameras, fast light meters and X- and Gamma-ray detectors, which for the first time, will allow researchers to observe lightning in the Earth's atmosphere with unprecedented detail from space.

  • ASIM will observe and record the inner anatomy of lightning processes to improve an understanding of the impact of lightning on the atmosphere and infrastructure and it will contribute to more accurate climate models.

  • The ASIM equipment will make it possible to measure bursts of Gamma-rays – known as TGFs (Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes) emanating from thunderstorms. It will also observe lightning and high-altitude lightning types such as red sprites, blue jets, and gigantic jets – known as TLEs (Transient Luminous Events) - which only last a millisecond to a second in duration. The instruments will run continuously and data collected will be saved and sent to Earth for analysis.

29 March GSLV Mk II

GSAT-6A is a communications satellite operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation

  • During the launch, ISRO tested a next generation high thrust Vikas engine,(based on the old Ariane 4 Viking Engine) which powered the rocket’s second stage. The improved engine increased the payload capability of the vehicle and will be incorporated into GSLV’s future missions, including Chandrayaan-2 planned for October 2018.[4]

  • The 1st orbit raising maneuver and 2nd orbit raising maneuver successfully

  • On its 3rd and final orbit raising maneuver on 1st April 2018, Communication was lost with the satellite. Efforts by ISRO are on to re-establish communication with the satellite

Why are SPACEX abandoning Falcon 9 boosters?

  • In 2017, SpaceX launched 18 Falcon 9 rockets and recovered all 15 of the first stages it attempted to land.

  • Great year: one launch every 13 days this year.This is a significant number because it brings the company within its longstanding goal of launching a rocket every two weeks.

  • But also this year, SpaceX has launched 6 Falcons and 1 Falcon heavy and has landed just one of the Falcon 9 boosters the first flight of the year on January 8. and 2 of the FH Since then, the rocket company has not sought to recover any of the five Falcon 9 rockets it has launched. WHAT GIVES!!!

  • Block 3 and Block 4. its engineers determined that these versions could probably only fly twice in a safe and economical manner.

  • So they are expending them to concentrate on Block 5 the final variation that can be used mulitple times.

  • Using the block 3 and 4 for high speed data collection test into the sea

The Tiangong-1 space station broke up northwest of Tahiti on Sunday night, US time.

History 50 years ago

Estec Europe's largest place for space had its royal inauguration on 3 April 1968;

Apollo 6

2001: Space Odyssey

Space Song playlist on spotify If you enjoy the show please go over to and become a Patron or even a producer of the show. If you enjoy why not join the BIS at the oldest space advocacy organisation in the world.

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