China’s launched its first woman into space and I have to ask, who cares? Is this some major milestone that the rest of the world should really take note of? I could understand it being a big story in China because she is Chinese, as for the rest of the world especially the US and Russia which have had female astronauts in space for literally decades it seems rather redundant? Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about it this week and I am into space news. The way the US media has made this out to be a huge deal is just something beyond me, I don’t understand it. The real story here is that China sent 3 astronauts into space to perform docking manuevers for the first time with the space capsule Heavenly Palace. This is actually important news because once mastered the docking skills will mark an important milestone for China’s space program as it tries to acquire the skills necessary to become a leading nation in space. The fact that a woman happened to be one of the three really is not news worthy outside of China.
In what has to be regarded as one of the most underreported milestones of all time the Voyager 1 space probe has reached the edge of the solar system and will be the first man made object to venture into true interstellar space. At roughly 18 billion kilometers from the sun and traveling at about 17 kilometers a second the probe has had quite a journey that has seen it and its twin Voyager II travel to all of the giant planets in our solar system along with some 48 of their moons. Launched in 1977 and powered by plutonium that will keep the probe sending data back to earth until 2025 it also carries a message for any intelligent life form to come across it. The message in the form of a gold plated phono graph with greetings from earth was designed by a group led by the famed scientist Carl Sagan. The probe is so far away from earth that the data it transmits takes over 16 hours to reach earth. I realize that since it is not a manned mission many will not pay much attention to this and that is a shame because this truly is one of the great achievements in space exploration. Think about it, who knows what it might find out there?
Yesterday was a special event in astronomy because the transit of venus took place and won’t happen again until the year 2117. The event occurs when the planet venus passes directly between the earth and sun according to the BBC’s website. We have a couple of pictures here to look at but you can check out this link for more in-depth coverage.
The US Airforce is rumored to have ordered the return to earth of its space plane the X-37B after spending about one year in space doing classified work. There has been much speculation as to what the mission of the space plane was from supposedly spying on Chinese satellites to acting as a spy satellite itself, but the truth is nobody outside the pentagon really knows.
Instead of setting off on some grand adventure like sending humans to mars NASA has been reduced to doing school science projects at the International Space Station, or worse issuing a plea for future astronauts who visit the moon to not disturb the Apollo landing sites. Indeed, the most exciting thing to have involved NASA as of late was the recent docking of the private company SpaceX’s supply ship called the Dragon. With a budget of billions of dollars and not much to show for it one has to ask what happened to our once proud space program? Original story and picture courtesy of New York Daily News.