April 18, 2010

Carnival of Space 150 - the new Obama Mars Space vision, asteroids, life on titan, space anniversaries and More

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Here is the Carnival of Space 150. The Carnival of Space is coordinated through the UniverseToday.

Centauri Dreams sends "A Dusty Finish in Glasgow": discussing two papers on the properties of interstellar dust from a conference that itself closed on a dusty note with the closing of European airports because of the Icelandic volcano.


Weird Warp takes an excellent look at asteroids. The Dawn Mission will visit the Asteroid Ceres in 2015 and there is possibility of manned missions to asteroids in the new Obama plan. Here is a taste of the Weird Warp article which has many pictures and a lot of information.

Classifications: C-type- carbonaceous types, dark (reflective), primitive
S-type- Stony or Stony metallic, more reflective, more red, fragments
E-type- highly reflective, enstatite (magnesium silicate MgSiO3), fragments
D-type- (dark type) dark, red, primitive
M-type- (metallic type), mostly iron and nickel, fragments>
P-type- (pseudo M type), metallic component

3. Chandra Observatory blog - Einstein's Theory Fights off Challengers

Two different teams have reported using Chandra observations of galaxy clusters to study the properties of gravity on cosmic scales and test Einstein's theory of General Relativity

4. Yuri's Night 2010 (celebrating the first person in space Yuri Garagarin April 12, 1961) was covered by Discovery News with a lot of pictures. Next year is the big 50th anniversary.

5. The Spacewriter provides an opinion on the new plan to go driectly to Mars in the 2030 timeframe

I think it’s pretty important that we return to the Moon as part of a long-range plan of increased exploration, including going to Mars. Here’s why.

6. Adam Crowl at crowlspace looks at Life in Nasty Places.'s about the latest discussion of possible life on Titan.

Abundant microbial life has been found in a lake of hydrocarbons on Earth and this lake is similar to the Methane-Ethane lakes on Titan
Methane-Ethane lakes on Titan (Credit: Copyright 2008 Karl Kofoed)

7. Cheap Astronomy has a podcast saving the world from mass extinction. Planetary Defences are discussed.

8. 21st Century Waves looks at the 50th anniversary of SETI

On April 8, 1960 Drake, using the 85 foot radio telescope at Green Bank, WV, became the first to listen for signals from intelligent space aliens

9. the Planetary Society provides a feast of pretty pictures from Cassini

Janus, Rhea, and the rings. Rhea peeks through gaps in Saturn's rings as Janus floats above in this Cassini photo from April 8, 2010. Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI

10. Philip Plait, the bad astronomer, provides his take on the Obama's new revised space policy. Here is a taste of 4 points of observation and 4 lengthy sections of analysis.

NASA’s budget will be increased in the new plan. Let me repeat that: NASA’s overall budget will go up. And not just a little; we’re talking $6 billion over the next five years. A lot of that goes into scientific research. So far from it being doom and gloom, that’s good news.

Funding is provided for NASA to create a new heavy-lift vehicle.

11. The urban astronomer provides some questions and answers on how tides work.

Weird Science Anti-Nuclear Fission, Nextbigfuture Pro-Nuclear Fission
12. Weird Sciences has several articles this week. The first is Uranium is not a future energy source Although I am the host, I have to present both the Weird Science case from this article and my position which opposes the Weird Science case.

Weird Science is mainly re-summarizing the Willem Storrm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith position
1. too much energy to mill lower grades of uranium ore. No net energy for low grades. 100 parts per million.
2. critics point out that uranium is an abundant element; there is plenty of it in the earth’s crust and in seawater. But in both cases the energy needed to extract it would be more than could ever be recovered.
3. there is the argument that we could use uranium more efficiently by developing breeder reactors, which would be 100 times as efficient as today’s thermal reactors. But after 50 years of extremely expensive research, they are still not technically feasible.

Storm Van Leeuwen and Smith (SLS) have been debated online before and I think their assessment of uranium and nuclear power is wrong

The Rossing mine has a lower Uranium concentration (0.03% vs 0.05% by weight) than Olympic Dam and the discrepancy is even larger in the case of Rossing. Here SLS (Storm Van Leeuwen and Smith) predict Rossing should require 2.6 Giga-Watt-Years of energy for mining and milling. The total consumption of all forms of energy in the country of Namibia is equivalent to 1.5 GigaWatt-Years, much less than the prediction for the mine alone. Furthermore, yearly cost of supplying this energy is over 1 billion dollars, yet the value of the Uranium sold by Rossing was, until recently, less than 100 million dollars per year. Since Rossing reports it's yearly energy usage to be 0.03 GigaWatt-years, SLS overestimates the energy cost of the Rossing mine by a factor of 80.

More of the previous debate is here

Japan has a project in development for large scale recovery of uranium from seawater and Sparton Resources is running projects to obtain uranium from coal ash.
Japanese plans for Uranium from Seawater would be to place the uranium collection system in the path of ocean currents. Kuroshio current moves 520,000 tons of uranium every year.

At a regular meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) on June 2, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) reported on technology for collecting uranium from seawater. According to the two organizations, the total amount of uranium contained in seawater – as one of the 77 elements dissolved therein – measures some 4.5 billion tons, about one thousand times more than is known to exist in uranium mines. Even if Japan could collect just 0.2% of the 520,000 tons of uranium transported every year by the Japan (Kuroshio) Current that flows in the Pacific Ocean, it could easily meet its annual need of 8,000 tons.

This is low energy because you are letting ocean currents move the seawater through the seaweed or ionized polymer that would trap uranium. Then after a few months you haul up the polymer or seaweed and get your uranium. this would not require milling.

Insitu Leach mining does not involve any milling. Most uranium mining in the USA and Kazakhstan is now by in situ leach methods, also known as in situ recovery (ISR). You run pipes into the ground and pump in acid which leaches out the uranium and you pipe out the acid with uranium from another set of pipes.
Russia has operated the 600 MW sodium Beloyarsk breeder for 30 years and is building an 880 MW breeder for 2012. So breeders have commercially operated successfully and still do.

Russia is selling China two of the 880 MWe breeders. China should start construction in 2011 India should have a 500MW breeder running in 2011. India should have five breeders running by 2020. A smaller and newer Russian design is the Lead-Bismuth Fast Reactor (SVBR) of 75-100 MWe. A significant new Russian design from NIKIET is the BREST fast neutron reactor, of 300 MWe or more with lead as the primary coolant, at 540°C, and supercritical steam generators. It is inherently safe and uses a U+Pu nitride fuel. No weapons-grade plutonium can be produced (since there is no uranium blanket), and spent fuel can be recycled indefinitely, with on-site facilities. A pilot unit is planned at Beloyarsk and 1200 MWe units are proposed. The Japan 280 MWe Monju prototype FBR should restart this year. Japan is working on several other faster neutron reactor designs. Hyperion Power Generation is developing a 25 MWe uranium nitride reactor for 2013 and China is developing the first 210MWe pebble bed reactor of many that they plan.

I am open to debating Weird Science on Nuclear fission and uranium and I will publish any rebuttals that Weird Science wants to make.

Back to Space and Astronomy
13. Weird Science considers what a flatlander would see. String theory and some other physics theories talk about ten dimensions (more or less depending upon the theory), but considering the differences between a completely two dimensional entity can provide some insight to differences upper dimensional beings could have with us.

14. Weird Science - Why Colonization Of Galaxy Is Improbable With Self Replicating Probes Weird Science envisions self replicators that have difficulty staying up to date with new technology in the home system and having crude programming that would make them a techno-cancer.

15. Astroblogger provides photos of a sodium tale for Mercury and an asteroid occultation Exploring Mercury's ion tail with the SETERO spacecraft imager, and an asteroid being occulted by Mercury.

16. StarryCritters catches a wave as Herschel's infrared eyes peer deep into the Rosette Nebula showing us the glow of massive, new stars.

17. Arts Nova has a review of the Hubble 3D IMAX Movie
If you are at all interested in space exploration or astronomy, then this is a movie you’ll enjoy. The 3D views are amazing and the script provides a great educational opportunity. And did I mention that the 3D views are amazing.

18. Collect Space provides the Apollo 13 astronauts sharing surprises from their 'successful failure' mission

19. Nextbigfuture - A brown dwarf star was found ten light years away and is one of the ten closest stars to the Earth. The NASA WISE space telescope seems likely to find hundreds of Brown dwarfs and some should be closer than this star and maybe closer than Proxima Centauri.

20. Nextbigfuture looks at technology acceleration and technology over the next few decades. Nuclear fusion for space propulsion and energy generation seem to be on the technology horizon. I predict nuclear fusion propulsion for spaceplanes and rockets will be realized in 2020-2035. A nuclear powered spaceplane will be developed that has an ISP that exceeds 1500 and will enable access to low earth orbit for $100/kg or less.

Humanity has been increasing power generation at the pace of about 50% more power every 15 years since 1900. At this pace it would be about 2220 before humanity reached Kardashev level one (10^17 watts of power generated). The current international energy agency forecasts are for the rate of increase in power generation to slowdown.

Various breakthroughs with nuclear fusion (IEC Fusion, Dense Plasma Focus fusion, FRC fusion, magnetized target fusion) will lower the cost of energy and enable faster economic growth and increase the speed of the buildout of power generation. The pace of growth will at least triple and bring the achievement of Kardashev level one from 210 years in the future to 70 years or less.

UPDATE: 21. Ghost Nasa has a lot of opinions about the new NASA plan from Obama

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