BAN #121: Space Race, Beresheet’s resting place, Eagle’s flight

June 10, 2019 Issue #121

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]


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'Book ’em

Sometimes I read books

When I was a kid I voraciously read every book I could find about astronomy, space, and space travel. The Apollo missions were winding down by then, but there was still a lot of stuff going on in space, and I wanted to learn all of it.

I wish I had had The Space Race by Sarah Cruddas back then! She’s an e-friend of mine, a space journalist with a background in astrophysics. Both of these are clear in the book, which is aimed at young kids around the ages 6 – 9 years old.

With big pictures and drawings, she goes over the history of space travel, including the lead up to Sputnik, Apollo, post-Apollo, and where we are now with “new space”, with private companies competing to explore the skies. She also includes some of the astronomical science that are a part of this, including what we’ve learned about the Moon and Mars and other objects in the solar system. There’s also a lot of discussion about the tech that goes into all this, aimed again at younger kids.

I was pleased to see special attention paid to the women who contributed to the quest for space; that’s commonly overlooked in books (or at least certainly in the ones I read when I was younger). There’s a trend now — hopefully what will become a permanent feature of any book like this — to look for the history not usually seen, because those tales not told tend to marginalize the contributions of certain people in our society: Women, people of color, and more. It’s always nice to see some light shone on them… and for that matter, the forward is by NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot a Space Shuttle.

One thing that occurs to me now too: The descriptions in the book are fairly brief, as befits the intended audience. But any kid reading it can easily find more info online. I suggest that any grownups buying this book for a kiddo read it themselves (or with the kid), and then go online with the child to find more info in whatever it is that piques their interest. NASA has tons of info out there, some written specifically for younger audiences.

If you have someone like this in your life this would be a nice way to help them celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. There’s still time before July 20th!

The Space Race is available on Amazon (affiliate link) or through other booksellers you can find on the Penguin Publishing page for the book.



Space news

Space is big. That’s why we call it “space”

This is bittersweet: The impact site of the Israeli lunar lander Beresheet has been found on the Moon.

Earlier in 2019, a Falcon 9 rocket launched with the lander on board, the product of a private company called SpaceIL that had built it to win the Lunar X-Prize. Unfortunately no one met the Prize’s deadline, but SpaceIL was determined to continue the work. They did, and things looked pretty good after launch.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well as it approached the Moon. Jason Davis at The Planertary Society has the whole story, but the bottom line is the main engine cut off for a while, and even though they got it started back up it was too late. Beresheet had too much velocity, and it crashed.

And now, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged the crash site:

[Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]

That’s a before (left) and after (right; the scale bar is 100 meters) shot; the after one has been processed a bit to bring out details. As you can see, it hit hard enough to disturb the surface material. The dark spot is where it hit, and the white is where the regolith (the grainy dust covering most of the surface) was thrown around. For details, read the LRO site on the images; it’s pretty interesting.

It’s too bad it ended like that, but the mission still accomplished a lot. And, as space travel seems to necessitate quite often, the company learned from their mistakes. They have pledged to try again.

I’m glad. I want to see the Moon explored, and as long as it’s done for science and other peaceful purposes, then at this point the more the merrier.


Colorado

Because my home state is pretty

Look carefully. Sometimes, if you set your brain the right way, the confusion of noise can be ignored, and the pattern underneath — or behind — lets you take flight.

[Credit: Phil Plait]

FWIW that’s an immature bald eagle that was being harassed by some magpies. It was on the ground and I was able to have my camera ready when it took off. That’s the only photo I got of it in the air, though. Another confirmation of a lesson I’ve learned: Always have the good camera ready at hand when the weather is nice and I’m out and about in Colorado.


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!