Antimatter: The Future of Space Exploration

September 3, 2019

In my opinion, antimatter will be the eventual solution to interstellar space travel due to its efficiency with regards to using small amounts of it to traverse through a large amount of outer space. At CERN they are able to produce several trillionths of a gram of antimatter at a cost of $20 million. Total worldwide production to date has been a few nanograms. Minuscule amounts produced at 10-12 kilograms can be compared to what physicist Michio Kaku refers to as Gerald Smith of Pennsylvania State University’s personal estimation that 4 milligrams of antimatter would take us to Mars (a milligram of antimatter is 10-6 kilograms). In terms of a size comparison we would need to move from production of antimatter from the size of a human cell to the size of a Mosquito. Kaku says that it is conceivable that if an atom smasher was built specifically just to produce lots of antimatter (current atom smashers have various purposes that are in demand) combined with mass producing these machines we could get antimatter production up significantly.

Antimatter is also the holy grail of some science fiction franchises. In Star Trek: the Original Series Engineer Montgomery Scott is always talking about various issues involving the antimatter and matter parts of the engineering portion of the star ship Enterprise. In terms of reaching those fantastical journey’s that the Enterprise takes on in a real life scenario (which could be possible near the end of this century) 100 grams of antimatter will perhaps take us to nearby star systems.

In terms of the origin of the term antimatter it was first predicted by Paul Dirac in 1928 with his Dirac equation and later discovered in 1932 by Carl Anderson. In 2018, CERN proposed a containment technology that would allow a billion anti-protons to be contained in a device that could be driven to other labs. Labs similar to CERN where antimatter has been produced include the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (pictured in the featured image of this article) in the United States.

Very Much Behind: Australia Finally Creates a Space Agency in 2018

A map of Australia with it's flag over the continent

May 19, 2018

This month Australia announced that it will spend $50 million to fund it’s first official space agency. I find this surprising as every major developed country in the world has a space agency except Australia. Announcing that Australia is forming a space agency (which will commence operations on July 1, 2018) this late will have various consequences for this country in the future. For example, Canada with a population of 35 million people (only 10 million more than Australia’s at 25 million) created the Canadian Space Agency in 1989. Australia may fall behind in technological development and resource acquirement both in the short, medium and long term future as a result of this. Furthermore, they could possibly face a shortage of scientists working in the astrobiology and astrophysics fields which could hurt the country’s prosperity if humanity becomes a space faring civilization sometime in the future.

The blame for this should rest on Australia’s politicians. After all we elect politicians to pass legislation and it seems as if many Australian politicians in the past simply never thought it was important enough to have a space agency. The technology sectors of the country could also be severely effected as they will likely not get many contracts to build things such as space shuttles, robotics, etc. Many in the private sector would probably go with a space agency that is at least 10 years old. The staff required for their space agency will also be difficult to acquire without offering significantly more money for positions as other than money scientists will see little incentive to work for Australia’s space agency due to it being an agency that will be founded near the middle of this year.

The Australian people should really question why their politicians never gave a space agency the green light to be formed in the past. Perhaps they need to rethink their entire approach to politics after this embarrassing debacle.

 Methane = Life on Mars (Microbial)? Quite Possibly

An Artists drawing of Mars

May 12, 2018

The possibility of primitive life on Mars is possible and scientists may be able to find out whether this is the case in the next several months. There are two distinct possibilities in regards to the source of Methane on Mars: Firstly, it was made by either once existing or existing microbial lifeforms or secondly, it is geological in nature. If it is geological in nature which some people would perhaps embrace with less excitement, with further studies scientists may be able to learn more about the existence of water on Mars.  These findings were found out by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter by a collaborative mission between the European Space Agency and Roscosmos. A complete survey of the methane that is present in the Martian atmosphere will likely take a full year.

In my opinion a top priority of space agencies around the world should be to discover more about Mars. After all, it is now official U.S policy to have astronaut’s land on the surface of Mars by 2033 (under the presidential orders of Donald Trump). Just as the moon was the focus of 20th century space exploration, Mars should be the focus of 21st century space exploration. Once Mars has been explored and inhabited it is only then that we can set our sights beyond the solar system and the possible alien worlds that would be associated with better technology in rocket propulsion systems. Studying methane levels on Mars should be seen only as several hundred or even thousands of steps needed in order for humanity to spread across the stars. The rhetoric from science fiction T.V shows, movies, books and video games is vast, however progress in space exploration has stalled even though public interest remains strong.

That is why greater funding is needed in public schools for science programs because that is where one’s interests in space really begin. In my own experience, I was excited to learn about astronomy in grade nine science, however it comprised of only a week of a four month class. Furthermore, throughout my years in high school, I never received any more class lessons on astronomy after this. Even in aspects of science that are more traditional such as Biology and Chemistry, curriculum content could be improved from the viewpoint of my experience, not to mention that some resources being used in class were outdated. Class sizes are also an issue in public schools as a larger class typically gets less individual help from a teacher.

Microbial life is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the vastness of space. Resources, other civilizations and the opportunities that come with such discoveries create an imperative upon the human race to discover more. We have explored Earth throughout our history yet have only stepped foot on another surface that was relatively close to our planet (the moon). Exploring Mars is one of a series of steps that will allow us to uplift human civilization beyond deadly wars, environmental destruction and racism. It is my hope that once humanity reaches for the stars we can shed our tribal nature of conforming to, at times: race based social groups. What some perceive as race is merely a matter of different skin pigmentation’s that our ancestors had based upon historical homelands in regards to their close proximity, moderate proximity or lack of proximity to the equator. I hope that by the end of this century or ideally before then we fully see ourselves as one united human species.

Will the Kepler Telescope be Broken Beyond Repair Soon?

An artists depiction of the Kepler Telescope

February 27, 2018

Over the past several years there has been bad news regarding the Kepler telescope. Firstly, one of the wheels broke, not a big deal however as NASA indicated that if three of the wheels were in a functional state the telescope could still handle its job. Then came the really bad news: yet another wheel broke. This has essentially prevented the telescope from turning around and has hampered further planet discoveries. The James Webb Telescope is clearly needed in order to help assist the Kepler telescope in regards to analyzing the atmospheric compositions of certain planets that have shown the potential to be habitable for life in the universe. Perhaps a replacement to the Kepler telescope should be considered at the beginning of the 2020’s. Although I am excited at the prospect of a manned mission to Mars in the coming decades it would also be nice to have scientists make discoveries from beyond our solar system.

The worst fear that many in the science community probably have is that another wheel might break which would cause even more problems. There was even a case where the Kepler telescope had to be power cycled as it started malfunctioning, so issues besides the wheels are also a possibility in the future. More funding for telescopes should also be looked at in the future by governments around the world as the prospect of funding telescopes aren’t always as exciting as a manned mission to the moon, Mars or anywhere for that matter. The Canadian space agency should also help contribute in the future as well. Some good work has been accomplished by them in regards to the construction of the Canada Arm near the International Space Station.

Is The United States Destined to Become Number Two in Space Exploration?

A picture of Buzz Aldrin on the moon

February 25, 2018

In an open letter: Neil Armstrong, James Lovell and Eugene Cerman indicated their frustration over the cancellation of the Constellation program. The Constellation program intended astronauts to return to the moon, go to an asteroid and then eventually get to Mars. Former President Barack Obama instead cancelled the program and this resulted in the United States being reliant on Russia for travel to the International Space Station. Armstrong comments that this could leave the United States as a second or third rate country in space exploration and I agree with his notion. Being without a shuttle to take you into space is a huge blow, also of note is the fact that $10 billion dollars on the constellation program was wasted for no reason whatsoever other than Obama’s so called epiphany that going back to the moon isn’t required and that astronauts should go straight from an asteroid and then onto Mars. The logistics regarding this is just mind boggling as no human space shuttle has ever landed on an asteroid before. Also, the fact remains that the moon is more familiar to scientists around the world as the United States went there previously and has a rough idea of what to expect.

The technology lost with abandoning the Constellation program is also significant. Sure, some things can be re-purposed but there is surely some equipment that was designed solely for a return mission to the moon. There is also another possibility that more could be learned from a return trip to the moon not to mention the fact that pictures taken in more recent times would be of better quality than those taken in the 1960’s. Many people have also commented that the space shuttle program in the United States was one of great national pride and that it will be sorely missed. The cost of sending United States astronauts into space aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft is also astronomical at $50 million per seat, something that the Russian’s will surely increase in order to squeeze as much money out of the American’s as they can since they now know that they are the only ones with the capability to send astronaut’s into space.