To Forever and Beyond…

45th Parallel – Along I-75

This week’s New Yorker featured an article, The Plan to Make Michigan the Next Space State, touting Michigan’s burgeoning spaceflight industry that as of yet has not gotten off the ground. As with most of today’s modern spaceflight tales, at its center lies another billionaire, at least I assume that is what Tom Baldwin is. As a purportedly rather successful commodities trader, I think that that is a fair assumption. According to the article, Mr. Baldwin owns a Lake Superior property that hosts one of the largest log cabins in the world, called Granot Loma. I guess Shangri-La was already taken. Located lakeside, northwest of Marquette, this cabin is nestled within about 5,000 acres of shorefront property. Baldwin would like to see at least part of this property used as a vertical rocket-launch site, by the Michigan Launch Initiative. Sitting north of the 45th Parallel, this site could be used to safely launch satellites out over the lake and into polar orbits.

The Grand Tour

This initiative is looking at two other locations to be part of their effort. One is located down state, but Chippawa International Airport is slated to be this operation’s command-and-control center. Are we looking at a future upgrade for this facility to spaceport? “Final boarding call at gate-one-and-only for Mars, Jupiter and all planets beyond.” In this article Baldwin even hints at his openness to collaborating with another big billionaire space enthusiast, Elon Musk.

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse

Last night there was a partial lunar eclipse. It peaked here around 3 AM, but I didn’t see it until an hour later. So, it was significantly reduced in effect. Anne woke me up, my friendly neighborhood lunatic. She went upstairs to view it, but I went outside and into the freezing night. I think that I got the better view and when we both got into bed, I snuggled up to her, to ensure that we were both equally cold. I’ve added a photoshopped reflection in order to jazz up the shot.

I got my bloodwork’s lab results back today and I am grossly normal. Hurrah! Which is not the same as normally gross, but I’m probably that too. I had a couple of readings that were outside the normal range, but other normal readings indicated that these abnormal results were not important.

In other news, I did the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving today. The tab wasn’t all that bad. With all of the talk about inflation, especially at the grocery store, I have noticed that my bills there are higher than what they use to be, but I don’t think that I can attribute all of that to inflation. Unless we are speaking of inflated appetites. Since the pandemic, I have been spending more time and money with cooking. It has led to better eating, but also more expensive eating too. Anyway the bill for this years turkey dinner will not be as expensive as past years have been. Partly, because there will be fewer diners, but also because we already have many of the necessary ingredients. 

Starlink

When we were camping at the Grand Canyon last month, we witnessed a most unusual sight in the night sky. We saw a Starlink satellite train. Starlink is a satellite network that Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation is launching even now. When completed in a few years, it will be composed of thousands of satellites that will blanket the earth’s skies worldwide, bring the internet to every corner of the world. Eventually, each satellite has its own individual orbit, but immediately after launch, because of SpaceX’s unorthodox card-dealing technique for deploying the 60 Starlink broadband satellites that are boosted into space at the same time, they temporarily form a Starlink train.

The Grand Canyon is a dark sky park, the sky was perfectly clear and the timing of the event that we witnessed couldn’t have been better. It was dark, but it wasn’t that long after sundown, allowing the already set sun to illuminate the satellites that were 500 miles above us. I didn’t have the wherewithal to photograph the sight, but plenty of other people have. I chose this example from Twitter, because the scene includes a full moon, so you have an idea of how bright these satellites really are. For us, it was a moonless night and I swear, at the Grand Canyon they seemed even brighter then they appear in this video, brighter than any star in the sky.

As the train passed overhead the campground erupted with cries in the dark of, “Look at that!”, “What the hell?”, “What is it?” Fortunately, I did have the wherewithal to answer these cries in the dark and announced, ” They’re Elon Musk’s Starlink new satellite network.” I’m sure I headed off a UFO panic. Anne was angered by the sight. It is a dark sky park and these satellites are light pollution, but subsequent research has indicated that these train formations are only temporary. The individual satellites will still be bright, but no brighter than the jets flying in and out of the neighboring Albuquerque airport. 

Eye in the Sky

Jewel Box Water Lilies

“Let’s go surging now, everybody’s learning how, come on and Covid safari with me…”, this was Anne’s call and response to NPR’s latest pandemic news. We’ve been getting emails entitled, “Cooking Professionally.” Instead of a job offer, they turned out to be recipes, but this got me to thinking. I do most of the cooking around here and about the only reason that I’m not a professional chef is that I don’t get paid. I broached this topic to Anne. When I pressed further that I had made coffee this morning and that I should charge her 50¢ a cup, this elicited a face. She went to the coin jar and fetched two quarters and handed them to me. What, no tip? A hand gesture ensued.

Have you heard about the monolith? Found in the remote Utah desert. Could it be art? Could it be, shades of 2001, an alien artifact? We may never know, because as soon as it had appeared, it quickly disappeared. Not long afterwards though, a new artifact was announced. This one was in outer space and it was approaching the Earth. Last night it skimmed the Earth’s magnetosphere, before rocketing back into the void. First sighted in September, its trajectory marked it out as being not just your usual asteroid. Through clever sleuthing that involved tracing its orbit backwards in time, it was deduced that this artifact was not extraterrestrial, but is in fact terrestrial in origin. This object is believed to be the Centaur part of the Atlas-Centaur booster that way back in the sixties launched the moon lander Surveyor 2. It was lost in space. Hello world, I’m back!

Looking down from outer space or even just a hundred feet, often gives one a new perspective. Patterns appear that are invisible to the earthbound. The pictured water lilies were already past their prime when I overflew them. Even that was a while ago. When last we visited the Jewel Box, its reflecting ponds had been drained for the season. Next year, I’ll have to revisit this shot.