Archive for August, 2012

31 August

Cooperative Resolution Is Preferred By Chinese Premier Wen & German Chancellor Merkel

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Readers/Viewers,

(be sure to click on red links below)

After a month of disputes and negotiations, resulting from an anti-dumping probe wanted by Solarworld AG (Germany’s biggest panel maker) and ProSun, a group of about 25 European companies. In July, ProSun called on Brussels to open probe, indicating their solar cell prices were undercut by Chinese firms benefitting from state loans and subsidies.  Chinese firms responded that the allegations were groundless and warned of a trade war.  At a time like this, cool heads and calm nerves are needed.  So German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (wikimedia)

sought to defend Europe’s stuttering solar cell industry by attending German-Chinese trade talks in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin. meeting the Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (wikimedia)

, and urging China to stop alleged price dumping by its manufacturers. True leaderships prevail in time of confusion, capable of focusing on the optimal path through which both countries need for economic prosperity.  Both Chancellor Merkel and Premier Wen have shown such leadership  by reaching the agreement to act against trade protectionism and to work together to cooperate in product development, production, and sale.   Merkel proposed trying “to solve the problems in the solar sector so one can prevent that an anti-dumping case has to be opened,” she told reporters, on August 30, 2012, in Beijing. “There’s still time, and it would be better to solve this in talks.”  Below is a news clip summarizing this event.


This seems to be an instant replay of the story/posts that I reported back in May of this year, in May 26, 2012 post and May 21, 2012 post of http://sunisthefuture.net .  Recall my previous comment on definitive patterns and precursors for modern human war in May 26, 2012 post?  I believe both Chancellor Merkel and Premier Wen are wise stateswoman and statesman to keep their eyes on the prize: boosting their respective national economy and avoiding trade war or WAR.  We are fortunate to have the accumulated data/experience from modern human history and wise leaderships in these two countries. Hopefully, in time, we would all come to the conclusion that all nations are functioning under global economy during our current century, intimately interdependent upon one another. We will all need to learn to cooperate, as all siblings under the same roof;though with sibling rivalry, we are all within the same family of humankind/earthlings. Under our current global economy, businesses that are able to cooperate with others will have a greater chance of survival than those that do not (for they will be able to better optimize resources). The sooner we learn to work and cooperate with one another, the sooner we will all be able to head toward our true common goal of transitioning into the renewable/solar energy age.

~have a bright and sunny day~

researched, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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28 August

German & U.S. Perspectives In Solar Power Trends

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

(below, please click when you see  red links).
I came across this very informative clip of about an hour by Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Heinrich Boll Foundation.  It took place during a Congressional briefing (March 12, 2012) which discussed the energy transition that occurred in Germany and how that compares, specifically with regard to the solar sector, to the United States.  During this past decade, there had been tremendous growth and advances in opportunities,  manufacturing efficiency, and deployment of this abundant renewable/solar resource from both sides of the Atlantic.

If you do not have an hour to view this clip, please allow me to make the summary of this talk available to you, via http://www.eesi.org/solar-power-trends-german-and-us-perspectives-12-mar-2012 :  Over the last ten years, Germany has increased the share of electricity from renewable sources from five to over 20 percent, while creating more than 380,000 new jobs in this sector. Not-so-sunny Germany is known as a world leader in deploying solar power. In 2011 alone, more than 7,500 MW of photovoltaics (PV) were installed in Germany, as compared to 855 MW in U.S. installations during the same time period, which set a record U.S. pace. Investments in Germany as well as the United States have spurred manufacturing and job growth. Government policy has been a determining factor in both countries. The speakers addressed these topics as well as issues faced in building a future grid that is flexible, smart, and strong enough for a renewable energy economy.

Speakers for this event included:

  • Volker Quaschning, PhD, Professor for Renewable Energy, University of Applied Sciences in Berlin (HTW Berlin)
  • Kathy Weiss, Vice President, Government Relations, First Solar

Due to high cost of nuclear clean-up (4 billion Euro that will have to be paid by the tax payers), a near-Fukushima event in Germany, Fukushima incident, and wish of 90% of the German people, Germany currently has the goal of being completely weaned from the use of nuclear energy by 2022 and be able to achieve the use of 80% of power use from renewable sources by 2050.  (Germany will be holding election next year. Its different political parties may have variation in its individual goals: Democratic Party aims for 75% in renewables by 2030 while Green party is aiming for 100% renewables by 2030).

There are several important points one may take away from this talk: Firstly, we cannot possibly discuss solar trends and government incentive policy without mentioning the Feed-In-Tariff (rather, effective Feed-In-Tariff). To help increase our understanding of effective Feed-In-Tariff, I would like to share various previous posts made available at http://sunisthefuture.net:  April 17, 2012 post.  There are also various video clips explaining Feed-In-Tariff from various parts of the world at sunisthefuture Youtube Channel.  Effectively implemented Feed-In-Tariff had been responsible for Germany’s current position as the world leader in renewable energy, tremendous job creations, and economic growth.  Secondly/lastly, this year, 2012, we have reached grid parity. Grid parity is the point at which means of generating electricity from solar energy  produces power at a levelized cost that is equal to or less than the price of purchasing power from the grid. (wikipedia) Reaching grid parity is considered to be an important point in the development of new sources of power, the point at which it becomes a contender for widespread development without subsidy support.  At this critical juncture, our German presenter Dr. Volker Quaschning made an important point  during the 0:57:00-1:05:00th  minutes of the presentation: if U.S. still does not do much to encourage U.S. solar market, the Chinese will soon be able to grow from the current 50% of the market share to 90-100% of the market share for solar technology (approximately 100-200 billion Euros per year). If U.S. still does not consider utilizing effective Feed-In-Tariff to encourage U.S. solar market now, we will soon be left behind in the dust, forever trailing other developed nations.  I hope you will find the time, if not the whole video clip,  to view at least parts of this video clip, below:


This past year, I’ve been spending a lot of my own time, energy, and effort in spreading the understanding of solar energy and effective Feed-In-Tariff.  One frequent comment that I have heard, “Why should we follow the Germans?”  There are two perspectives from which we may answer this question: it is for both ethical reason and selfish reason.  It is our moral imperative to take part in transitioning into the renewable energy age (for a cleaner and safer environment/planet Earth).  We simply have no choice, for fossil fuel is a finite resource.  It is for our own economic benefit in terms of future job creations and economic growth that we should nurture the renewable and solar energy industry here in U.S.  I understand that U.S. is a vast and diverse country, both its strength and weakness in terms of its ability in being able to change.   It is time for us to put aside our differences and combine effort in asking our legislators and former Presidents to help President Obama in implementing the effective Feed-In-Tariff for Renewable Energy.  Please visit http://sunisthefuture.net and sunisthefuture Youtube Channel  http://www.youtube.com/user/sunisthefuture?feature=results_main for more on solar energy and Feed-In-Tariff for renewable energy and join us (Sunisthefuture Team at Kiva) at http://www.kiva.org/team/sunisthefuture to help entrepreneurs in U.S. and developing nations to establish/maintain  businesses/projects in renewable energy/solar energy/recycling/energy efficiency via microfinance.  For regardless who you are, if you are joining the Sunisthefuture Team at Kiva for the first time, you will be given free $25 to help another entrepreneur of your choosing in U.S. or a developing nation. This $25 will eventually be returned to help another entrepreneur (of your choosing).  There is a time limit on these initial free $25 trials, so please act fast to get your free $25 trial. More details on this may be explained at http://www.kiva.org.

 

~have a bright and sunny day~

written & posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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25 August

Mobile Wonder-Mobile MaxPure (2 of 2)

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

As I’ve promised you in our previous August 24, 2012 post, I found a video with more detailed descriptions of Mobile MaxPure (<– click for specifics) MMP unit for you.  As you can see, this stand alone transportable, air liftable unit is able to provide potable water (30,000 gallons per day), communications via satellite phone (capable of voice and data), power, and lighting.  As it turned out, its original inception was inspired by Hurricane Katrina.  Its unique folding array design allows its solar panels to be folded tightly against the body of the unit, easily shipped inside of the standard shipping container unit. The unit weighs 8500 lbs and can be towed by medium size pickup.  Its silicon durable and rugged solar arrays (3.2 kilowatts) may be tilted (ranging from 0 to 25 degrees) to optimize the amount of energy to be collected from the sun. The solar energy collected during the day may also be stored in the rugged battery bank provided by this MMP unit, fulfilling the need for water purification and lighting operations during the night.  This three-stage water purification system has a mass-media filter, a carbon filter, and a UV water filter system;it also has two parallel pathways for ease of maintenance and mechanical and electrical interlock to prevent contaminated water from entering the clean water supply. The 3000 watt on board power inverter converts the dc power from the sun to the  ac useable power for lighting, water purification, and operation of power tools.  Take a look, this gadget may be able to provide the power need for a whole subdivision in times of disaster relief, below:


~have a bright and sunny day~

researched, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com

Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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24 August

Mobile Wonder-Mobile MaxPure (1 of 2)

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

This is a continuation of our previous August 23, 2012 post on U.S. military’s renewable energy projects that will benefit more than just the military.  Below, I would like to share a video clip where a former Air Force Major praises the Mobile MaxPure in a Pentagon Channel news report, commenting that this mobile unit containing a portable solar powered generator and water purification system capable of producing up to 30,000 gallons of water per day.  Major Jesse Stewart indicated that U.S. military personnel trained the Iraqi military personnel who subsequently trained the Iraqi civilians to use this Mobile MaxPure, a stand alone system that purifies water, dramatically improving the lives of many near Soder City, Iraq.  Its three stages of purification process would remove dirt, silt, sand, bacteria, pathogens, cysts, and viruses, allowing the water to meet local water quality requirements as well as World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for drinking water quality.  This is definitely the type of humanitarian measures/aids surely welcomed by many civilians in many parts of the developing world.  I can also see its applications during times of emergency or natural disasters in developed nations, such as Fukushima incident in 2011 or during Hurricanes Katrina and Hurricane Hugo.

Hurricane Katrina (wikimedia)

 

 

 

Hurricane Hugo

The fact that it is a stand alone unit, transportable by car/truck and light enough even to be helicoptered into an area of need would make this mobile unit indispensable during natural disasters .  For more on specifics on Mobile MaxPure, <–click and view the video below and the video clip in our next (August 25, 2012) post:


 

~have a bright and sunny day~

written & posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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23 August

U.S. Military Going Solar

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

In recent years, with all the cut backs of U.S. military and rising oil prices, “The U.S. military, across the board, has decided that energy is a strategic issue that affects their operations and budget in profound ways,” said former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry. “When oil goes from $60 to $100 a barrel, the amount that the Air Force and the Navy have to spend on fuel goes up dramatically…. A spike in the price of oil means fewer airplanes they can buy.” He added, “From an operational point of view, getting fuel to a site in Afghanistan is very expensive.”  With the cost-conscious Pentagon and Department of Defense, there had been many projects in the U.S. military, aiming to rely on renewable energy sources for 50% of their power by 2020.  Besides the Navy’s pledge to have a “Green Strike Group” by 2012 (using biofuels and nuclear rather than fossil fuels), Army being the biggest purchaser of electric cars in U.S., and U.S.Army working on “zero-footprint” camps (using self-sufficient vehicles and base camps), it is clear that renewable energy and many of its applications are simply more cost effective and safer in many ways than fossil fuels.

According to Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus,  “Fossil fuel is the number-one thing we import to Afghanistan, and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.” The convoys delivering fossil fuel are often targets of insurgent attacks, which can impair both the delivery system and the lives of civilians and soldiers–a study found that roughly one civilian or soldier is killed for every 24 fuel convoys sent (New York Times). And given that fuel often makes up, 30%-80% of every convoy’s load, that’s a lot of danger.

Among its many renewable projects that will prove safer and more cost effective: such as portable solar panels; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields providing shade and electricity;solar chargers for computers and communication equipments, etc. These flexible, portable, lightweight photovoltaics, the solar-powered tent structures converting light energy into electricity, would remove the need to haul

Using flexible photovoltaics, this solar tent/shade can generate up to 2 kilowatts of electricity from the sun (Credit: U.S. Military)

U.S. Military Solar Panel in Afghanistan (Major Paul Greenberg-U.S.M.C.)

large amounts of fuel or heavy generators.

 

 

 

 

 

As these military projects continue to evolve, I would like to share with you several of these that will likely make its/their way into civilian/main stream applications in the future.  Can you visualize yourself camping out in the forest in one of these tents some day:

Mobile Home Design of the Future-Solar Tent...all started from U.S. Military

As our society becomes even more mobile or if you belong to the group of modern and dynamic people who wants to move from one place to another to avoid boredom, or if you prefer to live close to the nature, then this mobile solar tent/home design may be what you are looking for.

Below, you will see a video clip of such a summary by some one who share the same view as I do :


I would like to share another interesting item in our next post, also resulting from initial military needs, but have proven to meet the needs of many.

 

Mobile Home Design Concept (solar powered, at night) (Credit:U.S.Military)

Until we meet again, I wish you will

~ have a bright and sunny day~

researched, written, & posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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22 August

Understanding the Sun

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Dear Friends & Viewers/Visitors/Readers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

Yes, as I’ve titled our previous post, dated Aug. 20, 2012, The Most Intensely Heated & Dangerous Relationship Research Project: Improving Earth’s Future Environment-Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) & Green Fuels, full appreciation of our relationship with the Sun will be forever paramount for Earth’s environment, energy, communications, climate/weather, and last but not least, Earth’ s longevity.  This bubbling, boiling, fireball in the sky at ninety-three million miles (149.6 million kilometers) away, supporting almost all life on Earth by photosynthesis and driving Earth’s climate and weather ….matters a great deal to us earthlings.  Some modern experts of the Sun are predicting the most violent solar activities in our modern history.

According to wikipedia:

The Sun is gradually becoming more luminous (about 10% every 1 billion years), and its surface temperature is slowly rising. The Sun used to be fainter in the past, which is possibly the reason life on Earth has only existed for about 1 billion years on land. The increase in solar temperatures is such that in about another billion years the surface of the Earth will likely become too hot for liquid water to exist, ending all terrestrial life.

Solar Evolution (wikimedia commons)

Solar Life Cycle (wikimedia commons)

Sunlight is Earth’s primary source of energy. The solar constant is the amount of power that the Sun deposits per unit area that is directly exposed to sunlight. The solar constant is equal to approximately 1,368 W/m2 (watt per square meter) at a distance of one astronomical unit (AU) from the Sun (that is, on or near Earth). Sunlight on the surface of Earth is attenuated by the Earth’s atmosphere so that less power arrives at the surface—closer to 1,000 W/m2 in clear conditions when the Sun is near the zenith.

Zenith (wikimedia commons)

Actual Sunset (wikimedia commons)

Actual Sunrise (wikimedia commons)

Solar energy can be harnessed by a variety of natural and synthetic processes—photosynthesis by plants captures the energy of sunlight and converts it to chemical form (oxygen and reduced carbon compounds), while direct heating or electrical conversion by solar cells are used by solar power equipment to generate electricity or to do other useful work, sometimes employing concentrating solar power (that it is measured in suns). The energy stored in petroleum and other fossil fuels was originally converted from sunlight by photosynthesis in the distant past.

 

We are living in a world that is increasingly susceptible to space weather disturbances.  Many interconnected physical processes strongly influenced by solar variability, affect the health and safety of travelers in space and the habitability of alien environments.  This science of the Sun-Solar System Connections is termed “Heliophysics“.

Based on NASA’s rich history of exploration of the Earths neighborhood and distant planetary systems, we are developing the quantitative knowledge needed to help assure the safety of the new generation of human and robotic explorers. The Heliophysics Program has been completely reevaluated to address the needs of the Vision for Space Exploration.

NASA’s future research and exploration within its Heliophysics program aims to explore the Sun-Earth system to understand the Sun and its effects on Earth, the solar system, and the space environmental conditions that will be experienced by explorers, and to demonstrate technologies that can improve future operational systems.  Hear! Hear! Let’s optimize our use of the Sun’s energy and learn to protect ourselves from its potential hazards. Below, we see how NASA uses high resolution images of the sun and modeling of solar storms, to improve our ability to predict when solar storm hits and how it will affect our daily lives. NASA’s study of sun’s variability, solar storms, and solar wind will also increase our understanding of Sun’s  effect on Earth and Earth’s magnetic field.  The most important researches of Heliophysics program concerns our daily lives:  effects on satellite and ground communications, aircraft navigation systems, power grids, etc. Let’s take a look at the three broad science and exploration objectives of NASA’s Heliophysics Program in the video clip below: to open the frontier to space weather prediction, to better understand the nature of Earth in space, and to safeguard the journey of exploration.

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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20 August

The Most Intensely Heated & Dangerous Relationship Research Project:Improving Earth’s Future Environment-Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) & Green Fuels

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Dear Friends, Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click on red links below)

Due to our previous series of discussion concerning Mars Science Lab-Curiosity Rover and its fuel source, I got curious and looked up the next launch/mission scheduled at NASA and found RBSP, Radiation Belt Storm Probes.

RBSP probe with booms and instrument arrays extended (Credit: JHUAPL)

RBSP is scheduled to launch on Friday, August 24, 2012, 4:07-4:27 a.m. EDT (delayed by 24 hours from the previously scheduled August 23, 2012) and is a NASA mission under the Living With a Star geospace program (managed by Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt) to explore fundamental processes that operate throughout the solar system (in particular, those that generate hazardous space weather effects near the Earth and phenomenon that could affect solar system exploration).  The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHUAPL) manages the mission and is building and will operate the RBSP spacecraft for NASA.  The probes will study dynamic regions of space known as the Van Allen Radiation Belt

RBSP mission will study the Van Allen Radiation Belt (Credit: JHUAPL)

that surround Earth.

Van Allen Radiation Belts are the result of interaction of the Sun and the Earth's magnetic field (Credit: JHUAPL)

The two RBSP leaving Earth (Credit: JHUAPL)

Understanding the radiation belt environment and its variability has important practical applications in the areas of spacecraft operations, spacecraft system design, mission planning, and astronaut safety.  I implore/welcome your clicking of red links above for better understanding of Van Allen Radiation Belt and these programs. Also, please view the video below explaining Radiation Belt Storm Probe by NASA project scientist David Sibeck:


 

The Van Allen Radiation Belt swell and shrink over time as part of a much larger space weather system driven by energy and material that erupt off the Sun’s surface and fill the entire Solar System. Space weather is the source of aurora that shimmer in the night sky, but it also can disrupt satellites, cause power grid failures and disrupt GPS communications. RBSP will help scientists to understand this region and to better design spacecraft that can survive the rigors of outer space.   The mission is to gain scientific understanding of how populations of relativistic electrons and ions in space form or change in response to changes in solar activity and the solar wind.With the help of Wikipedia, one finds that the mission’s general scientific objectives are to:

  1. Discover which processes – singly or in combination – accelerate and transport the particles in the radiation belt, and under what conditions.
  2. Understand and quantify the loss of electrons from the radiation belts.
  3. Determine the balance between the processes that cause electron acceleration and those that cause losses.
  4. Understand how the radiation belts change in the context of geomagnetic storms.

RBSP consists of two spin-stabilized spacecraft to be launched with a single Atlas V rocket. The two probes

Details of RBSP (Credit: JHUAPL)

Two RBSP's separating after launch (Credit: JHUAPL)

must operate in the harsh conditions they are studying; while other satellites have the luxury of turning off or protecting themselves in the middle of intense space weather, RBSP must continue to collect data. The probes have, therefore, been built to withstand the constant bombardment of particles and radiation they will experience in this intense area of space.

I am also happy to report that no plutonium-238 will be used for Atlas V rocket (using kerosene, liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen) or RBSP probes.  As a matter of fact, NASA intends to eventually replace the highly toxic fuel hydrazine by starting a new era of innovative and non-toxic green fuels that are less harmful to our environment, with fewer operational hazards and lower complexity and cost of launch processing.  For more detailed information about these future “green” propellant technology, please refer to this link (<– click)

~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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18 August

Mars Rover-Plutonium/Sun-and You (II)

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Readers/Viewers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

As you’ve seen what I’ve posted on Aug. 16 & 17, 2012, regarding the Mars Rovers (Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity) for both sides of the arguments: using nuclear energy (plutonium) or solar energy (Sun) to power Mars Rovers.  The main reason why nuclear (plutonium 238) energy source was selected over the solar energy source for the latest MSL Mission for Curiosity Rover lies in the fact that there are more power intensive experiments (<–click  on link), video clip below, conducted on Curiosity than Spirit or Opportunity.  But in light of the progress made this past decade in solar energy and the potential risk involved in using nuclear/plutonium source, it seems to me that perhaps we should consider several other alternatives:

  • 1. Dramatically increase our funding for R & D for solar energy and battery technology
  • 2. Using a hybrid system combining nuclear and solar energy so to minimize the amount of plutonium carried on board of any MSL Mission and to minimize the chance of wasting tax payers’ dollars when we’re running out of plutonium
  • 3. Delaying the more power intensive experiments until solar energy or any other less dangerous alternative energy will become available and sufficient/proficient in completing the project

Since I don’t have access to all information involved in determining how urgent these power intensive experiments need to be completed, I wouldn’t know how feasible it would be to delay this mission.  In that case, perhaps one should only request that all scientists and engineers involved in the project to be present during the launch of  the mission from Cape Canaveral  (Orlando, FL) (or wherever the launch site may be) rather than from JPL (Pasadena, CA).


Good news is that U.S. has stopped producing plutonium -238 in 1988; and since 1993, all of the plutonium-238 used in American spacecraft has been purchased from Russia. Please refer to discussion on plutonium-238 in wikipedia –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-238.
~have a bright and sunny day~

written & posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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17 August

Mars Rover-Plutonium/Sun-and You (I)

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Readers/Viewers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

As I’ve mentioned in our last post (Aug. 16, 2012), previous Mars missions (Spirit & Opportunity) have relied on solar panels to power the rovers, but exploration was slowed down by dust on the solar panels or little available sunlight during short winter days.  Curiosity Rover is significantly larger and about ten times heavier than previous Martian rovers;

Mars Science Laboratory mockup comparison Curiosity (R)vs. Spirit & Opportunity (L)

it is essentially a robotic science lab, equipped with sophisticated instruments to take ground samples to analyze their chemical make-up in search for signs of life.  A lot of power is needed to operate the testing and communications equipment and to maintain a certain temperature to effectively operate on Mars (where temperature often go far below freezing).  These are the reasons that NASA chose an energy source that relies on the heat generated by decaying plutonium dioxide (fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium), the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) by Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne engineers in Canoga Park and the DOE, to run Curiosity.

As the mainstream media applauded the success of Curiosity Rover’s Mars Landing, there was no mention or discussion about the potential serious danger Curiosity has posed for people/life on earth  prior to arriving on Mars.  If you’d refer to our previous post/video (Aug. 16, 2012 of http://sunisthefuture.net), there are definite risks involved during the launch and 7 minutes of terror.

Even in NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, it is indicated that there is about 1-in-220 chances ( http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2010/11/05/MSL-FEIS_Vol1.pdf )of deadly plutonium being released “overall” on the mission.  This level of risk seems too high for my comfort level.

The question also involves when and how ( if any mishaps involving this plutonium powered space vehicle should occur) the incident should/would occur.   The 1-in-220 chance/likelihood of plutonium being released could impact a good portion of Earth.  In NASA’s Final EIS for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, it is indicated that: a launch

Atlas V carrying NASA's MSL launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

accident discharging plutonium has a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined to be within 62 miles of the launch pad,”…an area including well populated Orlando; an accident releasing plutonium in the troposphere, the atmosphere five to nine miles high, is “assumed to potentially affect persons living within a latitude band from approximately 23-degrees north to 30-degrees north.” That would include the Caribbean, across North Africa and the Middle East, parts of India and China, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands, Mexico, and south Texas;an accident from plutonium fallout occurring above that and before the rocket breaks through Earth’s gravitational field, affected area could cover “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude.”  That involves a band around the mid-section of the Earth including South America, Africa,and Australia.  According to EIS, the cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”  This is in addition to the cost of mission itself of $2.5 billion.

“NASA is planning a mission that could endanger not only its future but the state of Florida and beyond,” declares John Stewart of Pax Christi Tampa Bay, a leader in Florida in challenging the launch. “The absurd—and maddening—aspect of this risk is that it is unnecessary,” says Stewart, “The locomotion for NASA’s Sojourner Mars rover, launched in 1996, and the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, both launched in 2003, were solar powered, with the latter two rovers performing well beyond what their engineers expected. Curiosity’s locomotion could also be solar-powered. NASA admits this in its EIS, but decided to put us all at risk because plutonium-powered batteries last longer and they want to have the ‘flexibility to select the most scientifically interesting location on the surface’ of Mars.” So, I did my home work and found that the solar powered Spirit rover

Spirit Rover on Mars (artist concept:wikimedia)

was active from 2004-2010 when the mission was only for 90-sol (term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars).   Definitely, solar powered Mars rover did last a lot longer than it was designed/intended. Let’s take a look at the footage of Spirit & Curiosity, the two rovers powered by solar energy with far more spirit and curiosity than what NASA engineers expected, below:

Of the 26 U.S. space missions listed in EIS that were powered by plutonium since the 1950s, three had accidents. The worst of these three accidents (occurred in 1964) involved the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to earth, dispersed 2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel widely over the Earth.  The late medical physics professor Dr. John Gofman of University of CA at Berkeley linked this accident to an increase in global lung cancer.  After the SNAP-9A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites.  Now all satellites and the International Space Station are powered by solar energy.

NASA apparently insisted on using plutonium as the power source on space probes, claiming that solar energy cannot be utilized beyond the orbit of Mars.  But in Aug., 2011, NASA reversed itself with the launch of the solar powered Juno space probe to Jupiter, stating that when the probe gets to Jupiter, “nearly 500 million miles from the Sun,” its panels will be providing electricity.   Upon further investigation, one finds that Scott Bolton, the principal investigator for the Juno mission for the Southwest Research Institute (a NASA contractor) indicated that “the choice of solar was a practical one…No plutonium-powered generators were available to him and his San Antonio-based team nearly a decade ago so they opted for solar panels rather than develop a new nuclear source.”  It makes perfect sense!  If I were designing/working on project that may use either plutonium or solar energy, my natural inclination for self preservation and preservation of human race would be to maximize the chance of solar energy being used in the project, especially if the cost of solar energy continues to drop and efficiency level continues to increase so dramatically.    More discussion will continue in the next post.  Until then….

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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16 August

Curiosity Rover’s Mars Landing, With 7 Minutes of Terror

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Readers/Viewers,

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You should have heard the raucous and standing ovation last Sunday night (Aug. 5, 2012) at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)!

NASA engineers & scientists of Mars Science Lab (MSL) team at Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) celebrating Curiosity Rover's successful landing

During a post-landing press conference for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Team of engineers and scientists, celebrating  the daring and nerve-wrecking touchdown of Curiosity Rover on the Red Planet, the cheers and applause for this $2.5 billion Mars mission were well deserved. According to Wikipedia, the Curiosity Rover

Mars Science Laboratory Drawing

Curiosity Rover

is a robotic, car-sized rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars. The Curiosity Mars Rover carries a radioisotope-powered mobile scientific laboratory and is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission with four main scientific goals: investigation of the Martian climate, geology, and whether Mars could have ever supported life, including investigation of the role of water and its planetary habitability. Curiosity carries the most advanced payload of scientific equipment ever used on the surface of Mars. It is the fourth NASA unmanned surface rover sent to Mars since 1996. Previous successful Mars rovers include the SpiritOpportunity, and the Sojourner rover from the Mars Pathfinder mission.  Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 at 10:02 EST aboard the MSL spacecraft and successfully landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, 05:17:57.3 UTC. The final landing place for the rover was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from its target after a 563,000,000 km (350,000,000 mi) journey.

You’ve got to see the footage of the 1-ton Curiosity Rover‘s spacecraft barreling into the Red Planet’s atmosphere at 13,000 mph, followed by a huge supersonic parachute deploying about 7 miles (11 kilometers) above the ground to slow down the vehicle to about 200 mph.  Then, the rocket engines will fire, reducing the spacecraft’s descent speed to less than 2 mph. But the coolest and most unprecedented part occurs after the $2.5 billion rover is lowered to the surface on cables, as Curiosity‘s six wheels hit the red dirt inside Mars’ huge Gale Crater, its sky crane descent stage flies off and crash land intentionally at a safe distance away.  This very maneuver is dubbed “7 minutes of terror” by NASA.  You will observe this unprecedented maneuver in the video clip below:

“It looks a little bit crazy.  I promise you, it is the least crazy of the methods you could use to land a rover the size of Curiosity on Mars,”  said Adam Steltzner (entry, descent, and landing-EDL phase lead for Curiosity’s mission, otherwise known as the Mars Science Laboratory or MSL), of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, told reporters.

Curiosity Rover is significantly larger and about ten times heavier than previous Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity;this is partly why Curiosity is the first Mars rover fueled with/by plutonium rather than solar panels of Spirit and Opportunity.  More discussion regarding its energy/power source will follow in our next post.

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com

Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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