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Monday, July 27, 2015

Thank You Magellan. Can You Guess the Mission? Searching for ET. What We Know So Far. Travel at the Speed of Light. The Theory of Relativity. The Imaginarium.

Thank You Magellan Staff

Hello Space EdVenture Fans!
I'm sure the staff and volunteers at the CMSEC wonder why I drop by nearly every day to work in the Magellan Control Room or observe the crews on the Magellan's Bridge.  They must think I've nothing better to do with my time than hang out with them. Let me give you two reasons to answer the question. I've got to learn the Magellan because the Magellan's controls are going into the new Voyager.  I enjoy watching the Magellan's crew work their way through the mission. 

I spent my Space Center career working in the Voyager's Control Room telling missions. I never had the time, or just didn't take the time, to sit in the simulators watching the crews do a mission.  That was a mistake I can rectify now. 

Watching a crew work through a mission makes you a better flight director.  The insights gleaned from observing flights are useful when writing new missions. Finally, it is rewarding seeing kids having fun doing something I created and spent so many years developing. 

I want to thank Mr. Porter and the Magellan staff for being patient and helping me get everything down. A special thank you to Connor, Jon, Andrew, and Jake for sitting beside me and teaching me the ropes. I may not react with the reflexes of a 16 year old when it's time to push play or pause or go to the next card - but they will all admit I do it with STYLE!

Mr. W.

Can You Guess the Mission?

We all had a blast the other day telling one of my Voyager missions at a CMSEC camp.  I took a couple pictures of the crew and Magellan staff / volunteers in action.  Out of curiosity, can you guess the mission?

Jon and Jordan in verbal combat with the captain looking on

Jordan using his persuasive skills to convince the crew that Jon is bad and he is good. 

The search for ET has been going on for years. So what do we know so far?
ATLANTA (CNN) — The search for extraterrestrial intelligence elsewhere in the universe has leaped to prominence once again, with the announcement of the Breakthrough Listen initiative.
Announced this week and funded to the tune of $100 million by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, it will be a high-risk, high-reward program searching for signals from intelligent aliens — definitive proof that we are not alone.
The idea that we might not be alone in the universe is not a new one. It has passed in and out of vogue for at least the last few centuries with past astronomers speculating on advanced life on our neighboring planets.
Could Mars have been home to a dying civilization, transporting water from polar ice caps to the warmer regions near the planet's equator? Could a thriving biosphere have lurked beneath the clouds that cause Venus to shine so brightly in our night sky?
Astronomers eventually revealed planets that were far from the oases they might otherwise have been. Rather than a verdant tropical planet, Venus turned out to be a hellish, pressure-cooker world with a surface hot enough to melt lead. And Mars is a cold, arid, husk of a world, poorly suited to complex life.
So if we want to find life like us — someone alien to talk to — we have to cast our net more widely. And this is where the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) comes into play.
The idea is that once a species becomes sufficiently technologically advanced, it will advertise its presence to the cosmos in some way that could be detected by astronomers on other worlds.
As a species, we have already passed that point. Some argue that our modification of our environment was the threshold. That agriculture, and the controlled use of fire, would have made us detectable by advanced alien astronomers thousands of years ago.
SETI, however, is more interested in the technological broadcast of life's existence. The radio and television broadcasts of the last century will provide definitive evidence of our existence to any alien observers, so long as they know where to look.
The first transatlantic radio broadcast, by Guglielmo Marconi, occurred in 1901. Of very low power, the radio waves emitted in that broadcast that escaped Earth will now have traveled for 114 years, out towards the stars that were above the horizon for the broadcaster.
Over the years, our broadcasts have became louder and spread across the electromagnetic spectrum. As a result, a vast and ever-expanding bubble of space centered on Earth is full of our noise. If they knew which frequencies to study, aliens at the right distance would be able to tune in to coverage of the 1936 Olympics or the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
If we are broadcasting to the universe, then perhaps others are too? If so, SETI aims to uncover their signals — the evidence that there is not only life, but life like us, somewhere out in space.
That search has proceeded intermittently for years with different groups of scientists using ever more advanced tools to search for a needle in a haystack. The Breakthrough Listen initiative is simply the latest.
Just as our early thoughts on life beyond Earth were focused at our own solar system, so was our search for alien life. An astonishing example was the National Radio Silence Day, held in the U.S. during a particularly close approach between Earth and Mars in August 1924.
For a period of 36 hours around the time of closest approach, the U.S. government asked civilians to maintain radio silence for the first five minutes of every hour.
During the periods of silence, radio receivers listened to the heavens, searching for signs of a signal from the Martians.
None arrived.
As technology continued to improve, so did our efforts to detect the signs of extraterrestrial technology. In 1960 the first true modern SETI program began with Project Ozma.
Led by renowned radio astronomer and astrobiologist Frank Drake — who created the Drake Equation which estimates the number of potential civilizations in our galaxy — Project Ozma used a large radio telescope to listen to two single nearby sun-like stars — Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani.
The observations continued for six hours a day for a period of several months. The astronomers involved concentrated their efforts on radio waves of wavelength 21 centimeters (1,420 MHz), an astronomical hailing frequency at which radiation floods the universe from cold hydrogen gas between the stars.
The 21 centimeter wavelength is one that has often been used as a target for SETI, the thinking being that it would be an obvious frequency for alien civilizations to chose for communication with newly fledged technologies.
Again, we heard nothing.
But still the searches continue. The odds of finding something are very low, but the potential reward so great that it is definitely worth trying.
Prior to the latest announcement, the SETI project that most captured the public imagination was SETI@home.
That project used the downtime of computers around the world to search for signals from beyond through a screensaver people could install on their home computers. At its peak, the project involved more than a million users, all participating in the search for life elsewhere.
And again, nothing has been heard.
Which brings us to our current headline maker, Breakthrough Listen, launched by eminent and world renowned astronomers, including Frank Drake — now chairman emeritus of the SETI Institute — and the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
And Australia will play a key role through the Parkes Radio Telescope.
The new program dwarfs all previous searches. It will cover ten times the area on the sky, scan a swathe of the radio spectrum five times broader, and do all that one hundred times faster than any survey before.
The project will not only scan the million closest stars, it will also look for signals from throughout our galaxy. It will even look at the 100 closest galaxies, searching for extra-galactic signals.
The data taken by Breakthrough Listen will be open so anyone can access it. It will be tied in with SETI@home meaning that anyone with a home computer will be able to help in the search through the data.
If we find incontrovertible evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth it would probably be the single most breathtaking discovery in history. Then, the real work would start.
Are they close enough to contact back? Could they already have heard us? That all plays into the second new Breakthrough Initiative project — Breakthrough Message. But that's a story for another day.
Travel Through the Solar System at the Speed of Light

Light travels 299,792,458 m/s, and it takes just over 45 minutes from the surface of the sun to reach Jupiter. This video takes you past the planets at lightspeed, and it shows off just how long it takes to get around the solar system.

Einstein's Theory of Relativity,

The Imaginarium

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