China Really Didn’t Fake It (Part Deux)

Left: The reflection in Zhai's visor shows a three-row array attached to the spacecraft. Right: The reflection from Zhai's wrist mirror shows the same array, only closer. They are not studio lights (CCTV)
Left: The reflection in Zhai's visor shows a three-row array attached to the spacecraft. Right: The reflection from Zhai's wrist mirror shows the same array, only closer. They are not studio lights (CCTV)

Remember all that conspiracy theory nonsense that was kicked up after the Chinese space walk last year? It would appear that people are still pointing fingers, accusing the Chinese space agency of being very handy with water tanks and computer animation, simulating Zhai Zhigang dangling above the (fake)Earth as he waves his flag in (fake)space. This is even after thorough analysis by the likes of professional sceptic* Phil Plait and myself (proto-professional sceptic), where the conclusion was reached that… um… China did indeed do the EVA. I’d also argue it would probably be even more difficult to pull off a stunt like the conspiracy being proposed than to get into space in the first place!

Anyhow, why am I repeating a chewed shoe of a conspiracy theory when we already know China successfully carried out a successful spacewalk on September 27th, 2008? An eagle-eyed reader of Astroengine has come forward with some additional evidence supporting one of my arguments against one of the conspiracy claims. Always nice to back up arguments with proof isn’t it?

*Yep, that is the proper spelling before you send me a message telling me otherwise. UK = “sceptic”, US = “skeptic”. So there.
Continue reading “China Really Didn’t Fake It (Part Deux)”

Merge NASA with the Military? Scrap Constellation? Really?

A Delta IV Medium rocket launch (USAF)
A Delta IV Medium rocket launch (USAF)

Actually, I’m not overly surprised by this news, but it could be a kick in the teeth for the future of the US civilian space program. According to Bloomberg News late Thursday night, the Obama transition team will probably (note “probably”, not “possibly”) advise a collaboration between NASA and the Pentagon to fast-track development of the next launch vehicle.

But there’s a catch, Constellation doesn’t appear to be a part of the plan.

Apparently feeling the pressure from diplomatic issues with Russia, and China signalling a renewed vigour in their intent to land on the Moon before NASA’s planned 2020 landing, the Obama administration is looking for a cost-effective solution to the Shuttle decommissioning in 2010. Unfortunately the Constellation program has never been considered “cost effective”, it’s always been considered the best course of action. With the economic noose tightening around all government departments, the US space agency has been finding it very hard to explain the ballooning costs and technical challenges associated with Constellation.

Last year, the Pentagon’s space program received $22 billion, one third more than NASA’s entire budget, so it seems reasonable that funds could be shared. But it sounds like NASA could be merging certain aspects of the civilian space program with the US military space program, probably scrapping Constellation and making military Delta IV and Atlas V rockets “human rated”…
Continue reading “Merge NASA with the Military? Scrap Constellation? Really?”

Top 5 Space Exploration Mishaps of 2008

Houston, our toy rocket appears to be on fire. Photo by Jurvetson (flickr)

In the last 12 months, we’ve seen some of the most astonishing advances in space exploration technology. From SpaceX launching the first commercial rocket into Earth orbit to seeing the first Chinese spacewalk, all of our endeavours in space will help develop the future of manned spaceflight. Even the recently published Time Magazine Top 10 Scientific Discoveries list space and physics endeavours high up the list.

However, there is a flip-side to this coin. Fortunately there has been no loss of life through manned spaceflight in 2008, but we’ve had our fair share of mishaps. Some have been expensive, some just embarrassing, but each one has taught us what to do, and what not to do, as we begin to venture further from the protective atmosphere of Earth. So, to recognise our mistakes, and move on from them, here are the Top 5 Space Exploration mishaps of 2008…
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Chinese Shenzhou-7 Spaceship Imaged by Microsatellite

Shenzhou-7 imaged by the BX-1 small monitoring satellite six minutes after it was released from the main ship (Xinhua Photo)
Shenzhou-7 imaged by the BX-1 small monitoring satellite six minutes after it was released from the main ship (Xinhua Photo)

On September 27th (Saturday), two hours after Zhai Zhigang completed China’s first ever space walk, the Shenzhou-7 spaceship launched a mini-monitoring satellite to orbit its mothership. Although it might have been a better idea to launch BX-1 before Zhai started his EVA (thereby stemming some of the accusations that China had faked the whole event), the images BX-1 returned were pretty impressive. According to state-run news sources, the BX-1 has taken over 1,000 images, the first one was taken only six seconds after being released…
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Listen to Tonight’s Paranormal Radio – The Chinese Spacewalk Conspiracy

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo
Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

In a follow-up to our October 3rd discussion, Captain Jack and myself will be discussing my recent Astroengine article “Bubbles, Reflections and Space Walksโ€ฆ Did China Really Fake It?” On first seeing the video I was intrigued by what I saw, and the mysterious moving objects in shot needed to be addressed. Although I do not believe the Chinese staged the event, it does pose some interesting questions…

Paranormal Radio has started now, so check out the website to listen in

Bubbles, Reflections and Space Walks… Did China Really Fake It?

Tracks of seven objects during Chinese space walk. Red tracks are the visual 'start' and 'finish' of the objects, blue tracks are lines drawn back to possible origin. Object number and time in video included. Scene frozen at 26 seconds into video when object 1 is seen (CCTV)
Tracks of seven objects during Chinese space walk. Red tracks are the visual 'start' and 'finish' of the objects, blue tracks are lines drawn back to possible origin. Object number and time in video included. Scene frozen at 26 seconds into video when object 1 is seen (CCTV)

China successfully launched three taikonauts into Earth orbit and, on September 27th, the first Chinese national (41 year old fighter pilot Zhai Zhigang) walked in space. The space walk lasted a total of 15 minutes, enough time to retrieve some solid lubricant from the outer hull of the Shenzhou-7 module and to give the brand new “Feitian” space suit a trial run. The launch, orbital insertion, space walk, re-entry and landing were all executed perfectly, securing China as only the third nation to successfully carry out an extra-vehicular activity (EVA).

It can therefore be expected, as with space flight achievements by the US and Russia before, there will be some conspiracy theories out there…
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China Launch Gaffe: Who Should We Believe?

The Long-March II-F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-7 spaceship plus three crew blasts off (Xinhua/Li Gang)
The Long-March II-F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-7 spaceship plus three crew blasts off (Xinhua/Li Gang)

China has high hopes to be the third nation to successfully carry out a spacewalk after launching three taikonauts into orbit today. According to officials, the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft has successfully completed its first orbital manoeuvres and is currently orbiting 343 km above the Earth. The world now waits for news that the first Chinese astronaut has successfully left the capsule to explore the vacuum of space for the first time. It all sounds rather exciting doesn’t it?

But this feat pails into insignificance when compared with another stunning achievement. The Chinese authorities have shown that not only can they blast man into space – following in the pioneering footsteps of Russia and the USA – they also have the ability to foresee the future. Either that, or they’ve found a way to travel through time. Amazing as it may sound, it really did happen; transcripts of a “future” conversation between the Shenzhou-7 astronauts, whilst in orbit, were published on the official Chinese news website hours before the rocket engines had even ignited…

Wow!
Continue reading “China Launch Gaffe: Who Should We Believe?”