Today, Buzz Aldrin spoke to NBC MACH about his space predictions for 2017. Here in the depths of the Science Cavern we take a look at Buzz Aldrin’s 2017 space predictions and plunge our shovel into the heart of the detail.
But before we do that, here’s some weird stuff:
Buzz Aldrin, the second human to walk on the Moon, went to Antarctica earlier in December 2016 and the trip put him in hospital.
The reason? Altitude sickness.
Now that’s ironic.
This dude who travelled nearly 240,000 miles off the face of the Earth got his ass kicked travelling 2.1 miles above sea level.
And there’s more.
The doctor that treated him was called David Bowie.
Yup, that’s right. The medic dude who treated our 86-year-old astronaut pal had the same name as the dear departed starman of music. Sing it with me, folks: “Is there life on Maaaars?”
Aaah yeah. I’m liking that coincidence.
It’s a glorious irony wrapped inside hilarious happenstance.
Anyways, let’s get on to old Buzz’s space predictions for 2017 and say goodbye to Major Tom.
Human Spaceflight Systems Head Beyond Our Orbit
Buzz talks about President-Elect Trump’s interest in putting together a space council. He envisions a more unified approach to shaping and overhauling aspects of America’s civil, military and industrial space sectors. Great news for the space industry.
However, it looks like they’ll be using NASA money that is currently being channeled into climate change research. Much to NASA’s disappointment it looks like the NASA Earth Science Division is likely to take a huge hit because of it.
The money for earth sciences goes into projects like the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), a constellation of eight satellites intended to monitor surface wind speed on the oceans. This will improve hurricane forecasting by better understanding the interactions between the sea and the air near the core of a storm.
But at least the money will be spent on space exploration instead. NASA must like that, yeah?
Speaking hours after Trump’s election win, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science administrator, defended the climate change work. As reported in the Telegraph, he said: “NASA’s work on Earth science is making a difference in people’s lives all around the world every day. Earth science helps save lives.”
Anyway, all that could get junked, so there’ll be more money available for space exploration. Which is a bittersweet consolation prize.
Surely we can do both, can’t we? Let’s explore outer space while still protecting our own world.
There are political reasons behind the upsurge in US space exploration too. For one, Russia has a plan to put 12 cosmonauts in a base on the lunar surface sometime soon.
After all, back in 1959, our Russian cousins’ Luna programme was the first to reach the Moon with unmanned spacecraft, although their first attempt totally missed and fell into orbit around the Sun instead. Epic fail.
Luna 2 Soviet Moon Probe
But them Russians never did drop a man on the Moon. They are probably still smarting about that.
So Buzz tells us to “get ready for intense competition in the development of human spaceflight systems, not only for use in low Earth orbit but also outward from our home planet. This commercial race for space will lead to technical and business innovations we don’t yet appreciate or understand.”
Commercial Suborbital Flight
Just so we’re all on the same page here, suborbital spaceflight is when a spacecraft reaches space, but then drops back into the atmosphere before it has completed one orbital revolution of the planet.
So, Buzz also bangs on, quite rightly, about Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin group going all out with its New Shepard reusable suborbital launch vehicle.
Jeff Bezo, the founder of Amazon.com, launched Blue Origin in the year 2000 to develop technologies that will enable private human access to space, with the goal of dramatically lowering costs and increasing reliability.
So far its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft has only flown four uncrewed missions, each time exceeding 300,000 feet in altitude, before returning for successful soft landings. The first manned test flights are planned to take place in 2017, with the start of commercial services pencilled in for 2018.
Our Buzz also talks about Blue Origin pressing forward on its New Glenn booster in 2017.
Named after John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, New Glenn is a reusable launch system that should be capable of launching a payload into space and being reused up to 25 times. That is pretty dang kickass if that Amazon dude gets his guys to make a good fist of it and have it working properly.
source: Blue Origin
Work started on New Glenn in 2012 and those commercial space boffins reckon that the initial test launch will kick in before 2020.
Virgin Galactic Picks Up The Pace
Buzz also says that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo will hasten the pace of testing to create suborbital passenger service.
He also tells us to keep an eye on the maiden flights of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon 2 capsules, which Buzz calls “stepping stones to restore capabilities for human spaceflight.”
Elon Musk And The SpaceX Rocketeers
Buzz tells us that he expects Elon Musk will fly his Falcon Heavy launcher from the refurbished Launch Complex 39 pad A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He says: “That’s the same site that I rocketed from with my Apollo 11 colleagues, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, to achieve the first human landing on the Moon in July 1969.”
If you don’t know it, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy is not a chubby Christmas bird that has had one too many giant-sized mince pies.
No, it’s a sod-off monster of a payload carrying space launch vehicle. This thing is mahuussive. It’s got extra boosters strapped onto it and can carry a payload of 54.4 tonnes into a low Earth orbit (LEO).
Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and it could just restore the possibility of flying crewed missions to the Moon, or even Mars.
China Is Getting In On The Space Action
Did you know that China has the CLEP? Yup, it’s the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program and they dropped a lander on the Moon back in December 2013. Very weapon.
Anyways, the China space march continues and Buzz tells us that China is headed for several milestone achievements sometime soon. For one, he says, they will use their new Long March 5 and Long March 7 boosters to advance their goal of building their own space station. In addition, look for China to fly to the moon with the robotic Chang’e 5 spacecraft and attempt the first lunar sample return to Earth in more than 40 years. Dang!
Is There Life On Mars?
And so we come full circle. From Dr David Bowie’s medical prowess building our hero Buzz back to full strength, we now ch-ch-ch-chug back around to Ziggy Stardust’s favourite planet.
Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie), source: Hollywood Reporter
Good ol’ Buzz tells us to watch out for surprises from what he calls “mysterious Mars”.
The European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is now orbiting the Red Planet and Buzz tells us that in 2017 it will “sniff out” whether methane detected on that world is a product of Martian microbes.
So, science fans, that’s all the 2017 predictions that you’re going to get from that crazy old space monkey this time around. He didn’t say anything that blew my face off the front of my skull, but then that’s science predictions for you.
Scientific prediction is all about accretion, baby. Because the stuff that comes at you from the shadows is the stuff you cannot foresee. Let’s wait and watch for those science curve balls, I hope we get hit by a few in 2017.
Thanks for the info, Buzz, we are crazy about your astronautical prowess.
So, science fanatics, enjoy the information high and keep your eye to the sky, …but not while you’re performing complex tasks with industrial machinery that demand your full attention.
I’ll see you on the flipside, you majestic sack of chemical stew, you.