Some News…

December 15, 2007

Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2007) — The decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record, according to data sources obtained by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global mean surface temperature for 2007 is currently estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F.

[spoiler]

The University of East Anglia and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre have released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850.
Other remarkable global climatic events recorded so far in 2007 include record-low Arctic sea ice extent, which led to first recorded opening of the Canadian Northwest Passage; the relatively small Antarctic Ozone Hole; development of La Niña in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific; and devastating floods, drought and storms in many places around the world.
The preliminary information for 2007 is based on climate data up to the end of November from networks of land-based weather stations, ships and buoys, as well as satellites. The data are continually collected and disseminated by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) of WMO’s 188 Members and several collaborating research institutions. Final updates and figures for 2007 will be published in March 2008 in the annual WMO brochure for the Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.
WMO’s global temperature analyses are based on two different sources. One is the combined dataset maintained by both the Hadley Centre of the UK Meteorological Office, and the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK, which at this stage ranked 2007 as the seventh warmest on record. The other dataset is maintained by the US Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which indicated that 2007 is likely to be the fifth warmest on record.
Since the start of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74°C. But this rise has not been continuous. The linear warming trend over the last 50 years (0.13°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the last 100 years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 4th Assessment (Synthesis) Report, 2007, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”
2007 global temperatures have been averaged separately for both hemispheres. Surface temperatures for the northern hemisphere are likely to be the second warmest on record, at 0.63°C above the 30-year mean (1961-90) of 14.6°C/58.3°F. The southern hemisphere temperature is 0.20°C higher than the 30-year average of 13.4°C/56.1°F, making it the ninth warmest in the instrumental record since 1850.
January 2007 was the warmest January in the global average temperature record at 12.7°C/54.9°F, compared to the 1961-1990 January long-term average of 12.1°C/53.8°F.
Regional temperature anomalies
2007 started with record breaking temperature anomalies throughout the world. In parts of Europe, winter and spring ranked amongst the warmest ever recorded, with anomalies of more than 4°C above the long-term monthly averages for January and April.
Extreme high temperatures occurred in much of Western Australia from early January to early March, with February temperatures more than 5°C above average.
Two extreme heat waves affected south-eastern Europe in June and July, breaking previous records with daily maximum temperatures exceeding 40°C/104°F in some locations, including up to 45°C/113°F in Bulgaria. Dozens of people died and fire-fighters battled blazes devastating thousands of hectares of land. A severe heat wave occurred across the southern United States of America during much of August with more than 50 deaths attributed to excessive heat. August to September 2007 was extremely warm in parts of Japan, setting a new national record of absolute maximum temperature of 40.9°/105.6°F on 16 August.
In contrast, Australia recorded its coldest ever June with the mean temperature dropping to 1.5°C below normal. South America experienced an unusually cold winter (June-August), bringing winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to various provinces with temperatures falling to -22°C/-7.6°F in Argentina and -18°C/-0.4°F in Chile in early July.
Prolonged drought
Across North America, severe to extreme drought was present across large parts of the western U.S. and Upper Midwest, including southern Ontario/Canada, for much of 2007.  More than three-quarters of the Southeast U.S. was in drought from mid-summer into December, but heavy rainfall led to an end of drought in the southern Plains.
In Australia, while conditions were not as severely dry as in 2006, long term drought meant water resources remained extremely low in many areas. Below average rainfall over the densely populated and agricultural regions resulted in significant crop and stock losses, as well as water restrictions in most major cities.
China experienced its worst drought in a decade, affecting nearly 40 million hectares of farmland. Tens of millions of people suffered from water restrictions.
Flooding and intense storms
Flooding affected many African countries in 2007. In February, Mozambique experienced its worst flooding in six years, killing dozens, destroying thousands of homes and flooding 80,000 hectares of crops in the Zambezi valley.
In Sudan, torrential rains caused flash floods in many areas in June/July, affecting over 410,000 people, including 200,000 left homeless. The strong southwesterly monsoon resulted in one of the heaviest July-September rainfall periods, triggering widespread flash floods affecting several countries in West Africa, Central Africa and parts of the Greater Horn of Africa. Some 1.5 million people were affected and hundreds of thousands homes destroyed.
In Bolivia, flooding in January-February affected nearly 200,000 people and 70,000 hectares of cropland. Strong storms brought heavy rain that caused extreme flooding in the littoral region of Argentina in late March/early April. In early May, Uruguay was hit by its worst flooding since 1959, with heavy rain producing floods that affected more than 110,000 people and severely damaged crops and buildings. Triggered by storms, massive flooding in Mexico in early November destroyed the homes of half a million people and seriously affected the country’s oil industry.
In Indonesia, massive flooding on Java in early February killed dozens and covered half of the city of Jakarta by up to 3.7 metres of water. Heavy rains in June ravaged areas across southern China, with flooding and landslides affecting over 13.5 million people and killing more than 120. Monsoon-related extreme rainfall events caused the worst flooding in years in parts of South Asia. About 25 million people were affected in the region, especially in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Thousands lost their lives. However, rainfall during the Indian summer monsoon season (June-September) for India was, generally, near normal (105% of the long-term average), but with marked differences in the distribution of rainfall in space and time.
A powerful storm system, Kyrill, affected much of northern Europe during 17-18 January 2007 with torrential rains and winds gusting up to 170km/h. There were at least 47 deaths across the region, with disruptions in electric supply affecting tens of thousands during the storm.
England and Wales recorded its wettest May-July period since records began in 1766, receiving 406 mm of rain compared to the previous record of 349 mm in 1789. Extensive flooding in the region killed nine and caused more than US$6 billion in damages.
Development of La Niña
The brief El Niño event of late 2006 quickly dissipated in January 2007, and La Niña conditions became well established across the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific in the latter half of 2007.
In addition to La Niña, unusual sea surface temperature patterns with cooler than normal values across the north of Australia to the Indian Ocean, and warmer than normal values in the Western Indian Ocean, were recorded. These are believed to have modified the usual La Niña impacts in certain regions around the world.
The current La Niña is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2008 at least.
Devastating tropical cyclones
Twenty-four named tropical storms developed in the North-West Pacific during 2007, below the annual average of 27. Fourteen storms were classified as typhoons, equalling the annual average. Tropical cyclones affected millions in south-east Asia, with typhoons Pabuk, Krosa, Lekima and tropical storms like Peipah among the severest.
During the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane season, 14 named storms occurred, compared to the annual average of 12, with 6 being classified as hurricanes, equalling the average. For the first time since 1886, two category 5 hurricanes (Dean and Felix) made landfall in the same season.
In February, due to tropical cyclone Gamède, a new worldwide rainfall record was set in French La Reunion with 3,929 mm measured within three days.
In June, cyclone Gonu made landfall in Oman, affecting more than 20,000 people and killing 50, before reaching the Islamic Republic of Iran. There is no record of a tropical cyclone hitting Iran since 1945.
On 15 November, tropical cyclone Sidr made landfall in Bangladesh, generating winds of up to 240 km/h and torrential rains. More than 8.5 million people were affected and over 3,000 died. Nearly 1.5 million houses were damaged or destroyed. Often hit by cyclones, Bangladesh has developed a network of cyclone shelters and a storm early-warning system, which significantly reduced casualties.
Australia’s 2006/2007 tropical season was unusually quiet, with only five tropical cyclones recorded, equalling the lowest number observed since at least 1943-44.
Relatively small Antarctic ozone hole
The 2007 Antarctic ozone hole was relatively small due to mild stratosphere winter temperatures. Since 1998, only the 2002 and 2004 ozone holes were smaller. In 2007, the ozone hole reached a maximum of 25 million square kms in mid-September, compared to 29 million square kms in the record years of 2000 and 2006. The ozone mass deficit reached 28 megatonnes on 23 September, compared to more than 40 megatonnes in the record year of 2006.
Record-low Arctic sea ice extent opened the Northwest Passage
Following the Arctic sea ice melt season, which ends annually in September at the end of the northern summer, the average “sea ice extent” was 4.28 million square kms, the lowest on record. The “sea ice extent” at September 2007 was 39% below the long-term 1979-2000 average, and 23% below the previous record set just two years ago in September 2005.For the first time in recorded history, the disappearance of ice across parts of the Arctic opened the Canadian Northwest Passage for about five weeks starting 11 August. Nearly 100 voyages in normally ice-blocked waters sailed without the threat of ice. The September rate of sea ice decline since 1979 is now approximately 10% per decade, or 72,000 square kms per year.
Sea level rise continues
The sea level continued to rise at rates substantially above the average for the 20th century of about 1.7 mm per year. Measurements show that the 2007 global averaged sea level is about 20 cm higher than the 1870 estimate. Modern satellite measurements show that since 1993 global averaged sea level has been rising at about 3 mm per year.
Global 10 Warmest Years Mean Global temperature (°C) (anomaly with respect to 1961-1990)
1998 0.52
2005 0.48
2003 0.46
2002 0.46
2004 0.43
2006 0.42
2007(Jan-Nov) 0.41
2001 0.40
1997 0.36
1995 0.28
UK 10 Warmest Years Mean UK Temperature (°C) (anomaly with respect to 1971-2000)
2006 +1.15
2007 (Jan to 10th Dec) + 1.10
2003 + 0.92
2004 + 0.89
2002 + 0.89
2005 + 0.87
1990 + 0.83
1997 + 0.82
1949 + 0.80
1999 + 0.78
Adapted from materials provided by World Meteorological Organization.

[/spoiler]

More fuel for the metaphorical fire.

PS3 one ups Xbox 360 with its DivX support

The Xbox 360 may have beaten Sony to to the punch with regards to supporting the DivX format but it seems that the PS3 will have the last laugh on the matter. First of all, unlike the Xbox 360, the PS3 is DivX certified meaning it will get full DivX functionality. This even allows for developers to utilize the solid form of compression for various in-game cut scenes.

quote:

Last month, DivX announced that the PS3 will soon support DivX, and, this month, Gizmodo met with the company, which shared some interesting details on the big move.

First of all, unlike the Xbox 360, the PS3 is DivX certified. While Microsoft’s console can only playback some DivX files, the PS3 will get full DivX functionality. This includes the ability for game developers to use the very efficient compression format for in-game cut-scenes.

This means DivX video cut scenes will reduce stress on the machine, theoretically allowing for better load times, less power consumption, and less heat output.

News Source: Blorge

Hurrah!  Well ok, I’m not a PS3 fanboy per say, but I do own one.  So in the interests of keeping the inter console wars fresh…. Hurrah!

Advertisements

Bali draft says all nations must join climate fight

December 9, 2007

By Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – All nations must do more to fight climate change, and rich countries must make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts, a draft proposal at United Nations talks said on Saturday.

The four-page draft, written by delegates from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa as an unofficial guide for delegates from 190 nations at the December 3-14 talks, said developing nations should at least brake rising emissions as part of a new pact.

It said there was “unequivocal scientific evidence” that “preventing the worst impacts of climate change will require (developed nations) to reduce emissions in a range of 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

The draft is the first outline of the possible goals of talks on a new global deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which binds just 36 developed nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

“Current efforts … will not deliver the required emissions reductions,” according to the text, obtained by Reuters, that lays out a plan for averting ever more droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising seas.

“The challenge of climate change calls for effective participation by all countries,” it said. The United States is outside the Kyoto pact and developing nations led by China and India have no 2012 goals for limiting emissions.

Echoing conclusions this year by the U.N. climate panel, it said global emissions of greenhouse gases would have to “peak in the next 10 to 15 years and be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by 2050.”

The draft lays out three options for how to proceed after Bali — ranging from non-binding talks over the next two years to a deadline for adopting a new global pact at a U.N. meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009.

Rich nations should consider ways to step up efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases by setting “quantified national emission objectives”, the draft says.

Poor countries should take “national mitigation actions … that limit the growth of, or reduce, emissions,” it says. It adds that “social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities” for poor nations.

Delegates will report back on Monday with reactions.

Earlier, trade ministers from 12 nations met for the first time on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference, opening a new front in the global warming battle.

Their two-day discussions ending on Sunday focus on easing tariffs on climate-friendly goods to spur a “green” economy. About 20 finance ministers will join the fringes of the Bali meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

“Climate change solutions open up important opportunities for jobs and trade,” Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean told reporters. Ministers at the trade meeting included those from the United States, Australia, Brazil and India.

Differences over who should take the blame for, and do most to curb, emissions threatened to deadlock the main talks. Canada and Australia joined Japan on Saturday in calling for commitments from some developing countries.

But developing nations would find it “inconceivable” to accept binding targets now, said the U.N.’s climate change chief Yvo de Boer. An alliance of 43 small island states urged even tougher action to fight climate change, saying they risked being washed off the map by rising seas.

Outside the conference centre, Balinese dancers used sticks to burst black balloons labelled “CO2”, the main greenhouse gas.

— For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/

(Reporting by Gerard Wynn and Alister Doyle, Editing by Tim Pearce)

Just do it….


Germany Commits to Steep CO2 Cuts

December 7, 2007

The plan is forecast to cost Germany, Europe’s top polluter, $45.5 billion (that’s about what the U.S. spends on the Iraq war every seven months).

Germany yesterday sent a strong message to the 10,000 delegates discussing global warming in Bali: Change is possible, and we’re going to get started.

The German cabinet agreed to a 36% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, below 1990 levels, by 2020 through improvements in energy efficiency, better building insulation and investments in new renewable energy sources. (A report released last week found the U.S. could make a similar, or even steeper reduction, mostly by investing in energy efficiency; the report was produced by both environmentalists and leaders of industry, including major utilities and energy companies.)

Other notable news out of Bali, where the United Nations is convening an important meeting designed to produce a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions past 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires:

  • Because 16 of the 36 nations that ratified the Kyoto Protocol have failed to meet the targets set out for them, many are looking to buy carbon offsets, according to Reuters. That is drawing ire, even as most nations are focused on the future.
  • China is pushing for a new world fund that rich nations would contribute to, and developing nations would draw from, according to Reuters. It would pay for renewable and clean energy technology projects.
  • Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, urged nations to boost spending on so-called “adaptation,” according to China’s state-run media, because long-lived carbon in the atmosphere makes many effects from global warming inevitable.
  • After ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called on the United States — now, the only industrialized nation that is holding out — to follow suit, according to Asia Pulse. De Boer said Australia’s action sends a powerful message.
  • The United States, Canada and Japan are throwing up repeated roadblocks to even small steps on global warming, like setting up a working group to discuss the transfer of technology from rich to poor nations, Friends of Earth has said, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
  • Harlan Watson, a U.S. envoy, was quoted in Asia Pulse, however, as saying that the United States wants to support adaptation, mitigation, transfer of technology and funding, and possibly a mechanism for preserving forests in Indonesia and other developing countries. One roadblock to transferring technology from rich to poor nations is that the technology isn’t owned by the government, but the private sector, according to Watson.
  • The leaders of Pacific Islands warned the delegates that their nations would be swamped if nothing is done to stop sea-level rise due to global warming, according to the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. The Global Governance Project will recommend creating an international fund to resettle “climate refugees,” according to the New Zealand Herald.
  • Japan pledged to give $10 million to preserve forests through a World Bank program designed to combat global warming, according to Asia Pulse.
  • China is warming to the idea of binding emissions reductions, according to The Australian Financial Review.

O Canada, what are you doing?

September 19, 2007

Our civilization’s addiction to oil is being displayed in all its nefarious glory in the tar sands of Canada. According to Chris Nelder:

What we have here is arguably the most environmentally destructive activity man has ever attempted, with a compliant government, insatiable demand, and an endless supply of capital turning it into “a speeding car with a gas pedal and no brakes.” It sucks down critical and rapidly diminishing amounts of both natural gas and water, paying neither for its consumption of natural capital nor its environmental destruction, to the utter detriment of its host. And all to eke out maybe a 10% profit, if it turns out that the books haven’t been cooked, and if the taxation structure remains a flat-out giveaway.

Greenpeace recently announced a new campaign against the tar sands, pointing out that “Tar sands produce five times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil, because they are energy-intensive, requiring huge amounts of natural gas to separate and process the bitumen.”

As I recently posted, processing tar sands leads to more pollution in the United States. Tar-sand oil production leads to more global warming, is being pursued because of peak oil, and continues the wholesale destruction of ecosystems, as Nelder enumerates:

 

Tar sands plants typically use two to four barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil … and after it’s been through the process, the water is toxic with contaminants, so it cannot be released into the environment. Some of it is reused, but vast amounts of it are pumped into enormous settlement ponds to be retained as toxic waste. These “ponds” are actually the largest bodies of water in the region — big enough to be seen from space — and some of the world’s largest man-made ponds overall, with miles of surface area. It may take 200 years for the smallest particles to settle down to the bottom of this toxic brew, which also contains very high levels of heavy metals and other health-threatening elements … With the tar sands currently producing at the rate of about 1 million barrels per day (mbpd), water levels in the river are already going down. Given such intense water demands, it’s completely unclear how production can be increased to the target of 4 mbpd by 2020.

The natural gas used is so unsustainable, oil companies are considering putting nukes on top of the tar sands:

Professor Kjell Aleklett of Uppsala University, a recognized expert on tar sands, puts it bluntly: “The supply of natural gas in North America is not adequate to support a future Canadian oil sands industry with today’s dependence on natural gas” … After gas, the next obvious choice is nuclear energy — building dozens of nuclear plants to generate the heat needed to create the steam needed to drive the hydrocarbons out of the sand.

So how do we end this addiction? Let me modestly propose three broad policy goals:

  1. Use less oil in vehicles, which obviously means higher mileage standards, but should also include a sufficient program of R&D and government purchases of electric vehicles. But we need something that can help reduce the number of miles driven, or else oil use will creep up over the years as people drive more, so:
  2. Radically increase funding for light rail, electrified rail freight, buses, and high-speed intercity rail;
  3. and now for something different — how about freezing construction of new highways, and instead using the money for R&D, public transit, and fixing the existing roads and collapsing bridges? The people organizing the recent fast against global warming called for a freeze on coal plant construction; to that demand we could add a call for a halt to new highway construction.

Between tar sands and other petroleum boondoggles on the one hand, and biofuels production on the other, we need to find ways to decrease the need for the use of fuel-based vehicles, for the sake of the planet and its people.

Jon Rynn

The evidence is in open view and plain to see, yet we continue to do things that are blatantly obviously damaging to our current situation.

The way to go forward with energy production is laid out in front of us. We have all the technology needed to produce green energy…… Yet we continue to pursue strategies like this.


Arctic thaw opens fabled trade route For centuries explorers sought the Northwest Passage. Global warming has finally opened it up

September 16, 2007

For centuries explorers sought the Northwest Passage. Global warming has finally opened it up.

[spoiler]

The Arctic’s sea covering has shrunk so much that the Northwest Passage, the fabled sea route that connects Europe and Asia, has opened up for the first time since records began.

The discovery, revealed through satellite images provided by the European Space Agency (Esa), shows how bad the consequences of global warming are becoming in northerly latitudes. This summer there was a reduction of a million square kilometres in the Arctic’s ice covering compared with 2006, scientists have found.

As a result, the Northwest Passage that runs between Canada and Greenland has been freed of the ice that has previously blocked it and that, over the centuries, has frustrated dozens of expeditions that attempted to sail northwest and open up a commercial sea route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

In addition, scientists have found that the Northeast Passage, a corresponding route that runs parallel to the north coast of Russia, may also soon become navigable – though the clearing of both passages is likely to fuel animosity between countries trying to exploit the region’s oil, fish and mineral resources, experts have warned.

According to scientists led by Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Danish National Space Centre, Arctic ice this summer dropped to around 3 million square kilometres, a decrease of 1 million square kilometres on last year’s coverage. Given that for the past 10 years Arctic ice has been disappearing at an average annual rate of only 100,000 square kilometres, this year’s reduction is ‘extreme’, said Pedersen.

‘The strong reduction in just one year raises flags that the ice [in summer] may disappear much sooner than expected and that we urgently need to understand better the processes involved,’ he added.

Pedersen and his team used 200 images – acquired earlier this month by the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument aboard Esa’s Envisat satellite – to create a mosaic that shows the Northwest route across northern Canada is currently navigable, while the Northeast Passage along the Siberian coast remains blocked, but only partially.

Finding a Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific was a dream of European merchants since the 16th century. Explorers including Martin Frobisher and Henry Hudson tried to find a route but failed.

Finally, in 1845, a well-equipped two-ship expedition led by Sir John Franklin attempted to find the passage. It disappeared, with all its 129 crewmen. Subsequent investigations found the bodies of Franklin’s sailors and uncovered evidence that contaminated food may have helped doom the expedition. It is also thought some crewmen may have resorted to cannibalism to try to save themselves.

The passage was finally conquered in 1906 by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who completed the journey in a converted 47-ton herring boat called Gjoa. However, some of the waterways used by Amundsen were extremely shallow, making his route commercially impractical.

Although the discovery that the passage is now opening up dramatically, indicating it may soon be possible for shipping to take highly profitable northerly short cuts between the Europe and Asia, scientists are also very worried about the rate at which the region’s ice is melting. They fear the polar regions may have passed a crucial tipping point.

Ice reflects solar energy. But if it starts to disappear, heat is absorbed by the dark seas and rock below ice floes and glaciers. The Arctic then gets warmer and even more protective ice covering is lost – so melting accelerates dangerously.

The opening up of the sea routes is also like to increase the intensity of international disputes in the Arctic. Canada claims full rights over those parts of the Northwest Passage that pass through its territory and has announced that it will bar transit there if it wants. However, this claim is disputed by the US and the European Union.

In addition, Russia has laid claims to large tracts of the Arctic seabed, claiming these are extension of its maritime zones. Again this claim is disputed by other countries, including Canada, which recently announced it was building a fleet of naval vessels to protect its northern waters.

Source

[/spoiler]

If the tipping point has been reached then it’s really going to be a shit storm. I would be less worried or inclined to even care about Canada building a fleet of ships to protect certain waters and such like than the fact that when Global warming really does kick in it’s effects will be worse for us humans than full scale nuclear war.

It’s always short term profit that captures the imagination of industry and economies rather than the profits to be had in the long term by protecting this fragile planet for our future generations.


Space, The Final Frontier

September 11, 2007

Well I’m a bit late with this but as the saying goes, better late than…..

So it’s the 5oth anniversary of the beginning of mans adventures into space.

During this period of time we have had missions to:

Mercury: 1 Mission: 1 successful, +1 en route, +1 planned

Venus: 40 Missions: 26 successful, +1 planned

Moon: 80 Missions: 45 successful, +4 planned

Mars: 38 Missions: 18 successful, +1 en route, +4 planned

Asteroids: 4 Missions: 4 successful, +1 planned

Jupiter: 8 Missions: 8 successful, +1 planned

Saturn: 4 Missions: 4 successful

Uranus: 1 Mission: 1 successful

Neptune: 1 Mission: 1 successful

Pluto: 0 Missions: 1 en route

Comets: 10 Missions: 9 successful, +1 en route

Now it may just be me, but I doubt it, but this seems like an amazing achievement for just 50 years of space travel. In fact in the grand scheme of things 50 years is nothing and look how far we have come. I can’t wait to see where we are in 2057, providing I’m here of course.

So I want to do a little bit of chit chat about space, our final frontier, from a few different angles.

Can we still make life better for the underprivileged people back on earth while continuing with space travel?

This question basically asks are we diverting money that could be used to feed the world etc. I would venture that the short answer is no. The long answer is still no. Why you may ask? Shouldn’t we be pumping the huge amounts of money that is consumed by the various space programs around the world in to looking after the poor and hungry and ill?

Well lets have a relitavely deeper look shall we, starting with the one country in the world that the major space program in the world. The USA. Ok, they spend $16 billion a year on NASA. Wow you may say. But hang on, thats 0.5 per cent of federal funds. The military on the other hand consumes $439.3 Billion. The maths there are pretty plain to see.

We are where we are today because of the human desire to explore. Every luxury and technological / medical / scientific advance humans as a race have made is due to our enduring and never ending desire to understand what we don’t, and it’s one of the bigger facts that distinguishes us from other species. To deny our thirst for knowledge is to dampen our humanity.

Why we must leave Earth

Why send astronauts to other worlds?

If we remain on Earth we will surely become extinct, and probably long before an expanding Sun roasts our planet. The fact is that we are vulnerable to the same types of catastrophic events that have wiped out other spieces on earth. Mammalian species, on average, last just a couple of million years. Our parent species, Homo erectus, lasted about 1.6 million years, while Neanderthals died out after only 300,000 years. We might have conquered the planet but it is just a tiny island in the universe, and species confined to a single island are often found on the endangered list.

Lifetime Expectations: we can estimate with 95 per cent confidence, how long humans and the human space flight programme are likely to last.

4-5 billion years: sun burns out

5100 – 7,800,00 years: humans race disappears

46 – 1794 years: end of the space program

New Scientist #2620

Will we still be here in 8 million years? Nuclear war, bioterrorism or even nanotechnology could wipe us out in a cosmic heartbeat.

What is clear however, to me and a lot of other people, is that if we have a stable colony on another planet in this solar system or in another, we will have doubled our surival chances in the long run.

I’ll finish with something from Carl Sagan. “Isn’t it possible to make a better life for everyone here on earth, and at the same time to reach for the planets and the stars?”

Video Content

[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

Strange Satellites

  • Some military reconnaissance satellites are believed to weigh more than 14 tonnes
  • Canada’s MOST satellite is often called the worlds smallest space telescope. It could fit inside a suitcase and is refered to as the Humble Space telescope.

Space is the final frontier for humankind: it is now and always will be. It is the place that we will always know the least about because of its almost limitless extent. But it also offers the potential of almost unlimited opportunity. Brian Schmidt