Friday, May 29

It Really Is A Fragile Oasis

I added this image to the story myself it's wallpaper I like. Makes the point.

It Really Is A Fragile Oasis!

Written by Frank White on 5/25/13

When I first heard astronaut Ron Garan use the term “fragile oasis,” I immediately thought of it in ecological terms. Many astronauts have echoed Ron’s thoughts, focusing in particular on the thin atmosphere that is the only barrier between us and the vacuum of space.

However, I had another understanding of the term recently, when two extraordinary events took place on the same day. First, there was a meteor strike that hit Russia, shaking buildings, shattering glass, and injuring more than a thousand people. Then, there was the too-close-for-comfort flyby of an asteroid that passed within the orbits of many of our own communications satellites.

The asteroid encounter was expected, the meteor strike was not. Both engendered excitement and fear, though, as scientists let us know how lucky we were that the meteor did not explode closer to the ground and the asteroid was not in a slightly different orbit. We heard a lot about the dinosaurs and why they are no longer with us.

The asteroid, named 2012 D14, is actually the more serious problem. Meteorites crash into the atmosphere every day, most of them burning up harmlessly. The danger of asteroids is that there are so many out there, and we don’t know where all of them are. The media talked at some length about mitigation strategies, which sounds plausible, but you need to have advance warning before you can try to nudge these space rocks away from our home planet.

After the excitement died down, what occurred to me is that the Earth really is a fragile oasis, in more ways than one. It’s not just an environmental issue; it’s also the fact that a collision with something the size of a small car could be the end of life as we know it.

As one who has long been interested in the Overview Effect, it also brought to mind something those of us at the Overview Institute have been trying to communicate for some time: we are in space, we have always been in space, and we will always be in space.

We are traveling through the universe in a natural spaceship at a high rate of speed, and there are lots of other things rushing about as well: comets, asteroids, meteors, and even a rogue planet or two.

It is not surprising to me that astronauts like Rusty Schweickart and Ed Lu are interested in figuring out how to save the planet from an asteroid hit. They have been out there and they’ve seen the Earth not only from space but also in space. They know that you can hold up your thumb and blot out the past, present, and future of humanity and all life. They know, in short, how precious this fragile oasis really is.

For some, the message is clear: if we are to survive, we must become a multi-planet species, and that is likely to happen, perhaps sooner than we think. For others, it is asteroid mitigation to protect the planet. For me, it is both. Our true environment, as the asteroid and meteor reminded us, is the solar system, and we need to learn as much about that new environment as we can if we are going to survive.

About the author:

Frank White is the author of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, first published in 1987 and re-issued in 1998. A member of the Harvard College Class of 1966, Frank graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, earning an MPhil in 1969. He is the author or co-author of eight additional books on space exploration and the future, including The SETI Factor; Decision: Earth; Think About Space and March of the Millennia (both with Isaac Asimov), The Ice Chronicles (with Paul Mayewski), and Space Stories (with Kenneth J. Cox and Robbie Davis-Floyd). He also contributed chapters on the Overview Effect to four recently published books on space exploration, Return to the Moon, Beyond Earth, Living in Space, and Space Commerce.

Tuesday, July 23

Mars-Rough Terrain

Rough Terrain

This is an overview of the planet Mars like you have never saw it before! In stunning HD, the HiRISE camera is one of the strongest camera’s ever to see another planet. If only “it” could speak. But it did, take a look.


Uploaded on Jan 25, 2012

HiRISE: High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment

The HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet. Its high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, and helps other missions choose a safe spot to land for future exploration.

NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASAs Science
Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and is operated by the University of Arizona.


In Space, they don’t have things fall on the floor.


Sunday, July 14

The Earth Is Green


PicSpeed -1754111663

In our everyday life we deal with problems that impact not only us but every living thing on this planet. Science and technology go a long way in helping us solve these issues, but mankind has been busy thriving throughout Earth’s history and we have not been that picky about what we leave behind.

Be it wars over Earth’s resources, bad laws made by governments, the thirst for oil, terrorism, religion or bad choices by every single one of us, one thing that never changes and we can always count on so far is what’s beneath our feet. Terra-firma, and the Earth is green.

We are so lucky to be able to go outside under the big blue sky with cotton candy clouds and roll in the grass. Even having hay fever can’t be all bad, because pollen in the air is at least a sign that nature is working away, green plants are propagating and honey is being made.

We have fresh air to breath as the green plants busy themselves taking in carbon monoxide and expelling oxygen. There’s humidity in the air and the clouds are busy collecting it. When they become too heavy they release that moisture, growing more green areas on the planet and bringing precious drinking water to the surface and the life forms waiting below.

The third rock from the sun is a planet like no other in it’s class it’s one of a kind. It’s a jewel in space and like all things that are one of a kind one day it will become extinct. Scientists agree this will happen at some future date unless our star (the sun) dies or another catastrophe befalls us. Terra and all life on it is connected like a spider web. The web is woven and intricate and one day a strand is broken. Only one strand…

What we don’t consider seriously enough is that one strand is connected to other strands all over that spider web and if enough of them break, or a major part of the web is gone, that web will eventually weaken and fail.


Take a few seconds to consider this awesome animated Gif from NASA’s achieves of Earth. Doesn’t it fill you full of raw emotion? But it’s what you don’t see that makes it so important. That’s because like the astronauts (just not live) you are experiencing a representation of what it would be like to see the Earth from space and to experience The Overview Effect for yourselves.

Although 75% of the planet is a relatively unchanging ocean of blue, the remaining 25% of Earth's surface is a dynamic green. Data from the VIIRS sensor aboard the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite is able to detect these subtle differences in greenness. This video highlights our ever-changing planet, using highly detailed vegetation index data from the satellite, developed by scientists at NOAA. The darkest green areas are the lushest in vegetation, while the pale colors are sparse in vegetation cover either due to snow, drought, rock, or urban areas. Satellite data from April 2012 to April 2013 was used to generate these animations and images.

The Earth is green and green means go. As long as the surface remains a “go” it’s reassuring. However NASA has been releasing animated Gifs showing deforestation and de-greening of the Earth. Melting of the Polar Ice, glaciers and slash and burn agriculture.

Man’s puny reach outside of our solar system has brought many discoveries although many have yet to be proven or understood.

Although we think we have found other “earth-like” planets, these planets are still a far cry from the resources we have on our own planet and man’s dream of finding another planet to colonize is still just that.