Space Exploration: To Boldly Go Where We Have Never Gone Before

The human journey to the beginning of space and time begins

A comparison of the sizes of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system and our own Sun
A comparison of the sizes of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system and our own Sun

Astronomers watch the greatest show on Earth every night

Astronomy News ( 2013-10-15) – Walk out to the darkest star viewing spot you can find at dusk and take a seat, “The greatest show on Earth is about to begin!” Lay back on your cold seat and you become lost-in-space as you stare upwards at one of the first sights to greet human consciousness onto the stage upon awakening during the distant past. Close your eyes and let your mind boldly fly off into the night sky in search of new lands of promise warmed by alien suns. Stand upon undreamed landscapes straight out of the Twilight Zone and record ideas and thoughts that could alter the course of human history and open up avenues to undreamed of events. Human beings have looked skyward in wonder and awe for thousands of years and dreamed of voyaging to the lights in the night sky. Today humans dream of traveling to the nearest star in our sky and standing on alien landscapes which will alter human beings as a race and create history unlike anything dreamed of by science fiction writers.

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For thousands of years, mankind has stood on the tip of the cosmic iceberg and dreamed of reaching for the stars. During the next century, mankind will venture out into the solar system and the unknown. The exoplanet in this Hubble image is Epsilon Eridani (HD 22049 one of the closest to Earth at 10.5 light-years. A voyage to this Jupiter-size planet’s going to take considerably longer than traveling to the Alpha Centauri system. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

Will human adventures travel across outer space to distant suns in search of answers to questions pondered throughout human history? Will human beings one day journey through the universe seeking the origins of human life or a suitable planet to call home? As Mr. Roddenberry points out, space will be one of the last frontiers of humankind. At the current rate of technological growth, it could be only a matter of time before human beings have the ability to travel across interstellar space looking for non-terrestrial life and the resources humans need to survive and prosper.

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A true visionary, Star Trek’s one of the most popular television shows in history. His dream for the future of mankind is truly inspiring. Credit: StarTreak.com

 

Space Exploration will be far more challenging than life on earth

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Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust clouds above a rusty landscape show Mars has a dynamic, often chaotic environment in this Hubble image. Even a 43 million miles, it can see details as small as ten miles across. A large amount of seasonal dust storm activity can be seen above the northern polar region (top), with smaller storms nearby, and a large one spilling out of the giant Hellas impact crater in the Southern Hemisphere (bottom right). Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

Traveling across the vast stretches of outer space between Earth and a nearby star system will be far more challenging and dangerous to undertake then climbing the tallest mountain or sailing an unexplored ocean. The distances in both space and time involved in such voyages will require human beings to surmount technological and social obstacles unlike any experienced during life on planet Earth. During the past century, humans have designed and engineered mechanized devices capable of launching into outer space and crossed the short stellar distance between Earth and its moon. We have started to become acquainted with life-in-space and the challenges involved in space travel. During the next fifty years, mankind will travel into the solar system and start to develop the technology required to successfully travel to nearby star systems to begin life again under an alien sun.

 

A Global Mars Map
The image seen here was made by combining four hemisphere views of the Hubble Space Telescope during the Red Planet’s closest approach to Earth into a full-color global map – called a Mollweide projection -. The resolution of Hubble is 12 miles per pixel near the equator. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

Does mankind presently have the technology, will power, and resources to journey to a nearby star system? The answer at this point in human history is a realistic and resounding, “No!” Using a reaction engine similar to the liquid oxygen/hydrogen main engine of the space shuttle to travel to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, would require over 100 years and fuel tanks too big to carry. Nuclear powered propulsion using fusion or fission requires technology and radiation shielding presently unavailable in order for human beings to survive the journey. Doctors also have questions concerning the possible medical problems associated with long-term exposure to acceleration and deep space radiation, and the drag forces involved using this form of propulsion still have to be addressed. The often dreamed of, but at this point unrealized, warp drive will probably never make it off the pages of science fiction books and into the cold of deep space. Instead, it will be replaced by an undreamed of propulsion system allowing us to travel closer to the speed of light, or circumvent the universe’s speed limit using a new idea, yet to be conceived.

Fly over the craters and canyons of Mars watching this Hubble video.

The distances between the stars in the Centauri system are extreme, but it's possible for planets to exist
The distances between the stars in the Centauri system are extreme, but it’s possible for planets to exist

Proxima Centauri or bust

If mankind made traveling to the nearest star system the top priority during the years ahead what would be needed to make the journey a success? The answer to this question continues to change as scientists and engineers study the goal more. The closest alien sun to Earth is the Red Dwarf Proxima Centauri, which on average is the short stellar distance of just 4.22 light-years (24.7 trillion miles or 29.9 km) away. Traveling at the estimated speed of Voyager 1, around 37,000 mph, it would take a spaceship over 76,000 years to complete the journey. During this length of time, human beings would have long enough to evolve significantly in the new and alien environment of deep space. Would we recognize our human ancestors after 76,000 years evolving during a trip through outer space?

The red dwarf sun Proxima Centauri could have planets which could serve as a new cradle for human life to begin anew
The red dwarf sun Proxima Centauri could have planets which could serve as a new cradle for human life to begin anew

Proxima Centauri also has no known planets upon which humans could begin life again under an alien sun. This Red Dwarf star is also significantly cooler than our own sun, so the habitability of any existing alien worlds would be questionable at best. Optimistic humans point out that Proxima Centauri is part of a bigger star system, containing other possible candidates which could have habitable planets. This dim star is considered by many to be part of the bigger Alpha Centauri system, which includes the binary stars Alpha Centauri A and B, just 4.4 light-years from Earth. Astronomers and scientists have their doubts about the possibility of other habitable planets in this star system at this point. Instead, they point to star systems further out in deep space, which seem to offer a better possibility of habitable planets.

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At 4 light-years, Proxima Centauri isn’t visible in the night sky because of its low luminosity and small size at 1/8th the size of Sol. Even though it’s considered a close neighbor this sun is only a pin-like source even with the eagle eye of the Hubble Space Telescope. Considered a flare star, Proxima Centauri occasionally puts on a show. This stellar production of the Milky Way’s expected to have periodic shows throughout the life of the star, an estimated 4 trillion years or over 300 times the age estimate of the cosmos. Better get comfortable. The next show could be awhile! Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

 

The stars can’t wait

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The International Space Station will be the first stop for mankind on its way deeper into the solar system. From here we’ll make bigger better stations and travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Credit: NASA

If humans move to a new home circling an alien sun, we’ll do it in stages, beginning with the exploration of the solar system. The International Space Station will be the staging point for the next phase of the exploration of the solar system. From here we can reach outward into the solar system to see what mysteries and discoveries await us just beyond the visible horizon. We’ll need time to develop the technology required for interstellar space travel and the terraforming of alien worlds. In the meantime, we’ll continue to send out envoys and ambassadors in the form of unmanned spacecraft to nearby star systems within our reach. The first of these envoys of the human race, Voyager 1, has traveled a distance of around 11 billion miles during 35 years of continuous space travel. This puts Voyager 1 still firmly within the boundaries of the known solar system, which reaches some 4.6 trillion miles into cold space and the Oort Cloud on the fringes of our system of planets. Eventually, Voyager 1 will travel beyond the boundaries of the solar system and into interstellar space, and this is when the real human journey to the beginning of space and time begins.

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on the search for earth-like planets.

The search for earth-like planets

Click this link to watch a YouTube video on finding a new cradle for human civilization.
New Earth: A new cradle for human life

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Star Clusters of Unimaginable Size Exist in the Universe

Understanding how large star clusters form could tell us more about star formation when the universe was young

The Tarantula nebula in full glory
The Tarantula nebula in full glory

Astronomers news (2013-10-14) – Tonight we’ll journey to the truly titanic 30 Doradus nebula (also called the Tarantula nebula), 170 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, aboard the Hubble Space Telescope. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a smaller satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, where astronomers recently discovered something they suspected about the formation of larger star clusters.

Using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, we’ll be able to look at images of the Tarantula nebula filled with startling reds, greens and blues, which indicates to astronomers the elemental composition of the  stars in the region. Blue light is from the hottest, most massive stars astronomers have found to date. Red light is from fluorescing hydrogen gas, while green light is the glow of oxygen.

Every element on the periodic table gives off light with a specific signature upon fluorescing. Scientists use this knowledge to analyze the light reaching Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 from the Tarantula nebula to determine the elemental composition of the stars in the region .They hope to use this knowledge to answer questions they have concerning star formation when the universe was still in its infancy.

30 Doradus is full of red, blue and yellow light
30 Doradus is full of red, blue and green light

NASA astronomers see something different going on in 30 Doradus

We’ll specifically journey to a region of the 30 Doradus nebula where astronomers recently discovered a pair of star clusters which they first thought was a single star cluster, is in fact a pair of star clusters in the initial stages of merging into a larger star cluster. Astronomers now think the merging of star clusters could help explain the abundance of large star clusters throughout the visible universe.

Lead scientist Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland and her team first started looking at the region to find runaway stars. Runaway stars are fast-moving stars that have been kicked out of the stellar nursery where they first formed. Astronomers found the region surrounding 30 Doradus has a large number of runaway stars, which according to current star formation theories could not have formed at their present location. Astronomers now believe the runaway stars outside 30 Doradus could have been ejected out of the region at high speed due to dynamic interactions with other stellar bodies as the two star clusters merge into one larger star cluster.

This image of 30 Doradus makes one feel small
This image of 30 Doradus makes one feel small

Astrophysicists and astronomers started looking for clues

The first clue to the true nature of the event astronomers were viewing was the fact that parts of the star cluster varied in age by about 1 million years. Upon further study the team noticed the distribution of low-mass stars detected by Hubble were not spherical in shape as astronomers expected, but resembled the elongated shape of two merging galaxies. Now astronomers are studying this region of space and time to find clues to help them understand the way larger star clusters are formed in the universe. They also hope this discovery will help determine interesting and enlightening facts concerning the formation of star clusters when the universe was still young.

Astronomers are also looking further at this region of space and time to find other star clusters in the process of merging in the 30 Doradus nebula. They plan on using the ability of the James Webb Space Telescope to detect infrared light , once it comes on line, to take a closer look at areas within the Tarantula nebula where they think stars hidden within cocoons of dust are blocked from the view of telescopes and instruments detecting visible light.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

The Moving Universe

The Earth is moving relative to everything else in the universe

Everything on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” is moving relative to everything else in the universe

The Earth rotates on its axis

The solar system is moving through the Milky Way

Astronomy questions and answers – Staring upward at the night sky above you get the notion you’re stationary in the universe, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Earth beneath you is spinning on its axis at 1000 km/hr, orbiting Sol at 100,000 km/hr, the Milky Way Galaxy at 800,000 km/hr while the solar system is moving relative to the local stars at 70,000 km/hr. In fact, the universe around us could be moving through a relative space and time of some unknown kind unimaginable to the human consciousness, and we would have no way of detecting this relative motion. We are all travelers in a sense on spaceshipearth1, which is the only habitable planet we know of for humankind that exists in the universe.

The Milky Way is moving through the universe

Everything appears to be moving relative to everything else we view as we look outward into space and time, which makes traveling through space and time a hazardous activity at the best of times. The universe you’ll experience on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” isn’t the universe you experience on Earth. The relative motions of everything in the universe mean we’ll need to explain a few things to you about the way things work in the universe. In future articles, we’ll talk about the Earth’s rotation and orbit around Sol, and how this affects the planet, we’ll explain the Earth’s motion in the Milky Way Galaxy, and the motion of our solar system in relation to the nearby stars in the night sky. This will give you a base upon which to stand as we take you further out into the cosmos to explain the relative universe you’ll experience during your journey. Toward this goal, we’ll explain the meaning of Einstein’s General and Special Relativity for your trip and the way you’ll experience things during your journey.

Check out my newest astronomy site at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

Read about the Anasazi Indians

Read about astronomers viewing a supernova they think might have given birth to a black hole

Take a Young Mind on Your Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time

Secure the Future of Astronomy by Opening Young Minds to the Possibilities in the Night Sky

Astronomy News – Show your children the possibilities of the cosmos before them –

Take a young mind on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”, and you’ll be helping to secure the future of astronomy and possibly humankind. The young minds of the world are the future and will be making the important choices in the century of the environment. The experiences they undertake at this critical age will lay the foundation for everything they believe throughout their lives. Once they lay their head upon the cold earth and their mind embraces the immensity of the night sky above them. They’ll realize just how small and diminutive the Earth and life-on-earth really is, and the importance of protecting the planet, for all life.

Make it a family affair and take the wife and kids out into the wilderness. Set up your time machine to the stars and take the family on a “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. On a clear night, the night sky will open the young mind to the universe and the immensity of space and time. Point out larger, more visible celestial objects first, and then you can slowly introduce the harder to view celestial bodies as their mind begins to digest the information and grasp the concepts involved and their consciousness expands in response to the possibilities before their eyes.

Young astronomers are best suited for the journey

By opening a young mind to the universe in the night sky, you’re opening their consciousness to the possibilities before their eyes and helping them put everything in the universe in realistic proportion in their young minds, and you could be giving them a useful tool for survival in the battle for survival on planet Earth. At the same time, you’re helping to breathe life into astronomy, and contributing to the general understanding of the true role humans play and could play incoming cosmic events in the century of the environment.

Start with the basic celestial objects in the solar system, and save the longer space trips and abstract objects and concepts until a later time in your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time“. Before you know it your young ones will be asking to journey to some far off part of the universe they have only heard mentioned in whispers, and their journey will really begin.

By taking a “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” you could inadvertently be creating the desire to venture out into the universe to witness the awesomeness of the night sky in person and the birth of a space explorer that will alter the course of human history. Helping to protect the Earth, all living things, and shape the future of humankind, in your own little way.

Astronomy is still young and we need young minds for the next leg of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

Caelumi Plensaum gen Lumeninis ” It’s Full of Stars”

 Take a walk into the darkness of a cold, clear night, far from the glare of interfering lights

The first astronomers thought they saw god in the night sky

Astronomy News – the first astronomers –

This image of the far cosmos shows a cosmic maelstrom of hot, glowing gas and dark dust within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) called stellar nursery N159 over 160,000 light-years toward the Tarantula Nebula (heic 1402). An HII region about 150 light-years across, this region of space contains scores of hot young stars emitting intense ultraviolet light causing nearby hydrogen gas to glow. Torrential cosmic winds within the heart of this region have carved out ridges, arcs, and filaments from the surrounding material creating a butterfly-shaped region of nebulosity called the Papillon Nebula. Credits: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope

Take a walk deep into the darkness of a cold, clear night, far from the glare of interfering human light, and you can gaze upward at a night sky filled with stars-of-wonder, much like your first ancestors did for the first time thousands of years in the past. Lay the back of your head on the cold Earth for a few hours and stare deeply into the vastness of the night sky before your eyes and watch the stars parade across the sky as they have since the birth of spaceshipearth1. Your mind will be sharing common thoughts and feelings of awe, wonder, and smallness with the billions of humans that have witnessed this scene and thousands of generations of star-gazing ancestors that walked the Earth before you.

Modern astronomy has shined the light of discovery on the cosmos

Astronomers suspect rare galaxies, like the one seen above, are extremely dusty and often produce radio jets called relativistic jets when two smaller galaxies merge. This artist’s rendition shows an illustration of just such a merger. Credits: NASA/Hubble/ESA

Thousands of years after the time of these star-gazing ancestors, modern science has managed to shine the light of discovery on many questions concerning the universe we live in and the true role humans play in the grand cosmic-play that’s unfolding before your eyes. The relative age of the Earth has been determined in relation to the universe and scientists delve deeper into the mystery of how the seemingly simple starting ingredients of the cosmic womb can lead to the rich diversity of life on one dusty ball of water far from Nowhere. We will embark on a cosmic journey of discovery from the beginning of time to the present day as we survey the contents of the night sky close to spaceship Earth, measure the scale and majesty of the universe in human terms, and the relative motion of the Earth as it travels through space and time to its ultimate destination. This cosmic journey will allow your mind to develop a larger picture of the universe around you as human scientists understand it and provide you with the knowledge and understanding that can serve as a framework upon which you can build your mental model of the universe and determine your part in the grand cosmic play in which you find yourself. 

An Earth-centred universe

This beautiful image of the sky near the bright star Deneb (just above center) reveals the stars, nebulae, and dark clouds along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy as seen from the northern hemisphere (near Columbia Missouri, USA). Just below Deneb lies the suggestively shaped North America emission nebula. Deneb is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus, located in the tail of this celestial swan. Cygnus contains the asterism known as the Northern Cross and marks one side of the “Great Rift” in the Milky Way, a series of dark obscuring dust clouds which stretches on through the constellation Sagittarius. Deneb defines the top of the Northern Cross while the body of the cross extends past the upper right corner of the picture. Cygnus also harbors the most famous candidate for a black hole in our galaxy, Cygnus X-1. Credits: Hubble/ESA/NASA

After staring in wonder at the mystery of the stars above your head for a time it will be easy to understand how our ancestors looking upward at a sun, stars, moon and planets that relative to your point of view seem to revolve around spaceship Earth believed the Earth was the center of the known universe and all we survey. The heavenly bodies above your head will appear to circle above you as you stare upwards at the night sky and you won’t feel the spinning motion of the moving Earth beneath you as it spins on its axis through the cold darkness of space and time. These facts make it easy to believe and develop a belief system with the Earth at the center and humans standing on the pedestal of supremacy in the universe.

A sun-centered solar system

In the intervening years since our common star-gazing ancestors first starred upwards in wonder at the night sky, scientists have determined that spaceship Earth is a nondescript little ball of dusty water circling an average sun among an infinity of space and time taking part in a cosmic dance that has continued unabated for billions of years. The human journey through space and time to the present moment in the history of planet Earth and the universe has been filled with pitfalls we as a race have managed to avoid until this moment in the history of space and time. Humans have for the most part managed to change ancient beliefs in an Earth-centered universe that once seemed firmly based in common sense and logic to a more modern view of the universe around us. Science has provided the verifiable facts we need to determine the truth of human experience and strengthen natural bonds to the vast universe you see before your eyes in ways our first star-gazing ancestors could never imagine. This has allowed scientists to develop a cosmic picture of the universe as our senses experience it that can allow us to create a mental picture of the real universe we journey through on a daily basis. Take a cosmic journey of discovery and wonder as we travel through space and time to the beginning of the universe and back again and shine the light of discovery on mysteries deep in the minds and hearts of all humans that have walked the Earth since mankind first starred upward in wonder and awe at the night sky above your head and return to the place of our birth, the stars above us.

The Milky Way galaxy

In terms of the part humans have played and still play in the big picture of the universe, the Earth we live on is one of a number of planets circling the sun we call Sol, along with thousands of asteroids and comets that make up our solar system and the uncountable number of dust particles floating between them. The universal address of the Sol system is the Milky Way galaxy, just past the half-way point from the center of the galaxy to the edge of the galactic disc. Just one of  billions or possibly a trillion stars or more making up the Milky Way galaxy that shines their energy into the cold darkness of space, Sol is an average sun, just like billions you can see looking up into the night sky above you. A nondescript, average-looking ball of hydrogen and helium easily overlooked among the infinity of stars that make up the island of suns space scientists refer to as the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is, in fact, a rather large galaxy in comparison to the galaxies that are part of what space scientists call the Milky Way’s local supercluster of galaxies. Just one of a seeming infinity of galaxies space scientists see as they journey visually into the cold darkness of space and time before you, the Milky Way galaxy is part of the 40 or more galaxies space scientists refer to as the local group of galaxies in the part of the universe we reside. 

Just an insignificant dusty little ball of water

The night sky you see above you might appear to be web-like in nature, with galaxies and clusters arranged in huge sheets and chains of stars that seemingly go on forever and ever. Pockets of stars are dotted across the sky before your eyes, forming giant stellar bodies called superclusters of galaxies that in the case of the Milky Way galaxy are referred to as the local group of the Milky Way galaxy, with vast voids of space and time separating them containing occasional lone galaxies. The universe before your eyes is made up of the sum total of the matter and energy contained within the superclusters and voids between them and there are humans that believe this fact makes human existence and the Milky Way galaxy relatively insignificant in the bigger picture of the universe and space and time. The human ability and desire to continuously delve into the mysteries of the universe around us and improve our place in the cosmic picture could be the difference that tips the balance in favor of humans being a significant contributor to the universe, though, despite our relative insignificance in the cosmic picture before your eyes. 

The miracle of life?

One question you might be pondering as you stare into the vastness of the night sky above your head is how did the young human race come to be born amid the seeming infinity of space and time before your eyes? Modern science tells us we humans are a relative newcomer to the endlessness of space and time and the battle for survival on planet Earth. The journey upon which we embark will examine the evidence presented by scientists to support the belief in the relative insignificance of Sol, the planet Earth, and the miracle of the birth of sentient life on one little ball of dusty water in the universe. The first part of the journey we undertake will take us through the history of the development of present theories and evidence presented by space scientists to support their belief in the relative insignificance of all we know and believe to be true and important.

An expanding universe

Looking upward into the vastness of space and time of the night sky above it isn’t possible to ascertain that space scientists have determined the stars in the galaxies above you are speeding away from each other at a rate that has been measured relative to the universe you see. Scientists have measured the relative rate at which the distances between the galaxies above you’re increasing with the passage of time. The important point in this fact is that if the universe around us is expanding, all of space and time you see above you must have once been closer together. Relative estimates calculated by space scientists indicates this rate of expansion must have started at least 14 billion years in the past. This beginning of the universe space scientists have called the Big Bang, and while overall the universe has continued to expand unabated, there are areas in the vastness of space and time where the force of gravity has overcome the force of expansion created by the Big Bang. This is significant because it means that while the galaxies above you in the night sky continue to speed away from the center of the Big Bang individually, the parts within galaxies are not expanding relative to one another. In contrast, galaxies and galaxy clusters continue to expand relative to one another, despite the force of gravity pulling them together and to form into larger clumps of gas and dust, which space scientists have dubbed stars and planets. The forming of large clumps of gas and dust is part of what space scientists call the life cycle of the stars, planets, and galaxies, and although these stellar bodies are not life forms as space scientists define them, they do go through a life cycle of sorts that scientists have documented and analysed at length.

Read about the present news on the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.