OBSIDIAN – Tales of Karanga

A New Short Story from Mike McCoy

What if an ancient race has been here since the dawn of time and we found them…by accident?

Mas Gwinyai has been waiting for an eternity. He’s bored with the endless repetition of the life he endures. To pass the time, he tells the compelling history of conflict between the karanga and the scragg. Karanga are the noble caretakers of the garden, working to keep nature in balance. Scragg destroy the garden. They are a murderous breed that knows only war and death.

When a great battle with the scragg leaves Mas and his shipmates in a strange predicament, hope is all that keeps them alive.

As Mas begins another duty cycle, everything suddenly changes. When odd circumstances bring Mas and his shipmates face to face with the scragg for the first time in millennia can old rivalries be set aside?

Will Mas and his friends stop the cycle of war with the scragg and make peace, or is nature a force to powerful to overcome?

OBSIDIAN is an intriguing and thought-provoking tale. It’s a story that takes place in a time long ago and present day. It’s a fantastical view of a world wiped away at the end of an ice age. A story of war and devastating floods clearing the way for modern civilization and a study of cultural bias and misunderstandings that cause endless strife.

Why do we war, kill, and fight?

Are the scragg human and the karanga something more, something different, something lost or somewhere hidden? How do humans treat other humans? How do we react when we stumble upon something we don’t understand? Do we stop and learn when presented with something extraordinary, or do we dissect and destroy it? Can we rise above and be more like them, or are we slaves to our nature?

The karanga character names and many of the words are based on the Shona language. Shona is a Bantu language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe and Karanga is a dialect. I like the sound and tone of the words. I hoped to add depth through language as an aid in developing the characters as an ancient noble people.

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Discovered! The 10th Planet

Object Bigger than Pluto Discovered, Called 10th Planet

Pluto, the on again, off again planet whose designation seems to shift with the winds of conjecture would, if this solitary sphere could indeed hold on to it’s planetary designation, be the ninth planet in our solar system. Not to be confused with the yet to be found Planet Nine, which until today lurks in the blackness of space unwilling to give up its location.

So, if Pluto is indeed the ninth planet, that means a new planet discovered out in the Kuiper belt at the edges of our Heliosphere would be the tenth planet.

If the debate about what objects should be considered planets rages on, maybe the discussion about what should be included in our solar system is up for debate as well because this planet is way, way out there.

The planetary object designated as 2003 UB313 is 97 AU from the Sun. An AU or astronomical unit is measured as the distance between the Sun and Earth. Pluto’s orbit ranges from 30 to 49 AU.

If 2003 UB313 is twice the distance from the Sun as Pluto, this new planet is really far away. The Heliopause, the boundary of the Heliosphere, a vast bubble-like region that encapsules our solar system in plasma and solar wind, is considered the edge of our solar system lies somewhere between 94 and 123 AU.

So, if 2003 UB313 is 97 AU away from the Sun, is it actually in our solar system?

Mike McCoy

Object Bigger than Pluto Discovered, Called 10th Planet

By Robert Roy Britt 

Astronomers have discovered an object in our solar system that is larger than Pluto. They are calling it the 10th planet, but already that claim is contested.

The new world’s size is not at issue. But the very definition of planethood is.

It is the first time an object so big has been found in our solar system since the discovery of Pluto 75 years ago.

The announcement, made today by Mike Brown of Caltech, came just hours after another newfound object, one slightly smaller than Pluto, was revealed in a very confusing day for astronomers and the media.

The new object, temporarily named 2003 UB313, is about three times as far from the Sun as is Pluto.

“It’s definitely bigger than Pluto,” said Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy. The object is round and could be up to twice as large as Pluto, Brown told reporters in a hastily called NASA-run teleconference Friday evening. His best estimate is that it is 2,100 miles wide, about 1-1/2 times the diameter of Pluto.

One of many?

The object is inclined by a whopping 45 degrees to the main plane of the solar system, where most of the other planets orbit. That’s why it eluded discovery: nobody was looking there until now, Brown said.

Some astronomers view it as a Kuiper Belt object and not a planet. The Kuiper Belt is a region of frozen objects beyond Neptune.…

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Asteroids: Not Just a Video Game

There are a lot of giant asteroids out in space, and it’s just a matter of time before another one finds a bullseye on Earth. What can we do about it?

Article as posted on Medium written by: A.S. Deller

Managing the Existential Threat of Asteroids

Our Earth has been struck by asteroids countless times, mostly during the period immediately following our solar system’s formation — thankfully, when there was no life on the planet.

But numerous giant hunks of space rock have hit us in the billions of years since those early days.

Often the terms “asteroid” and “meteoroid” are conflated. They do, in fact, have different definitions. An asteroid is a very large chunk of rock and metal orbiting the Sun, while meteoroids are considerably smaller. When a meteoroid vaporizes in our atmosphere (creating that characteristic “shooting star” trail), it’s called a meteor. And when it makes it through the atmosphere and actually crashed into the Earth’s surface, we call it a meteorite.

The actual size range that classifies something as an asteroid rather than a meteoroid doesn’t have an exact lower limit, with the smallest usually considered “boulder-sized”. The largest known asteroid at this time is Ceres, at nearly 600 miles in diameter. Ceres lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and is such a large body that we also categorize it as a dwarf planet.


Meteor Crater, Arizona. At over 1 km (.74 miles) across, this crater was made by a meteor only 50 meters (160 ft) in diameter. CREDIT: NASA

When a meteor or meteorite hits our atmosphere or surface, it is generally not a threat to many people, and certainly would never be an extinction-level threat. One of the more recent and publicized of such occurrences happened over the Ural region of Russia on February 15, 2013, known as the Chelyabinsk meteor. This began as a 20-ton asteroid but burned off most of that mass in the atmosphere before exploding at an altitude of 18.5 miles with the energy of roughly 30 Hiroshima bombs. The shockwave blew out windows in six regional cities, injuring 1500 people.

This was the largest such meteor explosion since the larger Tunguska event in 1908 which flattened nearly 800 square miles of forest in Siberia. Without the benefit of modern technology to analyze the event, it is still unknown if the Tunguska explosion was caused by an asteroid or a comet, though based on the destruction it is estimated the object was anywhere from 200 to 600 feet in diameter.

There are about 175 known asteroid impact craters on Earth at this time. Arizona’s Meteor Crater (not so original a name, I know) was created about 50,000 years ago, while it is believed the gigantic crater off the Yucatan Peninsula was made 65 million years ago and accounts for the ultimate extinction of the dinosaurs.


This image, taken by NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission in 2000, shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth.

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Current spacesuits won’t cut it on the moon. So NASA made new ones.

When you have the chance to read my upcoming novel; TAC FORCE – Son’s of Khan, you will see how far mankind has come from where we are today. The story is centered around Moon Base Alpha and the opening of the first hotel on the
Moon. Most of the necessary resources like oxygen, water and food are being produced on base. Specialized equipment and processors have been developed to make sustainable living on the moon a reality.

When I see articles like the one below describing the new space suits astronauts of the Artemis project will wear, I see how far mankind and our technology must advance before a base like the one described in my novel is possible. We have a long way to go, but if we have the will, I am sure we will get there.


As astronauts get ready to go back to the moon and spend more time in space, they’ll need better gear to help them survive.


by Neel V. Patel

December 29, 2020


The upper torso of NASA’s xEMU design. NASA

A spacesuit is more like a miniature spacecraft you wear around your body than an item of clothing. It’s pressurized, it’s decked out with life support systems, and it’s likely to look pretty cool. But should the suit fail, you’re toast. 

No one has ever died because of a faulty spacesuit, but that doesn’t mean current models are perfect. Whether it’s for launch into space or reentry back to Earth, or for an extravehicular activity (EVA, colloquially known as a spacewalk), astronauts have never been completely satisfied with the gear they are forced to put on for missions. 

Fortunately, though, the flurry of new activity in space has meant we’re seeing more innovation in spacesuit design and performance than ever before. The suits look better, too. The emergence of new private vehicles like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner means NASA astronauts going to the International Space Station are wearing new spacesuits that are extremely sleek and chic. In place of the baggy orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit (affectionately nicknamed the “pumpkin suit”) that space shuttle crews used to wear when launching into orbit, SpaceX and Boeing have designed something that is much more form-fitting and half the mass. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, the astronauts who went up on the Crew Dragon to the ISS in Mayremarked that they were extremely comfortable and easy to get on and off. Suits that are worn during takeoff and reentry are designed to protect astronauts from fire, and they plug into seat umbilicals that carry oxygen and cool air in case the cabin depressurizes for some reason. 

The most interesting work, however, has to do with NASA’s next-generation spacesuit for astronauts going to the moon—the eXploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU. It is ostensibly the successor to the spacesuits worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and other Apollo astronauts when they set foot on the lunar surface half a century ago.

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SpaceX Starship High-Altitude Flight Test

Today SpaceX launched their Starship for its first high-altitude test.

You can see from the video below, that only a few Raptor engines were installed. A full launch will have at least 36 Raptor engines.

Maybe the lack of engines is the reason for the explosive landing! What is remarkable is that it launched, performed maneuvers, and came in for a controlled, hard landing.

In my upcoming novel TAC FORCE – Sons of Khan, Star Cruisers landing on and taking off from the moon are common, everyday occurrences.

We aren’t at that point yet, but the progress we are seeing from SpaceX and their Starship demonstrate that our imagined future is on the way!


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ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust


In the upcoming novel TAC Force – Sons of Khan, Moon Base alpha utilizes technology to convert moon regolith into oxygen, hydrogen, and other trace gases.

Science is catching up to this science fiction, although in the story the conversion of regolith into gases and metal alloys happens on a much larger scale than is achievable today.

Oxygen and metal from lunar regolith. Credit: Beth Lomax – University of Glasgow

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

“Having our own facility allows us to focus on oxygen production, measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant,” comments Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose Ph.D. work is being supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.

“Being able to acquire oxygen from resources found on the Moon would obviously be hugely useful for future lunar settlers, both for breathing and in the local production of rocket fuel.”

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse adds: “And now we have the facility in operation we can look into fine-tuning it, for instance by reducing the operating temperature, eventually designing a version of this system that could one day fly to the Moon to be operated there.”

Samples returned from the lunar surface confirm that lunar regolith is made up of 40–45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element. But this oxygen is bound up chemically as oxides in the form of minerals or glass, so is unavailable for immediate use.

Credit: European Space Agency

ESTEC’s oxygen extraction is taking place using a method called molten salt electrolysis, involving placing regolith in a metal basket with molten calcium chloride salt to serve as an electrolyte, heated to 950°C. At this temperature, the regolith remains solid.

But passing a current through it causes the oxygen to be extracted from the regolith and migrate across the salt to be collected at an anode. As a bonus this process also converts the regolith into usable metal alloys.

In fact, this molten salt electrolysis method was developed by UK company Metalysis for commercial metal and alloy production. Beth’s Ph.D. involved working at the company to study the process before recreating it at ESTEC.

“At Metalysis, oxygen produced by the process is an unwanted by-product and is instead released as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which means the reactors are not designed to withstand oxygen gas itself,” explains Beth. “So, we had to redesign the ESTEC version to be able to have the oxygen available to measure. The lab team was very helpful in getting it installed and operating safely.”

Scanning electron microscope view of lunar simulant particles before the oxygen extraction process. Credit: Beth Lomax / University of Glasgow

The oxygen plant runs silently, with the oxygen produced in the process is vented into an exhaust pipe for now, but will be stored after future upgrades of the system.

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A Record Close Shave: Asteroid 2020 VT4 Just Skimmed by Earth

Didn’t I say that it could happen at anytime and we might not even see it coming?

Well, last Friday the 13th (11/13/20),asteroid 2020 VT set a new record for the closest asteroid near-miss. It zipped past Earth at just 240 miles above our heads. For reference the ISS Space station orbits 250 miles up. Oh…and we discovered it after it passed.

Luckily 2020 VT is only about 20-30 feet in diameter so if it did fly into our atmosphere it likely would have just been a bright fireball in the sky as it burned up.

Keep your aluminum foil hats handy! The next one could be bigger and not miss!

If you want to read about and asteroid storm that does not miss, read ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere. This highly rated novel is available on Amazon for only $1.99

From Universe Today: Wow. A low-flying space rock set a record last Friday (appropriately, the 13th), when 2020 VT4 passed just under 400 kilometers (250 miles) over the Southern Pacific.

The asteroid was spotted by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) survey at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 14th, just 15 hours after approach. This is not uncommon for fast-movers, especially asteroids that are coming at the Earth from our sunward blind-spot, like 2020 VT4.

The asteroid- 2020 VT4 is estimated to be 5-10 meters (16-32 feet) across, about the size of a small house. Earth juuust missed occupying the same space as the perihelion point for the asteroid, which occurred just 20 hours prior to Earth passage.

This sets a record for the closest documented non-meteoric asteroid pass versus the Earth. This record was already broken once this year, with the passage of asteroid 2020 QG 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) from the surface of the Earth on August 16th. A brilliant bolide was captured on video on the afternoon of August 10th, 1972, as it became a brilliant daytime fireball over the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming before skipping back out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Another recent record was set in October 2008, when astronomers spotted 4-meter (13 foot) asteroid 2008 TC3 19 hours prior to impact,and later recovered fragments in the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan two months later, making 2008 TC3 the first asteroid that was documented before and after impact.

Unfortunately, the close passage of asteroid 2020 VT4 seems to have gone unwitnessed; closest approach occurred at 17:20 Universal Time (UT) on Friday November 13th over the South Pacific near the Pitcairn Islands under daytime skies, and it followed the edge of the Earth’s shadow outbound. For context, the International Space Station also orbits 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the surface of the Earth, and is 109 meters (358 feet) from tip-to-tip… 2020 VT4 would have certainly been visible as a fast-moving +3 magnitude ‘star’ on its out-bound leg south of Tasmania in the pre-dawn sky, had any island-bound observer or early morning sailor happened to be watching.…

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Tunguska Explosion in 1908 skipped like a rock on a pond

Scientists now theorize that an iron-based asteroid over 600 ft. in size, skipped like a rock on a pond causing the Tunguska explosion that leveled 800 square miles of Siberian forest in June 1908.

The asteroid was traveling at 12 miles per second or 720 miles per minute. That means if the meteor had stayed aloft 4 minutes longer, it would have wiped out London.

My question is when can we expect this asteroid to complete its orbit and visit Earth again? Maybe next time, the rock won’t skip.




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Virgin Galactic Spaceship Cabin Reveal

Want to catch a ride to space?

Virgin Galactic revealed today a first look at the cabin passengers will ride into weightlessness.

For a mere $250,000 per person you can a trip with five friends in a space plane to an altitude of 50,000 feet that lasts 90 minutes from takeoff to landing.

The cabin features 12 windows for passengers to gaze at all the lowly Earthlings below. The windows include LED mood lighting that change colors at different stages of the flight.

There are 16 cameras to capture memories of your exciting joy ride.

There are already 600 people who have reserved seats so if you want to catch a ride, you’d better sign up quick!

No details released yet on when these tourist flights to the upper atmosphere begin.

Source: https://www.space.com/virgin-galactic-spaceship-two-cabin-reveal-webcast.html


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MASSIVE Crater Discovered under Greenland Ice

An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland. The crater — the first of any size found under the Greenland ice sheet — is one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth, measuring roughly 1,000 feet deep and more than 19 miles in diameter, an area slightly larger than that inside Washington’s Capital Beltway.

They estimate the meteor was a kilometer in diameter and may have impacted as recently as 12,000 years ago. Curiously that is around the time the Younger Dryas theory estimates a comet hit Earth (possibly several impacts) causing massive flooding and later hurtled Earth into the last Ice age.

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