Earth Log #0007 – SpaceX Raptor Test Fires and Strange Objects Heading To Earth

Greetings, humans, and welcome to another one of my logs. I’m starting to get the hang of these entries, I must say, as they provide me with a sense of routine. This is very important when you’re traveling through space like Starman and I. Sometimes, we travel so much that the days just kind of blend together. The endless cat videos and these things called “memes” on the humans’ internet don’t help either.

Logging these entries is quite therapeutic for me. This helps a lot since Starman has a tendency to keep to himself. He is from Earth, so I have to understand that he sometimes needs time to process and take in the wonders that we are witnessing in space. Such are the things you simply deal with when you’re trying to explore areas in space that have never been explored by humans before.

Fortunately for me, this week has been quite enjoyable. I watched a lot of the events happening on Earth this week, and while some are stressful like the ongoing pandemic, there are some tidbits of news that I found very interesting. Let’s start with something rather mysterious that’s heading straight towards Earth.

Something Strange is Heading to Earth

At the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) observatory in Hawaii, astronomers have spotted an object that may be entering the Earth’s atmosphere soon. Astronomers are not entirely certain about what the object may be, though they speculate that it may be an old rocket booster from NASA’s Surveyor 2 Moon mission from way back in 1966. That’s several decades ago!

According to Dr. Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, he suspects that the mysterious object, called “2020 SO,” is an old rocket booster because it is following an orbit around the sun that is nearly circular and super similar to the Earth’s. “That’s precisely the kind of orbit that a rocket stage separated from a lunar mission would follow, once it passes by the Moon and escapes into orbit about the Sun,” he said.

Of course, the astronomers could be wrong and the object may turn out to be an asteroid. Such a scenario would be unlikely, but not impossible. Dr. Chodas said as much while giving comments to humans called “reporters.” If 2020 SO ends up being an asteroid, it would be considered as a minimoon while it’s in direct orbit around the Earth. Inasmuch as the strange object is on an Eartbound path, however, I don’t think humans need to worry too much since Dr. Chodas has stated that 2020 SO is bound to leave Earth’s orbit in February 2021.

The Artemis Program Wants New Moon Milestones

It has been a while since humans were able to go to the Moon, and now, plans are underway to get back some boots on the lunar surface in the next few years. This past week, NASA published an update on its Artemis program, its initiative to return humans to the Moon. NASA related its latest Phase 1 plans, which include efforts to land the first females on the lunar surface. This is indeed pretty exciting, though I’ve been wondering why it has not been done before. Humans can be strange.

What IS worrying me is that the rocket that’s supposed to bring humans to the Moon seems to have been delayed so many times before. The rocket for the Artemis program is expected to be NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), but it’s become a project that’s so delayed and overbudget, I’m seeing memes of it on the internet. NASA still plans to launch SLS and its corresponding Orion spacecraft next year for its maiden uncrewed mission, but I’m not sure if this timeline is feasible.

But despite my reservations, I’m still looking forward to the Artemis program. This is because one of the goals of the program is to look for and potentially extract resources that can be converted into other useful resources. This is super exciting, and it could be a big step towards humans’ goals of being interplanetary. Well, not technically inter-planetary, but close enough.

SpaceX’s Raptor Breathes Fire

While NASA’s SLS is taking some steps towards what could very well be its long-delayed maiden flight, a lot of progress is being done by The Martian’s space company, SpaceX. This past week, SpaceX completed the first full duration test-fire of its Raptor Vacuum engine, allowing the company to take a massive step towards orbital test flights for Starship. A video of the test-fire was shared by SpaceX online, and I have to admit, it’s very impressive. Starman told me that the Raptor is more powerful than the Merlin rocket engines that took him to space, so I’m certain that these boosters are nothing to scoff at.

What’s pretty remarkable is that other parts of Starship are also making some great progress. Apart from the Raptor Vacuum engine’s first full duration test-fire, SpaceX also successfully conducted a test tank pop test. This opens the doors to the spacecraft’s first high-altitude prototype 60,000-foot hop. If SpaceX accomplishes this, the company could move a little closer to Mars. Starship, after all, is the vehicle that Elon Musk wants to use for interplanetary travel. I should probably say that when SpaceX says inter-planetary, the mean inter-planetary. They’re not going to stop on the Moon.

Starship may be flying sooner than expected, but it will be quite a while before people like Starman would be launched into space. The first hundred missions or so of the inter-planetary vehicle will be uncrewed, with humans only being allowed to travel in the spacecraft once its safety is refined and assured. This is admirable on SpaceX’s part, of course, but I’m surely hoping that humans get to space sooner rather than later!

I hope you enjoyed my log this week! Until the next time!

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