Category: Weather/Space News

Everyone Missed An Apollo 11 Mistake, And It Almost Killed The Astronauts Returning To Earth

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin raise the American Flag on the Moon, with the shadow of the Lunar Module (where the camera is mounted) seen in nearby. The astronauts might not have successfully returned to Earth, however, if the procedure used to jettison the fuel from the Service Module had let it come into contact with the Command Module. (NASA/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Even from our perspective in 2019, 50 years later, humanity’s achievements from July, 1969, still mark the pinnacle of crewed spaceflight. For the first time in history, human beings successfully landed on the surface of another world. After a 380,000 km journey, the crew set foot on the Moon, walked upon it, installed scientific instruments, took samples, and then departed for Earth.

Three days after leaving the Moon, on July 24, 1969, they splashed down in Earth’s oceans, successfully completing their return trip. But during Apollo 11’s return to Earth, a serious anomaly occurred: one that went undetected until after the crew returned to Earth. Uncovered by Nancy Atkinson in her new book, Eight Years to the Moon, this anomaly could have led to a disastrous ending for astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. Here’s the story you’ve never heard.

This NASA image was taken on July 16, 1969, and shows some of the thousands of people who camped out on beaches and roads adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center to watch the Apollo 11 mission Liftoff aboard the Saturn V rocket. Four days later, humanity would take our first footsteps on another world. Four days after that, the astronauts successfully returned to Earth, but that was not a foregone conclusion. (NASA / AFP / Getty Images)

This NASA image was taken on July 16, 1969, and shows some of the thousands of people who camped out on beaches and roads adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center to watch the Apollo 11 mission Liftoff aboard the Saturn V rocket. Four days later, humanity would take our first footsteps on another world. Four days after that, the astronauts successfully returned to Earth, but that was not a foregone conclusion. (NASA / AFP / Getty Images)

According to our records, the flight plan of Apollo 11 went off without a hitch. Chosen as the mission to fulfill then-President Kennedy’s goal of performing a crewed lunar landing and successful return to Earth, the timeline appeared to go exactly as planned.

  • On July 16, 1969, the Saturn V rocket responsible for propelling Apollo 11 to the Moon successfully launched from Cape Kennedy. (Modern-day Cape Canaveral.)
  • Only July 17, the first thrust maneuver using Apollo’s Service Propulsion System (SPS) was made, course-correcting for the journey to the Moon. The launch and this one corrective burn were so successful that the other three scheduled SPS maneuvers were not even needed.
  • Only July 19, Apollo 11 reached the Moon, flying behind it and entering lunar orbit after a series of thrust maneuvers from SPS.
  • On July 20, the Eagle (lunar module) undocked from the Columbia (command and service module), made a powered descent, and landed on the Moon’s surface.
Astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, stands near a scientific experiment on the lunar surface. Humanity's first landing on the Moon occurred July 20, 1969, as the Lunar Module code-named "Eagle" touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. The Lunar Module, completely intact before the ascent stage is launched, can be seen in full beside the planted American flag. (NASA/Newsmakers)

Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, stands near a scientific experiment on the lunar surface. Humanity’s first landing on the Moon occurred July 20, 1969, as the Lunar Module code-named “Eagle” touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. The Lunar Module, completely intact before the ascent stage is launched, can be seen in full beside the planted American flag. (NASA/Newsmakers)

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  • After 4 hours setting up, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin left the lunar module to explore the lunar surface, performing an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) for a total of 2.5 hours, deploying scientific instruments, collecting samples for return, and famously planting an American flag.
  • On July 21, after just 21 hours and 36 minutes on the Moon, the ascent engine fired, bringing the Eagle back to dock with Columbia, and returning astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong to the Command and Service Module with astronaut Collins.
  • On July 21, the SPS thrusters fired, returning the Command and Service Module to Earth, with the lone mid-course correction coming on July 22.
  • And on July 24, re-entry procedures were initiated, returning the Apollo 11 crew to a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
This artist's concept shows the Command Module undergoing re-entry in 5000 °F heat. The Apollo Command/Service Module was used for the Apollo program which landed astronauts on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. An ablative heat shield on the outside of the Command Module protected the capsule from the heat of re-entry (from space into Earth's atmosphere), which is sufficient to melt most metals. During re-entry, the heat shield charred and melted away, absorbing and carrying away the intense heat in the process. (Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

This artist’s concept shows the Command Module undergoing re-entry in 5000 °F heat. The Apollo Command/Service Module was used for the Apollo program which landed astronauts on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. An ablative heat shield on the outside of the Command Module protected the capsule from the heat of re-entry (from space into Earth’s atmosphere), which is sufficient to melt most metals. During re-entry, the heat shield charred and melted away, absorbing and carrying away the intense heat in the process. (Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

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It all sounds so simple and straightforward, which obscures the real truth: for every one of these steps, there were hundreds (or more) potential points of failure that everyone involved needed to guard against. That final step alone, which returned the astronauts from their presence around to Moon — after journeying back to Earth — was one of the most crucial. If it failed, it would lead to certain death, similar to the demise of the Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.

Successful re-entries after a journey to the Moon had already taken place aboard NASA’s Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 missions, and Apollo 11 was expected to follow the same procedures. At the danger of becoming complacent, this step, in many ways, already seemed like old hat to many of those staffing the Apollo 11 mission.

This schematic drawing shows the stages in the return from a lunar landing mission. The Lunar Module takes off from the Moon and docks with the Command and Service Module. The Command Module then separates from the Service Module, which jettisons its fuel and accelerates away. The Command Module then re-enters the Earth's atmosphere, before finally parachuting down to land in the ocean. (SSPL/Getty Images)

This schematic drawing shows the stages in the return from a lunar landing mission. The Lunar Module takes off from the Moon and docks with the Command and Service Module. The Command Module then separates from the Service Module, which jettisons its fuel and accelerates away. The Command Module then re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, before finally parachuting down to land in the ocean. (SSPL/Getty Images)

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Re-entry, in principle, ought to be straightforward for the astronauts returning from the Moon. The Command and Service Modules first needed to separate, with the astronauts inside the Command Module and the Service Module being jettisoned. Once safely away, the Command Module would re-orient itself so that the heat shield was in the forward-facing position, prepared to absorb the brunt of the impact of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere while protecting the astronauts inside.

At the proper moment, when the atmospheric density was great enough and the external temperatures and speeds were low enough, the parachute would deploy, leading to a gentle splashdown in the Pacific Ocean approximately 5 minutes later, where the astronauts could then be safely recovered.

Although there are no known photographs of the Apollo 11 Command Module descending towards splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, all of the crewed Apollo missions ended in similar fashion: with the Command Module's heat shield protecting the astronauts during the early stages of re-entry, and a parachute deploying to slow the final stages of descent to a manageable speed. Shown here, Apollo 14 is about to splash down in the oceans, similar to the prior missions such as Apollo 11. (SSPL/Getty Images)

Although there are no known photographs of the Apollo 11 Command Module descending towards splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, all of the crewed Apollo missions ended in similar fashion: with the Command Module’s heat shield protecting the astronauts during the early stages of re-entry, and a parachute deploying to slow the final stages of descent to a manageable speed. Shown here, Apollo 14 is about to splash down in the oceans, similar to the prior missions such as Apollo 11. (SSPL/Getty Images)

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It sounds so routine. But of the innumerable things that could go wrong, one of them was entirely unexpected: the possibility that the Service Module, scheduled to break apart and safely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, could accidentally have a piece of its debris collide with the Command Module, ruining re-entry and killing the returning astronauts on board.

The plan to avoid it was simple: the Service Module, post-separation, would perform a series of thrust maneuvers to take it safely away from the re-entry path of the Command Module. By shifting the Service Module to a significantly different trajectory, it wouldn’t even re-enter at the same time as the Command Module, but would skip off the atmosphere this time. The re-entry of the Service Module should have only come much later, after performing another orbit (or set of orbits) around Earth.

Both the Command Module and the Service Module from Apollo 11 followed the same re-entry trajectory, which could have proved fatal to the astronauts aboard the Command Module if a collision of any type had occurred. It was only through luck that such a catastrophe was avoided.

Both the Command Module and the Service Module from Apollo 11 followed the same re-entry trajectory, which could have proved fatal to the astronauts aboard the Command Module if a collision of any type had occurred. It was only through luck that such a catastrophe was avoided.

NASA

But that didn’t happen at all. To quote from Nancy Atkinson’s book, pilot Frank A. Brown, flying about 450 miles (725 km) away from the re-entry point, reported the following:

I see the two of them, one above the other. One is the Command Module; the other is the Service Module. . . . I see the trail behind them — what a spectacle! You can see the bits flying off. Notice that the top one is almost unchanged while the bottom one is shattering into pieces. That is the disintegrating Service Module.

Fortunately for everyone, none of the debris resulting from the Service Module’s re-entry impacted the Command Module, and the astronauts all arrived safely back on Earth.

The crew of Apollo 11 — Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin — in the Mobile Quarantine Facility after returning from the surface of the Moon. The U.S.S. Hornet successfully recovered the astronauts from the Command Module after splashdown, where the crew was greeted by President Nixon, among others. (MPI/Getty Images)

The crew of Apollo 11 — Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin — in the Mobile Quarantine Facility after returning from the surface of the Moon. The U.S.S. Hornet successfully recovered the astronauts from the Command Module after splashdown, where the crew was greeted by President Nixon, among others. (MPI/Getty Images)

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How could this have occurred?

There was a fault in how the Service Module was configured to jettison its remaining fuel: a problem that was later discovered to have occurred aboard the prior Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 missions as well. Instead of a series of thrusters firing to move the Service Module away from the Command Module, shifting it to a different trajectory and eliminating the possibility of a collision, the way the thrusters actually fired put the entire mission at risk.

The problem was that there were two types of thrusters on board the Service Module: the Minus X RCS jets and the RCS roll jets. And while the roll jets fired in bursts in an attempt to stabilize the Service Module, the Minus X jets fired continuously.

The Reaction Control System, visible towards the center-left of the image, consists of two types of thrusters that control both acceleration and orientation. With the original flaw, the thrusters fired in a pattern that put the Command Module at risk. Had those two modules collided, the astronauts on board would have had a failed re-entry, killing all three passengers.

The Reaction Control System, visible towards the center-left of the image, consists of two types of thrusters that control both acceleration and orientation. With the original flaw, the thrusters fired in a pattern that put the Command Module at risk. Had those two modules collided, the astronauts on board would have had a failed re-entry, killing all three passengers.

NASA

In the aftermath of Apollo 11, investigators determined that the proper procedure for avoiding contact would be to properly time the firing of both the roll jets and the Minus X jets, which would lead to a 0% probability of contact between the two spacecrafts. This might seem like an extremely small point — to have the Minus X jets cut out after a certain amount of time firing as well as the roll jets — but you must remember that the spacecraft is full of moving parts.

If, for example, the fuel were to slosh around after the Service Module and the Command Module separated, that could lead to a certain window of uncertainty in the resultant trajectory. Without implementing the correct procedure for firing the various jets implemented, the safe return of the Apollo 11 astronauts would have to come down to luck.

This NASA picture taken on April 17, 1970, shows the Service Module (codenamed "Odyssey") from the Apollo 13 mission. The Service Module was jettisoned from the Command Module early, and the damage is clearly visible on the right side. This was to be the third crewed Apollo mission to land on the Moon, but was aborted due to the onboard explosion. Thankfully, the flaw in the jettison controller had been fixed, and the Service Module posed no risk to the astronaut-carrying Command Module from Apollo 13 onwards. (AFP/Getty Images)

This NASA picture taken on April 17, 1970, shows the Service Module (codenamed “Odyssey”) from the Apollo 13 mission. The Service Module was jettisoned from the Command Module early, and the damage is clearly visible on the right side. This was to be the third crewed Apollo mission to land on the Moon, but was aborted due to the onboard explosion. Thankfully, the flaw in the jettison controller had been fixed, and the Service Module posed no risk to the astronaut-carrying Command Module from Apollo 13 onwards. (AFP/Getty Images)

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Fortunately for everyone, they did get lucky. During the technical debriefing in the aftermath of Apollo 11, the fly-by of the Service Module past the Command Module was noted by Buzz Aldrin, who also reported on the Service Module’s rotation, which was far in excess of the design parameters. Engineer Gary Johnson hand-drew schematics for rewiring the Apollo Service Module’s jettison controller, and the changes were made just after the next flight: Apollo 12.

Those first four crewed trips to the Moon — Apollo 8, 10, 11 and 12 — could have all ended in potential disaster. If the Service Module had collided with the Command Module, a re-entry disaster similar to Space Shuttle Columbia could have occurred just as the USA was taking the conclusive steps of the Space Race.

View of the Apollo 11 capsule floating on the water after splashing down upon its return to Earth on July 24, 1969. If the Command Module and the Service Module had collided or interacted in any sort of substantial, unplanned-for way, the return of the first moonwalkers could have been as disastrous as the Space Shuttle Columbia's final flight. (CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

View of the Apollo 11 capsule floating on the water after splashing down upon its return to Earth on July 24, 1969. If the Command Module and the Service Module had collided or interacted in any sort of substantial, unplanned-for way, the return of the first moonwalkers could have been as disastrous as the Space Shuttle Columbia’s final flight. (CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

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Atkinson’s book, Eight Years to the Moon, comes highly recommended by me if you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes details and rarely-told stories from the Apollo era. Inside, you’ll find many additional details about this event, including interview snippets with Gary Johnson himself.

If Armstrong and Aldrin — the first two moonwalkers — were to perish before returning to Earth, the United States already had a presidential address drafted for such a purpose. We may chalk it up to good fortune that the following words never needed to be spoken:

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Ethan Siegel Ethan Siegel Contributor

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges.

 

Source: Everyone Missed An Apollo 11 Mistake, And It Almost Killed The Astronauts Returning To Earth

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5 NASA Videos You Are Forbidden From Watching – Top 5s Finest

Many people think that NASA is up to no good. You’ve got your flat Earther’s who say that the whole round Earth thing is a hoax and that it’s designed to keep you from knowing the real truth, which is that NASA likes to use a lot of CGI and none of their space missions are real and it’s all just an illusion to keep getting their 0.5% of the United States federal budget.

Is NASA trying to hide things from us about the planet and outer space? And are aliens real and has NASA been in contact with them? According to some people, the answers to these questions are a resounding ‘yes’. We found some really interesting things that NASA might be hiding from all of us. With that said, check out these 5 Nasa Videos You Are Forbidden From Watching! 5.

Hollow Earth 4. UFO entering the Earth’s atmosphere 3. Earth-Size Alien UFO 2. Alien base on the moon 1. Nasa Hiding Aliens For copyright matters please contact us: OfficialAmerikano@hotmail.com

WORK FOR TOP 5S FINEST: https://goo.gl/Su8DZQ FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: https://twitter.com/Top5sFinest LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/TheFinestPost/ Background Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NASA Finds Perfectly Rectangular Iceberg In Antarctica As If It Was Deliberately Cut – Trevor Nace

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NASA just shared a stunning image of a nearly perfect rectangular iceberg in Antarctica. The monolithic slab of ice, floating just off the Larsen C ice shelf appears quite unnatural given the 90-degree angles. NASA took the image as part of Operation IceBridge, a mission to image Earth’s polar regions in order to understand how ice (thickness, location, accumulation, etc.) has been changing in recent years. While the iceberg is quite strange to look at, it is an entirely natural phenomenon. Most of us are used to seeing pictures of angular icebergs with just a small tip jutting out of the water……

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/10/22/nasa-finds-perfectly-rectangular-iceberg-in-antarctica-as-if-it-was-deliberately-cut/#55878ffd5b90

 

 

 

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The International Space Station:How It Works – Documentary Tube

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, and the last pressurised module was fitted in 2011. The station is expected to operate until 2028. Development and assembly of the station continues, with components scheduled for launch in 2018 and 2019.

The ISS is the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth.[7][8] The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays, and other components. ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets, and American Space Shuttles.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day……

 

 

 

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The 8-Dimensional Space That Must Be Searched For Alien Life – Emerging Technology from the arXiv

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A new mathematical model suggests that signs of extraterrestrial intelligence could be common, for all we know—we’ve barely begun investigating the vastness where they might lie. The Fermi paradox is the contrast between the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe and the lack if evidence for it. This is a significant conundrum. On the one hand, there is a strong sense that the conditions on Earth that led to the emergence of life cannot be unique. This makes it seem likely that life must be common…..

Read More : https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612232/the-8-dimensional-space-that-must-be-searched-for-alien-life/

 

 

 

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Felix Baumgartner Space Jump World Record 2012 (Supersonic Freefall Video)

Red Bull Stratos, a mission to the edge of space, will attempt to transcend human limits that have existed for 50 years. Supported by a team of experts Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His attempt to dare atmospheric limits holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers.

The Red Bull Stratos team brings together the world’s leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. It includes retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Felix will strive to break. Joe’s record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space.

Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump. Although researching extremes was part of the program’s goals, setting records wasn’t the mission’s purpose. Joe ascended in helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola.

Scientific data captured from Joe’s jump was shared with U.S. research personnel for development of the space program. Today Felix and his specialized team hope to take what was learned from Joe’s jumps more than 50 years ago and press forward to test the edge of the human envelope. Felix Baumgartner – “On a mission like this, you need to be mentally fit and have total control over what you do, and I’m preparing very thoroughly.”

Felix consistently challenges his personal limits while pushing the physical boundaries of human flight. In 2003, Felix completed an unprecedented flight across the English Channel with a carbon wing, and subsequently began to consider an even bigger goal: the supersonic freefall. With a team of the world’s top scientists, engineers and doctors behind him, Felix will attempt to rewrite history and advance aeronautical research with Red Bull Stratos.

 

 

 

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Sea Ice Retreat Could Lead to Rapid Overfishing in the Arctic – Hannah Hoag

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The Arctic Ocean has long been the least accessible of the world’s major oceans. But as climate change warms the Arctic twice as fast as anywhere else, the thick sea ice that once made it so forbidding is now beating a hasty retreat. Since 1979, when scientists began using satellites to track changes in the Arctic sea-ice expanse, its average summertime volume has dropped 75 percent from 4,000 cubic miles to 1,000 cubic miles. By September, the Arctic Ocean will have swapped nearly 4 million square miles of ice for open ocean……

Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/fishing-at-the-top-of-the-world/519639/

 

 

 

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Climate Change Can Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline – Robinson Meyer

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A team of scientists from Harvard University and the company Carbon Engineering announced on Thursday that they have found a method to cheaply and directly pull carbon-dioxide pollution out of the atmosphere.

If their technique is successfully implemented at scale, it could transform how humanity thinks about the problem of climate change. It could give people a decisive new tool in the race against a warming planet, but could also unsettle the issue’s delicate politics, making it all the harder for society to adapt.

Their research seems almost to smuggle technologies out of the realm of science fiction and into the real. It suggests that people will soon be able to produce gasoline and jet fuel from little more than limestone, hydrogen, and air. It hints at the eventual construction of a vast, industrial-scale network of carbon scrubbers, capable of removing greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere.

Above all, the new technique is noteworthy because it promises to remove carbon dioxide cheaply. As recently as 2011, a panel of experts estimated that it would cost at least $600 to remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The new paper says it can remove the same ton for as little as $94, and for no more than $232. At those rates, it would cost between $1 and $2.50 to remove the carbon dioxide released by burning a gallon of gasoline in a modern car.

“If these costs are real, it is an important result,” said Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “This opens up the possibility that we could stabilize the climate for affordable amounts of money without changing the entire energy system or changing everyone’s behavior.”

The team published their results Thursday morning in Joule, a new American scientific journal printed by the same publisher behind the biology journal Cell.

“What we’ve done is build a [direct-air capture] process that is—as much as possible—built on existing processes and technologies that are widespread in the world,” said David Keith, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and the lead author of the new study. “That’s why we think we have a reasonable possibility of scaling up.”

Keith is also a founder and executive chairman of Carbon Engineering, a Bill Gates–funded company that has studied how to directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon Engineering says the technique unveiled today has already been implemented at its small, pilot plant in Squamish, British Columbia. It is currently seeking funding to build an industrial-scale version of the plant, which Keith says it can complete by 2021.

Their technique, while chemically complicated, does not rely on unprecedented science. In effect, Keith and his colleagues have grafted a cooling tower onto a paper mill. It has three major steps.

First, outside air is sucked into the factory’s “contactors” and exposed to an alkaline liquid. These contactors resemble industrial cooling towers: They have large fans to inhale air from the outside world, and they’re lined with corrugated plastic structures that allow as much air as possible to come into contact with the liquid. In a cooling tower, the air is meant to cool the liquid; but in this design, the air is meant to come into contact with the strong base. “CO2 is a weak acid, so it wants to be in the base,” said Keith.

Second, the now-watery liquid (containing carbon dioxide) is brought into the factory, where it undergoes a series of chemical reactions to separate the base from the acid. The liquid is frozen into solid pellets, slowly heated, and converted into a slurry. Again, these techniques have been borrowed from elsewhere in chemical industry: “Taking CO2 out of a carbonate solution is what almost every paper mill in the world does,” Keith told me.

Finally, the carbon dioxide is combined with hydrogen and converted into liquid fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This is in some ways the most conventional aspect of the process: Oil companies convert hydrocarbon gases into liquid fuels every day, using a set of chemical reactions called the Fischer-Tropsch process. But it’s key to Carbon Engineering’s business: It means the company can produce carbon-neutral hydrocarbons.

What does that mean? Consider an example: If you were to burn Carbon Engineering’s gas in your car, you would release carbon-dioxide pollution out of your tailpipe and into Earth’s atmosphere. But as this carbon dioxide came from the air in the first place, these emissions would not introduce any new CO2 to the atmosphere. Nor would any new oil have to be mined to power your car.

Eventually, a similar process could be used to sequester greenhouse gases. Instead of converting carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel, Carbon Engineering could pump it deep into the ground, reducing the amount of heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. But such a technique wouldn’t give Carbon Engineering any product to sell, and there are no buyers stepping up to front the effort, for now.

“The main, near-term market is making carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels,” Keith told me. “We see this as a technology for decarbonizing transportation.”

Speaking from Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, Keith said he was “pretty optimistic” about climate change. “The reason is that the market for these low-carbon fuels is much, much better than they were a few years ago. At the same time, low-carbon power—electricity generated by solar and wind—has just gotten much cheaper.”

Outside experts said they were encouraged by Keith and his colleagues’ approach, but cautioned that it would take time to examine every cost estimate and engineering advance in the paper. The consensus response was something like: Hmm! I hope this works!

“I don’t question that the range of costs they report are valid. I think the lower end of $100 per ton of CO2 produced through their approach is probably doable in five years or so and that their higher end of $250 per [ton of] CO2 is more doable with their technology today,” says Jennifer Wilcox, an associate professor at the Colorado School of Mines.

“The improvements that Carbon Engineering have made all seem appropriate, and I am comfortable that their estimated costs are within the window of what I would expect from such improvements,” says Roger Aines, a senior scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s energy program.

“The strongest part of this paper, in my opinion, is the fact that they’ve actually tested the technology in a prototype plant for a few years. That’s a big deal, and offers a proof of principle that’s way stronger than simple calculations or computational models,” says Scott Hersey, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Olin College.

Caldeira said that the paper offered hope for the trickiest parts of the economy to adapt to climate change. “This suggests that the hardest-to-decarbonize parts of the economy (e.g. steel, cement manufacture, long-distance air travel, etc.) might continue just as they are now, and we just pay for CO2 removal,” he told me.

He continued: “Depending on how you count things, global GDP is somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 to $110 trillion. So, to remove all of this CO2 would be something like 3 to 5 percent of global GDP (if the $100 a ton number is right). This puts an upper bound on how expensive it could be to solve the climate problem, because there are lots of ways to reduce emissions for less than $100 a ton.”

Keith said it was important to still stop emitting carbon-dioxide pollution where feasible. “My view is we should stick to trying to cut emissions first. As a voter, my view is it’s cheaper not to emit a ton of [carbon dioxide] than it is to emit it and recapture it.”

“But once emissions are heading downhill and we’re heading back down to zero—which maybe could be 10 or 15 years from now—then I’m happy to see more large-scale removal of carbon dioxide.”

 

 

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Climate Change is Helping Crank Up The Temperatures of California’s Heat Waves – Bettina Boxall

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California suffered through its hottest July on record, while August has pushed sea-surface temperatures off the San Diego coast to all-time highs.

Are these punishing summer heat waves the consequences of global warming or the result of familiar weather patterns?

The answer, scientists say, is both.

 

Climate change is amplifying natural variations in the weather. So when California roasts under a stubborn high-pressure system, the thermometer climbs higher than it would in the past.

“What we’re seeing now is the atmosphere doing what it has always done. But it’s doing it in a warmer world, so the heat waves occurring today are hotter,” said Park Williams, an associate research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We can expect that to continue.”

 

Though a weak to moderate El Niño, marked by warming ocean temperatures, may develop this fall and winter, scientists say it’s not at play now.

Art Miller, a research oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, pointed to the high-pressure system as the immediate cause of the record-shattering sea surface temperatures recorded this month off Scripps Pier, where researchers have been taking daily temperature measurements since 1916.

On Aug. 1, a thermometer plunged into a bucket of sea water hit 78.6 degrees, breaking a 1931 record. On Aug. 9, the water temperature was 79.5 degrees.

The massive high-pressure dome hanging around the West shut down the northerly winds that typically cause an upwelling of colder, deeper sea water off the Southern California coast, Miller said. The layer of warm water is relatively thin, 30 to 60 feet deep, and peters out along the Central Coast. North of Santa Barbara, surface waters are actually cooler than normal.

 

Underlying the regional conditions is the past century’s roughly 1.8-degree increase in global ocean temperatures. “This is the type of activity we expect to occur when you run together natural variations in the system with a long-term trend” of warming, Miller said, referring to the record-busting at Scripps Pier. “I’m not surprised.”

Global warming is expressed “in fits and spurts,” Williams said. From 1999 to 2014, the planet’s oceans stored much of the extra warmth generated by heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Global air temperatures were relatively stable. Then in 2015-16, strong El Niño conditions unleashed that extra heat. The planet is feeling the effects.

 

“We’re in one of those hot clusters of years,” Williams said. It could be followed by a period of stable temperatures that in turn is trailed by another period of rapid warming. “In a few years we’ll be used to the type of heat waves we’re seeing this year” only to be shocked when continued climate change makes them even hotter, Williams predicted.

A surfer gets a tube ride in Newport Beach in early July, where temperatures topped out at 103 degrees on July 6.

On July 6, all-time temperature records were set at UCLA (111), Burbank and Santa Ana (114), and Van Nuys (117). Chino hit 120 degrees. Scorching temperatures in Northern California helped fuel raging wildfires, including the Mendocino Complex, which has seared its way into the record books as the largest wildfire in the state’s modern history.

 

“This is not all about climate change. But climate change is having an influence and exacerbating the conditions,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Some climate scientists have suggested that global warming is promoting atmospheric changes that favor the formation of the kind of persistent high-pressure system that has driven up temperatures this summer.

But Williams said climate change models have yet to confirm that. Researchers have also failed to detect a global trend of more prolonged ridging patterns, he added. “I personally don’t think the current ridge is a function of climate change,” Williams said. “The atmosphere has a mind of its own.”

The federal Climate Prediction Center last week forecast a 60% chance of El Niño developing this fall and a 70% chance by winter. El Niño is characterized by warming surface waters in the east-central tropical Pacific and often warmer-than-average air temperatures in the West. But across most of the Pacific, the temperature of equatorial surface waters is near average, according to the climate center’s Aug. 13 report.

 

“There is little indication El Niño will be more than weak or modest,” said Nick Bond, a research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington. El Niño can deliver a wet winter to Southern California, but Bond said this year’s would probably be too meek to do that.

 

The climate center’s three-month forecast predicts above-average temperatures for most of the country, including California. The Southland has gotten a break from blistering temperatures this week, but a high-pressure ridge is expected to return. “It looks like August is going to be a hot month,” Bond said.

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When The Weather Is Extreme, Is Climate Change To Blame – Laurel Wamsley

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Dramatic weather events happened this past week in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. There were wildfires in Greece, Scandinavia, and the Western U.S. Flooding followed record rainfalls in the Northeast. And dangerous heat waves settled over the Southwest, Japan, and the U.K.

If it continues like this, 2018 could end up being one of the hottest years on record.

When the news is full of stories on extreme weather, it’s hard not to wonder: Is this what climate change looks like?

Climate scientists say yes — though it’s complicated.

Take wildfires, for example.

“We see five times more large fires today than we did in the 1970s,” says Jennifer Balch, professor in geography and director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wildfires are part of the ecosystem of the American West, and scientists expect a certain number of them under normal average conditions. But what global warming does, says Balch, is change the backdrop against which they happen.

“Fire season is about three months longer than it was just a few decades ago,” she says. “We’ve seen a 2-degree Fahrenheit increase across the Western U.S. Snowpack is melting earlier, and what that’s doing is essentially opening up the window for fires to happen over a much longer period of time.”

Last year was the costliest fire season ever, with damages exceeding $18 billion dollars.

Overall, weather and climate disasters in the U.S. caused more than $300 billion in damages in 2017, shattering previous records. Though that’s not all climate — those increased costs are partly the result of development and sprawl.

Andreas Prein is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He studies how extreme weather — especially thunderstorms and heavy downpours — might change in the future.

“What we see from climate change is that you lose a lot of these very moderate and light rainfall storms and replace it with very intense storms,” he says. Over the last 50 years, the number of really big rainstorms has increased by as much as 70 percent.

Scientists are just beginning to put numbers on the effect climate change is having on individual storms.

“They pick an extreme event — let’s say, Hurricane Harvey from last year — and they try to run the event without human greenhouse gas emissions,” Prein says. “And then they add the human component … to the atmosphere and basically compare those two realizations of the world with each other. So you can try to get a feeling for how we altered specific extreme events or the likelihood and intensity of an extreme event.”

Some aspects of climate change are pretty certain, he says. Temperatures are rising. Rainstorms and heat waves are getting more intense. These are the long-predicted results of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

To a certain degree, that we’ve had so much extreme weather this past week is a coincidence: fires, heat waves, and rainstorms happen every summer.

But climate change makes this kind of extreme weather more common, researchers say – and it’s a trend that’s expected to continue as the planet keeps getting warmer.

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