One of the main caveats of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which is distinguished from the “Encyclopedia Galactica” by having the words, “Don’t Panic!” inscribed in big letters on the cover, is to be careful who you hitch a ride with. Maybe it’s time we started panicking.
Russia appears poised to annex even more territory in retaliation for sanctions the United States has imposed over the annexation of the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine. Only this time, it appears to have its eye on the International Space Station, ironically a post-Cold War symbol of U.S. And Russian cooperation.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, himself a target of the U.S. sanctions, suggested recently that if the U.S. wants to continue sending astronauts to the orbiting space station, it should invest in a trampoline. That’s because, since this country’s fleet of space shuttles was mothballed a few years back, the Russians have been our only ride to the jointly owned space outpost at a cost of $60 million per astronaut.
“After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry,” Rogozin tweeted recently, “I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”
OK. Or maybe a slingshot or a really tall ladder. Supposedly, the American astronauts already on board the space station will no longer be invited to vodka night on the Russian side either.
Russia has also indicated it may extend the life of the space station beyond its planned 2020 shutdown and continue to operate it without American involvement despite the fact that we have invested about $3 billion each year in the project. About 16 other countries also use the orbiting laboratory and contribute to its costs.
But now Russia says, if sanctions aren’t lifted, it will take its part of the space station and go home.
“The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one,” Rogozin said. “The U.S. one cannot.”
So, guess we’d better start shopping for that trampoline.
In other space news this week, astronomers have announced a new and never-before-seen meteor shower is likely this weekend that has the potential of blowing all of the known meteor showers out of the water or, in this case, the sky. The Camelopardalids, also known as the Cams, are debris from a comet known as 209P that orbits the sun every five years.
Normally, it’s no biggie. But scientists have calculated that Saturday, the Earth should pass directly through the debris trail of the comet setting off a meteor storm that could produce as many as 1,000 shooting stars per hour. That’s a lot considering most of the routine meteor showers that occur each year only produce maybe a couple of hundred per hour at their peak. This weekend’s shower will appear to originate in the constellation Camelopardalis near the North Star.
The best time for viewing should be between midnight and 2 a.m. Saturday morning.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.