Red alert, number one!
In tune perhaps with the festively-overtaxed digestive processes of many Register readers and hacks, the Sun has lately been giving vent to frightful burning eruptions of internal gas; ones sufficiently awful to mean fatal consequences for unprotected humans in their path. Fortunately (in the case of the Sun at least) there …
Perhaps it was written as a dig that manned space flight outside of Earth orbit hasn't happened since the early 70's. In 40 years we haven't been able to visit any other moons or planets. That's a long time not to have done something.
I raised this point with a retired engineer working at Kennedy Space Center on a visit some years ago. He was rather upset with me. Perhaps I should work on my diplomacy skills. Clearly he was no Scotty itching to get his hands dirty.
We paddled in the shallow end for a few minutes then dived in at the deep end like an Olympic champion. Since then we have spent the rest of the time in the shallow end as if the deep end were simply too scary to swim in. By now we should be swimming the Atlantic.
"...as it could sniff the roaring plasma gusts as they roll across its track using its coffee-tin sized Radiation Assessment Detector instrument."
I was going to ask if you knew if the Curiosity rover would be fully powered up during it's trip to Mars (called the Cruise Phase) as spacecraft are sometimes effectively dormant in transit. But a bit of digging here http://msl-scicorner.jpl.nasa.gov/Instruments/RAD/ found that :
"The RAD instrument will be used throughout the mission, including part of the cruise phase, to characterize the radiation environment of MSL. It is desirable for the instrument to be powered continuously while on the Martian surface. However, because of rover energy constraints, the present plan is to acquire roughly 15-minute observations every hour throughout each sol."
So it looks like there is a chance it may well be.
From wikipedia (not authoritative, but a good starting point):
"The latest [geomagnetic reversal], the Brunhes–Matuyama reversal, occurred 780,000 years ago."
" Anatomically modern humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, reaching full behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago."
So we have not been exposed to a geomagnetic reversal in the short timeframe of our species existence. The article is correct.
I couldn't help but read
"the Sun has lately been giving vent to frightful burning eruptions of internal gas; ones sufficiently awful to mean fatal consequences for unprotected humans in their path.
Fortunately (in the case of the Sun at least) there are no such exposed bystanders."
in reference to the print edition and their readership instead of the burning sky orb.
I don't see how anything unusual could happen. After all, if it wasn't perfectly safe that Reed Richards guy wouldn't have taken a few of his friends up to the International Space Station!
(Now if you will excuse me, I have to go repair my fireplace. I suppose it's hammering time so that I can get my fire on. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Eh, screw it--I'll let someone else can say it better)
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The reason all that LEO stuff comes down is atmospheric drag.
The planetary atmosphere is still detectable out past 1000km - "Ionosphere", etc.
<pedant mode = off>
Hopefully at some point in the future people will look at what we call space and laugh at how quaint the old definitions were.
(Having said that: The level of vacuum at LEO is a heck of a lot better than anything we can achieve on the ground and I want my Orion class 30,000 ton payload launcher.)
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