Driving to Mars in a Red Convertible

Driving to Mars
On February 6 SpaceX launched a red Tesla roadster convertible owned by billionaire CEO Elon Musk in a trajectory toward Mars. The photo from an onboard camera shows the dummy driver leaving Earth and driving to Mars.

Will the car ever get there? Astronomers say that it will go into orbit around the Sun and eventually come to the vicinity of Mars. However, it will probably not come very close to the planet depending on the timing of orbits. It has no onboard thrusters to adjust its direction for driving to Mars. At any rate, it will take several months to arrive anywhere near Mars. The closest Mars ever comes to Earth is 33 million miles (54.6 million kilometers). It takes a long time to “drive” that far.

Musk has been promoting the idea of colonizing Mars. His company has developed the world’s most powerful space rocket, the Falcon Heavy Rocket, which they used to launch Musk’s car. However, Mr. Musk doesn’t seem to be doing much to solve the problems of interplanetary space travel. For humans to survive on long space flights away from the protection of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, will require much more effort than launching them into space.

Earth has been designed to shield us from the deadly effects of space. Of course, the vacuum of space would be deadly to anyone not in a pressurized suit or cabin. That problem has been solved to allow astronauts to live in the International Space Station and make spacewalks. If the tires on the car were pressurized, I suspect they would have blown out by now. Another problem is food, medicine, and other supplies. Resupply launches provide for the needs of people on the ISS, but that would not be practical for people traveling to or colonizing Mars.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is cosmic radiation and debris coming from outer space. Earth’s atmosphere is designed to protect us from those things. The space station in low Earth orbit is still somewhat within the magnetic field of Earth. In outer space, the only protection is what you can take with you. Apparently, from what Elon Musk posted on Twitter, his car was headed on a dangerous trip into the asteroid belt beyond Mars.

Musk said in a news conference that the car was “just going to be out there in space for maybe millions or billions of years.” That may be doubtful. Musk admitted that SpaceX had not tested the materials of the red convertible for space endurance. The mannequin space traveler is wearing an authentic space suit, but the car is made of the usual materials. Even if the car avoids major collisions with asteroids, it will become riddled with pockmarks from micrometeorites. Leather, fabrics, plastics, and even the carbon-fiber frame will break down from exposure to unfiltered sunlight and cosmic radiation. The carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds in those materials will break down, and the car will fall apart. At least one scientist, William Carroll, a chemist at Indiana University and an expert on plastics and organic molecules, said, it won’t last a year in space.

One more thing to note is that the radio in the car was playing David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity.” However, sound can’t travel through a vacuum, and since there is no atmosphere in space, the radio is playing the sound of silence. The battery will run down in a short time anyway. Driving to Mars is going to be a challenge, even in a well-designed spaceship. The need for power, food, protection from the elements and many other things, make us very happy to live on planet Earth. It almost seems as if Someone designed this place for us to call “home.”
–Roland Earnst © 20018

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Unobtainium or Unobtainable

Unobtainium
Have you ever heard of the discovery of a new mineral called unobtainium? It has enough power to allow humans to travel faster than the speed of light. Chances are you have heard of it on the internet. As you can probably guess, it’s fake news.

We have received a few emails in the last eight years suggesting that we are on the verge of being able to travel throughout the cosmos because of the development of this new mineral. One writer even suggested that God was an alien who came from a place where this mineral exists in large quantities. The writer suggested that the alien created Earth and all life on it as a great cosmological experiment.

My first contact with unobtainium was when my wife dragged me to a movie titled Avatar produced by James Cameron in 2009. The theme of the movie was that a deposit of unobtainium (spelled unobtanium in the movie) existed on an alien planet inhabited by gentle blue creatures who lived in a tree. Then greedy Earth people came to exploit the deposit, destroying the tree and the aliens in the process.

Scientists and engineers have used the term since the 1950s to describe a mysterious substance that doesn’t exist. It’s is a joke used to describe anything that is impossible. The tabloids may promote this as a real substance, but the only thing that will take you out of this world faster than the speed of light is to be resurrected as described in 1 Corinthians 15:22-57. Unobtainium is truly unobtainable.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Since 1960, scientists have been using radio telescopes to search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. The program is called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). So far it has been 57 years of listening without any positive results. Scientists have now entered the next phase of the search called Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI).

On October 16-18, 2017, scientists beamed a message toward a red dwarf star known as GJ 273 in the hope that there might be someone there listening. Of course, there are always radio and TV signals of various kinds going out from transmitters all over the Earth, but this attempt is a concentrated signal beamed toward this specific system. The transmission contained mathematical and scientific information as well as music. The reason scientists chose GJ 273 is that there are two planets orbiting the star that they hope might be able to support life. And it is the closest possible potential life-supporting location.

Picking one random star to direct a communication signal toward may seem like shooting in the dark–and it is. However, a METI team member said that this is just a prototype of what they want to do “one hundred times, or one thousand times, or one million times.” In other words, this is just the beginning.

So when will the results of this experiment be in? GJ 273 is more than twelve light-years from Earth. So in about 2030, the signal will reach its destination. If there is intelligent life there listening and they respond right away, we might hear something by 2042 or 2043. Translation will be a challenge. If Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence continues to send out signals to other potential inhabitable planets, they will be farther away, and thus it will take longer to hear anything back.

Some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, have criticized this effort because they are afraid it might wake up hostile extraterrestrial beings to the fact that we are here. Perhaps the aliens will not like our music style and decide that they want to put an end to it. They could send their “storm troopers” to start a Star Wars type of scenario. Of course, since they would not be able to travel at anything close to the speed of light (if Einstein is correct), they might arrive here centuries from now to find nobody left on this planet.

We have three observations on this project. First, all indications are that the chances of life existing anywhere in space are very slim. There are far too many variables needed to make life possible on any planet or moon. Secondly, the resources going into SETI and METI could better be used helping people right here on our own planet. Thirdly, as we have said before, whether or not life exists anywhere else in the universe has no bearing on whether God exists. God can create life anywhere He chooses.

When it comes to messaging extraterrestrial intelligence, we believe that there is Intelligence out there. We also believe that He would like to hear from us. We further believe that He has been to Earth to communicate with us. And we believe that if we choose to communicate with Him, we will not be limited to the speed of light. He can hear us instantaneously.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Cassini Exceeded Expectations

Cassini Exceeded Expectations
On the morning of September 15, 2017, Cassini ended its life in fiery destruction. Cassini was a space probe orbiting and studying Saturn, and by all measures, Cassini exceeded expectations.

NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency worked together on the Cassini-Huygens space exploration project. The mission was to study Saturn along with its moons and rings. NASA launched the spacecraft in 1997, and it arrived near Saturn and went into orbit around that planet in 2004.

The Huygens (pronounced hoy-guns) lander module, provided by the ESA, separated from the Cassini probe and landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in 2005. The parachute landing was successful, and the probe sent out data for about 90 minutes. In that brief time, scientists learned much about the surface of that distant moon. Viewed from Titan’s surface, the Sun appeared about the size and brightness of a car headlight 150 meters away. The Huygens probe took pictures and told us that Titan’s surface is dotted with rivers, lakes, and oceans made of methane and ethane. It also has dunes up to 300 feet (91 meters) tall.

Meanwhile, the Cassini probe continued to orbit Saturn and send back amazing and beautiful pictures of its rings and moons for 13 years. Cassini helped us to learn more about the moons of Saturn. The planet has at least 53 moons and possibly eight more. We learned that the moon Enceladus is covered with a liquid water ocean with a surface layer of ice 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km) thick. Geysers of water erupt from cracks in the ice. The rings of Saturn are a constantly changing collection of ice particles and small rocks. Saturn has hurricane-like storms at both poles and a hexagon-shaped jet stream at the north pole. How long is a day on Saturn? That’s hard to determine because it is a gas planet and not all parts of it move at the same speed. Scientists estimate a little more than 10 hours.

Cassini exceeded expectations by surviving seven years of travel to Saturn plus 13 years orbiting the planet. As it ran out of fuel, scientists sent it hurtling into Saturn’s atmosphere to burn up so it could not contaminate any of Saturn’s moons by crashing into them.

We are fascinated by the Cassini photos and scientists will continue to study them for years. The picture we posted shows a Cassini view of Saturn and its rings with a bright spot visible below the rings. That spot is the planet where we live. As we look at the hostile environment of space and the other planets, we realize how incredible Earth is. God has given us a place with everything we need for life. You might say that compared to any other place in the universe, Earth exceeds expectations.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Listening for E.T. Continues

Listening for E.T.
The media seems to be obsessed with the quest to find life in outer space. They are especially interested in a “Mr. Spock” type of life–human in appearance but with super powers. SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) has been going on now for almost 60 years. Billionaire Yuri Milner has committed $10 million dollars per year until 2025 to keep the SETI project listening for E.T.

We have pointed out many times that finding life in space would not invalidate Christianity or the Bible in any way. Humans seem to be dedicated to finding an alternative to God’s way as revealed in His Word. Many seem to believe that finding an advanced alien civilization would be such an alternative.

The September 2017, issue of Astronomy magazine, has an interesting article by associate editor John Wenz. The article on pages 34 and 35 is cleverly illustrated with cartoons by Theo Cobb. It shows 16 different “alien” cases that all turned out not to be messages from E.T. Wenz traces the misguided attempts to find alien signals from outer space that would indicate intelligent life out there wanting to interact with Earthlings. He goes back to 1960 when SETI’s first project called OZMA claimed to have received a signal from Epsilon Aurigae, a star about 2,000 light-years from Earth. The team, including Frank Drake who founded SETI, thought that they were receiving a signal from space, but it turned out to be terrestrial in origin.

Again, this is not an apologetic issue, but it does show the desire of humans to find a better existence. We would suggest the better existence comes from reading and understanding God’s Word, not from seeking alien help in straightening out the mess we have made. Those listening for E.T. may be waiting for another 60 years–or perhaps thousands.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Battle Over Space Bibles

Battle Over Space Bibles
A battle over space Bibles that has been going on in Texas and Oklahoma for years. But I will explain that in a moment.

One of the main thrusts of this ministry is to show people that the Bible is, in fact, the Word of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so the man (or woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is a mountain of evidence to support the truth of that statement. However, that does not mean that the bound paper book you have printed in English (or any other language) is sacred even if it has a black cover. It is the message that is sacred, not the physical book.

A group calling itself the Apollo Prayer League placed hundreds of microfilm Bibles on Apollo 13 to go to the Moon. The disaster on Apollo 13 prevented it from landing, and it only orbited the Moon and returned the Bibles to Earth. On the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell carried 100 of the Bibles to the surface of the moon and returned with some of them. Through a complicated chain of events that you can read about here, John Stout, a retired NASA chaplain who lived in Texas, gave some of the “ Lunar Bibles” to an author named Carol Mersch who lives in Oklahoma.

Stout’s adopted son brought legal action to get the Bibles back. Through suits and counter-suits the case went all the way to both the Texas and Oklahoma supreme courts. In the meantime by court order, the Bibles were locked up in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, vault. The state of Texas finally withdrew its suit on May 4, 2017.

As I read about the battle over space Bibles, a thought came to mind. If we could get people as excited about the message contained within those books as they are about the physical microfilm books, we might be able to solve some of the world’s problems.

Reference: Austin American-Statesman, May 4, 2017, page B8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

UFO Nonsense Continues

Science Fiction UFO
Science Fiction UFO
The media seems to have become weary of UFO stories, but the phenomenon continues. Remember is just an acronym for Unidentified Flying Object. That does not mean that the object is a spaceship or has intelligent beings involved, it simply means that the observer is too ignorant to know what they are looking at. There are several reasons why people see UFOs. People “see” UFOs to get attention, to make money, to play a joke, as a substitute for faith in God, or because they misunderstand a natural event or object. Session 14 in our video series shows possible natural explanations for some of these sightings. (Watch it on our doesgodexist.tv website).

USA Today (March 28, 2017) says that in 2016 there were 5,516 reported UFO sightings in the world. The ignorance of the public about natural causes for strange lights and objects in the sky is enormous, but many of these sightings are claimed abductions and contacts which have in the past always turned out to be bogus. Let us say once again that it is not our purpose to claim that there is no life in outer space because the Bible doesn’t say that. If there is life, God designed it. The fact is that many people seem to be willing to accept a story about an alien abduction but reject the claim that Jesus Christ lived on the Earth and demonstrated that He was the Son of God.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Another Lesson from (Recent) History

Mir Space Station photo by NASA
Mir Space Station photo by NASA
The older I get, the less confidence I have that the history presented by the media is correct. I was in high school from 1951 to 1955, and the sitcoms and movies that I see of things that supposedly happened during that period are so far from what really happened that I wonder where the people who make these programs got their information.

The April 2017, issue of Astronomy magazine, contains an article by Bob Berman telling of what actually happened in the Russian Mir space station from 1986 to 2001. The media reports at that time painted a very idealistic picture of great cooperation, wonderful technological achievements, and trouble-free living in space. We know now that the Russians controlled reports by cutting the pay of anyone who complained about what was happening on Mir or told of any negative events.

This is the twentieth anniversary of the time when United States astronauts inhabited Mir. When medical doctor Jerry Linenger arrived on Mir in 1997, he found clutter and leaky pipes. Propylene glycol was leaking into the air so the astronauts had to wear breathing masks and were not allowed to exercise because they couldn’t breathe deeply. The climate-control was dysfunctional, so the temperature stayed around 90 degrees. On February 23, 1997, an oxygen-generating canister exploded creating a fire that nearly killed everyone on board. On June 25, 1997, a supply ship rammed Mir once again nearly killing everyone on board. Berman calls Mir “a bit of a death trap.”

Media portrayals of what happened in biblical times are even more difficult. The portrayal of Noah’s Ark in the “Ark Encounter” and the movie Noah as well as movies about the Passion Week, and the entire Genesis account have been embellished, westernized, and modernized by the media and entertainment industries leaving completely erroneous concepts of what really happened. The biblical narrative uses an economy of language because the focus is not on the event itself but on the meaning of the event. We can trust the biblical narrative, but we need to be careful about buying into the media presentations of biblical events. There is a difference between history as revealed in God’s Word and history as shown in modern media portrayals.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Travel in Space

Travel in Space
Popular movies portray travel in space as just being a matter of solving simple propulsion problems. The truth is that cosmic radiation is now better understood as a huge risk to space travel. In Scientific American (February 2017, page 54) Charles Limolihas wrote an excellent scientific discussion of the dangers of cosmic radiation.

Galactic cosmic rays are charged atomic nuclei flying at nearly the speed of light, probably coming from the supernova remnants of dead stars. Our Sun generates a great amount of radiation, but the cosmic rays are much more of a hazard. When these atomic nuclei hit molecules in our body, they ionize atoms, knocking electrons off the atoms and causing the atoms to become charged. These charged atoms hit other atoms, and there is a domino effect that is greatly magnified because of the extra energy involved. In human bodies, there are clusters of damage from such radiation, and just trying to duplicate the process in the laboratory has turned out to be incredibly difficult. Limolihas and his fellow researchers have shown that there is a much greater effect on brain tissue than anyone imagined.

The Earth is designed to handle this huge radiation by having two levels of shielding. The Earth’s magnetic field sweeps galactic cosmic rays away from the areas of the planet where most people live, and the atmosphere stops much of the rest. The amount of cosmic radiation we receive on the surface on Earth’s surface is relatively harmless. When you travel in space beyond Earth’s magnetic field, you, have virtually no protection, and that is going to be a huge challenge for space engineers to solve.

The lesson we would bring from this is that God’s design of Earth becomes more and more amazing as we learn of the complexities that have to be taken care of for you and me just to get up in the morning.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alien Claims and the Media

No Aliens Are Near
Every time some unusual signal from space is discovered, we see headlines in newspapers about aliens being the source of the signal. In August of 2016, reports came out of a radio telescope in Russia known as the RATAN-600 that had picked up a strong signal in the 11 gigahertz band. This was coming from a star known as HD 164595 and was first detected in 2013. Since that time the RATAN telescope and SETI have listened for repeat signals, but none have been detected. Headlines in the media have been things like “Baffling Alien Signal Detected.” Dr. Eric Korpela who works with SETI says, “There’s always the problem that scientific vocabulary is different from the public vocabulary. Detection, to me, means something was detected. To the public, it may translate as ‘We found aliens.’” It turns out that the signals have several possible natural explanations, none of which involve aliens.

The question remains as to why the public is so obsessed with the theme of aliens. We have pointed out repeatedly that finding life in space doesn’t have anything to do with the existence of God. If God chose to create life in other places for reasons we don’t fully understand, that is no issue. The Bible deals with humans and our existence on Earth. It is becoming obvious that there are no higher forms of life anywhere close to us, so the question is moot. This is not a question that has implications for the existence of God or the credibility of the Bible.

I have had atheists respond to me by saying that if life exists elsewhere, it proves that life can come about by chance. That assumes that God exists only on our planet, which is a misunderstanding of what God is. The fact remains that having a story about aliens sells, and video games and sci-fi movies will continue to propagate the idea. I have often told the story of doing a radio debate with an atheist on the Larry King talk show in Washington D.C. before he became famous. A listener called in and asked the atheist what he would do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn, and a little green man jumped out with a Bible in his hand and said: “Has Jesus been here yet?” My atheist friend responded “punt,” and maybe that’s what we should all do on this issue until we have more facts. Source of Information: Astronomy magazine December 2016, page 9.
–John N. Clayton © 2017