Monthly Archives: April 2015


Contact: MichailvlootPlog Corvitrondippleep
Mercurian Free Press
(aka Michael CorvinKinetX, Inc.)

Interplanetary newswire:

Mercurian Defense Forces Report Alien Invader’s Craft is Doomed!!


MichailvlootPlog Corvitrondippleep, Staff Writer

Dateline: Blootsvrop City, 9867457 Vreep 2345

General Spleeve

General GroootPlog Spleeve of the Mercurian Defense Forces Planetary Defense Command announced today that scientists at the University of Blootsvrop have calculated that the terrifying craft that has been darkening our skies for many so many centriplogs is doomed.  The alien menace has run out of fuel and will crash into our planet within 137 microcentriplogs!!

Mercurian civil defense forces are evacuating the expected area of impact but considerable damage is expected at the impact site.  General Spleeve said that his technical experts can’t wait to get their tentacles onto whatever wreckage can be found.  He added, “…and if any of those evil third-planet imperialists are aboard and survive I will personally interrogate them!!  We want their navigation algorithms so we can send our fleet to counterattack!!”

Our dear home, spoofed.

Prime Minister WeeeblerVitPlog Meepler, however, remains furious that repeated attempts by General Spleeve’s forces to shoot down the invader all failed and remains highly skeptical of any offensive plans.  Indeed, the Prime Minister even remains skeptical that the invader originated from the third planet, citing the convoluted approach trajectory it flew to our dear Mercury and the fact that the third planet appears to be awash in highly toxic, liquid water.  The Prime Minister credits our Mercurian Central Intelligence Agency with the true defensive victory.  The MCIA scientists and engineers succeeded in rapidly deploying devices to spoof the invader’s sensors, hiding all evidence of our civilization and making dear Mercury appear to be a dead, hostile planet – albeit with quite interesting features – rather than the verdant, sun-drenched paradise we so dearly love.

Meanwhile, the Mercurian Hoteliers and Tourism Association remains under indictment for attempting to attract the aliens with several large signs, visible from orbit, that advertised Mercury as “Your Vacation Destination in the Inner System!”.  Fortunately, the alien craft appears to have missed detecting any of these signs.


Post by Michael Corvin of KinetX, Inc.

Photo credit: JD Hancock / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: Robbert van der Steeg / Foter / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video / Foter / CC BY

Mercury Minus Ten, Pluto Minus Eighty-five



As of 2015/04/20 there are 10 days until the MESSENGER spacecraft goes splat somewhere in Mercury’s northern regions, and just under three months until the-little-spacecraft-that-could, New Horizons, flies by our last commonly accepted outpost, planetoid Pluto.


Image credit: NASA–NSSDC/New Horizons


These two missions bookend our solar system, innermost and outermost, if you disregard the billions of tiny bodies stretching farther out in the Kuiper belt and Ort cloud, farther than the eye can see and with more Pluto-sized bodies than the schoolchildren can memorize (which is probably one practical reason Pluto was demoted from planethood in the first place).

MESSENGER has been spaceborne since 2004, New Horizons, 2006. New Horizons was pretty much a straight shot to Pluto; MESSENGER was a complicated mess, the equivalent of a 6 bank shot in billiards, flying by Earth once after launch, Venus twice, and Mercury three times before dropping into the pocket—that is, going into orbit—on the fourth Mercury encounter in 2011.

Now MESSENGER is out of hydrazine and quite literally running on fumes, squirting the helium gas that used to pressurize the fuel straight out of the tanks and through the thrusters. Not as efficient as the hydrazine, but sufficient to delay the inevitable a few maneuvers and days at a time as the orbit closest approach altitude inches (kilometers!) toward an inevitable rendezvous—a kiss of death with the Mercury surface somewhere in the North-polar region, the final splatt. One more planned maneuver on April 24th should stave it off until about the 30th of April, and then it’s bye-bye MESSENGER.

New Horizons was the fastest ever spacecraft at launch, peaking at a blistering 43 kilometers per second relative to the Sun. The inexorable hand of gravity slowed it so that—even though a distant flyby of Jupiter gave it a boost—today it glides at a more leisurely pace, 14.5 kilometers per second through the deeps and darks of space. When it gets to Pluto it’ll fly by that remote outpost—more than 30 times the distance from Sun to Earth—at a tad under 14 kilometers per second.

Interestingly, the distance New Horizons has traveled all the way out to Pluto is less than MESSENGER traveled in its pinball encounters with the inner solar system planets to lose enough energy to get into orbit at Mercury. Gee, Mr. Wizard, you have to lose a lot of energy to get to Mercury.


Image credit: NASA–APL

Too bad MESSENGER’s demise can’t be delayed two more months. Then the Deep-Space Navigators of both spacecraft, who work for KinetX Aerospace, would be able to say they’re navigating simultaneously to the extremes of the solar system. Nevertheless, to do them both within a few months of each other is pretty noteworthy.

Important science was done at Mercury and more knowledge comes from Pluto in July, but the purpose of this blog is to celebrate the art and science of deep-space navigation—and particularly the two KinetX Navigation Teams (both of which I was once a member)—that guided us there, for truly the journey is more than half the fun …

And we almost always get you there!