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Planets With Atmospheres: Almost Available?

26-Apr-18 03:00 pm EDT Leave a comment

 

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Frontier staff have recently been heard hinting that planet atmospheres could be gradually rolled into players’ Elite Dangerous Experience soon!

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or me, a veteran Elite CMDR who has been playing various versions of the game since its introduction in 1983 (yes — I am that old) being able to interact with planets regardless of whether they have an atmosphere or not is simply a basic feature.  Although the initial release of Elite back in 1983 offered only single-planet star systems where the “planet” was really just a line-art circle (whose surface would result in the loss of your Cobra Mk III craft if you ran into it), Elite II and Elite II: Frontier both enabled you to take off from partially-terraformed moon Merlin in the Ross 154 star system.  There, one could see the reddish sky and the eerie gas giant Aster dominating the skyline from the tarmac of the local starport with the lights of a nearby domed city also in-view.  Elite Dangerous has taken us back in some respects to an earlier time when such extravagances as being blasted to dust for not requesting tower clearance prior to liftoff from said planet-bound starport was but a glint in David Braben’s eye.  (Braben is, of course, the mastermind behind the Elite franchise as well as the original programmer.)

CMDR ObsidianAnt who runs an extremely popular running commentary on Elite Dangerous shares with us in his latest YT-cast a preview of what might (and should) be coming throughout 2018 and perhaps 2019 by merging the view of an Asp Explorer spaceframe with a short demo of worlds created using a tool called Space Engine, available for download here.  ObsidianAnt says that Space Engine and Elite Dangerous are “two very different pieces of software” in his video, but perhaps not being a software developer himself he’s missing some background.  Whatever code is used as the basis for Space Engine, I’m extremely skeptical at the outset that the two titles (the other being Elite Dangerous) can’t be integrated.  True, there are numerous tasks associated with software integration methodology, but speaking as a systems developer (my own strength) I’ve been tasked with taking two “very different” pieces of software and experienced some degree of success in getting the job done several times in my career.  Superficially, I’m not seeing any architectural issues or other seemingly insurmountable challenges.  Frontier Developments has a very capable team of software engineers, obviously — and it would be something just short of unimaginable to say a 3rd-party product like Space Engine can’t be made to work with Elite.

Of course, one must keep in mind the console platforms which might introduce challenges I could, in fact, not imagine.  But on the PC, it’s unlikely to my mind the effects we’re seeing in Space Engine can’t be successfully migrated to Elite Dangerous.  At the very least having a perusal of the Space Engine source could cultivate stronger implementations of atmospheres on the worlds of Elite Dangerous.

If you have a different take on this subject, please chime in with a comment below.

And regardless of the timeliness of new feature intros to the game — kudos to Frontier Developments, creators of Elite Dangerous, for creating a truly immersive and enjoyable spaceflight sim.  We’re all on the edge of our seats waiting for that next “big thing” to come out….we know you won’t let us down!

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Novas, Aliens and Dates — Oh My!

18-Mar-18 07:52 pm EDT Leave a comment
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MagellanicClouds

Taken from the Elite Dangerous Wiki images, here we see the LMC and SMC as they appear within the Universal Cartographics galaxy map as it appears in Elite Dangerous.

veryone has been talking about it — where are the Thargoids?  Are the Guardians still around somewhere (in hiding?), and why is the galaxy so static?  In reality, a recent Cornell University study suggests our best observations predict a rate of ~35 to ~75 novas annually.  There stands a very good chance that the Thargoid homeworld could be located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) — a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way that is quite evident in the galactic map.  One proposal for transiting human ships to the LMC could involve a megaship similar to the ICS Indra, equipped with an intergalactic hyperdrive (available only to large capital ships) and transiting docked player and NPC vessels to/from the LMC according to a schedule.  And why have we not encountered more alien civilizations yet?  Not all would need to be spacefaring after all — some could even involve the introduction of Dyson spheres or have still other motives for not exploring the surrounding galaxy very far.  Could these ideas for system-managed dynamic content be somehow integrated into the game universe created for Elite Dangerous?

 

Astronomical Events

It’s likely that stars in “the bubble” (core systems) would have to be exempted for obvious reasons.  Systems close to Sol going nova would pose a meaningful contradiction to the known history both of our own galaxy in reality and the scripted timeline for Elite (c. 2050-3404[-3410?]).  However, having a star explode in-game would not only provide a spectacular event for players to watch, it could stir things up in some areas of the galaxy — especially those with Thargoid bases or fledgling human colonies, for example.  And it would serve to add a whole new dimension to gameplay if a system like Betelgeuse had humans in it who noticed the death throes of such a huge star and had to escape either by jumping away or hitting supercruise in order to stay ahead of the large, destructive shock-wave that will surely chew up the last 2 planets in that star system.

Using Megaships to Transport CMDRs Inter-Galactically

Indra-Wells-class-Carrier

The Wells-class Carier Ship (Source: Elite Dangerous Wiki)

I doubt we’re likely to see Frontier trying to model the Andromeda Galaxy anytime soon, much less provide the capability to transfer CMDRs there.  Or anywhere else in the Local Group, for that matter.  However, the Milky Way extends a halo of disconnected (and largely dark) matter around the outer rim systems for quite some distance (~30,000 ly, I believe I’d heard) and then there’s largely empty space until the much-abbreviated halo around the LMC gets encountered at ~150,000 ly from Sol.  Although the Thargoids could originate elsewhere, it seems likely the LMC is the logical place to start looking based on how their activity has spread near to human-controlled space.  And given that large jumps have been achieved with capital ships featuring docked CMDRs in the past, one thinks it only logical to rely on the superior ability of capital megaships to spearhead such an exploration effort.

After all: one won’t win any conflict with the Thargoids simply by defending human space and hoping they go away at some future date.  What if they chose not to?

Aliens

MCQ_IA_111It is my belief that aliens are likely to be more common than simply having one species occupy all of the Milky Way galaxy at a time.  And it seems that with the ever-expanding exoplanet index revealing the likelihood of Earth-like worlds (not to mention the atmospheres of such worlds being catalogued by the James Webb Space Telescope or JWST set for launch no later than early 2019) will present us with irrefutable evidence concerning the likely existence of sentient species elsewhere in this galaxy soon.  Should not additional alien civilizations be introduced to the galaxy now — while there is still time for fantasy species to be included?

Of course, one could argue a sentient alien civilization was destroyed in the Elite timeline already with the founding of the Galactic Empire on Capital (Achenar 6D) in ~2250 CE.  This it itself could suggest others both in the Milky Way galaxy, the LMC and elsewhere beyond (though it’s not clear of what practical benefit there’d by to an attempt at contact from species too far away to be otherwise involved in the game).

The Update vs. Scheduled Events

I’d propose that adding some of the aforementioned concepts to create a more “living galaxy” could be done most simply via scheduled events that occur outside the PowerPlay update (which occurs in North America on Thursday mornings).  Players interested in using a jump to the LMC could assemble at a predetermined location (perhps a “checkpoint”?) and dock their ship prior to the announced jump time.  At the appointed time, an intergalactic hyperspace jump would occur and after a few moments cause arrival at a set of coordinates in the outer sectors of the LMC.  From here, CMDRs would disengage from the mother ship and return when the schedule announced a forcast return to the core systems in the Milky Way.  Costs would be associated with financing the jump and an early Galactic Goal might involve the creation of a starport at the arrival point in the LMC.  Here, humanity would manage its beachhead

Comments and questions on the content presented here are welcome regardless of brevity.  But my goal would to be to present the discourse to Frontier via their forms or through the public network services (Twitter, Reddit, etc.).  Thanks for your participation!

Exoplanet Ross 128b an Earthlike World?

06-Feb-18 04:23 pm EDT Leave a comment
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erlin has just been discovered!  (For those of you who are familiar with the Elite universe….Ross 128 is the system which is host to the Merlin colony, an earth-like world which actually is a moon of the gas giant Aster in the game.)  The similarity of Merlin and this discovery might be astonishing!  I certainly hope the folks at Frontier are paying attention to this news item.

 

Artist’s conception of what the exoplanet Ross 128b might look like on the surface.  (Source: CNN.com)

 

 

Sol 752a Published to MSLoGE

18-Sep-14 08:35 pm EDT Leave a comment
Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) within Gale Crater, Mars

Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) within Gale Crater, Mars. Image taken: September 17, 2014 (Sol 752)

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ols 751 through 753 this week promise some exciting new imagery from Curiosity.  Already published to the Google Earth archive is the latest telemetry from Sol 752 (taken yesterday) which will be used to create a further upload (I’m separating the presentations into two files for this event; one called 752a, the other, 752b).  These will illustrate further a detailed look at the geography of the region now being called simply ‘the Amargosa Valley’.

According to Curiosity Rover scientist Lauren Edgar:

“A short ~30 m drive on Sol 753 should put Curiosity in a good position at the Pahrump Hills. Sol 754 will consist of 2 hours of untargeted remote sensing, including ChemCam calibration activities to prepare for the Pahrump investigation, and a Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere.”

Edgar promises further science mission plans for the Pahrump Hills region and beyond will be known very soon.

Curiosity Team Grilled on NASA’s Mars Vision

12-Sep-14 11:52 am EDT Leave a comment
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esterday, we again saw numerous spending questions about the value behind #Curiosity and other endeavours by #NASA concerning space exploration.  These were prevalent amongst the media’s questions during a Curiosity Update event sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (#JPL).

Dr. Robert Zubrin speaking at NASA in 2008.

Dr. Robert Zubrin speaking at NASA in 2008.

Earlier this month, similar frustration could be heard reverberating from the Mars Society’s Dr. Robert Zubrin, who (ensconced atop his pulpit at NASA’s Ames Research Centre) aggressively critiqued the high-profile US department for vacillating on its exploration objectives throughout the solar system.  Zubrin and others see an inefficient, navel-gazing, visionless bureaucracy requiring a refocusing of goals and research to end years of wasted money and energy spent on justifying bad programs.  Instead, what seems to be happening is the very same political institutions responsible for funding US space exploration are simply cutting an inefficient image-conscious government department without addressing the real problem behind invested dollars being well-spent.

In the meantime, corporate America (and commercial interests elsewhere) have begun to step into the sacred ground once reserved for NASA.  Cancellation of the Constellation project happened in tandem with the government refocusing its spending on backing commercial exploration, no doubt because of NASA’s inability to get the job done soon enough to put America first in a second emerging space race.  But NASA still has missions all over the solar system to manage and maintain — and its not clear where the money will come from if the larger issues affecting it aren’t addressed.

In the end, maybe a few heads have to roll.  And there will be consequences; but the only alternative is continuing to stand idly by and watch an organization that once led humanity to the surface of the moon fade from relevance entirely.

Canada-Wide Report on Alien Sightings “Unscientific”, Say Critics

01-Sep-14 06:28 pm EDT Leave a comment
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he CBC article begins “Do you believe”?  That’s a good question, say some critics of the report — which have been downplaying the report since its publication earlier this month (August 2014) on major Canadian news networks (via Canadian Press, which authored the original article).  Even the report’s author, Chris Rutkowski, was reported as saying his group’s work doesn’t provide absolute proof about the existence of extra-terrestrials.  Then again, how could it?  Even if beings from other worlds were a part of our daily-lives the report is weak on methodology, heavy on adjectives and absent use beyond a talisman around which advocacy groups can rally.

New report compiles 25 years of UFO sightings in Canada

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/new-report-compiles-25-years-of-ufo-sightings-in-canada-1.1961596#ixzz3C6jRFZAM

                                              — CTV News (Video)

As one who’s had this issue close to his heart all his life (out of interest in the exploration of environs beyond our own planet), I find little of interest for me other than the story of how the data was determined.  What initially caught my eye was the apparent sudden drop in the number of UFO sightings — a fact corroborated online to some degree, anecdotally.  (Perhaps this is one of the reasons the report’s data reflects a drop?)  But there’s no definition listed in the report for what the differences are between a “explained sighting”, “probable sighting”, “insufficient evidence”, or “unexplained”.  The report’s grammar seems to imply these definitions exist somewhere and are well-known; but there’s no terms of reference, footnotes or other citations of whom or what defines these beyond the group’s own apparently subjective (and unpublished/unreferenced) definitions.

And boy is it particularly interesting to see the talking heads of our modern media lap this stuff up and talk about it as if it was the latest press release from NASA!  A local radio station here in Ottawa (CFRA) actually had a segment devoted to so-called experts at one point debating the causes of the report’s monolithic and sudden drop in UFO sightings between 2012 and 2013.  The data itself was taken for granted, without so much as a breath questioning its validity.

According to Ed Barker, (Ret.) former Producer of the Manitoba Planetarium, who in his career spent years as the lead UFOlogist at the centre, says these kinds of spikes and dips in sightings data occur frequently.  “These variances in the data occur all the time”, says Barker, and one can’t get too excited about a single year-anomaly.  Certainly, CFRA’s analysis, citing the emergence of smart phone technology somehow making sightings less likely suddenly in 2012-13 seemed, to me, to be a theory without either scientific analysis or subjective arguments in support.  (Smart phones have been around considerably longer without any reflected impact on the trends cited in the report or anecdotally in reports I could find online.)

The Canadian Government hasn’t been particularly helpful in recent years, with virtually all money to even tracking airborne phenomena evaporating.  Nowadays, if a person makes a sighting report to police — say the RCMP — they actually end up simply forwarding it to Rutkowski’s group.  Even were such referrals to non-profit civilian groups the normal practice only part of the time, surely the public’s expectation would be that there’d be a few pennies to rub together in the annual budget to keep programs tracking such data afloat.

One could even think it begs the question: why would the Canadian government leave it to a group making unscientific, anecdotal publications to track such data?  Unless perhaps….that it made criticism of the whole UFO phenomenon itself so easy.  Now, questions to the government on the subject of UFOs become less-palatable for any reputable journalist.

…if you believe.

Google Earth Serves as News Platform for the NASA/JPL Curiosity Rover

29-Aug-14 11:53 pm EDT Leave a comment

MSL on Google Earth

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SL, or (simply) the “Curiosity Rover” is being watched differently today than yesterday thanks to a new tool: Google Earth.  The premiere GIS technology offering from Google is now helping NASA’s JPL answer questions about what the latest rover on the red planet is up to by displaying information about the path the rover has taken, its projected path, where it has stopped, when, for how long and it has been up to while otherwise seemingly halted.  Thus the tool is serving not only as a tracking tool, but a news platform about curiosity.

There needs to be (for now) user-led updates to a file hosted on “The Ross Report”; the personal blog of The AppRefactory Inc. President, but there’s always room for improvement.

To find out more, visit the dedicated blog page for the project here and keep checking back for updates, every Martian Sol!

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