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Raymond Francis

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The medium is the message [12 Aug 2012|10:09pm]

When I started university, ICQ was the leading instant-messaging system, and people who were into that sort of thing knew their ICQ numbers so they could exchange them like business cards. MSN Messenger was gaining popularity, though, and I had … Continue reading

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MSL entry at Mars imminent [05 Aug 2012|03:17pm]

The MSL spacecraft should enter the martian atmosphere in just over nine hours. It will do what is always difficult — land on a planetary body — in a new and challenging way. It will be a tremendously impressive feat … Continue reading

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Nav Canada and Iridium announce joint ADS-B venture [19 Jun 2012|11:53pm]

Nav Canada, the operator of Canada’s air traffic and air navigation system, and Iridium, the satellite communications company that will launch its replacement constellation in a few years, today announced a joint venture to implement and commercialize ADS-B based global … Continue reading

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GeoFlow-II experiment campaign complete [10 May 2012|12:25am]

ESA today announced the successful completion of the GeoFlow-II experiment campaign aboard the ISS, for those of you interested in experimental work on the interior dynamics of planets. GeoFlow is a dimensional-similarity fluid-dynamic experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory aboard … Continue reading

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Famous on the internet [02 May 2012|10:56pm]

In case you’re curious what I’m up to, here are a few recent mentions on websites other than this one. First off, my grad-student research is being highlighted on the CPSX website at the moment. It’ll be on the front … Continue reading

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RMC launches FLOAT-3 [16 Apr 2012|11:20am]

A team from the Royal Military College of Canada launched FLOAT-3 last month, the third Flying Laboratory for Observation of ADS-B Transmissions. This was the first flight of a new, more effective receiver system, using a balloon and payload support … Continue reading

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Man, machine, and world [11 Apr 2012|10:24pm]

This is a fantastic image. It’s Ed White, Gemini 4 astronaut. He’s got a look of quiet contemplation fitting of pausing from your groundbreaking experimental space mission to look out on your home world, or the depths of outer space. … Continue reading

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Rediscovering old friends [11 Apr 2012|02:36pm]

There’s something charming about finding the stars you learned about as a child revealed, one by one, to host planetary systems. Even the best optical telescope images from my childhood showed a bright spot, shining in the cold, empty darkness … Continue reading

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A quick skim through the 2012 Federal budget [30 Mar 2012|01:07am]

Just some thoughts: Total spending is $276B (17% of GDP). Deficit: $33.4B (1.2% of GDP). Spending, revenues, and debt charges are all forecast to continue rising until at least 2016, when the federal debt will be unchanged at $602B. I … Continue reading

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Whole worlds waiting to be revealed [27 Mar 2012|05:43pm]

I spent last week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference just outside of Houston, Texas. With an annual attendance of around 2000, it’s the main conference for people who study the nature and history of the solar system. All … Continue reading

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Single LGM seeks same [25 Mar 2012|09:33pm]

Searching for a partner-in-life is a lot like SETI, except there are a whole lot of Wow! signals. In the first place, it’s a big universe, and there are a lot of stars out there. And it’s likely that somewhere … Continue reading

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FLOAT in Physics in Canada [05 Mar 2012|05:16pm]

I spent much of my master’s degree at the Royal Military College of Canada working on ADS-B, a new system of air traffic surveillance. In particular, I was looking at how to detect aircraft transponder signals from orbit, what kind … Continue reading

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Western Worlds #101 podcast now available [02 Mar 2012|10:35am]

The first episode of Western Worlds is available in mp3 format for download from CPSX. It features my interview with Dr. Gordon Osinski about impact craters, and a follow-up discussion on the topic with the Western Worlds panel of the … Continue reading

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Western Worlds radio program on Astronomy.fm [27 Feb 2012|11:23pm]

Western Worlds, a new radio program about planetary science and exploration on Astronomy.fm, had its premiere tonight. Produced jointly by the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) and Astronomy.fm, it will air Monday nights at 10 PM EST. Each … Continue reading

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The wake of a freely flying European Starling [13 Feb 2012|04:26pm]

One of the fun things about working at a university is the continual series of lectures, presentations, and seminars about current research. Today in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, a paper was presented on aerodynamics, an area in … Continue reading

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Welcome back [30 Jan 2012|12:58am]

Welcome to wolfstu.ca. After a long while as a static webpage, we’re back to periodic updates and a bit more structured look. If you can’t bear to lose the old hand-coded-from-scratch look, you can always indulge in some nostalgia, but … Continue reading

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alfagot added to Friends List [13 Oct 2011|12:14pm]
alfagot has been added to the Friends List. It's a friend and classmate from my current degree program.
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Contact established [23 Mar 2008|09:52pm]

From the time NASA launched its successful Viking 1 probe to Mars, to the time it received the first pictures and data from the Martian surface beamed back by the lander, just under eleven months had passed. It sounds like a long time, but Mars is a long way from here, and the probe had to:

  • ride to Earth orbit,
  • complete an almost ten-month transit to Mars,
  • spend a month in orbit while the landing site was chosen (the initial target site turned out to be full of rocks),
  • separate from the orbiter module,
  • deorbit by firing rockets,
  • slow down by atmospheric friction,
  • slow down some more with a parachute,
  • slow down still more with some final rockets,
  • land successfully (about 3 hours after separation from the orbiter),
  • make contact with the orbiter,
  • take its first picture, and
  • transmit the image (this alone took 4 minutes)



    The first image from the surface of Mars. High-resolution version from NASA here.</p>



    Then, of course, the radio signal had to make its way to Earth, and that can take between about 7 and 44 minutes, not counting delays at each link in the transmission chain. And after all this the probe still had to finish unfolding itself, deploy the rest of the equipment, and turn everything on.

    After a mission launches out into the void, it can be a long time before those back home know if everything’s okay.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Partyline removed from Friends List [22 Mar 2008|05:16pm]
    partyline has been removed from the Friends List. It was formerly a multi-author political weblog including one of the other writers currently on my list, but has become a wordy, rambly, disagreeable and self-impressed evanglical serial spiel. It uses flourishingly grand language to drive home mundane and inarguable points, then burns through thesauruses expounding poorly-argued religious opinions as if they were just as obviously true. The over-grand language makes it look like the writer either takes pleasure in substituting ten-letter words for shorter ones to look smart, or writes in Korean and publishes in English via Babelfish.

    There's no need for me to scroll past badly-written bad ideas about the supernatural to read updates from my actual friends.
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    Noordwijk 07-08 [25 Jun 2007|10:09am]

    I’m all packed up. My bags are in the car, and in a few minutes my parents will drive me to the airport to leave for the ESA YGT in Noordwijk. It’s a longtrip, and afterwards it may be some time before I can get to the internet again. So in the meantime, I’ll leave you with the letter of application I sent to ESA last December, explaining why I aspired to join the program.

    See you from the Netherlands.

    _________________________________________________________________

    To: Applications officer, European Space Agency
    From: Raymond Francis
    Date: 14 December 2006
    Re: Application for Young Graduate Trainee Program

    Madam or Sir,

    I wish to express my interest in the European Space Agency’s Young Graduate Trainee program. For a young person in my position – a recent graduate in engineering, with a mind as full of the aspirations and idealism of youth as it is with mathematics and science – a training contract with the ESA represents a tremendous and unique chance to learn, and grow, and prepare myself for an exciting career in space technology.

    I live in Sudbury, a remote northern city surrounded by Canada’s boreal forest. The closest settlement large enough to be called a city is 150 km away, and much of Low Earth Orbit – including the ISS – is closer than the provincial capital. It’s a surprising spot for a city; not on any major rivers, far from the Great Lakes, cold and wintry. There’s a city here because of a vast mineral deposit; one that exists because of a meteorite impact 1.85 billion years ago. All of the history of this city, its settlement, growth, industrialization, resulting ecological devastation, and the engineered and ongoing recovery of the forest flow from that event. Sudbury is here because of how earth and space and humanity interact, and so am I.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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