Blue Origin to Space! Sort of.

On November 23rd, Blue Origin launched a rocket to an altitude of 100 km (where space begins) and landed it. It’s the landing part that’s amazing. Rockets, historically have been built on missile technology. And missiles are not built to be retrieved after. That means 99% of all rockets are one use only. Imagine if every plane was one use only, how expensive flying would be. Well, that’s why getting to space is expensive. This is great news.

However, Blue Origin is only traveling at sub orbital speeds. Their craft, New Shepard, reached a speed of Mach 3.72, or 1.2 km/s. To get into LEO, you need to be going about 8 km/s. The ISS travels at 7.66 km/s, so you need to be going at least that fast to dock with it. Blue Origin isn’t going into space with the ability to stay there, it’s just going really really high.

So, articles with titles such as “Jeff Bezos 1-0 Elon Musk: Blue Origin New Shepard lands successfully” piss me off. These are two different things. SpaceX is going after the ISS and Mars, where Blue Origin is not leaving Earth. The propagation of misinformation  in the media is.. staggering. We should know this. People should understand what an orbit is. Elon thinks so as well.

So, this is a great step for space flight, no doubt about it. But it isn’t what the media is making it out to be.

So what if the Glaciers melt?

All change carries with it an element of risk. There is no shortage of estimated risk when it comes toa changing climate. It’s very easy to get caught up in one argument or another without making progress. Let’s simplify the discussion a little by removing the cause of the change. I want to be spesific. I want to talk about climate change in the context of the Athabasca Glacier. I want to talk about what we know and what we don’t know.

Simply put, regardless of the cause, our glaciers are melting. It’s a very real and extensively documented occurrence. The Athabasca Glacier is receding at a rate of about 5 meters per year, and has lost over half it’s volume in the past 125 years. I recently visited the glacier, and ran my hands in the water that’s melting off of it.

It’s the water I want to talk about. The glacier is melting, and its feeding our rivers. The glacier is a feed to the Athabasca River, a system that includes 94 rivers, 150 named creeks and 153 lakes. This glacier and the ice field accosiated with it has an important job. It’s runoff is providing water to this system. However, the glacier is retreating, leaving less ice to melt year after year. At some point, the glacier will run out of ice, stop melting and stop feeding water into this system. It’s simple math. We don’t know when but, if this trend continues, it will happen.

Water is a very important resource for life, and we use this river system for a lot of things. One use is industrial. Oil Sands operations licence water for use in their processes. What happens when the water runs out?

As I said earlier, let’s skip over the causation arguments and begin a dialog over the ramifications of this. The Athabasca river system is at risk of losing it’s source.


Conclusion: In Alberta, we base our lively hood on oil. Currently, we use the Athabasca river to help us get at this oil. The river is slowing down it’s flow. The Athabasca glacier that feeds the river is shrinking, and won’t provide water forever. When the river drys up, so does a nessisary asset to the Albertan economy.

If we maintain the present course, this will happen. Lets have a climate conversation about this.