Tanks–Sci Fi tanks sport strong armor, cool weapons, and sometimes even legs

Fire shooting from a tank gun
Photo by Ryoma Onita (unsplash.com/@ryoma_onita).

Spider Tank

In Kristyn Merbeth’s space opera Fortuna, she introduces the spider tank, a sturdy, four-legged machine that can carry a squad long distances over the treacherous, icy terrain of the planet Titan.

Cover of sci fi novel Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth

The novel alternates between chapters told by Portia, the pilot of the family’s spaceship, Fortuna, and chapters told by her brother, Corvus, who is finishing his three-year enlistment in the military on Titan.

Here, Corvus describes the spider tank:

“The spider tank is designed to travel through dangerous terrain, able to navigate across ice and up almost-vertical cliffs, but the four legs plod along in jerky motions that always sicken my stomach.  Even after three years on Titan, I’m still not used to land vehicles, too accustomed to the smoother travel of hovercrafts that are common on every other planet.  Here the extreme winds and unpredictable weather make them too dangerous to operate.”

Traditional tanks on earth travel on wheels or on caterpillar treads, like those on a bulldozer.

A tank can really be any heavily armored vehicle with weapons. If it doesn’t have serious weapons, it should probably just be called an armored personnel carrier. Merbeth does not tell us about the weaponry in the spider tank. But in a battle scene, she writes of hand-held blasters and pulse rifles that shoot laser-fire. So I’m imagining the spider tank has some heavy-duty lasers and maybe a few other tricks besides.

Design your own tank!

If you were an engineer of the future, what kind of tank would you build?

  • Would it have wheels, treads, legs or hoverjets?
  • Would it fire cannonballs, shells, missiles or lasers?
  • Would soldiers ride in it, drive it remotely, or would it have artificial intelligence (AI) and drive itself?

Please post your comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

What is that?–PENUMBRAL LUNAR ECLIPSE-darkening of the full moon when it passes through the edge of Earth’s shadow

Image: Radio satellite under a starry sky. What it that?--Penumbral Lunar Eclipse--a darkening of the moon when it passes through the edge of Earth's shadow.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse–when the moon passes through the Earth’s penumbra, the lighter edge of Earth’s shadow

The night of July 4th, this past Saturday, a penumbral lunar eclipse was visible from the Western Hemisphere.  Did you notice?  Probably not.

Here’s why:

According to an article by Joe Rao on space.com, the Earth casts two shadows–as do all objects lit by the sun. The area of the darker shadow is called the umbra. The lighter shadow surrounding the umbra is the penumbra.  Others describe the umbra as the darkest, central part of a shadow and the penumbra as the lighter edge of that same shadow.  The penumbra gradually fades from the complete darkness of the umbra to light at the edges.

So a penumbral lunar eclipse is an eclipse of the moon where the moon passes through the Earth’s penumbra.  That means the moon only gets shaded and you should be able to see the full moon during the entire penumbral lunar eclipse.

In fact, if only a part of the moon passes through the Earth’s penumbra, the shading can be so slight that we won’t even notice it.  That was the point of Joe Rao’s article:  that the penumbral lunar eclipse on July 4 was not a big deal–not nearly as exciting as fireworks or other astronomical sights–because we wouldn’t even notice it.

He says that a penumbral lunar eclipse is only noticeable when about 70 percent of the diameter of the moon passes into the Earth’s penumbra.  On July 4 and July 5, only about 30 percent of the moon’s diameter passed through the penumbra.

If you want to learn more about lunar eclipses, NASA recommends a great website.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross