Tag Archives | Space Exploration

It’s not rocket science: we need a better way to get to space

Orbital Sciences Antares Launch (201410280009HQ)

Unmanned rocket explodes moments after launch.

Human beings will always be explorers. We’ve pretty well surveyed our planet, our tiny blue dot, for answers and only found more questions. Why are we here? How did we get here? What does it mean?

What happens when vast numbers of us can leave our tiny blue dot behind? NASA

We’ve already taken baby steps out into the solar system. But cheap, affordable space travel would be revolutionary, heralding in technologies we haven’t even yet imagined. Social and economic changes introduced by the internet would pale in comparison.

But here’s the thing: we won’t be heading to the stars in a rocket. Rockets are a terrible way of getting to space.

Orbit is a balancing act

There’s a saying in orbital mechanics: getting to orbit is halfway to anywhere. Orbit is the easiest way of going permanently to space. It’s a big first step on the way to leaving the gravity of earth behind.… Read the rest

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How Mars Went From a Planet that Could Potentially Support Life to the Arid Planet it is Now

Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere. Credits: NASA/GSFC

Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Credits: NASA/GSFC

According to NASA, solar wind has played in a key role in Mars’ atmospheric erosion, making it arid and dry.

via NASA:

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.

MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms. The scientific results from the mission appear in the Nov. 5 issues of the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.

“Mars appears to have had a thick atmosphere warm enough to support liquid water which is a key ingredient and medium for life as we currently know it,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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Our Planet Is Among the First of Many, Many Earths

G. Bacon / NASA / ESA

G. Bacon / NASA / ESA

A new study finds that many more “Earths” are on the way.

Adrienne LaFrance via The Atlantic:

Throughout the universe, trapped in the halos of dark matter, there is enough planet-making material to create at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 more Earth-like planets. A billion trillion of them. In the Milky Way alone, that would mean another 5 billion Earth-like planets over time.

That’s according to new research by astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, whose findings suggest that Earth, and the life it supports, is only among the first in a massive sprawl of potentially habitable planets that will eventually form in the universe.

“We show that this would imply at least a 92 percent chance that we are not the only civilization the universe will ever have,” wrote Peter Behroozi and Molly Peeples, whose conclusions are drawn from a mix of Hubble and Kepler data.

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Astronomers have spotted a strange objects whirling around a distant star

Spiral Galaxy Opens Mysterious 'Arms' (Redux: NASA, Chandra, 7/28/09)

Some scientists suspect it could be extraterrestrials. (Wishful thinking?)

Ross Andersen via The Atlantic:

Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look.

In the Northern hemisphere’s sky, hovering above the Milky Way, there are two constellations—Cygnus the swan, her wings outstretched in full flight, and Lyra, the harp that accompanied poetry in ancient Greece, from which we take our word “lyric.”

Between these constellations sits an unusual star, invisible to the naked eye, but visible to the Kepler Space Telescope, which stared at it for more than four years, beginning in 2009.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” says Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoc at Yale. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”Kepler was looking for tiny dips in the light emitted by this star.
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NASA Scientist: ‘No one’s out there,’ We’re likely alone in the Milky Way

Could it really be that we’re all alone in our galaxy? The South China Morning Post reports that William Borucki, a highly-respected former NASA scientist, says there’s no other life out there:

William Borucki NASA.jpg

William Borucki

An internationally-revered Nasa scientist whose work helped discover the first Earth-sized habitable planet outside our solar system said the evidence so far points to us being alone in our galaxy.

William Borucki, the principal investigator of Nasa’s historic 2009 Kepler mission, was awarded the prestigious Shaw Prize in Astronomy in Hong Kong yesterday and said he planned to donate US$100,000 of his prize money to the battle against climate change.

But in an interview with the South China Morning Post, Borucki said his work on the Kepler mission discovering habitable planets made the silence in our galaxy all the more unusual.

“We have a galaxy full of 10 billion planets, in habitable zones, roughly earth-size, [but] no visits, no communications we’ve picked up,” he said.

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NASA’s Europa Mission May Land on Ocean-Harboring Moon

This remastered view of the Jupiter moon Europa is based on information from NASA’s Galileo mission of the 1990s.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

This remastered view of the Jupiter moon Europa is based on information from NASA’s Galileo mission of the 1990s.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

NASA is aiming to visit Jupiter’s Europa sometime in the mid-2020s. While they plan to “characterize” the moon with dozens of fly-bys, there are now talks of potentially sending a probe to the surface.

Mike Wall via Space.com:

NASA’s upcoming mission to Europa may actually touch down on the potentially life-harboring Jupiter moon.

While the main thrust of the Europa mission, which NASA aims to launch by the mid-2020s, involves characterizing the icy satellite from afar during dozens of flybys, the space agency is considering sending a small probe down to the surface as well.

“We are actively pursuing the possibility of a lander,” Robert Pappalardo, Europa project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said last week during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2015 conference in Pasadena.

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The fate of the universe: heat death, Big Rip or cosmic consciousness?

Black holes will be all that remains before the universe enters heath death. But the story doesn’t end there… NASA/ESA/wikimedia

Black holes will be all that remains before the universe enters heath death. But the story doesn’t end there… NASA/ESA/wikimedia

By piecing together an increasing number of clues, cosmologists are getting closer to understanding what the future and ultimate fate of the universe will be. And I’m afraid the news is not good. Star formation will cease and black holes will take over until they eventually evaporate into nothingness. There could even be a “Big Rip” on the horizon. But for those who don’t mind waiting another 101050 years or so, things may start to look up as a number of bizarre events could take place.

But before we consider random events in the very far future, let’s start with what we know about the past and the present.

The past

The reason we can investigate the past evolution of the universe is that, in some regards, astronomy is analogous to archaeology.… Read the rest

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Buzz Aldrin Plans to Live on Mars by 2040

Um, just how old will Buzz Aldrin be in 2040? I4U reports on his wish to colonize Mars:

A space academy in honor of the astronaut Buzz Aldrin was established at Florida Institute of Technology. And Aldrin is developing a ‘master plan’ to begin colonies on Mars by 2040.

Buzz Aldrin and Barack Obama.

Buzz Aldrin and Barack Obama.


Florida Institute of Technology laid the foundation of the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute. It will open its doors to the public towards the end of this summer. The goal of the institute is the colonization of the planet Mars.

Buzz Aldrin himself will lead the effort in the occupation of the Red Planet. Everyone remembers Buzz Aldrin from the unforgettable Apollo 11 mission.

The Florida Institute of Technology has always been at the leading edge of science and its application. It encourages its students to explore and gather valuable knowledge. This then can be applied in real life.

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The Moon landing was a giant leap. The next leap is staying there.

There’s something in the zeitgeist about off-earth colonies right now, whether they be on Mars, asteroids or the moon, which is the focus of this piece at Macleans:

When Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the Moon, left the lunar surface in December 1972, people on Earth seemed to check it off the cosmic to-do list. Been there, done that. The grey orb was dry and deadly, with freezing 14-day nights that dipped to –270° C and equally long days that reached a blood-boiling 100° C. Mars, meanwhile, was calling. Humanity’s interplanetary ambitions wandered elsewhere.


Then, in late 2009, scientists confirmed the existence of water and found evidence of water at the Moon’s southern pole. “Finding that stuff was a big deal,” says Paul Spudis, a Houston-based lunar scientist who has worked with NASA and the White House. “It showed us that a permanent habitation of the Moon was possible.”

Suddenly, the Moon was once again the solar system’s top travel destination—and, this time, the plan would be to stay.

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For Pluto ‘Truthers,’ the New Horizons Mission Is Only the Latest Lie

The latest in the ever-expanding cast of “truthers” are Pluto truthers, who apparently think that NASA is hiding something. From Newsweek:

Southwest Research Institute waited for their piano-sized New Horizons space probe to pass by Pluto. It finally reached the dwarf planet last month and beamed photos back to Earth from billions of miles away. The stunning images captivated the scientific community, revealing ice mountains, frozen tundras and other never-before-seen details on Pluto’s surface. Stunning, that is, if the scientists are telling the truth.

There’s a small but vocal group of conspiracists—bloggers have taken to calling them “Pluto Truthers”—who claim the recent images are fake. In fact, they argue, New Horizons is simply the latest bogus galactic mission to deceive the public, perhaps to divert tax money to more secretive or nefarious government projects. That trickery is nothing new, they charge; it goes all the way back to the first moon landing.

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