Space Exploration

Commentary from Media Underground How exactly is it that SpaceX can do everything so cheaply? Well, it would seem from this recent interview with Elon Musk that there are a couple of reasons…



The speed of light has often been called the universal speed limit, but scientists believe that breaking it may be possible. Physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a real-life warp drive in 1994, but…


Time to unravel the mystery of the tiny Martian pyramid. Via the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: The drive by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity during the mission’s 43rd Martian day, or sol, (Sept….



Via Yahoo: A mysterious blotch that appeared along the horizon in a photo from the surface of Mars stirred speculation about what it might be, as two hours later it was gone….



One might assume that conquering space would undermine belief in God, but faithful fervor seems, if anything, to strengthen in space, albeit in mutated forms. Via the Atlantic: Before the launch this…


In a TED Talk, astronomer and alien hunter Seth Shostak argues that over the next generation, we will probably pick up a signal from intelligent life outside of our solar system. What would it mean? Coming into contact with a more advanced lifeform could give us a window into where humanity is headed, and give us hope that technological advancement doesn’t inevitably lead to destruction:




Writes Rebecca J. Rosen in the Atlantic:

Last week, in the corners of the Internet devoted to outer space, things started to get a little, well, hot. Voyager 1, the man-made object farthest away from Earth, was encountering a sharp uptick in the number of a certain kind of energetic particles around it. Had the spacecraft become the first human creation to “officially” leave the solar system?

It’s hard to overstate how wild an accomplishment this would be: A machine, built here on Earth by the brain — and handiwork of humans, has sailed from Florida, out of Earth’s orbit, beyond Mars, beyond the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn, and may now have left the heliosphere — tiny dot in the universe beholden to our sun. Had it really happened? How would we know?


Yet that is. As Ian O’Neill desribes on Discovery News:

SETI astronomers have eavesdropped on an alien star system thought to contain two “habitable” worlds in the hope of hearing a radio transmission from an extraterrestrial intelligence.

Sadly, there appears to be no chatty aliens living around the red dwarf star Gliese 581.

In results announced last week by Australian SETI astronomers, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University in Perth, Gliese 581 was precisely targeted by Australian Long Baseline Array using three radio telescope facilities across Australia. This is the first time the technique of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) has been used to target a specific star in the hunt for extraterrestrials, so although it didn’t turn up any aliens, it is a proof of concept that may prove invaluable for future SETI projects…



Moon Landing MapCold War politics. Via the Technology Review’s Physics arXiv Blog:

The last Soviet mission to the moon, Luna-24, returned to Earth with water-rich rocks from beneath the lunar surface. But the West ignored the result.

The possibility of water on the moon has excited scientists and science fiction fans for decades. If we ever decide to maintain a human presence on the moon, clear evidence of water will be an important factor in the decision.

In recent years, that evidence has begun to mount. The data comes from several sources. First there was the pioneering Clementine mission in 1994, America’s first return to the moon in twenty years. Clementine looked for water by bouncing radio waves off the surface—the returns giving a strong indication that water ice must lie beneath the surface…


EuropaALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.

Well after reading this story, enthusiasts will probably want to ignore the Monlith creators’ advice. As Robert T. Gonzalez writes on io9.com:

Remember that image from a few weeks back that showed Earth with all its water gathered up in a sphere beside it? Well here’s that image again, only this time, it also features Jupiter’s moon Europa, along with all of its water. Notice anything interesting?

Based on data acquired by NASA’s Galileo satellite, astronomers think the global oceans sloshing around beneath Europa’s icy exterior are likely 2 to 3 times more voluminous than the oceans here on Earth. Not 2 to 3 times more proportionally, 2 to 3 times more in total volume.

Yeah. That “little” moon is packing quite the supply of H2O—and with it, scientists think, a significant chance of harboring life…


Reports Aviation Week: Mankind’s next objective in space exploration should be the establishment of a permanent international base on the Moon, in the “professional opinion” of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, instead…



433 ErosThe mission would not occur until the 2020s, so we all can rest assured that no harbinger of doom is on the way …? As Richard Gray reports in the Telegraph:

It is a space mission straight from the Hollywood film Armageddon

A team of astronauts, however, have already started preparing for just such a mission. Among them is Major Tim Peake, a former British Army helicopter test pilot who is now the first official British astronaut with the European Space Agency.

Next month they will begin a training programme that will teach them how to operate vehicles, conduct spacewalks and gather samples on the surface of an asteroid.

While the primary goal of a mission to an asteroid will be scientific to learn more about their hostile environments, the skills needed to work on their surface could also prove invaluable should scientists discover one on a collision course with Earth…



Wondering if it is possible to experience outer space life  here on Earth? Via Interweb3000, a photo series cataloging training for NASA astronauts in the mid-1960s: I’ve browsed back a bit in…



Viking LanderReports Irene Klotz on Discovery News:

New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week.

Further, NASA doesn’t need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News.

“The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope — watch the bacteria move,” Miller said. “On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there,” he added. Miller’s confidence stems in part from a new study that re-analyzed results from a life-detection experiment conducted by NASA’s Viking Mars robots in 1976.


Or so he claims—there’s no proof of veracity, but a gripping read nonetheless. Morgan Kochel’s conversation with a A Man Who Went to Mars: Training lasted twelve months, very intense, including psychiatric…


Lawrence M. Krauss writes in the LA Times: The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere…