Tag Archives | Space Exploration

Elon Musk’s Mission To Mars

Picture: Steve Jurvetson (CC)

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 in particular. The first being that there’s a tendency for big aerospace companies to outsource everything to subcontractors who then, bizarrely, outsource work to other subcontractors who subsequently – in what seems to be little more than an utter bureaucratic shambles by this point – outsource to other subcontractors and so on and so forth… ad nauseum. As one commenter aptly points out at the foot of this Wired article: “One reason for all that expensively administered subcontracting is that it pleases exactly those committees [who control NASA’s funding]. The large projects they favor can subcontract in many different districts, whose congressmen then have a good reason to vote for NASA’s budget. This means the committee members need not trade away any more of their political capital to get the projects that support contractors in their districts.”

In short, SpaceX don’t engage in this subcontracting farce but do it all themselves from the bottom up.… Read the rest

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NASA Building A Prototype Deep-Space Habitat In Texas

Living in the deep reaches of outer space, in Texas. Via Popular Science:

It’s not going to send anyone to deep space. But it does give us a tantalizing look at what it’ll look when NASA does take the next steps in space travel.

Engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center and experts Johnson Space Center in Houston are tinkering with the spaceship mockup, deciding the right size, necessary equipment, and everything else that’s going to make a mission to Mars, a near-by asteroid, or the second Earth-Moon Lagrangian point (277,000 miles away from Earth) as pleasant as possible.

The team’s also planning what [devices] will be sent along and built in. One is a 3-D printer, which would allow astronauts to create any tools they need right on the spot. There’s also greenhouse for astronauts to grow their own and food, and a barrier of water on the outside that could be used to shield explorers from cosmic rays.

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Inching Closer to the Light Barrier

Picture:By AllenMcC. (CC)

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 the drive’s power requirements were so enormous that it was relegated to merely theory. Space.com is reporting that scientists at the 100 Year Starship Symposium have made adjustments to Alcubierre’s calculations, which lowered the power requirements significantly.

“Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light,” explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. “But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light.”

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

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NASA Probe Spots Pyramid On Mars?

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. 19, 2012) ended with this rock about 8 feet (2.5 meters) in front of the rover.

Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from the rover’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

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The Catalog Of Habitable Outer Space Planets

Curious about where to go next? The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog is a project to grade and rank the planets outside of our solar system which offer the most livable conditions, were humanity to ponder a move.

At right is a rendering of sunrise on one of the planets in the Gliese 581 planetary system, a top contender. As of now, there are 6 confirmed potentially habitable planets, 27 unconfirmed potentially habitable planets, and 30 predicted potentially habitable moons:

The exoplanets Gliese 581 d, HD 85512 b, Kepler-22 b, Gliese 667C c, Gliese 581 g, and now Gliese 163 c are the only current six planets that are considered potentially habitable or object of interest for the search of extraterrestrial life (image above). The image shows these objects approximately to scale and compared with Earth and Mars. They also are ranked with the Earth Similarity Index, or ESI (number below the names).

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Mysterious Silhouette on Mars

Picture: NASA (PD)

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 image from the Curiosity rover as it landed on the fourth planet from the sun showed a “faint but distinctive” image on the horizon, the Los Angeles Times reported. However, a subsequent batch of images sent from the unmanned rover two hours later showed no trace of the blotch.

One theory put forth by space enthusiasts in the L.A. Times story is that Curiosity had somehow snapped a photo of part of the spacecraft that escorted the rover through the Martian atmosphere crash-landing a distance away.

Opinions welcome. A few to get us started, based solely on the contour & shape of the smudgy silhouette:

  1. Bigfoot
  2. Martian Nephilim
  3. Mr. Clean
  4. Jawa Sandcrawler

Read more at Yahoo.Read the rest

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Scientists: We May Find Alien Life On Saturn’s Tiny Moon Enceladus

The grueling process will involve of a decade of preparation, sending a probe on a journey which takes seven years in each direction, with several years of sample collecting in the middle. But after all of that, we may have proof of non-Earthly life from a place where all signs point to its existence. Via the Guardian:

Saturn’s tiny moon has suddenly become a major attraction for scientists. Many now believe it offers the best hope we have of discovering life on another world inside our solar system…and argue that Enceladus should be rated a top priority for future space missions.

The cause of this unexpected interest in Enceladus – first observed by William Herschel in 1789 and named after one of the children of the Earth goddess Gaia – stems from a discovery made by the robot spacecraft Cassini, which has been in orbit of Saturn for the past eight years.

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Moon Communion And Religion In Space

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 weekend of three human beings into the ether of space around the Earth, before they boarded their Soyuz spacecraft, and before the rockets were fired, precautions were taken. Not the humdrum checklists and redundancies of space exploration — assessing the weather, the equipment, the math — but a preparation with a more mystical dimension: the blessing, by a Russian Orthodox priest, of the spacecraft, as it sat on the launchpad on the Kazakh steppe.

The discordance is obvious: Here we are, on the brink of a new expedition to space, a frontier of human exploration and research that is the capstone of our scientific achievement. “The idea of traveling to other celestial bodies reflects to the highest degree the independence and agility of the human mind.

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ET Is Out There, So Get Ready

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:
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Lichen Can Survive In Hostile Space Conditions

Humans are ill-equipped for traveling into outer space, but the same isn’t true for other earthly life forms. Should we send funguses to colonize our galaxy, before we go? Via Phenomenica:

In 2008 the European Space Agency sent a suitcase-sized experiment package to the International Space Station filled with organic compounds and living organisms to test their reaction to outer space.

When astronauts venture on a spacewalk, hours are spent preparing protective suits to survive the hostile conditions. However, no effort was made to protect the bacteria, seeds, lichen and algae attached to the outside of the space station.

The samples returned to Earth in 2009. Lichen have proven to be tough cookies – back on Earth, some species continue to grow normally. You can freeze it, thaw it, vacuum dry it and expose it to radiation, but lichen still survive.

Living organisms surviving in open space supports the idea of ‘panspermia’ — life spreading from one planet to another, or even between solar systems.

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