Space Exploration

R. Prasad writes in the Hindu: No-fly zones will come into effect on the moon for the very first time by the end of this month! Why, even buffer zones that spacecraft…

Space JunkVia the BBC:

Scientists in the US have warned NASA that the amount of so-called space junk orbiting Earth is at tipping point. A report by the National Research Council says the debris could cause fatal leaks in spaceships or destroy valuable satellites.

It calls for international regulations to limit the junk and more research into the possible use of launching large magnetic nets or giant umbrellas. The debris includes clouds of minuscule fragments, old boosters and satellites.

Some computer models show the amount of orbital rubbish “has reached a tipping point, with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures,” the research council said in a statement on Thursday.

It’s probably just hype around the release of the “documentary” Apollo 18 that just opened in theaters across America, but is reporting on a purported conspiracy about the astronauts finding signs…

This summer’s final NASA space shuttle mission marks the end of the 30-year era of the United States’ sending live explorers into outer space. Photographers Sara Phillips and Neil DaCosta created Astronaut…

Granted this video is a promo for the New Scientist‘s recent issue on “existence”, it’s pretty interesting, if you are OK with incomplete answers. (Figuring out how the universe got so large is still a serious head-scratcher.) My takeaway after watching this, is if “something” is not really that different from “nothing” (according to our human perception) then, well, there is still much to ponder …

Michael Reilly reports in the New Scientist: An asteroid 300 metres in diameter is stalking the Earth. Hiding in the pre-dawn twilight, it has marched in lockstep with our planet for years,…

space-colony-2000As we close the book on the final U.S. space shuttle mission ever, it’s heartbreaking to watch NASA videos from the groovy 1970s, a time of incredible optimism regarding the final frontier in the aftermath of humankind’s first walk on the moon. Preliminary plans and concepts were being outlined for self-sustaining space colonies where people could live and work. A space station called Taurus would be home to 10,000 people, with dairy farms, manufacturing, vegetation, solar power stations… and then somewhere along the way we became sidetracked.

Via Modern Mythology: Many of you know by now that the US space program, though not ended in its entirety, has been demonstrably downgraded, and now faces an uncertain privatized future. This isn’t…

Radio BroadcastsLook for the tiny blue dot for our impact. Adam Grossman writes about “The Tiny Humanity Bubble” on jackadamblog:

Mankind has been broadcasting radio waves into deep space for about a hundred years now — since the days of Marconi.

That, of course, means there is an ever-expanding bubble announcing Humanity’s presence to anyone listening in the Milky Way. This bubble is astronomically large (literally), and currently spans approximately 200 light years across.

But how big is this, really, compared to the size of the Galaxy in which we live (which is, itself, just one of countless billions of galaxies in the observable universe)?

Soyuz TMA-7 SpacecraftWell, there it is folks. Plain as day: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap to Ruin” austerity program sh*tcanned the U.S. Spaceshuttle program and left us dependent upon the charity of ex-KGB chief Vladimir Putin.

No you wouldn’t hear much about that from the Fox News(tm) Politburo. Seems that we have to rely on our Aussie cousins to get the scoop.

It’s true. Now without an independent space program of our own, we’ll be at the tender mercies of the apparatchiks in Moscow to support our telecommunications satellite infrastructure.

Now I don’t have definitive proof yet that Paul Ryan is a sleeper agent for Uncle Vanya, but all signs point to yes. In debt ceiling talks this week his lot are trying to force American-born grandmothers to give up their cat food money in order to support the vodka habits of his Wall Street buddies like Frenchman “Fabulous” Fab Torre.

Mars BuildingVia

An American armchair astronomer claims he has found evidence of, well, something on Mars. David Martines’ YouTube video is heading for viral status after he uploaded a flyby of Google Earth’s Mars explorer zooming in on a white, cylindrical shaped object.

He’s calling it “Bio Station Alpha, because I’m just assuming that something lives in it or has lived in it”.

“It’s very unusual in that it’s quite large, it’s over 700 feet long and 150 feet wide, it looks like it’s a cylinder or made up of cylinders,” he says, “It could be a power station or it could be a biological containment or it could be a glorified garage — hope it’s not a weapon. Whoever put it up there had a purpose I’m sure. I couldn’t imagine what the purpose was. I couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to live on Mars.”

One of the secret projects discussed in Annie Jacobson’s new Area 51 book is Project Orion, an ambitious 1950’s-1960’s era attempt to develop a nuclear fission-propelled spacecraft capable of interplanetary travel. Like many of the Cold War aeronautics projects developed at Area 51 and related test sites, it was way ahead of its time. According to Jacobs, however, when ARPA and the USAF took over the project, they had a far more Strangelovian vision in mind:

“From high above Earth, a USS Orion could be used to launch attacks against enemy targets using nuclear missiles. Thanks to Orion’s nuclear-propulsion technology, the spaceship could make extremely fast defensive maneuvers, avoiding any Russian nuclear missiles that might come its way…For a period of time during the early 1960’s the Air Force believed Orion was going to be invincible. ‘Whoever builds Orion will control the Earth!” declared General Thomas S. Power of the Strategic Air Command.” [Jacobson, p. 305]

In this fascinating TED lecture George Dyson, son of Freeman Dyson, shares his special knowledge of the project. Not much information about Project Orion’s proposed weaponization has reached the web, but pay special attention to what he says at around 3:30-3:50…

Very interesting post from the MicroCosmologist blog:

So it looks like the Allen Telescope Array is falling onto the chopping block in this era of fiscal “emergency.” To me, this sounds a lot like the recent battle to defund NPR or PBS, in that the money they need to continue is just … chump change in the grand scheme of finances. They’re $2.5 million short, and for that, they’ll need to stop taking data and shut down the telescope array. It deeply bums me out to think that such a low value is placed on the quest to find other intelligence in our universe. When compared with so many other things that gladly get millions or billions of dollars, it’s maddening to see SETI so marginalized …

And to put things into perspective, I’ve whipped up this handy infographic, comparing how $2.5 million compares to so many other things that we absolutely must have, and will not hesitate to pay for:

SET Infographic

Background info on the shutdown here.

Richard Branson Justin Hyde writes for Jalopink:

With NASA mothballing shuttles, and the Soviets auctioning seats on Soyuz capsules for millions of rubles, how are spunky American pilots supposed to prove they have the right stuff? By answering a want ad for astronauts from Richard Branson.

The crazy billionaire’s space tourism business, Virgin Galactic, has posted openings for “pilot-astronauts” to begin work in June. Virgin Galactic is still doing test flights of its Burt Ruttan-designed ships, but expects to launch the first “customer-astronauts” in two years from its spaceport in New Mexico, for the everyday low price of $200,000.

Virgin Galactic wants pilot-astronauts to have a minimum of 3,000 hours of flight experience in a variety of aircraft and help set the rules for future recruits. The other big hurdle? “Prior spaceflight experience is an advantage.”

Ray Villard writes on Discovery News: Rather than looking for aliens who use interstellar radio signals to say “hi,” an alternative search strategy is simply to spy on any mega-engineering projects that…

Sounds a bit like panspermia but occurring within our inner solar system. Interesting post from David L. Chandler of MIT News Office: According to many planetary scientists, it’s conceivable that all life…

It really is a strange universe out there. Marcus Chown writes in New Scientist: Buried in the flood of data from the Kepler telescope is a planetary system unlike any seen before….