Tag Archives | Space Exploration

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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NASA Spacecraft Discovers Mickey Mouse Icon On Mercury

Ah, humanity — we travel to the far reaches of our solar system, only to find our own corporate logos. Space.com reports:

A NASA spacecraft has captured a spectacular photo of Mercury craters arranged in a shape that looks just like Disney’s iconic cartoon mouse. The photo comes from the Messenger spacecraft in orbit around Mercury and shows a giant crater topped with two smaller impact basins to create the recognizable shape.

The Mickey Mouse on Mercury is formed by a huge crater about 65 miles (105 kilometers) wide that was later peppered by other impacts to create the “ears.

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Voyager I Is Close to Leaving Our Solar System

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?
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No Intelligent Aliens Detected on the SETI-Targeted “Earth Condition” Gliese 581 System

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...
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(Anonymous) Engineer Proposes A Full-Scale “USS Enterprise” That Can Be Built For $1 Trillion

OV-101Well, live long and prosper, then. As far as I know, there is only one space-faring vessel (yet) with the designation Enterprise. As James Holloway writes on GizMag:

An anonymous electrical and systems engineer going only by the moniker BTE-Dan has posted surprisingly detailed plans for a full-scale, functioning Starship Enterprise that he claims could be built in 20 years. Though it may be tempting to scoff at such lofty ambition, the Build the Enterprise website (up all of one week) includes specifications, costs, mission plan and funding strategies, all suggesting that a serious amount of thought has gone into creating a real world counterpart to the icon spaceship of the TV and movie series, Star Trek.

The project appears to be born of Dan’s frustration with humankind’s present spacefaring efforts. Dan more or less dismisses the International Space Station for its lack of gravity and cramped quarters, describing its toilet facilities as “comical and primitive,” and musing how the money may have been better spent.

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The Last Soviet Moon Lander Discovered Water on the Moon in 1976

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...
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There’s More Water On Europa (Jupiter’s moon) Than On Earth

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...
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Russia Wants To Build A Permanent Moon Base

RoscosmosReports 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 of the near-Earth object (NEO) visit that is the stated goal of U.S. space policy.

Vladimir Popovkin, the Roscosmos head, told the Global Exploration Conference in Washington May 22 that the next big international exploration effort should build on the past 40-plus years of lunar exploration, and not repeat the sortie missions of the Apollo era.

“It’s a new Moon,” Popovkin said of his agency’s concept during a panel appearance with other space agency chiefs. A long-term permanent base could take advantage of the water-ice at the lunar poles, continue exploring the lunar surface, and prepare for the next leap into the Solar System, he says.

The concept, which is roughly the same one NASA pursued under President George W.

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SpaceX Takes Star Trek’s ‘Scotty’ (And Others) to The Final Frontier

James Doohan

Doohan at the Dryden Flight Research Center in 1967.

Aside from the news that the United States’ space program has effectively been privatized in the wake of the retirement of the Space Transportation System (Shuttle) program, this noteworthy craft was carrying the ashes of over 300 people. That’s $2,995 per gram of ashes into Earth orbit. As Clara Moskowitz writes on Space.com:

Scotty has finally been beamed up. The ashes of the actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the 1960s television series Star Trek, were launched to space this morning (May 22nd) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The unmanned Falcon 9 blasted off at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT) from here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the Dragon capsule filled with cargo bound for the International Space Station. Also packed aboard the rocket was a secondary payload carrying remains from 308 people, including Doohan and Mercury program astronaut Gordon Cooper, according to ABC News and Reuters.

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