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?
Tag Archives | Space Exploration
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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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.
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...
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:
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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.
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:
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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.
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...
Sad news for hopes of future visits to the red planet — anyone who journeys to Mars could come back with their DNA adversely altered, Russian scientists warn. Mars Daily explains:
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Future astronauts working on the Red Planet’s surface risk general changes in health at the DNA level because of increased radiation exposure, a prominent Russian academic said on Monday.
“According to our estimates, researchers on the surface of Mars can expect a number of adverse factors, such as cardiac arrhythmia, sensory impairments, changes at the DNA level, and demineralization of bone tissue,” Anatoly Grigoryev, the deputy head of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, told at a presentation at the International Symposium on the results of ground-based experiment Mars-500.
The unique Moscow-based Mars-500 experiment was completed on November 4. It attempted to recreate at least some of the conditions of a flight to the Red Planet by locking six men away in a mock spacecraft.
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 the NASA photo archives and put together a couple of photos that have emerged of the 1960s as part of the Apollo program in the Lunar Landing Research Facility. The photographs show, as were then tested with very simple methods, the effects of weightlessness on the human body in a moon walk – of course, could also be filming the big moon landing conspiracy.