Thursday, September 24, 2009

Moon Water Discovery opens Floodgates

We know more about the moon than, ..... wait,... this just in, .... what??

It turns out that we don't know as much about the moon as we thought. Data provided by three different space probes confirms the spectral signature of water. But the water isn't localized to just the poles as scientists expected. It was found throughout the surface apparently locked up among minerals in the lunar soil.

What this means is that potential habitation on the moon just got a "giant step" easier. We have oxygen and hydrogen resources available at many points among the surface, not just at the extreme poles. Hydrogen would be available for fuel and oxygen for breathing. Certainly more research has to be performed, but this is exciting news to many associated with space exploration.

Perhaps the moon, with it's significantly lower gravity, can now be slated as a springboard for future travel to other planets and moons. Of course that is in the distant future and even human travel to the moon for now is still far away. But it gives us a significant reason to go back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beware the Equinox

Wow. And here I thought the Equinox was a celestial phenomenon whereby the day and night were split into equal halves. You know pretty much 12 hours of day and 12 of night. And the equinox starting on Septemeber 22nd allows us on the northern hemisphere to see the daylight whittling away minute by minute each night until we are at the winter solstice.

As I came by this video I was shocked and disturbed before I burst out in maniacal, Dr Evil type, laughter. Go ahead take a peek, but be warned. The Equinox is not what we think it is. Hahahahahahahahahahahahah, ... haha. .ha......h a. .

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ares I NASA Test Video

This is the Ares I rocket motor test. It is one powerful rocket motor and is at the core of the Constellation program designed to get us back to the moon. Unfortunately, missions to the moon aren't cheap and NASA is facing some major changes without adequate funding. Have to keep an eye on that.

I found this video hiding out at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy site.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Move over Kepler, Rocky Earth-like Exoplanet Discovered

News just in indicates the discovery of the first rocky planet outside of our own solar system. It is unlikely enough to harbor life. So much so that we may as well say, "It has no life". The temperature range is something like 3200 degrees F to minus 320 degrees. It is very close to its home star with a locked rotation (like our moon)and a year on this planet would be less than a day on Earth.

Let me define "it". Scientists have named this planet CoRoT-7b. Not so colorful but nomenclature is everything. It's about 5 times the mass of Earth and about twice the diameter. And it is approximately 500 light years away. Earthlike may be a misleading term, but it is significantly different than al the hot Jupiter type exoplanets that have been discovered thus far. As one scientist noted it may be more like Dante's Inferno. Still a notable discovery.

And while I mention "Move Over Kepler" I guess I just expected Kepler to be the mission that discovered such a planet. But this bodes really well for that mission because now we know of at least one planet that is solid enough to tread on. Kepler is looking for similar rocky Earthlike planets as well. But the difference being that Kepler is looking for planets in the habitable zones around stars. The habitable zone is an area where water would be present in liquid form. Kepler will keep it's "eyes" on a large group of stars for the next three years in order to do so. In the meantime, this discovery is very exciting and encouraging. Thats is, if you care about worlds that might be inhabited outside of our own humble planet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Near Space Photos on a Budget

A few students from MIT created a plan to shoot some photo's from pretty high up in the sky. About 17 miles high that is. They launched a helium ballon with the camera and a prepaid cell phone to serve as a GPS tracking unit. The rest was basically duct tape. Kidding aside, here is a list of the equipment and prices paid for them. The whole project cost less than $150!!

In addition to this interesting and frugal accomplishment, the students will also soon release a step by step how-to guide on launching your own low budget, near space, camera. Might I sense a science fair project in the future?? Oh yes, the guide will be low budget as well for anyone interested in taking on such a project. The guide will be free.

Photo courtesy of Oliver and Justin (

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Deep Space Images ala Hubble

Do the images from the Hubble Telescope ever cease to amaze?? Check out some of the newest "Hubble Refurbished" images here.

Space Junk Averted Again

Space junk is becoming more and more of a problem these days. Littered areas of low Earth orbit put multi-million dollar satellites and even more important crafts like the Space Shuttle at risk. This time the astronauts had to fire the engines to miss the debris.

I'm not exactly sure what, if anything, is being done to address this problem. But as astronauts accidentily, if not clumsily, lose things like tools or if rockets continue to shed miscellaneous pieces into the sky, then this problem will continue grow. Where is the space magnet to vacuum (pun intended) up all this debris when you want it?

Space Shuttle Discovery Fires Engines to Dodge Debris

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can We Afford to Leave Earth??

NASA has recently said they were a bit short on cash when it comes to picking up the tab for a few dudes to get to the Moon or Mars. About 3-4 billion dollars a year that is. Obama's presidency hasn't been able to help much in this matter either. So for the time being, we won't be suiting up anyone to take the venture upward and onward. And this is a tad troubling.

Roll of $100 Bills

It's troubling because my generation and the generation that is growing up now are missing grand unifying experience. When NASA went to the moon, that event did not only make America proud, it made humanity proud. It was a giant leap for mankind. It was a global event where we, as human beings, were a part of the whole. Witnessing our own astounding accomplishment. Not Americans, and Russians, and Chinese, but human beings.

The footprints on the moon left a bigger impression on humanity than any event before it. It was televised. It was written about, talked about, celebrated around the globe. Ask someone that was alive where they were. They will know. Sure, Americans might know where they were when Kennedy got shot or when OJ was on the loose, but people around the globe probably wouldn't remember these things or perhaps have even been aware of them. But the moon, ... the moon landing, that was different.

Two astronauts explored the surface of the Moon in July of 1969 for the first time ever. I was born on September of the same year. I never had the experience of even being alive when it happened. And then when I became old enough to become interested in space, we had already sadly lost our moon missions mojo. Since 1972 we haven't been back.

We realize now the numerous potential benefits of going back. We could learn a great deal more about our place in the universe. We could extend humanity beyond Earth. We could prepare better for future missions beyond Earth and the Moon. And perhaps we can even unite the nations of Earth into a more global, peaceful cause.

The irony of all this is that our inability to get to the moon is our own fault. With the given concept and form of monetary compensation, we have severely limited our ability to do what it is we can already do. We can design and build rocketships. We can research and develop newer, better, technologies over time. We can GO to the moon. We can GO to Mars. But amidst the structure in our country and indeed the world, we are unable to do these things.

I'm not suggesting any alternative. It is what it is. Capitalism has long ago won the hearts and wallets of people around the globe. There is no chance of going back and rethinking it. But maybe if our country and the rest of the world moved space exploration to a higher priority we might get different results. With such a low priority, missions are harder and harder to fund. If space is of some importance to humanity, which I think it is, then we need to get it some cash. And to do that we'll need to promote it.

If a space program can be looked at by the ordinary individual where they can understand the benefit to humanity then money will be easier to come by. But we place a number of different items distictly ahead of space exploration, much less more expensive and dangerous human exploration, on the priority list. This is understandable and reasonable especially considering the shape of our country financially at the current time. I can't tell you how to best overcome that. Times are tough. NASA is in difficult times and so is the future of space exploration.

The Next 100 Years of Space Exploration

Keep in mind this video was filmed in 2003 at MIT. Some of the things discussed, while in their infancy then, are happening now. It's pretty amazing to look back in time just a few years at the things NASA was considering and what they actually ended up doing. This video is very interesting and I do wonder where we will be as far as space exploration is concerned in the next 100 years.

Any guesses?? OK I'll take a stab. I think humans will have set foot on at least Mars and the moon. We will have set up or be setting up a permanent base on the moon. We will also be in the early stages of building a Mars base. I also think we will have identified numerous Earth like planets relatively close by. And while it will take an excessively long time (as far as propulsion technology gets us today) we will have set off a probe and/or rovers equipped with the latest AI that are enroute to one of those destinations to explore or be blown away by the inhabitants.

Note: As these thinkers are relatively intelligent talking about future technologies, it is amazing they aren't able to work a simple overhead projector.