Showing posts with label space. Show all posts
Showing posts with label space. Show all posts

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Moon people aren't going to like this at all.

NASA to fire a big exploding rocket at the moon

Now this sounds fun: NASA has plans to fire a rocket into the moon to create a six-mile high explosion. Why? To see if there's any water there that we might be able to use if we ever colonize our largest satellite.

Seriously, how awesome will this be?

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Wheels within wheels

See what a real-life warp-driven starship might look like

The physics behind the warpship is purely theoretical: "Dark energy" needs to be understood and harnessed, plus vast amounts of energy need to be generated, meaning the warpship is a technology that could only be conceived in the far future.

That said, Obousy's warpship design uses our current knowledge of spacetime and superstring theory to arrive at this futuristic concept.

Look familiar? I'm reminded of the hyperspace transport featured in "Contact" (shown below).

Meanwhile, scholar William Henry suggests that the hypothetical "warpship" bears a significant resemblance to the enigmatic "wheels" described by Ezekiel in the Bible.

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Friday, June 12, 2009


Shrinking star puzzles scientists

"We really don't know," said Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes. "It's a puzzle."

Betelgeuse, about 600 light-years away according to NASA, has lost in its radius a distance comparable to the orbit of Venus, according to Townes.

[. . .]

Over the past 15 years, Townes said, Betelgeuse has shrunk in diameter more rapidly each year. It is the first time, using a consistent measuring tool, that scientists have noticed a marked change in the size of the red supergiant, said Berkeley physicist Edward Wishnow, who has studied the star with Townes for three years.

I'm struck by the prospect of an ET civilization engaged in some unguessable act of astro-engineering . . .

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High-octane conspiracy fodder

Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified

For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth's atmosphere -- but no longer.

A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that observations by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and fireballs are classified secret and are not to be released, has learned.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Inflatable beanstalk

Inflatable tower could climb to the edge of space

A "traditional" space elevator.

The tower does a similar job to the much-vaunted space elevator. But while the elevator envisages using ribbons woven from superstrong nanotubes - a material that is as yet non-existent - the tower would use materials that are already available. And should something go wrong with the tower, failure of a few modules would not cause the whole structure to collapse.

This idea appeals to me very much, so I'm all-but-certain that I'm overlooking some fatal flaw. Pros? Cons? Feel free to comment.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Stunning Japanese Moon imagery

Low-altitude video of lunar surface (in HD) (Pink Tentacle)

In its final days before crashing into the surface of the moon on June 11, Japan's KAGUYA explorer has been shooting high-definition footage of the lunar terrain from low altitude.

[. . .]

The KAGUYA probe will end its scientific exploration of the moon with a controlled impact on the lunar surface. The crash, scheduled for 3:30 AM (Japan standard time) on June 11, 2009 (6:30 PM GMT on June 10, 2009), will occur in the shadow on the near side of the moon, at 63 degrees south latitude and 80 degrees east longitude.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

"Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!"

Athena Andreadis has posted an excellent piece on Sentient Developments, lucidly arguing that space exploration and human augmentation are mutually advantageous endeavors.

A brief excerpt:

Yet no matter how palatable the methods and outcomes are, it seems to me that changes to humans will be inevitable if we ever want to go beyond the orbit of Pluto within one lifetime. Successful implementation of transhumanist techniques will help overcome the immense distances and inhospitable conditions of the journey. The undertaking will also bring about something that naysayers tend to dread as a danger: speciation. Any significant changes to human physiology (whether genetic or epigenetic) will change the thought/emotion processes of those altered, which will in turn modify their cultural responses, including mating preferences and kinship patterns.

Andreadis' proposal reminds me of speculation that the so-called "Grays" that play such a pivotal role in the modern UFO mythos are in fact genetically engineered for space travel. With its small, streamlined frame, the anatomy of a prototypical Gray might be ideal for long space voyages; if we chose to send a "generation ark" to a nearby star, we might very well design our astronauts along similar lines.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mars animation

Here's a vision of the future of Mars exploration I can live with. Note the alien ruins (?) near the end.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of perchlorates and Martians

More Researchers Say Liquid Water Present on Mars Now

Some salts, like perchlorates, lower the freezing point substantially. It turns out that the temperature for the liquid phase of magnesium perchlorate -- 206 degrees Kelvin -- is a temperature found on Mars at the Phoenix landing site. Based on temperature findings from the Phoenix lander, conditions would allow this perchlorate solution to be present in liquid form for a few hours each day during the summer.

"The window for liquid is very small," Hanley said. Nevertheless, this finding further supports the possibility of finding life on Mars.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today's word is "von Neumann."

Two fascinating perspectives:

Growing the Interstellar Probe (Centauri Dreams)

Freitas later turned to nanotech ideas in advocating a probe more or less the size of a sewing needle, with a millimeter-wide body and enough nanotechnology onboard to activate assemblers on the surface of whatever object it happened to find in the destination system.

Now we're looking at a biological variant of this concept that could, if extended, be turned to self-replication. Rothemund says that he wants to write molecular programs that can build technology. A probe built along these lines could use local materials to create the kind of macro-scale objects needed to form a research station around another star, the kind of equipment we once envisioned boosting all the light years to our target. How much simpler if we can build the needed tools when we arrive?

Are Von Neumann Probes Ethical? (Chris Wren)

Von Neumann probes would be small, self-replicating robots. Small, easy to manufacture in large numbers and because of their low mass, easy to accelerate t

We're still grappling with the ethics - and unforeseen consequences - involved with releasing genetically modified strains of crops into the environment. There are always unforeseen consequences with any technology. The more sophisticated the technology, the more extensive and impossible to foresee those consequences are certain to be.

Would a more advanced civilization, if they were also more ethically developed than we are (not hard to imagine) consider von Neumann probes a form of cancer and take steps to eradicate them? Worse, would they take punitive measures against any civilization irresponsible enough to set them loose?"

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

A matter of perspective

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

(Hat tip: The Teleomorph.)

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Have we detected an extraterrestrial signal?

SETI Picks Up Regular Laser Pulse Emanating From Space

Several years ago Bhathal, a researcher at the University of Western Sydney, suggested that a likely form of extraterrestrial communication would be laser bursts. He set up a facility at his lab which sweeps a nearby volume of space, within about 100 light years, for laser bursts that come in a regular pattern. Any kind of communication would likely be distinguished from background noise by coming in repeated or non-random patterns.

And a few months ago, Bhathal found the kind of regular pattern he's been looking for. He's been analyzing it and seeking a repeat pattern in the same area of space ever since. Though he's cautious about claiming it as a genuine extraterrestrial signal, his discovery has been making local news.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What's in store?

Kepler Observations Begin (Centauri Dreams)

Expect the first discoveries to be gas giants close to their stars, easiest to spot and confirm using Kepler's transit methods. Then things get even more interesting. This is a mission that should be able to find terrestrial worlds in the ultimate sense; i.e., planets that not only approximate ours in size but are also roughly at the distance required for liquid water to exist at the surface. We still call that distance the 'habitable zone' even though it's becoming clear, as witness the case around Jupiter, that tidal forces can provide immense energies that could extend a different kind of habitable zone much farther from its star.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lunar swarmbots

Italy Aims to Send Spider-Bot Swarm to Moon

The idea to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize crystallized around the vision of Alberto Rovetta, a professor of robot mechanics at Politecnico di Milano. Rovetta's designs for lunar robots resemble skittering spiders or crabs that could deploy as a swarm of mobile cameras and sensors on both legs and wheels.

Such unorthodox designs may help the team seize the Google Lunar X Prize, which requires teams to land a robot on the moon, move at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) and beam high definition views back to Earth.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My pad or yours?

10 fantastic green cities of the future

Scouring the Web, we found the 10 best examples of green future cities from design visionaries, each one encompassing innovative and sustainable construction techniques, green energy technology, and creativity from your wildest dreams.

Plus one more you might have missed.

Irrationally, part of me still prefers the black, rainy streets of "Blade Runner."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mars and the probability of life

Life Beyond Earth in 10 Years or Less?

Peter Smith feels pretty certain we'll be finding life on Mars within the next decade.

Smith, the University of Arizona professor who led NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission, made his predictions to a spellbound audience during a lecture at the University of Delaware earlier this month, and he discussed his ideas by phone on Thursday. He carries a "sense of optimism" about finding life on Mars, he said, because of the tantalizing clues Phoenix sent to Earth.

[. . .]

"I think the next decade is a very active time for searching for signatures on Mars," he said, "and my personal belief is we'll find them."

I'll make an even bolder statement: If we haven't conclusively established the presence of life on Mars within the next decade it won't be because it's not there; it will simply indicate that we're not trying hard enough.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are they accepting colonists yet?

Lightest exoplanet yet discovered

Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, "e", in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist. These amazing discoveries are the outcome of more than four years of observations using the most successful low-mass-exoplanet hunter in the world, the HARPS spectrograph attached to the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at La Silla, Chile.

Monday, April 20, 2009

We shall see.

PG&E Announces Solar Power From Space By 2016

The project is expected to cost around $2 billion, which will mainly go towards the R&D of the base station and launching the satellites. SolarEn CEO Gary Spirnak has complete confidence in the concept and the company's ability to develop this system. In fact, he projects that they will be able to generate 1.2 to 4.8 gigawatts of power at a price that is comparable to other forms of renewable energy. PG&E is also committed to the idea and has entered into a 15 year contract with SolarEn to produce enough power for 250,000 homes.

Ashes to ashes

Ancient Solar Systems Found Around Dead Stars

A team of astronomers have found evidence that between 1-3 percent of white dwarf stars are orbited by rocky planets and asteroids, suggesting these objects once hosted solar systems similar to our own. White dwarf stars are the compact, hot remnants left behind when stars like our Sun reach the end of their lives. Using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers have determined that asteroids are found in orbit around a large number of white dwarfs, perhaps as many as 5 million in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The hunt is on.

Planet-Hunting Spacecraft Beams Home First Images

The planet-seeking Kepler spacecraft has beamed home its first images of a patch of the sky where NASA hopes to find Earth-like planets circling distant, alien stars.

Some 14 million stars are estimated to lurk within the first views from Kepler, which NASA released Thursday. The images reveal a swath of stars between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra that fill an expansive area of our Milky Way galaxy which, when seen from Earth, is about the size of human hand held up against the night sky at arm's length.