Friday, October 31, 2014

Early Water

Analysis of meteorites that originated on the asteroid Vesta suggests water existed in this solar system 135 million years sooner than previously thought.

The finding suggests theories on planetary formation may need tweaking.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Media Hype

THE CBS EVENING NEWS yesterday, in coverage of the Antares rocket explosion, asked whether that accident may mark the end of NASA's use of commercial launch services.

It won't.  The commercial launch sector, accidents notwithstanding, continues to develop.  NASA has contracted with two of those firms, Orbital Sciences and SpaceX, to supply ISS.  NASA lacks the money to develop its own family of rockets, and Congress is not about to fund such a program.

CBS News, unfortunately, chose easy hype over laying out the factual situation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Antares Explodes

An Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket exploded during launch yesterday.  No one was injured.  The flight was to carry cargo to ISS.

Also on board was the first asteroid probe of Deep Space Industries.  DSI plans to assay and eventually mine asteroids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Titan's Methane Cloud

Scientists using Cassini data have identified a methane cloud in the upper atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where they didn't expect such clouds to be.

They are piecing together a circulatory system in Titan's atmosphere similar to the one in Earth's atmosphere, even though Titan is much colder and, therefore, different elements are involved.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Landing Falcon 9

Elon Musk says that after the next launch of the Falcon 9, now scheduled for December, SpaceX will attempt to softly land the rocket on a platform in the Atlantic.

It's the next step towards creating a reusable rocket.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gravvitational Waves

Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts gravitational waves rippling through spacetime, but science hasn't yet detected them.

That might change soon.  Such waves might make stars brighter than they should be as the wave passes through, and the next generation of research telescopes might be able to see that.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Aldrin On Mars

Buzz Aldrin, at a MIT conference, said sending people to Mars and leaving them there at least until some critical mass of personnel is reached makes sense.

Others disagreed.  Clearly, settling Mars will test, and perhaps alter, how we view ourselves.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beta Pictorris Comets

Astronomers have detected swarms of comets orbiting the young star Beta Pictoris, which is 63 light years away.

The situation there is similar to the one in our system, suggesting the processes involved are common throughout the universe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Moon Launch For China

China may be launching its next robotic mission to the Moon Thursday.

This one will feature a capsule that will re-enter Earth's atmosphere at high speed in preparation for a sample return mission.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ten Thousand Years

Climate change aside, many Earth scientists think long-term climate patterns say the planet will plunge into another ice age in about ten thousand years.

That's good to keep in mind when hunting ET.  Planetary climates are likely cyclical.  Because a planet can't support life now doesn't necessarily mean it hasn't in the past or won't in the future.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Comet Siding-Spring

Comet Siding-Spring, on its first visit to the inner Solar System from the Oort Cloud, whizzed past Mars yesterday, missing the planet by only 87,000 miles.

All the probes now at Mars were focused on observing the comet.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


The USAF's secretive unmanned spaceplane, the X-37B, landed uneventfully in California yesterday after a 674 day mission.

Exactly what, if anything, was accomplished during the mission is classified.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cassini Zapped

The Cassini spacecraft was zapped by a beam of electrons which emanated from Saturn's moon Hyperion recently.  The beam resulted from an interaction between static electricity on Hyperion and Saturn's magnetosphere.

Cassini was not damaged.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Maybe Not, Mars One

A study by MIT students finds several aspects of the Mars One plan to colonize Mars need strengthening if the colonists are to survive.

Mars One, citing aerospace industry experts, stands by its plan.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The formal science mission of NASA's MAVEN probe won't begin for two weeks. but scientists calibrating its instruments are already getting "tantalizing" data about Mars' upper atmosphere.

MAVEN will also observe a comet's close approach to Mars on October 19.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hot Times Inside Luna

A new study of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images finds lava may have flowed on the Moon much more recently than previously thought-- perhaps only tens of millions of years ago instead of 3.5 billion.

That would mean the interior of the Moon remained hot and active into recent times, not the dead world we thought we knew.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Building Civilizations

Yesterday marked the 522nd anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World, as Europeans dubbed the lands between them and Asia, sailing west.  At the time, this area was home to a wide array of cultures and societies, many if not all of which were linked together by trade.  At least a couple of those may have approached ancient Rome in sophistication and vision.

Unfortunately for them, their technology probably wasn't quite on the level of ancient Rome, which meant they were no match for their European visitors in that regard.  Fewer than 400 years after Columbus-- an eye blink in the history of Earth-- the most powerful industrial nation in the world was in North America, stretching from sea to shining sea.

An awful lot can happen awfully quickly.  Those who argue against expanding into space should keep that in mind.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

God And ETs

People wonder how the discovery of alien life would affect human religions.  A recent poll suggests people of different faiths view the matter differently.  Perhaps surprisingly, more Muslims say they believe alien life exists than do Christians.  Perhaps not surprisingly, young faiths, like Mormonism, seem to embrace aliens more readily than older religions.

This might be like battle plans that don't survive first contact with the enemy.  We can talk about religion and ETs all we want, but when that first contact finally comes, all bets will likely be off.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tentacle Robot

NASA is looking at developing robots with appendages like elephant trunks or octopus arms to aid in space exploration.  Such arms could snake into rock crevices, for example, or inspect the outsides of spaceships for micrometeoroid pits.

Researchers expect to have intelligent robots with such capabilities within a decade.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

NASA And Lunar Water

NASA is looking at two separate missions-- one orbiter and one rover-- that would seek to map the Moon's water resources and determine how accessible they are.

Both missions would launch later this decade.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lunar Water

A new study finds that most of the water on the Moon didn't come from water-rich bodies smacking into the lunar surface.  It came from the solar wind.

The solar wind shoots out hydrogen atoms, and some of those hit the Moon where they interact with oxygen atoms in the rocks to create water.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bigelow To Fly

An expandable module from Bigelow Aerospace is set to be attached to ISS next year.  NASA will evaluate the module for two years.

BA plans to use its inflatable module technology to build space stations, orbiting hotels, and bases on other worlds.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Uranus' small moon Miranda sports a wild jumble of surface features on the one hemisphere we've been able to see so far, as if it were made from parts of different worlds.

A new study based on computer modeling suggests the powerful gravity of Uranus is the sculptor, pulling and stretching and heating the rock and ice of Miranda to produce the fantastic terrain.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Today marks the 57th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, which is generally considered the birth of the Space Age.

It's also the 10th anniversary of SpaceShipOne winning the Ansari X-Prize, which suggested the commercial space age was just around the corner.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Delta 4 Heavy

A Delta 4 Heavy, the most powerful rocket in use today, is now sitting on a KSC launch pad, waiting to be mated to the Orion capsule it will throw into space.

The test flight, Orion's first, is scheduled for December 4.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lunar Rift Zones

A team working with data from NASA's GRAIL probes has found that the Moon has rift zones much like Earth, Venus, and Mars.

The finding suggests the Moon was much more geologically active than previously thought and demands a rethinking of lunar and planetary formation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

India, NASA Join Hands

NASA and India have agreed to cooperate in space, specifically in Mars exploration and in studying the effects of climate change on Earth.

The cooperation under these agreements could begin at Mars with the current missions of India's MOM and NASA's MAVEN probes.