Thursday, December 31, 2015

Speeding Up NASA

In a report accompanying the recent spending bill, Congress directs NASA to speed up development of a deep space habitat module.

Such a module is key for missions to Mars, for example.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Europe To The Moon

Europe is building international momentum and relationships to support establishing a manned base on the Moon.

The plan calls for human missions in the early 2020s and a base in the 2030s.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


The British Skylon spaceplane, designed to take off and land like a conventional aircraft while still reaching low Earth orbit, is on track for unmanned test flights starting in 2025.

The project could revolutionize both space travel and long-distance air travel.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Billion Dollae Success

The new STAR WARS movie has taken in a billion dollars faster than any other film.

There's probably plenty more in the pot, too.  It opens in China January 6.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Finding More Earths

Astronomers have found a rocky world a few times more massive than Earth orbiting a low-mass star that has a low metals content-- a bit of a surprise.

It suggests Earth-like worlds may be more common than thought.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Star of Bethlehem

It's a Christmas tradition that some astronomer tries to explain what the Star of Bethlehem actually might have been.  That sort of misses the point.

The point of the story is that the Star heralded a special birth.  It was a supernatural, not a natural, object.  As such, it is outside the realm of astronomy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Iffy InSight

The InSight mission to Mars, scheduled to launch next year, has been delayed and may be cancelled due to equipment failure.

NASA says the problem won't affect its overall Mars plans.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SpaceX Success

SpaceX successfully soft-landed a rocket booster on land after it launched six small satellites into orbit yesterday.  Blue Origins recently accomplished the same feat on a suborbital flight.

The era of reusable rockets is dawning.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Force Awakens

The new STAR WARS movie took in over half a billion dollars in box office worldwide it first weekend, a record, making Mickey a very happy mouse.

Disney plans to release a new movie in the franchise annually through 2020.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Martian Methane

Two years ago, the Curiosity rover rolled into an outburst of methane on Mars.  Methane can have either nonbiological or biological origins, so its discovery caused a real stir.

Studies since tend to support a nonbiological explanation, but life has not been ruled out.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wolf 1061

Wolf 1061 is a red dwarf only 14 light years away.  Orbiting it, in its habitable zone, is a world only four times more massive than Earth.

Because of its proximity, NASA plans to study that world closely for possible signs of life.;

Thursday, December 17, 2015

NASA Money

NASA stands to get $19.2 billion in the federal budget currently going through Congress.

It's an increase over recent years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Weakening Plumes

The geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus are less active than they were when discovered in 2005-- down 30 to 50 percent.

Scientists don't know why.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Water On Hot Jupiters

Hot Jupiters have been seen as oddly dry, but a new study suggests water on those worlds exists as vapor in clouds rather than as liquid.

Such worlds are far too hot to support life.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dwarf Flares

Astronomers have found a red dwarf star 35 light years away emits flares 10,000 times more powerful than the Sin does.

If red dwarfs generally do that, it will limit their ability to support life.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Star Storm

Astronomers using the Kepler spacecraft and the Spitzer Space Telescope have found a huge storm in the upper atmosphere of a brown dwarf.

The storm looks to be similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Checking Kepler

A new study suggests that over half of the bigger exoplanet candidates found by NASA's Kepler probe are in fact stars or brown dwarfs.

Scientists are confident, however, that a much higher percentage of the smaller, Earth-like candidates will be confirmed.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

No Laser Signal

No laser signal from the "alien megastructire" star pointed this way has been detected so far.

Of course, there's no obvious reason such a signal would be aimed at Earth. but the case for a civilization around that star is weakening.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ceres' Bright Spots

The best current explanation of the mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres, according to a new study, seems to be that they are deposits of salt-- Epsom salt, to be precise.

Ceres also seems to have huge reserves of water underground.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Astronomers have found the earliest galaxy yet, one that existed 13 billion years ago.  They've christened it Tayna.

Tayna existed only about 400 million years after the Big Bang, further evidence that the universe organized under current physical laws fairly quickly.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cygnus Success

Orbital Science's Cygnus cargo vehicle successfully launched on a resupply mission to ISS atop atop an Atlas rocket yesterday.

The company is still working to get its Antares launcher operational again.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hawaii Delay

The Hawaii Supreme Court has intervened in the struggle to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, further delaying the project.

Native Hawaiian groups are opposing the construction on religious grounds, saying the volcano is sacred to them.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cygnus Return

The private Cygnus cargo vessel is set to return to flight for the first time since October 2014 when its Antares rocket blew up.

Until Antares is operational again, Cygnus will be riding an Atlas 4.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Landing On Land

A NASA official says SpaceX will try to soft-land its booster back at Cape Canaveral after its next launch.  Previously, the company has tried to land boosters on barges in the ocean, with limited success.

Blue Origin successfully soft-landed a booster on land just recently.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

China In Space

A new American study suggests China will rival the U. S. in space in the years ahead.

According to the study, China sees space as critical both economically and militarily.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Supersonic Flight

NASA is looking at ways to quiet sonic booms of supersonic aircraft to allow the resumption of supersonic commercial flights over land.

Initial results are encouraging.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Alien Megastructure

A new study of the oddly dimming star found by the Kepler spacecraft suggests the dimming may be due to comets passing between us and the star.

The study could not rule out a huge structure orbiting the star, however.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Profits From Space

President Obama has signed the 2015 Commercial Space Act into law, thus allowing American companies to use extraterrestrial resources to make profits from space.

Some have compared this law in importance to the 1862 Homestead Act, which opened the American West to settlement.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Golden Dozen

So far, using Kepler data, scientists have found roughly a dozen worlds similar in size to Earth that orbit within their stars' habitable zones.

That increases the odds that we are not alone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rings Of Mars

In a few tens of millions of years, Mars might have rings like Saturn has now.

The tiny moon Phobos is slowly spiraling closer to Mars, and a new study suggests that Mars' gravity will ultimately break Phobos apart, and a ring will form.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Major Blue Origin Success

Blue Origin accomplished a major milestone in the opening of space yesterday.  Launching from its site in Texas, a rocket successfully completed its mission, and was flown back to the site and landed softly and upright, allowing it to be used again.

Reusable launchers are a major key to lowering the cost of access to space.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Manned Dragon

NASA has given Space-X the go ahead to proceed with the first manned launch of its Dragon capsule.

The first manned flight is scheduled for sometime in 2017.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Surface Water On Mars

A new study suggests liquid water could exist for some period of time on the surface of Mars today, given the right local circumstances.

That has implications for both extant Martian life and eventual human colonization.

Friday, November 20, 2015


This month marks the one hundredth anniversary of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which completely changed our concepts of space, time, and the nature of the universe.

Relativity has been tested numerous times in various experiments over that century, and each time has been confirmed with precision.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Titanic Cloud

A huge ice cloud has formed over the south pole of Saturn's moon, Titan.

The cloud indicates the winter there will be even colder than scientists had predicted.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kepler 438b

Kepler 438b is one of the most Earth-like exoplanets yet found, but a new study suggests it may not be able to support life.

It closely orbits a red dwarf which may periodically eject mass from its corona.  Such flying mass could strip away the world's atmosphere.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Legal Step Forward

Congress has passed the 2015 U. S. Commercial Space Act, which, among other things, gives private companies legal claim to extraterrestrial resources, thus beginning to establish a legal framework supporting asteroid mining, lunar settlement, etc.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Opportunity Update

Just to note, NASA's rover Opportunity is still actively exploring Mars.

Opportunity has been at it for over a decade on a mission scheduled to last 90 days-- a remarkable achievement.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Earth's Volatiles

A new study of the collision that created the Moon suggests Earth would have retained the volatiles, including water.

Of course, we now think the Moon has a fairly substantial amount of water, but that could have come later, in impacts of comets and asteroids.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Way Out There

Astronomers have found an object half the size of Pluto that is two or three times more distant than Pluto.

That puts the object along the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, the realm of comets that may potentially stretch halfway to the next star.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


GJ1132b is a world that orbits a tiny M-type star 39 light years away. It is only slightly more massive than Earth.

Though it might be more similar to Venus because of its proximity to its star, GJ1132b is the closest thing to Earth yet found.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pluto's Moons

Pluto has five known moons.  The largest, Charon, is tidally locked to Pluto, which is fairly normal, but the other four tiny ones have wildly different spin rates, axial tilts, and even shapes.

Likely, those bodies were captured by Pluto-Charon, perhaps recently, but scientists are still working the problem.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mountaiins On Pluto

The New Horizons probe imaged two mountains that tower 4 miles above the surface of Pluto.

They bear a strong resemblance to Earthly shield volcanoes, which suggests they may be ice volcanoes.

Monday, November 9, 2015


NASA is looking at a new deep space propulsion system called the e-sail in which miles-long, positively charged wires, half the width of a human hair, interact with the solar wind to push probes to enormous speeds.  E-sails could allow missions to the outer Solar System to be completed in less than a decade.

NASA should know in a year or two whether the system is actually viable.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

No Alien Signals

The SETI Institute has been listening to a star some thought might have a huge structure orbiting it.  After two weeks, no alien signals have been picked up.

Observations will continue.  The fundamental question is interesting: Is an unlikely natural explanation more likely to be the correct answer than a plausible unnatural one?

Friday, November 6, 2015


Scientists using data from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft think early Mars was a warm, wet world that lost most of its atmosphere to space due to a shutdown of its protective magnetic field and a Sun that was much more active than it is today.

They did not rule out the possibility that life could have arisen on Mars.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Astronauts Wanted

NASA will be taking applications for its next astronaut class between December and February.

There are currently 47 NASA astronauts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Asteroids And Life

Researchers studying lunar impact craters have found evidence suggesting there were fewer giant asteroids in the early Solar System than there are today.

That, in turns, means there were fewer chances of a single collision ending all life on Earth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Trek Returns To TV

Another STAR TREK television series is set to premiere in Janiary, 2017.  The first series debuted in 1966.

The first episode of the new series will air on CBS, while the subsequent episodes will run on CBS Air Access.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Movie Stuff

THE MARTIAN was the top box office draw last weekend, four weeks after its release.

So far, it has taken in over $180 million.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Virgin Turning Corner

A year ago, Virgin Galactic lost its SpaceShipTwo in an accident that killed one pilot,

VG is moving on, however.  It has nearly completed a new SpaceShipTwo, and it is developing LauncherOne, a rocket that will deliver small satellites to orbit at low cost.  It's also working with DARPA to develop the XS-1, a reusable spaceplane.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Molecular Oxygen In Comets

The Rosetta spacecraft has found molecular oxygen in the comet it's studying.

Since oxygen is so reactive, that's a surprise.  Our picture of the early Solar System may have to change.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Close To Ceres

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is backing into it's final orbit, 230 miles out from the dwarf planet Ceres.

From there, the probe will gather its most detailed data, hopefully explaining mysteries like Ceres' two bright spots.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alien Megastructure

Astronomers are confident they'll be able to determine whether a huge structure orbits a star 1,500 light years away by observing the next dimming event.

Now, we wait.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Ford reports revenues of $35.6 billion last quarter.

NASA's annual budget is $18 billion.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pricey Tick Tock

A wristwatch worn on the Moon by David Scott during the Apollo 15 mission sold at auction for $1.6 million last week.

It was Scott's personal watch.  His NASA-issued watch broke.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Life On Earth

Scientists studying nearby comets and the proto-planetary disks of distant stars suggest the basic ingredients of life were on Earth from the beginning.

That, in turn, suggests they have been present on many worlds.

Friday, October 23, 2015

2015 TB145

The asteroid 2015 TB145 will zip past Earth Halloween night just beyond the Moon's orbit.  It's the latest exhibit in the case for a planetary defense capability.

Judging by its orbit, this asteroid might actually be a comet.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Exoplanet Gobbling

Astronomers are now watching a white dwarf 520 light years away dismantling a small world in orbit about it, using the star's powerful gravity.

The whole process should take about a million years.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crust Porosity And Life

Scientists think life may have arisen on Earth in subsurface niches created by the pounding of the planet by comets and asteroids during the Late Heavy Bombardment.

Studying the lunar crust, therefore, might tell us something about how life begins.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


THE MARTIAN is a terrific sci-fi flick.  The depiction of spaceflight is remarkable.

It's worth the ticket price.

Monday, October 19, 2015

ATA On The Case

The SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array is now scanning the star system that could conceivably contain an alien megastructure, searching for possible intelligent radio signals.

The leading explanation for the odd set of transits documented by the Kepler spacecraft is a clump of giant comets, but the alien option must be ruled out, if possible.  ATA won't do that, of course-- the absence of radio signals would not mean a structure is not there-- but the discovery of signals would be quite something.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Lunar Fueling

A new study argues  Mars-bound manned ships should be launched from Earth basically without fuel.  The ship would fly to a fuel depot at a Lagrange point in the Earth-Moon system to be fueled for the trip to Mars using rocket fuel processed from lunar water.

The idea is to lower the cost of launching from Earth by reducing the mass launched.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Possibly Alien

The Kepler spacecraft has detected an unusual pattern of transits across the disk of a star 1,500 light years away.  It's an F-type star, so slightly larger than the Sun.  So far, astronomers have been unable to imagine a natural explanation.  The spacecraft instruments check out.

Is there, therefore, an artificial explanation?  Could a huge structure built by an advanced civilization be orbiting that star?  SETI researchers have been called in to listen for possible radio signals coming from that star.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

China's Space Station

China is looking for international partners to be involved with its space station program.  The station will be able to accommodate up to three foreign modules.;

China plans to have the station operational around 2022.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


JPMorgan announced revenues today for the latest quarter of $23.5 billion.  That's for three months.

NASA's annual budget is right at $18 billion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Habitability Index

A new study has developed a habitability index to rank the potential of alien worlds to support life.

The index takes various factors into account, not just the distance of the planet from its parent star.  It will also become more useful the more we learn.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser spacecraft will resume test flights next year.

Dream Chaser has both an orbital and a suborbital version.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gale Lakes

A new study suggests lakes of water existed for extended periods early on in Gale Crater on Mars, improving the odds that life could have developed and survived for perhaps tens of millions of years.

The study uses data gathered by the Curiosity rover as it has traversed the floor of Gale.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Reaching Mars

NASA plans to put astronauts on Mars in the 2030s by testing technologies and techniques in cislunar space in the 2020s.

The testing will include an asteroid rendezvous mission.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Double Base

In the early phase of settling the Moon, pairing a public, government-run base with a private, commercial base nearby might make sense.

Such an approach would increase safety for astronauts, allow joint projects, and expand the human economy into space in a major way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Aldrin On Mars

Buzz Aldrin, who is 85 now, is teaming with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop a plan to put humans on Mars by 2040.  His strategy involves first establishing a base on one of Mars' two tiny moons.

Aldrin was also instrumental in developing the docking in space approach used by Apollo to reach the Moon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ballooning To Space

World View, an Arizona-based company, is planning to offer tourists flights to 100,000 meters altitude in a gondola under a huge helium balloon starting in 2017.

Passengers will spend about two hours at altitude, where they can see the blackness of space and the curvature of Earth.  The pressurized gondola is classified by the FAA as a spacecraft.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Big Pay Day

THE MARTIAN took in an estimated $55 million at the box office this past weekend, making it the second biggest October opening ever.

The all-time champ is still another space themed movie, GRAVITY.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Private Moon Landing

Moon Express, a California-based company dedicated to opening the Moon to private activity, is planning the first private lunar landing for 2017.

If all goes well with the first mission, the next mission could possibly be a sample return.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oxygen As Biomarker

Scientists have considered free oxygen in the atmosphere of a planet to be a sign of life.  New research, however, establishes oxygen could be maintained nonbiologically.

So, to use oxygen as a bionarker, it must be in the right context.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Martian

The movie version of the novel THE MARTIAN opens in theatres this weekend.

The novel tells a great story of survival against all odds, and the movie, starring Matt Damon, promises to be compelling.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wet Mars

NASA says the discovery of flowing water on Mars makes the manned exploration of the planet a bit easier.

The space agency is looking at putting humans on Mars in the 2030s.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Complex Saturn

Researchers are discovering they can use waves propagating through the rings of Saturn to study the interior of the planet.

Not surprisingly, they're finding that interior is more complex than previously thought.  The universe is like that.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Flowing Water On Mars

NASA has announced that salty water, or brine, flows on the surface of Mars during the warmer season.

That kind of water is not conducive to life, but it's still a major discovery.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Finding Gravity Waves

Albert Einstein predicted gravity waves, but researchers have not yet been able to confirm their existence.

Physicists have thought they could do that by studying two black holes in orbit about each other, but a new paper suggests any gravity waves in that situation would be milder than previously thought, making their detection more difficult.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Huge Black Hole

Researchers have found a black hole 350 million times as massive as the Sun-- far too big, current theory says, for the galaxy it's in.

Of course, it is there, which means current theory is inadequate.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sun Melts Ice

A new study finds that when comets swing close to the Sun the heat sublimates away ice on the comet's surface, and when that surface goes into shadow, water ice from the interior can replenish the surface ice.  Presumably, for periodic comets, the cycle can continue over eons, until the ice reserve is essentially gone.

The finding might not be surprising, but confirmation is good in science.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mars' Dark Streaks

Dark streaks appear on slopes in the mid- and low-latitudes of Mars during the warmer seasons.  Scientists speculate they might be associated with running water, and, therefore, possible sites for life.

How to approach them is at issue.  Should they be explored, or protected from possible contamination?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Saturn's Hexagon

The huge, long-lasting, hexagon-shaped storm atop Saturn's north pole may have a fairly simple explanation, a new study finds.

Computer simulations suggest jet stream winds at the level of the storm shape it while powerful winds deeper in the atmosphere hold it in place.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Finding :Life

NASA's main goal at the moment is finding life beyond Earth.  The agency thinks that would change everything in how humans view ourselves and our place in the universe.

One problem, though, is that biologists have no clean definition of exactly what life is.  It's an example of how exploring space will push us to think more carefully and more deeply.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Powering A Mars Base

A Mars base housing 6 to 8 astronauts will likely be powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or RTG, a larger version of the nuclear plant currently powering the Curiosity rover.

NASA is making good progress on the larger version.

Friday, September 18, 2015

No Technological Civilizations

Two teams studying nearby galaxies have failed to find any evidence of advanced technological civilizations.

It should be noted the studies would not have detected any civilizations on technological par with ours.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


The Square Kilometer Array, a global network of radio telescopes to begin operations in 2018, will be a major boost for SETI.

By piggybacking on other research done using SKA, researchers will be able to conduct the most extensive and sensitive SETI program yet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Self-Deployable Habitats

European engineers are working on habitats to be used on the Moon and Mars that will build themselves, with little or no direct human input.

The habitats could also be used as temporary housing in disaster areas on Earth.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos announced this morning that Blue Origin will build rockets in Florida and launch them from Cape Canaveral.

The company will spend $200 million getting set up on the Space Coast.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Space Hub

DARPA, the advanced projects agency of the Pentagon, is proposing a robotic space transportation hub in geosynchronous orbit to repair and refuel spacecraft, among other things.

Such a hub, DARPA argues, would make space operations more efficient and less costly.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


There is water throughout the Solar System, from perpetually shadowed crater floors in the polar regions of Mercury to the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud.  It bodes well for human interplanetary expansion.

Of course, water is also everywhere in the universe, which argues for an abundance of life.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Red Dragon

Researchers say using a modified version of SpaceX' Dragon cargo capsule to fetch a soil sample from Mars is technically feasible.

Red Dragon, as the idea is called, could launch in 2022.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Big Ice

Researchers have discovered a chunk of  water ice just below the surface of Mars that's about 130 feet thick and as large as California and Texas combined.

Quite apart from what that might say about Mars' past, it probably bodes well for the future colonization of the planet,

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Landing On Europa

NASA is considering adding a small, low-cost lander to its 2020s Europa multiple flyby mission.

We should know by the end of this year whether such a lander is viable.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TREK At 49

This night in 1966, STAR TREK premiered on NBC.  It only lasted three seasons on the network.

Little did anyone know then, that the franchise, through various television series, movies, and other media, would become a significant part of American and world popular culture.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Falcon Heavy

SpaceX' Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to fly a demonstration mission next spring.

The Falcon Heavy would be the most powerful American rocket since the legendary Saturn 5 that threw Apollo to the Moon.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


With the arrival of the latest crew on Friday, the ISS currently has nine astronauts on board, the most since November, 2013.

That will last for only about a week, when another crew comes home.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Comet Hitchhiker

NASA is studying a concept called Comet Hitchhiker.  In it, a spacecraft would tether itself to a comet via a miles long tether attached to a harpoon.  Reeling in the tether would store kinetic energy, which could propel the spacecraft to its next target without the use of additional fuel.

Several targets could be visited on a single mission.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tiny Telescopes

A team of European researchers are proposing sending a small telescope, 20 inches across, into space to study nearby Earth-like exoplanets in the infrared.

The telescope would be able to analyze the atmospheres of such worlds, suggesting which might have life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Life Huntiing

NASA is considering launching two missions in the 2020s dedicated to searching for life-- one to Jupiter's moon Europa, and the other to Saturn's moon Enceladus.

The two moons, both well outside the Sun's theoretical habitable zone, are seen as the best bets to support alien life in the Solar System.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


A starshade sits in front of a telescope to block the light from a star, allowing the telescope to directly observe faint worlds that would otherwise be lost in the star's glare.

NASA plans to use starshades in conjunction with its next generation of space telescope to aid in the search for worlds that could support life.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Spreading Life

A new study suggests life could spread through the galaxy in the same pattern germs spread through a population.

The pattern would be the same whether life spread naturally, or was spread by an intelligent race.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Detecting Non-Earth Life

Scientists are trying to develop ways to detect life that is different from terrestrial life on Earth-like exoplanets.  It's proving difficult.

The next generation of NASA space telescope, the James Webb, may be able to detect such alien biosignatures if conditions are perfect.  Otherwise, it might take much longer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sampling Enceladus

A debate has been joined in the scientific community over how to study the prospect of life on Saturn's moon, Enceladus.  Enceladus sports huge geysers that spew contents of its deep oceans into space.  Some scientists want to fly a probe through the geyser plumes, looking for signs of life, while others advocate a more step-by-step exploration program.

The outcome of the debate may determine NASA's approach for decades.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Billionaires For Mars

The Mars One colonization effort seems to be floundering both technologically and financially, so much so the project has recently, openly hoped a billionaire will adopt the project.

So far, it seems, there have been no takers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Private Space Stations

NASA and private industry are working to manage the transition between strictly government facilities in space and a new age in space which will include private manned installations.

The prediction is that there will be private, manned space stations by 2025.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


The CBS Evening News did a report on the space firm PlanetLabs Sunday.  PL is a small company that uses fleets of small satellites to image every part of Earth's surface for various projects.

Network television news rarely covers space stories in any depth, so this report was noteworthy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Plasma Rocket

NASA and the Ad Astra Rocket Company are teaming to test the prototype of AARC's VASIMIR plasma rocket in long duration burns.

VASIMIR holds the promise of cutting flight times of manned missions between Earth and Mars from months to weeks.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Galactic Life

A new study suggests the best place for life in the universe might be in giant, metal-rich galaxies with low rates of star formation.  Such galaxies, many times larger than the Milky Way, could have 10,000 times as many Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of their stars than does our home galaxy.

They could also have a million times more Earth-like moons orbiting gas giants which could also support life.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dark Energy And Dark Matter

Physicists still don't know exactly what dark energy and dark matter are, and recent experiments failed to find either, but they were still useful.

The experiments put boundaries on what dark energy and dark matter could be, allowing physicists to focus their work more precisely.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Constant Gravitational Constant

Researchers studying a pulsar-- the remains of a supernova that now pulses with extraordinary precision-- have shown the gravitational constant is in fact the same everywhere in the universe.

It's one more proof that humans have grasped something of how the universe works-- a remarkable feat when you think about it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Neon On The Moon

Neon has been confirmed as one of the elements of the tenuous lunar atmosphere.

Argon is another element present, and there is some evidence that it comes not from the solar wind, as the neon likely does, but from outgassing of the Moon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bigelow To ISS

Bigelow Aerospace will soon have one of its inflatable modules attached to ISS for a two year technology demonstration mission.

BA intends to use the inflatable module technology to build private space stations as well as bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Kepler 62f

Kepler 62f is a super Earth that orbits on the outer edge of the habitable zone of its parent star.  Researchers say it could harbor life.

The key is carbon dioxide.  If there is carbon dioxide-- or other greenhouse gases-- in the atmosphere, the world might be warm enough to support life.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Squirt Black Hole

The least massive supermassive black hole to date has been found.  It's only 50,000 times as massive as the Sun, though it's taking in matter at about the same rate as its bigger brethren.

Researchers hope studying this black hole will tell us how supermassive black holes evolve.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Great Red Spot

NASA scientists are trying to determine why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is in fact red by reproducing Jupiter's atmosphere and conditions in a lab.

The modeling can only be approximate because Jupiter's atmosphere is so complex, but researchers hope to learn about the whole class of Jovian worlds.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stash And Deploy

Two space manufacturing companies are joining forces to offer a service that will build structures in space, including satellites, using 3D printing technology.  The service is called Stash and Deploy.

The service will support custom designed structures made exclusively for the space environment-- a big step forward.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Researchers studying Saturn's rings have discovered the distribution of variously sized objects within the rings is not random, but rather is governed by a mathematical rule.

Further, they say, the rule is universal. applying to rings everywhere.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Asteroid Mining

Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, predicts it will be mining water on asteroids and turning it into rocket fuel to sell by 2025.

That will be the first business.  After that, PR intends to begin mining industrial metals and precious metals.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Crater Deficient Ceres?

In a preliminary study, scientists have found far fewer craters on Ceres than they'd expected.

A final count might close the gap, but the scarcity of craters will likely still need to be explained.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Plants In Space

Research on plant growth in space has shown that gravity plays less of a role in plant development than previously thought.

That's good news for human space exploration and colonization.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Red Arcs On Tethys

The Cassini spacecraft exploring the Saturn system has imaged odd red arcs on the surface of the moon Tethys.

No one knows yet what the arcs are.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Old Galaxy

Astronomers have found the oldest galaxy yet at 13.2 billion years old, which puts it only 600 million years after the Big Bang.

A galaxy so early wasn't necessarily expected, and needs to be fit into cosmological theory.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Three Years On Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover has now been on Mars for three Earth years.  In that time. it has established that fresh water once flowed on Mars, strengthened the case that life could have existed on Mars, and reached its target destination, Mount Sharp.

Curiosity is now climbing the foothills of that mountain, reading the history of that area in rock layers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

False Positives

Now that we can find exoplanets and will soon be able to study some of their atmospheres in search of biosignatures, or signs of life, scientists are trying to come up will all possible false positive indicators of life.

They live in fear of proclaiming life exists elsewhere in the universe only to have to take it back.

Monday, August 3, 2015


NASA's Dawn spacecraft has found a haze over the curious bright spots on Ceres, suggesting they are ice deposits that are sublimating into space.

Ceres also likely has a substantial amount of water subsurface, some of which may be liquid.  Some researchers think Ceres might be a better bet for supporting life than the moons of the gas giants.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Quickly To The Radio Telescopes

The SETI Institute is already targeting Kepler 452b-- the recently confirmed exoplanet that's the closest thing to Earth yet discovered-- for possible radio signals from alien civilizations.

No signals have yet been found.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rocky World Found

A rocky world just 21 light years away has been found.  It orbits too close to its parent star to be habitable, however.  It's the closest rocky exoplanet yet confirmed.

Closer rocky exoplanets have been reported, including one in the Alpha Centauri system, but none of those has as yet been confirmed.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Asteroid 2011 UW158

Asteroid 2011 UW158 came within 1.5 million miles of Earth July 19, but its biggest claim to fame is that it's estimated to contain $5 trillion worth of platinum.

That amount of hard value, used creatively, could transform the human economy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SpaceShipTwo Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that last October's crash of SpaceShipTwo was due to co-pilot error.

In the crash, the co-pilot was killed, but the pilot ejected and survived.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lunar Base

A new study argues humans could return to the Moon in 5-7 years and a four-person lunar base could be established shortly thereafter at a fraction of NASA's estimated cost if it's done in a public-private partnership that includes several nations.

The key might be the ability to mine lunar hydrogen at a profit.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Neil's Spacesuit

A crowdsourcing campaign has raised $540,000 to refurbish the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the Moon.

The goal is to have the suit in shape for the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pluto's Atmosphere

Scientists have known for a quarter century that Pluto has an atmosphere, but New Horizons has given them the best look at it yet.

Instead of being thin and close to the surface, the atmosphere is substantial enough to support haze and extends one hundred miles above the surface.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Another Mountain Range

New Horizons has revealed another mountain range rising from the icy plains of Pluto.

One range is similar to the Rockies in stature, while the second is closer to the Appalachians.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kepler 452b

Kepler 452b is a world only five times as massive as Earth.  It's 1,400 light years away, and orbits a sun-like star at a distance similar to Earth's distance from the Sun.

It's the world most like Earth yet found.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SETI Boost

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner is teaming with Stephen Hawking, Frank Drake, and others to build the largest SETI project ever.

Hawking has argued we should not broadcast our existence to the universe, but this project will be strictly passive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Returning To The Moon

A new NASA study concludes that building public-private partnerships and new technology could reduce the costs of a lunar base and manned Mars missions by a factor of 10.

Such a reduction could finally open space to settlement.

Monday, July 20, 2015

T Plus 46 Years

Forty-six years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on another world.

Armstrong is gone now, but Aldrin and Michael Collins, command module pilot on Apollo 11, are still going strong.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pluto's Surface

Still early on in the process of receiving images from New Horizons' flyby, Pluto is emerging as a world of amazing features, from a smooth icy plain to a mountain range that rivals the Rockies-- mountains in which water ice plays the role of rock.

Only a tiny percent of the flyby images have been received so far.

Friday, July 17, 2015

HIP 11915

HIP 11915 is an exoplanet similar in size, composition, and distance from its star to Jupiter.  It's the first such world found.

Scientists think small, rocky worlds may also exist in the system, perhaps making it a close analogy to our solar system.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


UnitedHealth announced today it had over $36 billion in revenues last quarter.  In three months, then, one corporation took in double NASA's annual budget.

Just some perspective as we marvel at the close-up images of Pluto.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


By all indications, New Horizons' flyby of Pluto went off without a hitch yesterday.

Now, scientists will spend many years-- even decades-- going over the data.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Closing In

We now know that Pluto has huge, stark cliffs, and Charon has a chasm bigger than our Grand Canyon.

More wonders will undoubtedly be revealed in the coming days.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pluto And Charon

New Horizons is showing Pluto and Charon to be distinctly different worlds.  Pluto appears reddish, with a varied surface, while Charon is gray and more uniform.

Closest approach is tomorrow.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dragon Astronauts

NASA has assigned four veteran astronauts to train in the SpaceX Dragon.

The first test flight of the manned Dragon is scheduled for 2017.  The recent explosion during launch of the company's Falcon 9 rocket, however, may possibly delay that.  The Falcon 9 will launch manned Dragons.

Friday, July 10, 2015


CID-947 is a supermassive black hole-- as massive as 7 billion Suns-- that sits at the center of a normal-sized galaxy.  Accordingly to current theories of galaxy formation, that shouldn't happen.

Explaining CID-947. therefore, could require new theories.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

To The Moon

The push to settle the Moon continues to gain momentum.  The National Space Society has adopted a strategic framework calling for the settlement of  the inner Solar System-- the Moon, asteroids, free space, and Mars-- in a logical sequence to develop technology and economic benefit.

NSS also supports the International Lunar Decade project.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dawn On Hold

The Dawn spacecraft will remain in its current orbit around Ceres until NASA determines what caused it to go into safe mode last week.

Dawn is scheduled to orbit closer and closer to Ceres over the next few months.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Wheels Of Curiosity

The six aluminum wheels of the rover Curiosity are having a tougher time with the terrain of Mars than NASA anticipated.  The wear and tear on the wheels is not critical yet, but it is cause for concern.

NASA is plotting routes for Curiosity over softer ground to save the wheels.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Glitch No Problem

NASA's New Horizons probe experienced a glitch July 4 that sent it into safe mode, but team engineers say the craft will be ready for its Pluto flyby.

That flyby takes place July 14.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

V404 Cygni

V404 Cygni is a system containing one smallish star in a tight orbit around a larger black hole.  The black hole is slowly devouring the star.

Periodically, the system flares as large chunks of the star crash into the black hole.  The latest such flare occurred last month.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Houston Spaceport

The FAA has approved licensing Ellington Airport in Houston as a spaceport.

The  spaceport will handle, for now, only flights that take horizontally.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

No More Hazards At Pluto

The New Horizons probe has found no additional moons of Pluto nor any rings, so the flight should go as planned.

The flyby is set for July 14.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mars Glider

A team of engineers is working on building a one pound glider that would fly in the skies of Mars for perhaps ten minutes, maybe imaging possible sites for manned landings.

The team says the glider could go along on a NASA rover mission to launch in the 2022-2024 period.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


A new study argues that huge exoplanets, several times bigger than Jupiter, could have moons as large as Mars.

Such super Jupiters orbiting in a star's habitable zone would not be good candidates to be the home of civilizations, but big exomoons could be.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Falcon 9 Explosion

SpaceX' Falcon 9 exploded two minutes into its cargo flight to ISS yesterday.

Oddly, it was the third flight to resupply ISS to fail in less than a year, and three separate launchers were involved-- rockets from Orbital Sciences, Russia, and SpaceX.  A common weakness, therefore, seems unlikely.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Closing On Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft is already delivering fantastic images of the Pluto system, among them photos of a dark patch in the polar region of the largest moon, Charon, and others showing a Pluto of an incredible range of terrain types.

Closest approach to Pluto is next month.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Impact Glass

When a meteorite slams into a planet or moon, rock can be melted to form glass.  It's called impact glass.  A new study shows impact glass can preserve traces of life that existed before the meteorite hit.

Scientists are thus suggesting looking for impact glass as a way to look for life on Mars.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nearby Life

Planetary scientist Nathalie Cabrol of the SETI Institute thinks life on Earth may have originated on Mars.  Over three billion years ago, during the Late Heavy Bombardment, she thinks life could have traveled between a warmer, wetter Mars and Earth inside rocks thrown away from their mother worlds.

She also thinks life in the outer Solar System is possible, but it would have a different origin.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Venusian Volcanoes

A new study using data from the ESA's Venus Express spacecraft presents strong evidence that volcanoes on Venus are still erupting.  Localized, discreet hotspots-- even hotter than normal on Venus-- strongly suggests ash is being blown into the air and lava is running on the surface.

A Venus that is still internally active would be a major plus for planetary science.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

More Ceres Spots

The Dawn spacecraft continues to take better images of the bright spots on Ceres, but they remain unexplained.  Ice and salt deposits are the leading candidates.

Dawn has also spotted a mountain three miles high.  Proportionately, given the size difference between Ceres and Earth, that mountain would tower over Everest.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blue Origin

The so far secretive space firm Blue Origin has released a video touting the experience that will be offered by the company's manned capsule that is currently being developed.

The video features two former NASA astronauts.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Towards Europa

NASA is moving ahead with plans to send a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa in the 2020s.

The mission, to be managed by JPL, envisions 45 flybys of Europa over a two year period.

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Horizons

NASA's New Horizons probe continues to close on Pluto prior to its flyby next month.  It's already taking images of unprecedented detail of Pluto and its moons.

After the flyby, the probe will continue into deep space in search of other denizens of the Kuiper Belt.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cold Mars

A new study suggests certain features on Mars today are better explained if Mars was an icy snowball billions of years ago rather than if the early planet was warm and wet, as other researchers have postulated.

The Mars of the new study would obviously be less friendly to life.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Glint Effect

Scientists have determined one good way to search for water oceans on exoplanets is to look for the "glint effect"-- a flash of bright light as light from the parent star bounces off the water surface at just the right angle.

Of course, an ocean of water suggests the possibility of life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Martian Methane

Researchers have found methane, a gas associated with life, inside meteorites that came from Mars.

Methane can be made by geologic activity, so the finding is not proof of life on Mars.  However, it is another indication that life could have existed there.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Philae Calls Home

After seven months of silence, the ESA's Philae comet lander has contacted Earth.

Scientists theorize that since the comet is much closer to the Sun now, Philae's solar panels are gathering more energy to power the craft.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ceres' Bright Spots

The Dawn spacecraft has taken more and better images of the mysterious bright spots on Ceres.  The new images seem to resolve the two bright spots into dozens of smaller spots, but scientists still don't know what they are.

Dawn will get sharper and sharper images as it orbits closer and closer to Ceres.

Friday, June 12, 2015

WASP 142b

WASP 142b, a hot Jupiter that's 1,000 light years away, will always have the distinction of being the first exoplanet discovered by a teenager.

Tom Wagg, an English schoolboy, made the discovery two years ago, at age 15.  The existence of WASP 142b has recently been confirmed.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mexico To The Moon

Mexico has contacted with the small commercial firm Astrobotics to put a Mexican payload on the Moon.

The deal could be the first of many in which nations pursue space goals through the use of private companies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Airbus Looks Ahead

Airbus, the European aerospace giant, is looking at developing reusable rockets and space tugs.

Those would be steps towards building cislunar infrastructure that would support both a lunar base project and Mars exploration.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Exploring Europa

NASA is looking at not just a single mission to Europa in the 2020s, but a series of missions thereafter, including a landing, and possibly a penetration of the icy surface to probe the ocean below.

Some astrobiologists think Europa might be the best place to look for life beyond Earth in the Solar System.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Solar Sail Deployed

The Planetary Society's LightSail mission, after a rough start, has finally deployed its solar sail.

Solar sails, riding the solar wind, will allow interplanetary travel without the use of rockets.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pyongyang Space

North Korea recently announced it is developing a new Earth observation satellite.

The U. S., among other nations, is skeptical of Pyongyang's space program, seeing it as a cover for the development of ICBMs.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mission Control

Mission Control in Houston is 50 years old this week, and plans are underway to restore it to its Apollo-era heyday.  It was decommissioned in 1992.

The goal is to have it ready for public tours by 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Proving Grounds

NASA is currently quietly planning a series of manned missions in the 2020s in cislunar space to act as "proving grounds" for technology that will take humans to Mars.

The idea includes asking international and commercial partners to participate in the missions.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ed White

Fifty years ago today, Ed White became the first American to walk in space.

He did it only three months after Alexei Leonov became the first human to walk in space-- an indication that the Americans were quickly closing the early Soviet lead in manned spaceflight.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Faster To Mars

NASA Chief Charles Bolden said recently that he wants to cut the time it takes astronauts to reach Mars in half.  That would cut down on the radiation astronauts would be exposed to, and cut the food, water, etc., needed to carry out the mission.

Nuclear rockets, for instance, could achieve the necessary speed, but many people oppose them on largely political grounds.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Boeing Wins Contract

Boeing has been awarded the first NASA contract to service ISS with a private, manned spacecraft, its CST-100.

SpaceX is expected to get a similar contract later this year for its Dragon capsule.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Big Cycle

The universe supposedly started with the Big Bang, but that begs the questions-- what was before the Bang, and what caused the Bang?  Some physicists argue those questions have no meaning, but others, including Einstein, have proposed variations on the cyclic universe theory-- that the universe expands and contracts, crunches and bangs, in a cycle that goes on forever.

Science, in fact, has no idea as yet how the universe began.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Missile Defense

Given the dangerous situation in the Middle East, which could shortly involve ICBMs from Iran capable of reaching Europe and America, the U. S. House is debating strengthening the nation's missile defense capability.

The Armed Services Committee has voted to allocate money to develop a multi-object kill vehicle, which could take out multiple incoming warheads with a single American launch.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Salty Water On Mars

There is some indication that salty water may flow down slopes on Mars during warmer times.  Aquafirs might even exist today.

Such places would be obvious early targets in the search for life, but some scientists caution against going to them with rovers for fear of contaminating them with Earth microbes.  It's an interesting problem that will need to be addressed soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Market For SpaceX

The U. S. Air Force has certified that SpaceX is eligible to compete for contracts to launch military and spy satellites.

That opens a lucrative new market for the company as it continues to challenge the Boeings of the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Solar Sails

Assuming all goes as planned, The Planetary Society will soon be launching a solar sail into space.  It will largely be a technology demonstration flight, proving concepts and showing solar sails are in fact practical in space.

Solar sails ride the solar wind much as sails on boats ride Earth's winds.  They could be useful propulsion systems for deep space cargo flights, for example.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Martian Methane

NASA probes have detected methane in Mars' atmosphere a few times over the decades.  Methane would suggest Mars is alive-- biologically, geologically, or both.

The problem is the detections have been intermittent, possibly suggesting bursts of activity that releases methane.  Further study is needed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Slippery Slopes

The Curiosity rover has, literally, ran into some slippery slopes on Mars.  While exploring the base of Mount Sharp, the six-wheeled vehicle has run into areas where it failed to get good traction.

NASA has plotted detours around areas that are questionable.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Going To Pluto

Could humans fly to Pluto any time soon?  It turns out a propulsion scheme exists to allow such a mission.  A ship propelled by a succession of fusion explosions-- thermonuclear bombs-- could reach Pluto in a year or two.

That tells you, by the way, just how far we are from interstellar travel.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Another Mission

The fourth mission of the USAF's X-37B spaceplane is underway.

Unfortunately, we don't know what happened on the first three missions, and the USAF is similarly silent on the goals of this flight, except to say technology will be tested.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big Planet, Tiny Star

HATS-6 is a red dwarf 500 light years away.  It's about as wide as Jupiter.  In tight orbit around it is a world about the size of Saturn.

Scientists don't know how such a large planet developed around such a small star.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


A new concept being looked at by NASA is called MARSDROP.  It would put tiny probes packed with instruments under parawings and fly them through the Martian atmosphere to land in spots that are otherwise inaccessible.

The same approach could work on other worlds with atmospheres, like Venus or Titan.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Planetary Defense

NASA and ESA are jointly pursuing a project to practice how to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.  A NASA probe will slam into an asteroid while an ESA probe observes and collects data.

The encounter is scheduled for 2022.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Black Holes And Dark Matter

A new theory suggests black holes could be used to help finally identify dark matter.  The idea is that if dark matter particles in orbit around a black hole collide and annihilate each other, that would produce gamma rays that could be detected.

One big problem with the theory, however, is that physicists aren't sure the collision of dark matter particles would produce gamma rays.

Friday, May 15, 2015


NASA's New Horizons probe has begun its search of Pluto's environs for possible additional moons and such.  So far, 5 moons have been discovered.

New Horizons begins its formal encounter with Pluto in July.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Salt On Europa?

A new study suggests the dark lines on Europa's icy surface may be irradiated salt.

That would in turn suggest the water ocean under the ice is also salty.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Water On Mars

A new study suggests Mars may have had substantially more water in its first billion years than it has now.

That does not necessarily mean the planet was once warmer and more hospitable to life, however.  The water may have been locked in ice as it is now, flowing across the surface only in periodic bursts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell, chief operating officer of SpaceX, said in an interview on CNBC this morning that the company should be able to send humans to Mars within a decade or two.

That's an ambitious goal, but unlike Mars One, so far, SpaceX is actually developing the hardware that might allow it to take that shot.

Monday, May 11, 2015


The USAF's secretive X-37B unmanned spaceplane is set to launch again later this month.  Its previous mission lasted more than 600 days.

This upcoming mission seems focused on testing other technology, not the vehicle itself, which might suggest the X-37B, whatever it does, is becoming operational, if it's not already.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Phobos By 2033

Momentum seems to be building within NASA for an approach to putting humans on Mars by first landing on Mars' moon Phobos.  A study suggests that approach could be executed without substantial increases in NASA's projected budgets.

The plan calls for establishing a base on Phobos in 2033, and the first manned landing on Mars by 2039-- 70 years after Apollo 11.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Progrress 59 Falls

Russia's Progress 59 freighter, which failed to deliver its cargo to ISS, fell back to Earth yesterday, barreling into the Central Pacific.

Likely, therefore, it caused no injuries or damage.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dragon Escape System

SpaceX has successfully tested a system that will lift a Dragon capsule and its crew away from the rocket in case of a launch emergency.

The space shuttle, for example, had no such safety system.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Martian Gullies

A new study of gullies on Mars suggests flowing water may exist in periods over time, perhaps related to the changing tilts of Mars' axis.

The latest period of flowing water may have been only 500,000 years ago.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Opportunity Moves On

Lest we forget, NASA's rover Opportunity is still operating on Mars.  Recently, it documented a rock spire, perhaps ten feet tall, inside a small, shallow crater within the large crater, Endeavor.

Opportunity has been exploring Mars for well over eleven years.

Monday, May 4, 2015


DARPA, the Pentagon's advanced technology development arm, is in the early days of building a reusable spaceplane, dubbed the XS-1.

The goal of the project is a vehicle capable of ten launches in ten days.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

HD 7924

The star HD7924, which is about 54 light years away, has at least three super Earths in its planetary system, according to new research.  They are six to eight times as massive as Earth.

All three orbit HD 7924 closer than Mercury does the Sun, so they aren't top candidates to support life.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lunar Base

Johann-Dietrich Worner, the incoming ESA chief, has called for an international base on the far side of the Moon as the next big project after ISS.

He chooses the far side because of the research possibilities there, cut off from Earth's electromagnetic noise.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Russian Loss

According to CBS News, Russian mission managers have given up trying to regain control of their Progress 59 cargo ship.

The ship will burn up in Earth's atmosphere next week.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Progress 59

Russia's Progress 59 cargo ship, carrying supplies to ISS, is spinning out of control in space.

The docking attempt scheduled for today has been canceled as the Russians try to regain control.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Apple has reported revenues for its previous quarter of $58 billion.  That's just three months.  That figure is also more than three times the yearly budget of NASA.

Perspective is useful.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Space Command

CBS' "60 Minutes" did a long report on the U. S. Space Command last night.

The report focused on the developing arms race in space among the U. S., China, and, seemingly to a lesser extent, Russia.  The competition centers on anti-satellite weapons and ways to defend against them.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tau Ceti Life

Two worlds in the Tau Ceti system were thought to be possible candidates to support life, but a new study suggests that may be less likely.

One of the worlds may not in fact be solidly inside the star's habitable zone, while the other might be a relative newcomer to that zone, due to the brightening of the star.

Friday, April 24, 2015

After Hubble

Hubble, serviced by astronauts and operating in low Earth orbit, revolutionized our view of the universe.

The next generation of space telescope, serviced by robots and operating in deep space, may find life on other planets.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hubble At 25

The Hubble Space Telescope has now been in space for 25 years.  After a rough beginning that necessitated a dramatic repair mission by shuttle astronauts, Hubble has helped spark a revolution in our understanding of the universe.

Future science historians may well christen this period The Hubble Era.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Paul Spudis

Paul Spudis is senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, and an expert on the Moon.  He advocates using robots to mine lunar water ice to establish fuel depots-- water yields hydrogen and oxygen, which makes an excellent rocket fuel when correctly recombined.

He also wants to use robots to support the establishment of a permanent human presence on the Moon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Floating In Venusian Skies

A new NASA study suggests, someday, establishing a manned outpost on Venus that would float in the relatively benign atmosphere 30 miles above the surface.

It is reminiscent of an idea offered by Randa Milliron, now CEO of Interorbital Systems, several years ago.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dating The Moon

By analyzing meteoritic fragments in a new study, scientists place the impact with Earth that gave birth to the Moon at 4.47 billion years ago.

That time is consistent with estimates made using other methods.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vulcan Aerospace

Paul Allen, who made billions by co-founding Microsoft with Bill Gates, has created a new company, Vulcan Aerospace, that will be tasked to find innovative, cost-reducing ways to reach space.

Allen also supports the Allen Telescope Array, the largest project yet undertaken by the SETI Institute in its search for extraterrestrial intelligent radio signals.

Friday, April 17, 2015


NASA plans to end its MESSENGER mission to Mercury by crashing the probe into the planet April 30.

Unfortunately, the actual crash will not be visible from Earth.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Distance Champ

Astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope have found an exoplanet half the mass of Jupiter about 13,000 light years away.

It's the farthest exoplanet yet found.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Another Near Miss

SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon cargo ship to ISS yesterday, but again failed to softly land the booster on a platform ship in the Atlantic.

It was close, though.  The booster did land on the ship, but tipped over.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


SpaceX' attempt to launch its Falcon 9 rocket was called off yesterday due to bad weather. That happens with some regularity in Florida.  The company plans to try again today.  It will also try again to softly land the booster as a first step towards reuseability.

The United Launch Alliance has also announced plans to develop a new, reuseable rocket.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Centaurs, in astronomy, are small bodies that orbit between Jupiter and Neptune that exhibit characteristics of both asteroids and comets.

Now, there is evidence that the two largest centaurs also have rings.  So far, only the gas giants have rings.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Friction In Paradise

The construction of the next big telescope on Mauna Kea has been delayed due to protests from native Hawaiian groups that the mountain is sacred ground to them.

Of course, Mauna Kea is already home to major observatories, so presumably the dispute will be settled.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another Try

SpaceX will try again to soft land a booster on a ship after launching the next Dragon cargo ship to ISS.

The launch is slated for Monday.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

MWC 480

The young star MWC 480, twice the size of the Sun and 455 light-years away, has a gas and dust disk around it that also contains large amounts of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life.

It's the first time such molecules have been found in a planetary disk around a star.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Finding Alien Life

Ellen Stofan, NASA's chief scientist, predicted Tuesday that we will have definitive evidence of alien life within 20 or 30 years.

That evidence might come from within our solar system, from elsewhere in the galaxy, or both.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Compact Solar Systems

A new study of the gravitational interplay among planets in compact solar systems suggests they could be stable enough long enough for life to arise.

Further study is necessary, however.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Despeckling Titan

A new image processing technique called despeckling is sharpening radar shots taken by Cassini of Saturn's fascinating moon, Titan.

The technique will give scientists a better look at the surface details.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will deliberately slam into Mercury later this month, ending a mission that has completely changed our view of the planet.

Among its final contributions, new images from MESSENGER suggest Mercury may still be geologically active.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Going To Mare

A new nongovernmental study backed by The Planetary Society suggests it's possible to put astronauts in orbit around Mars in 2033, and to land astronauts on Mars by 2039.

They study says such an approach could fit into NASA's projected budgets.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lunar Lava Tubes

A new study by researchers at Purdue University finds that lava tubes on the Moon, which can be several miles wide in the low gravity, could be excellent locations for lunar cities.

Such underground tubes, cut by flowing lava early in lunar history, would protect colonists from incoming radiation, meteoritic impacts, and the extreme temperatures of the lunar day/night cycle.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Near Infra-Red Optical SETI is beginning.  A new telescope that can see infrared signals has been built in California.

Traditional SETI  seeks  radio signals, but infrared light can cut through dust that blocks radio waves, so NIROSETI will be able to probe a much larger volume of space.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Enceladus Hot Springs

Scientists now think that Saturn's moon Enceladus not only has a liquid water ocean under it's icy shell, but hot springs on the floor of that sea, as well.

Such hot springs would further enhance Enceladus' potential as an abode of life.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Crater Earhart

A team from Purdue University has identified a huge-- 124 mile wide-- ancient crater on the Moon and provisionally named it after famed aviator Amelia Earhart.  The crater escaped recognition all this time because it has been so badly battered.

Earhart worked at Purdue, and her papers are collected there.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

One Year Mission Underway

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have arrived at ISS to begin their year-long stay.

The point of the mission is to study the physical and psychological effects of extended spaceflight.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Scanning Luna

A new approach to understanding the Moon involves scanning the Moon's iron core with X-rays to learn how iron behaves under such temperatures and pressures.

That study could, in turn, be applied to the iron cores of other small, rocky worlds, like Mars and Mercury.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Year In Space

This weekend, one astronaut and one cosmonaut are scheduled to begin a one year mission on ISS, testing the human body's adaptability to extended stays in space.  A Soviet cosmonaut or two spent a year on the old Mir space station.

The astronaut's twin brother, also an astronaut, will serve as a sort of control in the study of his brother's physical reactions to microgravity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Livable Mars

Two independent studies find carbon and molecular nitrogen have likely existed throughout history on Mars.

Their presence strengthens the case that life could have existed on Mars-- and may yet today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Rocket Races

SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance are competing in the military satellite launch market.  ULA, the incumbent, has a perfect launch record, but so does SpaceX, with fewer launches, and that company is committed to pushing costs lower.

The competition could help shape the commercial launch market for years to come.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rosetta Finds Molecular Nitrogen

The ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has found molecular nitrogen on its target comet.

Scientists say the discovery suggests the comet was formed early on in the Solar System, and in its outer regions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mars One Update

Mars One has delayed its first manned landing on Mars until 2027 due to an investment glitch.

The project is also dealing with charges that its astronaut selection process is flawed and that there were only about 2,000 applications for colonist slots, not the 200,000 claimed by the project.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Solar Eclipse

A total eclipse of the Sun was seen over Europe and Africa this morning.

Such spectacles are possible because of an extraordinary coincidence.  As seen from Earth, the disks of the Sun and Moon are almost exactly the same size.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Lunar Crater

Two years ago, a boulder slammed into the Moon, creating a particularly bright flash.

Now, using images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA has found the crater created by the strike-- one about fifty feet in diameter complete with surrounding ejecta and rays.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Fifty years ago, Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov became the first human to walk in space.

It was perhaps the last in a string of major "firsts" in human spaceflight scored by the USSR.  That emphasis on being first to do various things may have taken away from the systematic development of a manned space capability, helping NASA pull ahead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

China's Plans

China is introducing two new rockets into its Long March family of launchers, replacing two older models.

It also plans to launch a small space lab next year, the next step towards building a large space station in the 2020s.  China also announced its next lunar probe will be funded by a mix of public and private sources.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rolling Water Worlds

A new study suggests that worlds completely covered by a water ocean rolling along their orbits, poles pointed at their parent star, could still harbor life.

At Earth's distance from the Sun, the depth of the ocean would need to average 165 feet to provide a stable environment for life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Active Moon

Data from China's Yulu lunar rover suggests the Moon was much more active in the past than previously thought--- including at least instances of explosive vulcanism.

Yulu stopped functioning in January 2014.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ganymede's Ocean

Observations using the Hubble telescope have provided the best evidence yet that Jupiter's Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System, has a huge, salty, water ocean under its icy crust.  There may be more water on Ganymede than there is on the surface of Earth.

Hubble is likely best known for its deep sky work, but it has also made numerous discoveries within the Solar System.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SLS Test

NASA successfully test fired the engine of its huge new SLS launcher yesterday in the Utah desert.

SLS is slated to launch the first manned Orion mission-- possibly to the Moon-- in late 2017.  After that, though, the uses for such a powerful rocket are unclear.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Martian Marathon

The Curiosity rover has now traveled just over 26 miles-- the length of a marathon race-- on Mars.

It still trails the Opportunity rover, which continues to roll along, but Curiosity is nearing its ultimate goal, Mount Sharp.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World View Success

World View, a company providing rides in high altitude balloons to the edge of space, has completed its first commercial flight, carrying student experiments aloft under a NASA program.

The company maintains much work can be done in near space, and it is also looking at providing commercial passenger flights.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Curiosity Short Traced

The electrical short plaguing the Curiosity rover has been traced to its robot arm.

Engineers are studying the problem, and NASA hopes to have the arm back in operation as early as next week.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Planetary Defense

The U. N. has established two organizations to deal with planetary defense.  One will try to identify potentially dangerous asteroids, and the other will develop plans for dealing with the aftermath of an asteroid strike.

The next step is to develop ways to deflect asteroids aimed at Earth.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dawn Over Ceres

NASA's Dawn spacecraft went into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres this morning, the beginning of a 16-month long exploration of the world.

The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres has already proven the worth of ion propulsion in deep space operations.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Amateur Astronomy

Amateur astronomers have always played a role in advancing the science, and that tradition continues.

Plumes high in the atmosphere of Mars, which professional astronomers haven't been able to explain, were discovered by Wayne Jaeschke, a patent attorney, and confirmed by other amateurs.  Professional astronomers indeed will depend on amateurs to monitor Mars for more plumes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Owning Asteroids

Property rights beyond Earth may well become a big issue in the years dead ahead.  Asteroids, for example, are rich in scientific information-- and in economically valuable natural resources.  Some legal scholars argue current space law can be interpreted to allow for property rights in space, but other scholars could argue differently.

A new treaty for a new era may ultimately be necessary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Russia And ISS

Russia recently announced it will stay with ISS until 2024, after which it plans to build its own space station.

The U. S. has also committed to ISS until at least 2024 and hopes private space stations will take over from ISS.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Another Leak

There was another spacesuit leak during an ISS spacewalk this weekend.   NASA engineers say the water came from condensation within the suit.

This is something NASA simply has to get right.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of the legendary Mr. Spock of STAR TREK, has died of pulmonary disease.

Nimoy, who had a successful, varied career beyond Spock, was 83.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ceres Bright Spots

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has spotted two distinct bright spots in one crater on the dwarf planet Ceres.  Scientists aren't sure whether the spots are ice deposits, evidence of vulcanism, or something else.

Dawn begins its formal mission at Ceres next week.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Another Spacesuit Leak

A spacewalking astronaut had his spacesuit leak water into his helmet yesterday, but NASA says he was never in any danger from the leak.

The same spacesuit had a similar leak in December, 2013.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Moon Law

The gathering drive, largely by private groups, to settle the Moon is fomenting a debate about the legal rights involved-- resource use, private property rights, the right to bring profits back to Earth, etc.

The debate will likely be settled by Congress, through statute and treaty.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hawking On Aggression

Stephen Hawking recently said one of the major threats to the long term survival of humanity is human aggression.  He has also said that technologically advanced aliens are likely to be aggressive.  He seems to be given to making big statements.

Why the media give those statements play is an interesting question.  Hawking is a remarkable man and a brilliant physicist, but that doesn't mean he necessarily has insight into the human capacity to adjust over millenia, let alone into alien psychology.  Of course, journalists are hungry for headlines, and they tend to see scientists-- Hawking, Einstein, Sagan-- as objective, informed sources even when they talk about subjects outside their areas of expertise.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Comet Structure

Researchers are finding that comets seem to have an interior of a special form of ultracold water ice that is surrounded by rock and organic molecules.

Some liken the arrangement to fried ice cream.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Scholz's Star

Scholz's Star is a tiny red dwarf and its brown dwarf companion.  The duo is currently 29 light years  away, but a recent study of its motion suggests it passed within a single light year of the Sun 70,000 years ago.

The mass and luminosity of the star are so low, however, that the close encounter probably had little to no effect on the Solar System.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Searching For Europan Life

NASA is looking at searching for life on Europa during its proposed flyby mission by collecting and analyzing material thrown out of Europa's subsurface ocean in geyser-like plumes.

The problem is the plumes may not, in fact, exist, or they may be sporadic in nature.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finding Lunar Water

Researchers say there may be more water ice on polar-facing slopes on the Moon than on equator-facing ones.

The conclusion is based on the apparent distribution of hydrogen on the lunar surface, which may or may not be a good marker for water.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Martian Haze

Scientists have found a large patch of haze high in the upper atmosphere of Mars, where the air is so thin no clouds or haze should exist.

They're still trying to figure this one out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mars One 100

Mars One has cut its potential colonist base from 202,000 applicants down to 100-- 50 men and 50 women.

The project intends to land its first colonists on Mars in 2025.  There are no plans to bring any of them back to Earth.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chelyabinsk Plus Two

Two years ago, a small asteroid exploded in the air over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring about 1,200 people.

Astronomers don't yet know the origin of the asteroid, but the event has sparked an international discussion about planetary defense.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gravitational Waves

Scientists are working hard to find gravitational waves as a way to confirm the faster-than-light expansion of the extremely young universe.  A recent purported detection has since been proven erroneous.

Still, scientists expect to make the real discovery soon.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mixed Results For SpaceX

SpaceX successfully launched the DISCOVR space weather satellite this week, but didn't attempt to land the booster on a platform due to bad weather.

The booster was brought down softly and upright into the ocean.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Life Around Red Dwarfs

New research indicates that red dwarf stars may not foster life bearing planets in their early years.  They are brighter and hotter in their youths, which could destroy likely planetary atmospheres.

That said, they are still potentially good places to look for life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Moon Versus Mars

The debate still rages about the next logical goal for manned spaceflight-- the Moon or Mars.  Each side has its arguments and visions.

OPINION: The answer is to do both.  Go back to the Moon led by private and commercial groups, and give the early stages of manned Mars exploration to an international effort led by NASA, ESA, etc.  We can do two things at once.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Drilling Mars

Curiosity has now drilled into two rocks on the flanks of Mount Sharp, taking samples.  Both samples carried evidence of water.

The second sample suggested more acidic water.  Scientists are still working on explaining that.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Launch Delay

SpaceX has delayed its next rocket launch until Tuesday.

The company will try again, after the launch, to soft land the rocket.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mock Mars Mission

A mock Mars mission run by The Mars Society to test technologies and techniques that might be used in actual Mars expeditions begins today in Utah.

All seven crewmembers of the mock mission are astronaut candidates for the Mars One project.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Moonless Earth

A new study finds that even without the Moon to help stabilize it as it spins on its axis, Earth could probably still support life.

So, Earth-like exoplanets with no large moons could still be abodes of life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FAA Green Lights Bigelow

The FAA has said it will support Bigelow Aerospace and the effort to commercially develop the Moon, a big first step.

The agency also said, however, that the current U. S. regulatory regime is inadequate for such a task.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NASA To Europa

Included in the proposed new Federal budget is White House support for a mission to Europa, Jupiter's ice covered moon that might harbor life in a water ocean beneath its ice shell.

NASA currently envisions a mission to Jupiter that would include 45 flybys of Europa that could launch in 2022.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Saturn

Astronomers have found a world 433 light years away that is larger than Saturn or Jupiter and has a ring system about 200 times larger than Saturn's.

There is also a possibility it has a moon as massive as Mars, or even Earth.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Twelve years ago yesterday, Columbia and its crew were lost during re-entry.

The tragedy proved to be a turning point in manned spaceflight.  The space shuttle was put on the road to retirement, and America is still trying to decide its future in space.  Commercial efforts may well lead the way from now on.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mars Life Debate

A recent scientific paper suggests the Curiosity rover may have found fossils on Mars similar to mats of ancient life on Earth.  NASA and the Curiosity team disagree.

Mars seems to encourage such debates.  A similar one erupted over results of tests performed by the Viking landers decades ago.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Red Dwarfs Abd Mini-Neptunes

A new study based on computer modeling suggests that Neptune-like worlds that form around red dwarf stars can migrate in closer to the star and become Earth-like worlds.

The heavy radiation red dwarfs spew out in their early years would strip away most of the planetary atmosphere, leaving a rocky world perhaps dominated by water.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Biomining Asteroids

Deep Space Industries, which plans to mine asteroids, is looking at seeding asteroids with genetically-engineered bacteria that would eat and "preprocess" valuable resources.

DSI says the technique-- a variation of which is used in copper mining today-- would simplify the mining process.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Apple Profits

Apple announced yesterday it made profits of $18 billion in its latest quarter.  Three months.  Ninety days.

That's equal to NASA's yearly budget.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Water Ice Inside Vesta?

Using images taken by NASA's Dawn probe during its recent flyby of the huge asteroid Vesta, researchers have found evidence suggesting water gushed across the surface following recent meteorite impacts.

That, in turn, suggests Vesta may have a fairly large deposit of subsurface water ice.

Monday, January 26, 2015

2004 BL86

Asteroid 2004 BL86, at roughly 1800 feet across, will fly within 745,000 miles of Earth today.  That's about three times the distance to the Moon.

It's yet another reminder of the need to develop a planetary defense capability.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Extreme Life

Scientists have discovered a thriving ecosystem under 2,500 feet of ice in Antarctica, where no one thought life was possible.

The find suggests once again that life might exist in many more places throughout the universe than we currently expect.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Moon Express

Moon Express, a company intending to make its money from lunar operations, has reached agreement to use Launch Complex 36 at KSC, from which NASA launched its Surveyor probes in the 1960s.

Flight test work should begin soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo  may be ready to fly soon.

Even so, however, first flight will have to wait until the NTSB completes its investigation of the crash of the first one last October.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

USAF UFO Files Online

The U. S. Air Force has put 130,000 pages of UFO investigations under Project Blue Book online.

Of over 12,000 cases studied by Blue Book, 701 remain unexplained.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is looking at a billion dollar investmenr in SpaceX.

Google's strategy seems to be to have a finger in many technology pies, so such a move might make sense.

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Horizons

NASA's New Horizons probe, launched way back in 2006, began its encounter with Pluto last week, snapping its first photos of the dwarf planet.

The probe's closest approach to Pluto will be on July 14.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Planet X, Y, And Maybe Z

A new study of the orbits of objects far beyond Pluto suggests there may be two Earth-sized planets deep in the Solar System.  Maybe more.

Such large planets so far from the Sun would pose a real challenge to current theories of planetary formation.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Take On Asteroids

Scientists for two centuries have viewed asteroids as the building blocks of planets, but a new study suggests they are in fact by-products of planetary formation.

So, asteroid discs around other stars may mean planets have already formed there.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

ISS Glitch

The ISS issue of yesterday seems to have been a computer glitch.

NASA says the crew was never in any additional danger.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ISS Issue

ISS crewmembers are gathered in the Russian side of the station because of a possible ammonia leak on the American side.

The situation, at this writing, is being studied.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

China's Lunar Efforts

China has placed a module equipped with a camera into lunar orbit after a long, looping flight from Earth.

The probe will look for possible landing sites for future Chinese missions.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lunar Cyclers

To quickly build up an economy and a population on the Moon, lunar cycling ships would be useful.

These large ships would fly orbits that would constantly take them between Earth and Moon.  As they approached Earth they would be loaded with cargo or people, and that load would be removed upon arrival around the Moon, perhaps to be replaced by exports to Earth.  Cyclers would be true spaceships, tracing their orbits for years.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Success And Failure

SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon cargo capsule to ISS this morning, but failed in an attempt to softly land the launcher on a platform ship.

The Falcon 9 did hit the ship after delivering Dragon to orbit, but too hard, and crashed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Musk On Mars

Elon Musk says he intends to announce his plan for colonizing Mars later this year,

Musk also said the plan calls for a large spacecraft to be used, not the Dragon capsule.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kepler Reaches 1,000

With the announcement of eight more discoveries this week. NASA's Kepler probe has pushed the number of known exoplanets to 1,004.

Of those eight, some are good candidates to support life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mining The Moon

A new study looking at lunar natural resources finds there is no one resource that would make mining the Moon profitable in the short term, but over the long term lunar mining would be economically viable.

Of course, a healthy lunar economy would not be based solely on mining.  It would take advantage of the Moon's other attributes, as well-- low gravity, lack of atmosphere, abundant solar energy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Launch Delay

SpaceX aborted its Falcon 9 launch this morning due to an issue with the rocket's second stage.

The company expects to try again January 9.

Monday, January 5, 2015

VG Will Go On

Sir Richard Branson has publicly stated Virgin Galactic will continue to develop its spaceflight business.

VG suffered a setback last October when an accident during a test flight killed one pilot and injured another.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Life In The Universe

A new study speculates that life could exist even on worlds in eccentric orbits around red dwarf stars,

The more we learn, the more we need to expand our concept of habitability.

Friday, January 2, 2015

86 Stars

SETI researchers have scoured the neighborhood of 86 stars identified by NASA's Kepler spacecraft as having worlds capable of supporting life for possible intelligent radio signals,

No such signals were detected, but the night is young.