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.