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.