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.