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.