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.