Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse

Today a total eclipse runs coast-to-coast across the United States.

Total solar eclipses are among the most awe-inspiring spectacles in nature, and the most benign.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Powering Mars

According to the engineering firm Siemens, powering a Mars colony could involve a combination of solar power, with solar panels deployed on the surface, wind farms, and batteries.

It would be a decentralized system, not dependent on any one factor.

Friday, August 18, 2017

TRAPPIST-1

TRAPPIST-1 and its planets may be twice as old as the Sun, a new study suggests.

That would give life plenty of time to evolve.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Perspective

Wal-Mart has announced quarterly revenues of over $123 billion.

That's more than six times NASA's annual budget.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

For All Mankind

A group called For All Mankind is working to protect the six Apollo landing sites on the Moon as heritage areas.

It intends to present its plan to the United Nations shortly.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

WOW!

Forty years ago today, Ohio State's Big Ear radio telescope picked up the famous WOW! signal, the best known presumed false alarm in SETI history.

The signal has never been acquired again, and it remains unexplained.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Voyagers

Both Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, are still functioning today.

It's a remarkable tribute to the engineers who designed and built them.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cellphone Home

A startup company plans to demonstrate cellphone technology can work on the lunar surface next year.

It also plans to send two rovers to the Apollo 17 landing site.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Proxima b

The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch next year, could give us our first detailed look at Proxima b, an Earth-sized world in the Alpha Centauri system.

JWST could look at the planet's atmosphere to determine if it might support life.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Magnetic Moon

A new study suggests the Moon had a magnetic field a billion years longer than previously thought.

That might suggest other worlds kept their magnetic fields long enough to protect early life.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

North Korea

North Korea seems to be able to build nuclear warheads that fit atop their ICBM, U. S. intelligence says.

If true, it's a dangerous development.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Limiting Life

A new study suggests some worlds may go from icy cold to hellishly hot without ever going through a habitable phase.

That would cut down on the number of habitable worlds in the galaxy.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Laser SETI

SETI researchers are expanding their toolkit.  In addition to listening for radio signals, they're going to start looking for laser flashes, since lasers do not occur naturally.

The SETI Institute is trying to raise $100,000 by August 18 to start the program.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is successfully continuing its series of test flights of SpaceShipTwo.

The company has not yet said when commercial flights will begin.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Deep Space Gateway

NASA's Deep Space Gateway, a small space station in lunar orbit, will probably run science experiments on its own when astronauts aren't present.

DSG might launch in 2020.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Exoplanet Stratosphere

Astronomers using Hubble have detected water molecules high in the atmosphere of a hot Jupiter 880 light years away.

It marks the first establishment of a stratosphere around an exoplanet.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NASA PPO

NASA is looking for a planetary protection officer.

The job is to protect Earth from alien microbes, and to protect other worlds from Earthly contamination.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Testing Tracking

A tiny asteroid could come within 4200 miles of Earth October 12.

Astronomers will use the event to test their tracking system.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Moon Buggy

Forty-six years ago today, Apollo 15 astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin drove the moon buggy for the first time.

Over three days they covered 17 miles.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Vinyl Cyanide

Researchers have found large amounts of vinyl cyanide on Saturn's huge moon, Titan.

That's important because vinyl cyanide could form cell membranes in Titan's methane seas, the same role lipids play on Earth.

Friday, July 28, 2017

North Korea

U. S. intelligence is now saying North Korea could have an ICBM capable of hitting America as early as next year.

Previous estimates were two years or more.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Astrobotics

Astrobotics is set to send its first lunar lander on its way in 2019.

It will be launched atop an Atlas V.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Big Comets

A new study suggests comets at least a kilometer wide are much more numerous than previously thought.

It's another argument for a planetary defense system.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lunar Water

A new study suggests there may be substantial amounts of water in the Moon's interior.

That would have a major impact on future lunar operations.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ross 128 Explained?

Astronomers are now saying the radio signals associated with Ross 128 likely did come from advanced civilization-- ours.

Geostationary satellites seem to be the source.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hawaii Civil Defense

A report says that Hawaii is activating its civil defense program in response to the North Korean missile threat.

North Korea is testing an ICBM that could potentially reach Alaska, Hawaii, and the western part of the Lower 48.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Last Shurrle

Six years ago today, the last space shuttle mission landed.

NASA still has no internal way to put astronauts in space.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Apollo 11

Today is the 48th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon.

Hundreds of years from now, that will be remembered as the defining event of the twentieth century.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Perspective

IBM's revenue has dropped for 21 straight quarters.  Current estimates put the company's revenues for the most recent quarter at roughly $19.2 billion.

That's about the size of the current proposed NASA annual budget.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ross 128

Researchers have picked up strange radio signals from Ross 128, a red dwarf 11 light years away.

They haven't found the cause yet, but they don't believe aliens are involved.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Teleportation

Chinese scientists have set a new record for the long-distance teleportation of a packet of information at 870 miles.

The experiment is a big step towards quantum communications, which, in theory, would be totally secure.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mars Together

Private firms are telling Congress that a public-private partnership could get humans to Mars quicker and cheaper than a strictly NASA effort will.

They also argue a commercially oriented space station needs to be in place before ISS is deorbited.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Killing Cancer

Research on ISS is yielding more insight into curing cancer by giving us a new perspective on cell growth.

In microgravity, tumors grow more like they do within the body than they do in Earthly labs, giving researchers a better idea of what's going on.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Great Red Spot

NASA's Juno spacecraft passed directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot on July 10.

It was only 5,600 miles from the legendary storm.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Moon Express

Moon Express plans to open lunar exploration to the general public by drastically lowering the cost of flying missions.

It plans to do the same for other worlds.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Skylab

Skylab fell to Earth 38 years ago today.

NASA had wanted to visit the station with the space shuttle, but Skylab was gone before the shuttles began flying.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Titan's Tiny Waves

A new study of Titan's liquid hydrocarbon lake suggests waves in the lakes are only about a centimeter high, implying calm surface winds.

That's good news for future missions exploring the lakes.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Brown Dwarfs

New research suggests there may be a minimum 25 to 100 billion brown dwarfs in our galaxy.

In fact, the researchers say, the number could be much higher.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Pence On Space

Vice President Pence, in a speech at Cape Kennedy, said Americans would return to the Moon and go on to Mars.

He also said partnership with the commercial sector will be key.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lysithea

On this date in 1938, Lysithea, at about 11 miles across, became the 10th moon of Jupiter to be discovered.

So far, the Jupiter moon count stands at 69.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

ICBN

North Korea test flew an ICBM yesterday with the range to reach Alaska.

North Korea said the rocket can deliver a nuclear warhead.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

NASA Budget

Congress is debating increasing NASA's proposed budget.

Increases currently being discussed are as much as $800 million.

Monday, July 3, 2017

National Space Council

President Trump re-established the National Space Council last Friday.

He still has not nominated a NASA administrator, however.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Kilopower

NASA is testing small nuclear fission reactors that could power the human exploration of Mars.

The program is called Kilopower.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Cassini

Cassini arrived at Saturn 13 years ago today.  Since then it has revolutionized our understanding of the Saturn system, including giving us two worlds, Titan and Enceladus, that might support life.

The mission ends September 15, when the probe plunges into Saturn.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

AEGIS

NASA updated Curiosity's software in 2015 to include an artificial intelligence program called AEGIS which allows the rover to operate independently.

AEGIS has worked well, increasing the rover's productivity.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No NASA ETs

NASA is not about to announce the discovery of alien life, online reports to the contrary notwithstanding.

The reports are another example of the loose media culture of today.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Space Rider

The European Space Agency plans to privatize its Space Rider unmanned spaceplane by 2025.

Space Rider's first flight is scheduled for 2020.

Monday, June 26, 2017

SpaceX Doubles Up

SpaceX successfully launched satellites into orbit for the second time in three days yesterday.

The booster, outfitted with new, virtually indestructible titanium guiding fins, made a successful soft landing.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

SpaceX Reboost

SpaceX successfully launched a satellite using a previously used booster yesterday.

The booster was also successfully soft-landed, so it could be used yet again.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Planet 10?

Researchers are postulating yet another large object exists beyond Neptune.

The evidence for the body is the perturbed orbits of a population of Kuiper Belt Objects.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hawking

Stephen Hawking has once again argued for space colonization, advocating nuclear fusion rockets to reach ten percent of the speed of light.

That could bring Alpha Centaurii within range of human colonists.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Feet To The Fire

UFO researcher Linda Moulton Howe boldly predicted last year that 2017 would see major news regarding aliens.

So far, nothing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kepler

According to NASA, Kepler discovered 4,034 exoplanets in its first four years of operation.

Fifty of those are roughly Earth-sized and in their star's habitable zone.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bezos

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, is looking for ideas to guide his philanthropic donations.

He can be reached via Twitter.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bullseye

Elon Musk plans to land his huge Mars rockets right back on the launch pad, the better to quickly prepare them for their next flight.

He plans for each launcher to fly 1,000 times.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Space Tugs

A new paper argues space tugs with electric propulsion could help develop the Earth-Moon system.

Tugs could move cargo more efficiently than could chemical rockets.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Musk Mars Plan

Elon Musk has written an article putting more detail into his plan to build a city of a million people on Mars within the next 50-100 years.

The first launches of the project could come in as few as 10 years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sex In Space

During a recent panel discussion on colonizing space, sex was brought up.

It was pointed out that we still don't know if humans will develop properly away from Earth.  That's obviously key to permanently settling space.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WOW

An astronomer is saying a passing comet could have been responsible for the WOW radio signal in 1977, which is probably still the closest we've come to an alien signal.

Other astronomers reject the comet hypothesis.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lunar Gateway

NASA envisions returning samples from around the Solar System to a gateway outpost in lunar orbit.

Samples would be collected there before being sent to Earth.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fusion Rockets

Researchers are working to develop small fusion rockets that could revolutionize spaceflight.

For example, a manned Mars mission that would take two years using current technology could be flown in 310 days.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Talking To ET

A SETI theorist has developed a language based in math that will hopefully allow us to communicate with aliens.

Going from discussing math and physics to politics and culture would be a big challenge, however.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Astronauts

NASA introduced its new astronaut class yesterday.  It has seven men and five women.

One of those people could become the first human to set foot on Mars.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Assteroid Dangerr

Astronomers seem to have found a new branch of an asteroid family that could threaten Earth.

Some of the objects in the branch are large enough to cause regional or continental damage if they hit.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

KELT-9b

Astronomers have found a gas giant exoplanet that has a surface temperature of 7,800 degrees F.

KELT-9b is the hottest world found so far.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Axiom Space

Axiom Space plans to make most its money by manufacturing products in space beginning in 2027.

Some of the objects will not be brought to Earth.  Satellites will be built on orbit, drastically reducing costs.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bigelow On Aliens

Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, not only believes aliens have visited Earth-- he believes they're still here.

Bigelow, just to note, was raised in Las Vegas, not far from Area 51.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Tiger Stripes

A new study suggests Saturn's moon Enceladus might have been struck by something big long ago.

The impact may have caused the moon's distinctive tiger stripe terrain.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Life On Mars

A new study using data from Curiosity suggests Mars might have been habitable for much longer than previously thought.

The study suggests Galen Crater could have supported life for hundreds of millions of years.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Defending Against Missiles

The Pentagon successfully tested an anti-missile defense system yesterday.

The test came after a series of North Korean test missile launches.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

84 Lumber

The company 84 Lumber is running a television commercial about astronauts applying to go to Mars.  Honest.

It suggests how deeply going to Mars has penetrated into popular culture.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Jupiter's Core

NASA's Juno probe has gathered data suggesting Jupiter's core may be much larger than thought.

It may also be more complicated and completely different than Earth's.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

LRO Hit

NASA is now reporting that on October 13, 2014, a tiny rock traveling faster than a bullet struck one camera on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The incident wasn't reported previously because no harm was done.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Space Aggressora

The U. S. Air Force has created units preparing to fight wars in space.

The projected adversaries are not from the Tau Ceti system, but from Russia and China, both of which are developing offensive space capabilities.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kennedy's Challenge

President Kennedy told Congress America should put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth within a decade 56 years ago.

At that time, America had a grand total of 15 minutes experience in human spaceflight.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Procreation

A new study using mice sperm sent into space and returned to Earth suggests it might be possible for babies to develop normally on orbit.

It's a start.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TRAPPIST-1

Astronomers have determined the outermost Earth-sized world in the TRAPPIST1 system is probably too cold to support life.

That may not have always been the case, however.  TRAPPIST-1 was likely much brighter in the past.

Monday, May 22, 2017

KELT-11b

KELT-11b  is a very strange world.  It's a gas giant, larger than Jupiter, but with the density of styrofoam.  That density is partly due to an atmosphere that's 1716 miles deep.

It's also a world not long for the universe.  Within a hundred million years, ir will be absorbed by its red giant parent star.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Boyajian's star

Boyajian's star is acting up again, dimming irregularly and inexplicably.

A megastructure orbiting the star still cannot be ruled out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Titanic Study

A new study says the surface of Saturn's huge moon Titan more closely resembles Mars than Earth.

It also concludes there's been no tectonic activity on Titan for a very long time.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

To The Moon?

The head of a Russian space company says he doubts SpaceX can fly people around the Moon next year.

He says the company's Dragon capsule is inadequate to the task.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Glints

A NASA probe has detected glints of sunlight bouncing off ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere from millions of miles away.

Similar observations could help characterize the atmosphere of exoplanets.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Migrating Mars

A new study suggests Mars may have formed in the asteroid belt.

The theory is that Mars moved to its current orbit through gravitational interactions with asteroids.

Monday, May 15, 2017

North Korea

North Korea tested another rocket over  the weekend, this one reportedly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Experts estimate North Korea could have the capability of delivering a nuclear bomb to America within 18-24 months.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spacewalk

Astronauts conducted the 200th spacewalk from ISS yesterday.

It was also the ninth for Peggy Whitson.

Friday, May 12, 2017

HAT--P-26b

HAT-P-26b is a "warm Neptune"  that orbits its star every 4.2 Earth days.  Astronomers have found water vapor in its atmosphere.

It is 430 light years away.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sptrading Life?

Tiny Brealthrough Starshot probes could carry bacteria-- and human DNA-- to the stars, scientists say.

The first such probes could leave Earth in as little as 20 years.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Getting To Mars

NASA's current plan to go to Mars includes a yearlong mission in lunar orbit to test our the Mars ship.

It also includes international and private industry partners.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Orbiting Pluto

A group of researchers are working on developing a Pluto orbiter mission.

The mission could launch in 2039, the centennial year of Pluto-s discovery.

Monday, May 8, 2017

X-37B

The USAF's X-37B spaceplane landed successfully yesterday after 718 days in orbit.

The Air Force says the vehicle is used to test new technologies.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Meteor Strike

A new study suggests a meteor strike 2 billion years ago triggered hundreds of thousands of years of volcanic eruptions on Earth.

Those eruptions profoundly affected the evolution of the planet and of life.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Neighbors

Within about 30 light years of the Sun, astronomers have already found several Earth-like exoplanets and dozens of systems that might support life.  That doesn't include the TRAPPIST-1 system, which is 39 light years away.

Astrobiologists will be busy for centuries.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Epsilon Eridani

A new study shows Epsilon Eridani-- a favorite star among science fiction authors writing about interstellar travel-- has a planetary system similar to our own.

Epsilon Eridani is a younger version of the Sun and only 10.5 light years away.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

NASA Budget

NASA's budget for fiscal 2017 will be $19.653 billion.

That's about $600 million above the original request.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Perspective

Apple reportedly has $250 billion in cash.

That would be enough to fund NASA at its current level for ten years and still have $60 billion in cash.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spy Stuff

SpaceX successfully entered a new market by launching an intelligence satellite for the U. S. Government this morning.

It also successfully soft-landed the booster.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

SETI

Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute told Congress this past week that researchers could survey one million star systems for signs of intelligent life by 2037.

Shostak has previously said he thinks we could find intelligent signals by 2025.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bigelow

Robert Bigelow told Congress recently that establishing a base on the Moon is the next logical step in human space exploration.

Bigelow Aerospace manufactures inlatable modules that could be used to build such a base.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dragonfly

NASA is looking at a drone that could cover large areas of Titan in its low gravity and thick atmosphere.  It would land several times along the way.

Dragonfly could launch in the mid-2020s.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Terraforming Mars, Sort Of

Researchers are proposing terreaforming a small area on Mars by directing an asteroid to crash into the planet, creating a lake that would last thousands of years.

They suggest starting the process in 2036.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Record

Peggy Whitson  broke the American  record for most days in space yesterday.

She is scheduled to remain in space until September.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Out, Not Up

When people talk about ISS, for example, they generally say it's "up," even though up and down have no particular meaning once we get beyond the atmosphere-- until we reach another world.  We should say ISS is "out" from Earth.

Out also suggests we are on a journey.  We are.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Opportunity

The rover Opportunity is still exploring Mars after 13 years.

It is about to attempt to reach and enter a valley to investigate whether the valley was cut by flowing water.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Perspective

Verizon recently reported quarterly earnings of roughly $30 billion.

NASA's annual budget is roughly $19 billion.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Looking For Life

Astronomers have found what may be the best exoplanet yet to search for life-- a super-Earth orbiting within the habitable zone of a red dwarf star only 40 light years away.

Red dwarfs are the most common stars in the universe, so showing they can nurture life would be a game changer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2014 JO25

A huge asteroid designated 2014 JO25 will pass within a million miles of Earth today.

If it struck Earth, it would cause major damage.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lunar Summit

A conference bringing together representatives of space agencies from around the world and people from the private sector is set for October in Hawaii.  The goal will be to develop a plan to build a base on the Moon.

The conference is being called The  Lunar Summit.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Silicon-Based Life

A new set of experiments suggests silicon-based life is, in fact, possible.

That would greatly increase the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

To The Moon

Several government space agencies, including those in China and Russia, support building a base on the Moon before sending humans to Mars.

They also support an international program to build the lunar base.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Life?

NASA has announced that chemical reactions that could support life likely take place inside Saturn's moon, Enceladus.  Jupiter's moon Europa is also a strengthening possibility to support life.

It should be noted that both those worlds are well outside the Sun's habitable zone.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Space Shuttle

Twenty years after Gagarin's flight, the Space Shuttle launched on its maiden flight.

It was the first maiden flight of a space vehicle to carry a human crew.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gagarin

Today is the 56th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight into space.

It was his only spaceflight.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Metallic Mars

NASA's MAVEN probe has detected metals, such as iron and magnesium, in the atmosphere of Mars.

It's the first time metals have been established as a permanent feature of a planetary atmosphere beyond Earth.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planetary Defense

A small asteroid passed within a million miles of Earth recently.

An asteroid strike is a natural disaster that could possibly be stopped.  Planetary defense efforts, though, need to be increased.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Blue Moon Cargo

Blue Origin is developing a program called "Blue Moon" that could deliver large cargo shipments to the Moon's surface to support human settlement.

Blue Moon could deliver as much as 10,000 pounds of cargo per flight and would be reusable.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Exoplanet Atmosphere

Astronomers have, for the first time, detected an atmosphere around an exoplanet only slightly larger than Earth.

The atmosphere is thick, suggesting a Venus-like world.  On the other hand, there is some indication that the main atmospheric component is water vapor, which conjures a water world with an atmosphere of steam.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bezos

Jeff Bezos said yesterday he will sell $1 billion worth of Amazon stock annually to support Blue Origin.

BO's first passengered, suborbital flight is currently scheduled for next year.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

TRAPPIST-1e

A new study using computer modeling finds TRAPPIST-1e is the only world in that system that may be able to support life.

The other six Earth-sized planets world be either too hot or too cold.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hunting Planet Nine

Some 60,000 citizen scientists, working through the Zoouniverse.org website, have identified four candidates to be Planet Nine.

Astronomers will now closely study each.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mars Base Camp

Lockheed Martin is developing a Mars Base Camp concept, a six-person space station in orbit around Mars from which astronauts could remotely explore Mars and support human expeditions to the surface.

The station could be place in 2028.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Reusability

Elon Musk says SpaceX may try for a completely reusable Falcon 9.

Already, with only a reusable booster stage, the costs per launch should drop significantly very soon.

Friday, March 31, 2017

SpaceX Success

SpaceX successfully launched a recycled rocket booster yesterday, opening a new era.

The booster was also successfully soft-landed, so it might be flown yet again.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gateway

NASA is planning a "gateway" space station in lunar orbit in the 2020s.

The station could support various missions, including human flights to Mars.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reusable Rockes

SpaceX is set to launch a rocket tomorrow that has already flown once.

The company sees reusable rockets as key to lowering the cost of opening space.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Resilient Life

A new study indicates life returned to the impact zone of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs only about 30,000 years after the strike.

That's about the same time life began its comeback globally.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pu-238

A commercial effort to augment U. S. Government production of fuel grade plutonium is underway.   The first Pu-238 in the program could be ready by 2022.

An increase in the availability of nuclear fuel could support more deep space exploratory missions.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Defining Planethood

Astronomers are making another effort to define the term "planet."  The last time they tried, in 2006, Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status.

Under the proposed new definition,  Pluto would again be a full planet, but so would Europa and Titan.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Wheel Of Curiosity

The left middle wheel on the Curiosity rover is showing the first signs of breaking, according to NASA.

The space agency also said the damage does not threaten the mission.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mars' Dark Streaks

Dark streaks running down slopes on Mars during the warmest parts of the year have been seen as evidence of liquid flowing water.

A new study based on computer simulations, however, suggests they could be dry soil avalanches.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NASA Authorization

President Trump has signed a $19 billion authorization bill for NASA.

The new law tasks NASA with putting humans at Mars in the 2030s.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Arsis Mons

The huge Martian volcano Arsis Mons was last active about the time dinosaurs went extinct on Earth, according to a new study.

That seems a long time ago, but it's a short span in geologic terms.

Monday, March 20, 2017

North Korea Again

North Korea is supposedly working on a big new rocket engine.

The new engine would allow an ICBM to reach western North America.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

NASA Cuts

President Trump's proposed NASA budget, according to reports, cuts the Europa lander project and  the asteroid redirect mission, among other projects.

The proposal still has to get through Congress.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Opening The Frontier

American business is awaiting the Trump space policy with some eagerness.

A policy that encourages private enterprise could open a new era.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Martian Dust Storms

Two huge dust storms have developed on Mars recently.

Both grew to cover areas larger than the United States.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blue Origins

Blue Origin plans to launch a crew on a suborbital flight within a year.

The company plans to eventually deliver people to orbit.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Einstein

Today is the 136th anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein.

Einstein ranks as one of the seminal geniuses in human history.  His theory of relativity is key to our understanding of the universe.

Monday, March 13, 2017

North Korea

Western experts are raising the question of how to deal with North Korea in space.

North Korea has no real assets in space, they point out, so it has no incentive to follow the established rules.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Fast Radio Bursts

Fast radio bursts are brief, extremely bright emissions that as yet have no natural explanation.

One possible explanation is that they are generated by advanced civilizations to power huge interstellar or even intergalactic spacecraft.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Refueling Depots

Robert Bigelow says private refueling depots could be in lunar orbit by 2020.

For that to happen, however, he said the Trump administration must act quickly to create a market for the fuel.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NASA Budget

The House and Senate have passed a roughly $19 billion NASA budget for the fiscal year.

The bill also directs NASA to put humans on or in the vicinity of Mars in the 2030s.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cold Atom Lab

NASA is about to create  what could be the coldest spot in the universe aboard ISS.

At a billionth of a degree above absolute zero quantum principles rule, and no one knows exactly what that means.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mars Water

A new study of Martian meteorites suggests early Mars had substantially more water than generally thought.

That, of course, has implications for life on Mars.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Hydrogen And Life

Volcanism that spews hydrogen into an atmosphere could support life, a new study suggests,

For example, if the seventh planet in the TRAPPIST system has volcanoes that put hydrogen into the atmosphere, it could support liquid water on its surface.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fly Me To The Moon

Elon Musk announced recently that SpaceX intends to fly two tourists around the Moon in 2018.

The flight, however, would use the Falcon Heavy rocket and the Dragon V2 capsule, neither of which have flown yet.

Friday, March 3, 2017

MAVEN

NASA's MAVEN Mars orbiter had to make a course correction yesterday to avoid a possible collision with the moon Phobos March 9.

It is the first time such a maneuver has ever been needed.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Black Hole Winds

The streams of material ejected from supermassive black holes change in intensity over time,  observations find.

Such winds help shape entire galaxies.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trump On Space

President Trump, in his speech before Congress last night, mentioned in passing that American footprints should soon be on distant worlds.

It's another tea leaf for those trying to divine Trump space policy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Moon Trips

SpaceX announced yesterday it plans to fly two paying tourists around the Moon and back late next year.

It plans similar flights at least yearly after that.

Monday, February 27, 2017

UAE To Mars

The United Arab Emirates has announced a project to build a city on Mars by 2117.

It also plans to launch its first probe to Mars by 2020.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Trappist SETI

With the discovery of 7 Earth-sized planets in the Trappist-1 system, including 3 in the star's habitable zone, SETI researchers will likely listen to the system.

The discovery also suggests dwarf stars, the most common stars in the universe, should be fully in play in the search for life.

Friday, February 24, 2017

UFOs

UFO sightings, according to the National UFO Reporting Center, have spiked to an all-time high worldwide.

The vast majority of sightings, however, occur in the United States.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trappist-1

Trappist-1 is an ultracool dwarf star only slightly bigger than Jupiter.  It is the most common type star in the universe.  Orbiting it are seven Earth-sized worlds-- three of which orbit in the star's habitable zone.

Trappist-1 is only 39 light years away, so the next generation of large telescope will be able to study the worlds' atmospheres in detail, in a search for life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Streaky Slopes

There is reason to think that liquid water spasmodically flows down certain slopes on Mars, and that such streaks may contain life.

Knowing where water flows may be key to human exploration and colonization.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Opening Deep Space

NASA will spend up to $30 million over the next five years to develop technologies for deep space human excursions.

The money will be spent by two new research institutes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Return To Flight

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 yesterday for the first time since an explosion last September.

The first stage was also successfully soft-landed.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ceres Organics

Organic molecules, the precursors of life, have been found on the dwarf planet Ceres.

A new study suggests the organics formed on Ceres rather than being delivered by comets or asteroids.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Calling ET

Stephen Hawking, among others, has warned against alerting aliens that we're here, for fear they might destroy us.

There is another school of thought, however.   Advocates of sending messages to the stars note our radio and television transmissions have already reached the nearest stars and suggest powerful transmissions targeted on those stars.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Churchilll On Aliens

An essay written by Winston Churchill has been discovered among his papers.  It was written in 1939, when Europe was sliding into war.

In the essay, Churchill speculates about life elsewhere in the universe, and lays out essentially the same logic scientists use today to argue advanced life may be fairly common.  He also wrote he saw no  reason to think humans were the only, or the most intelligent, advanced race in the cosmos.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

104 For India

India successfully launched 104 satellites into orbit on one rocket last night.

The nation is quietly building quite a capable space program.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North Korea

North Korea tested a new ballistic missile over the weekend.

Some analysts have always argued North Korea's space efforts were simply a cover for rocket development.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Europan Lander

NASA is looking at a mission concept that would put a lander on Europa to search for life.

The mission would launch in 2024 and reach Jupiter five years later.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Benji-Colombo

A joint Europe-Japan mission to Mercury is scheduled to launch in 2018.

After several gravity assists, Benji-Colombo will reach Mercury in 2020.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trump Space?

A new report holds that the Trump administration might refocus NASA on helping the private sector build a space-based economy.

Done correctly, such an effort would fundamentally change the future.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Forming Luna

With the help of atomic tests, scientists are building a case that the Moon is so dry because volatiles like water were driven out if the material that formed the Moon when a huge body crashed into Earth.

The Moon does have water ice, but it was probably brought by comets.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Helium

Experiments show that helium can form compounds with other elements under the pressure deep within giant planets.

Science had traditionally held helium did not form compounds.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Alpha Centauri

Research suggests there's an 85 percent chance of finding a world in the habitable zone of at one of the two main stars of the Alpha Centauri system.

A world has already been found in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Anakyzing Asteroids

A new concept for studying the composition of asteroids involves shooting tiny impactors inti them and analyzing the plasma raised.

First flights could occur in five to ten years.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Cryovolcanoes

Cryovolcanoes relax and disappear over time, a new study suggests.

They are principally made of water ice, and such ice is not structurally strong enough to support the mass of a mountain over time, so the ice slowly relaxes and the mountain goes away.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Another Near Miss

A 30-foot long asteroid missed Earth by about 100,000 miles yesterday.

The miss was the third close call in only nine days.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Orbiting Proxima b

A new study finds it might be possible to put nanoprobes into orbit around Proxima b.

That's the good news.    The bad news is that an orbital mission would take several times longer the a flyby because of the need to manage flight speed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Perspective

Apple has reported quarterly earnings of over $78 billion.

That's more than four times NASA's proposed annual budget.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 BH30

An asteroid the size of a pickup truck passed within about 32,000 miles of Earth last night, only hours after it was discovered.

The asteroid, 2017 BH30, is too small to be a threat to Earth, but it is another reminder of the need for planetary defense.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Expanding Universe

A new study suggests the universe is expanding faster than thought.

The speed may be tied to dark energy, dark matter, or a new understanding of physics.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hot Jupiters

A new study suggests so-called hot Jupiters actually get bigger as they age.

That would help explain how so many huge worlds got to be so close to their parent star.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Apollo 1

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that took the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

Out of that tragedy came an extremely capable spacecraft that did not lose a man during one of the most demanding exploration programs to date.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Axiom

Axiom Space is a new company that plans to attach a completely self-sufficient module to ISS in 2020 that will be capable of supporting seven astronauts.

Axiom plans to help lead the industrialization of space.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Opportunity

NASA's Opportunity rover landed on Mars thirteen Earth-years ago today.

Its mission was supposed to last 90 days, but in fact Opportunity is still roving-- a remarkable tribute to the technology and the people who designed, built, and continue to operate it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Microorganisms

A new study suggests simple Earth microorganisms could live in the current atmosphere of Mars.

That suggests that if life ever arose on Mars it might still be there.

Monday, January 23, 2017

2014 MU69

The New Horizons spacecraft is on its way to an encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 in 2019.

It encountered Pluto in 2015, and has now sent all that data back to Earth.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Return To The Moon?

There's some indication that the Trump administration may refocus NASA's human spaceflight program away from Mars and to returning to the Moon.

That return could possibly come within three to seven years.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Perspective

General Electric has announced quarterly revenues of over $33 billion.

The proposed NASA budget currently before Congress calls for about $19 billion for the coming fiscal year.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mud Cracks On Mars

Curiosity has found what are likely mud cracks on its way up Mount Sharp.

It's more evidence that Mars had extended wet periods in the past.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Venus Wave

Scientists have found a huge, long-lasting wave high in the atmosphere of Venus that seems to be associated with a mountain range.

Similar formations appear on Earth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Eugene Cernan

Eugene Cernan, the last Apollo astronaut to stand on the Moon, passed away yesterday at 82.

He was also one of only three Apollo astronauts to fly to the Moon twice.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Return To Flight

SpaceX successfully launched a bevy of satellites over the weekend.

It was the company's first launch since a Falcon 9 exploded last year.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

ARM

NASA is delaying letting contracts for its Asteroid Redirect Mission.

NASA cites budget issues, but the delay also gives the incoming Trump administration time to review the project.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Moon Express

Moon Express has secured the necessary funding to attempt to land on the Moon and win the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Deadline for the prize is December 31, 2017.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Life On Venus?

Speculation among some scientists is that microbial life might exist high in the atmosphere of Venus.

Dark. so far unexplained streaks that absorb ultraviolet light appear precisely in the section of the Venusian atmosphere that is most Earth-like.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

X-37B

The current mission of the U. S. Air Force's X-37B spaceplane has passed the 600 day mark.

What is happening on that mission is still unknown to the general public.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2017 AG13

Early this morning, asteroid 20177 AG13 flew past Earth at about half the distance to the Moon.

It was discovered only two days ago.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Exoplanets

Twenty-five years ago today, the discovery of the first two exoplanets was announced.

Today, that number stands at about 3,500.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

JWAT On Track

NASA is telling astronomers to start working on their observation proposals for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Observations are scheduled to begin in April 2019.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Supermassive Black Holes

Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory have detected up to a billion supermassive black holes in the early universe.

That was many more than expected.  Studying them will tell us much about the essentials of the universe.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Planetary Defense

The Obama White House has released a planetary defense strategy.

Whether the Trump White House will adopt it remains to be seen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spirit

Thirteen years ago yesterday, the Spirit rover landed on Mars.  It was supposed to last 90 days. but it fact it covered more than four miles over six years.

Its twin, Opportunity, is still moving along.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Return To Flight

SpaceX is planning its next launch next week.

It will be the company's first launch since a Falcon 9 exploded during launch last year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Shredding Asteroids

Asteroids that stray too close to the Sun in their orbits may be slowly torn apart, a new study suggests.

Astronomers aren't sure of the mechanism.  The bodies studied don't get close enough to the Sun to be ripped apart by gravity.