January 2012

Newt Gingrich’s Moon Colony

Space enthusiasts like me are wondering what the future of the space program is going to be like and especially with manned space flights and the chance of setting up base outside of our planet. Under the Obama administration, there really has not been much importance place on the space program and it has been dwindling.

In comes Newt Gingrich with his pledge to have a Moon Colony by the end of his second term in office in 2020. I am not a big fan of the former Speaker and most political analysts would agree that his campaign has been mostly negative, but this really feels like music to my ears. But is it really possible is the question on everyone’s minds.

The costs are going to be too much for NASA as it is estimated that even placing a four-person station would cost about $35 billion. Additionally, astronomer Phil Plait who came up with this figure states that it would cost just over $7 billion to keep things going on the Moon base. This will be a problem to convince taxpayers to come up with that kind of money and when looking at the private sector I don’t see any investor who might be willing take this on.

Scientists Drastically Underestimate the Number of Planets in the Milky Way

New findings show hundreds of billions, even a trillion, possible planets in just our galaxy.

The presumption in the scientific community has been that planet’s are like rare little gems, serendipitous collections of mass around those stars lucky enough to have them. Our solar system was unusually lucky, housing eight (or nine if you grew up prior to 2000) of these fantastic solar satellites. Recent evidence, however, seems to point to planets being a much more ubiquitous occurrence in the universe than previously thought. In fact, on average every sun has at least one planet, unveiling a Milky Way galaxy that is home to somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion planets.

2011 is the 9th warmest year in recorded history

Before I go further, I want to point out an ad that I shared on another blog on this network of sites. Note the point where Kobe Bryant says that Richard Branson “owns space” at the 0:18 mark. I found it amazing as I was just talking about that not too long ago in this blog.

Anyway, NASA has found that 2011 has been the 9th warmest year since 1880. I live in Minneapolis and I found it strange to have no snow on Christmas and New Year’s Day with temperatures in the 40-50 F range too. Actually, this is just one of those mild winters that occur in Minnesota from time to time.

But in all seriousness, this is actually part of a trend with 9 of the 10 warmest years happening after the turn of the millennium. I am not jumping on the whole global warming bandwagon, but the data seems to point to it. Meteorologists now anticipate the temperature to increase consistently and this should be a good juncture to discuss NASAs test chamber on ‘climate change’ that mimic the toxic conditions of our neighboring planet Venus.

This really goes back to what Carl Sagan talked about in the "Heaven and Hell" episode on the television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage regarding what people could learn from Venus. There are a lot of lessons that we can glean from this simulation by NASA as many scientists including Sagan believe that Venus was just like Earth several billion years ago. Now Venus is composed of 98 percent carbon dioxide and studying how this happened will help in thwarting a similar fate for our world.

Russians Accuse U.S. Of "Interfering" With Failed Satellite

Deflecting blame for a high-profile failure, the Russian space program director points the finger at the U.S.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, was dealt a pretty significant blow in the last couple of months with the failure of a high-profile space probe called Phobos Grunt (Ground). The probe, which was launched on November 9th, was scheduled to travel to Phobos, one of the Martian moons, take surface samples, and return to Earth. It didn’t quite make it to Mars, getting stranded in earth’s upper orbit when a late-stage rocket failed to fire. The satellite is now stuck in low orbit over Earth, and is scheduled to return to earth in little tiny pieces somewhere over the Indian Ocean between today and Monday. Vladimir Popovkin, director of Roscosmos, is convinced the U.S. shot it down.

With characteristically Russian tactlessness, Popovkin attempted to redirect the blame for the mission’s failure, saying that the mission was sabotaged by an anti-satellite weapon. "We don't want to accuse anybody,” he said accusingly, “but there are very powerful devices that can influence spacecraft now." Of course, that’s a bit like saying, “I want to very diplomatically blame the U.S. for disrupting our space mission because they’re the only ones capable of doing it.”

Science fiction becoming a science fact again

I continue with my talk about extraterrestrial life on this blog with this post. It was actually inspired by an article that I read in the Minneapolis StarTribune while eating breakfast this morning about astronomers discovering more signs that supports the idea of numerous planets in the Universe. It basically sheds light on the debate about life outside of our own and makes us realize that we have only just begun looking and just in our backyard (in terms of the size of the universe I mean).

Have $200,000 lying around? Why not take a space flight? Now you can.

According to the New York Times, Virgin Galactic is now selling tickets for space flights for $200K. The flights are scheduled to be this year and at this point just a little less than 500 people have booked seats on this momentous voyage to outer space.

“Hopefully by next Christmas, myself, my daughter and my son will be the first people to go up into space” on a commercial craft, Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Galactic, said in a videotaped interview in November. $200K is definitely a bargain for such an amazing experience that should await a space tourist and Allianz has even lined up travel insurance for these wealthy space enthusiasts to purchase.