March 2012

Russian Space Program Gets Ambitious About Space Exploration

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has an ambitious plan for building their space-faring street cred, and it all hapens in 18 years!

Roscosmos, the Russian equivalent of our NASA space program, has a pretty ambitious plan for shedding its Cold War space exploration image. In films like Armageddon and books like World War Z, the Russian space program is characterized as one of rusting Soviet-era equipment more fit for scrapyards than earth's orbit, and the cosmonauts aren’t much better. However, if documents leaked from a recent proposal by Roscosmos are true, they’re going to leave that bygone misconception behind entirely. Russian wants to put people on the moon, and that’s just for starters.

In 2014, space tourism will takeoff in the United States

"The industry is relatively brand new and growing considerably. "

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that the Obama administration is getting ready for a space tourism industry to takeoff in the next two years. The industry has been estimated to have the potential to be worth about a $1 billion in a decade’s time.

I was talking about how space exploration should be privatized and this seems to be what is going to happen, thankfully. Space Exploration Technologies otherwise known as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation are two privately owned companies that NASA has hired in a mission to transport cargo to the $100 billion research complex that is the International Space Station.

NASA mission to fly Icarus-like close to the Sun in the future

Plans have been placed for NASA to fly a spacecraft perilously close to the Sun almost Icarus-like. Solar Probe Plus will give astronomers insights into how the Sun generates such enormous heat and the workings behind the solar winds. Additionally, the mission will serve to shed some light into the evolution of life on Earth and boost further exploration of space.

The price tag for the mission is estimated to be about $1.2 billion and many space enthusiasts wonder if NASA should be spending the money on trying to colonize other worlds or figuring out how to get started doing so rather than a mission to the Sun. I feel that this is a legitimate question, but astrophysicists and NASA astronomers agree that the space probe will be worth the money spent in terms of the information that will be gleaned.

The Train Wreck Cluster's Mysterious Dark Core

Huge clump of dark matter baffles scientists

What gets left behind after a train wreck of intergalactic proportions? Celestial bodies run into each other all the time, but the Abell 520 cluster represents evidence of a particularly violent incident up there among the stars. It's the result of a collision so chaotic that scientists have actually dubbed it the "Train Wreck cluster." And it's left quite the mystery in its wake. 

A Poor Formula for Interstellar Travel

Just getting to the nearest exoplanet would require the energy of 20 million conventional space launches.

A recent feature in KQED Quest was a pail of cold water thrown on the dreams of an blissful optimistic, myself, on the topic of interstellar travel. It’s true that my education in Newtonian physics and the realities of space travel is more wormholes and hyperdrives than astrophysics or aeronautics. Popular science fiction might lead us to believe that interstellar travel, whether by teleportation or sheer thrust, for traveling to another solar system, may be an eventuality, but as Ben Burress illustrates, that may not be so.

Curiosity Landing on Mars is a $2.5 billion gamble for NASA

"I was really thrilled when the United States signed a bill two years ago permitting a manned mission to the Red Planet by the 2030s."

Landing the rover Curiosity on the Red Planet is going to pose a serious challenge because of the nature of its atmosphere. But this Rover landing which is part of the larger Mars Science Laboratory mission has great goals namely to plan for a possible manned mission to Mars in the future and also to solve the mystery about life on Mars. Additionally, operating Curiosity on the surface of the planet will give more insights into the geology of Mars and its climate.

I was really thrilled when the United States signed a bill two years ago permitting a manned mission to the Red Planet by the 2030s. I guess we really aren’t going to get anywhere near a space colony in my lifetime with all the difficulties that a manned mission to Mars poses. These could be anything from physical effects such as eyesight loss and exposure to high energy cosmic rays to the psychological effects of having to be away from Earth to even things like being unable to get good medical facilities.

Scientists Find Evidence of Marsquakes In Rolling Boulders

Images from the Mars Orbiter show evidence of seismic activity on Mars surface.

For decades, scientists have believed that Mars was essentially a “dead” planet. Although the planet sports a number of enormous volcanoes (some dwarfing Earth’s Mt. Everest), they haven’t erupted in billions of years. Even the lava flows that occasionally seem to smooth out, or cover up, Mars’ surface are hundreds of millions of years old. However, there has been some recent speculation that there may be some life in Mars yet. New technology and the HiRISE camera about the Mars Orbiter have given scientists the ability to see Mars’ surface in much clearer detail, raising questions about a recent “Marsquake”.