All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go

November 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

By taking a hard look at the Mars One project as well as the many challenges involved in sending humans to Mars, Elmo Keep leaves the 3 man project with a very large plausibility hill to climb. Mars One is not only wildly optimistic about the cost in sending 4 people to mars ($6 billion) but their model of using a reality TV show to pay for the project leaves one to wonder how they will be able to raise the money before any rockets leave the ground.

Even setting the funding issues aside we quickly run into technological, scientific and even moral issues with attempting to carry out this mission within a decade. I’m a huge supporter of manned space exploration but I worry that whether this project succeeds or not it may poison the well of public option on the subject.

Eventually the four Mars One colonists will arrive on an inhospitable alien world, with only themselves for company for two years, until another flight with four colonists is hoped to arrive if they, too, survive the perilous trip through the vacuum of space. They will never speak to anyone but one another in real time ever again; the delay in relaying communications between Mars and Earth is 20 minutes, minimum.
They would be the most isolated human beings in history.

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A bowling ball and feather fall in world’s biggest vacuum chamber

November 5th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

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Buzz Aldrin’s Punch-Out

July 10th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

I met Mr. Aldrin at my grandfather‘s funeral 20 years ago and he was an incredibly nice and personable fellow. I too take moon landing conspiracy theories personally1 and while I have never actually punched anyone over the matter I totally understand the desire to. Go Buzz!

  1. My grandfather and namesake was administrator of NASA when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. []
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A record-breaking brown dwarf: as cold as ice and just 6 lightyears away

April 24th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Located in our astronomical backyard this brown dwarf star is about the size of Jupiter and is estimated to have a surface temperature between -48 to -13C. It’s the coldest brown dwarf yet discovered and will almost certainly be the subject of some very interesting research in the coming years.

While this is not the first brown dwarf we have found this close to our solar system it does make me wonder how long it will until we pay a visit to one of these foreign bodies. Perhaps even within my lifetime?

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SpaceX Rocket Launch Looks Stunning From Drone’s-Eye View

April 24th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Make sure you turn on HD before watching this incredible video of the SpaceX F9R rocket performing a vertical take off and landing.

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If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel – A tediously accurate map of the solar system

March 5th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A fun way to put our solar system in perspective. While many such things focus how tiny our planet is compared to other bodies in the universe this page focuses more on the space between heavenly bodies. Be sure to read the blurbs between planets for an added sense of scale and a little humor.

Warning, not for the faint of horizontal scrolling.

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Saturn As You’ve Never Seen It Before

October 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

When I first saw this amazing picture of Saturn my nerd brain screamed “CG! FAKE-ZORZZZ!” and this was probably because my rational brain was still scrambling to pick its jaw up off the ground.

Lest you think I’m alone in being awestruck by this image lets turn to the preeminent astronomy blogger Phil Plait who is covering this Incredible mosaic by Gordon Ugarkovic over at Slate.

Saturn is so beautiful that it would be next to impossible to pick what would be my favorite picture of it ever.

Impossible until now.

Saturn seen from

I highly recommend reading Phil’s entire post as he highlights some of the more fascinating aspects of this photo. It’s worth zooming in to check out the hexagonal storm at Saturn’s north pole as well as the dark size of Saturn that is being lit up by sunlight reflected off the rings. Like moonlight but 1000 times cooler.

It’s also worth noting that while this image was taken by Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft it was a Croatian “amateur” astronomer named Gordon Ugarkovic that took the time to splice a couple dozen pictures together to make this breathtaking image. Then he posted it to a forum with a short and unassuming message.

On October 10th, Cassini wide-angle camera captured a set of 12 RGB footprints covering Saturn and the rings. Here’s an attempt at compositing that data into a mosaic. It’s not geometrically accurate, but I tried coaxing the data into at least looking nice.

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Sagittarius A* is dancing with a Magnetar

August 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Until recently studying the black hole found in the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, has been rather difficult. It’s for this reason that astronomers were quite excited about the discovery of pulsar PSR J1745-2900 a mere one light year away from Sgr A*.

Pulsar PSR J1745-2900 Illustration

More from Bill Andrews over at D-Brief:

Even though they’re among the most compelling topics to study, black holes are still mysterious to astronomers. Since its discovery nearly 40 years ago, the black hole at the center of our galaxy has eluded most close scrutiny because (unsurprisingly) black holes emit so little light. Luckily, a recently discovered star near the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is now helping scientists learn about these cosmic conundrums’ eating habits.

Though it’s unclear why it took so long to find PSR J1745-2900 the fact that it is so close to Sgr A* and happens to be a magnetar make for something of an astronomy lottery win.

When a massive star dies, it can collapse in on itself, resulting in a smaller star made almost entirely of neutrons. When spinning neutron stars emit beams of radiation from their poles, they’re called pulsars (short for pulsating stars) because of the “blinking” appearance of the star in our skies — think of how a lighthouse only appears to light up when the beam hits your eyes. And certain pulsars have extremely strong magnetic fields, about 100,000 billion times stronger than Earth’s field; these are called magnetars. PSR J1745-2900 is a neutron star, and a pulsar, and a magnetar.

Find out more about this magnetar and what they have discovered about a strong magnetic field surrounding Sgt A* over at Nature.

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Hubble-Sized Satellite Could Be on Its Way to Mars

May 16th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

In a strange twist astronomers are reaping the benefits of the US Government Spy Satellite program. The spy agency announced last year that it was giving NASA two satellites with the same 7.9 foot-wide mirror that The Hubble Space Telescope has. Designed for looking down rather than up it’s estimated that it could pick out objects a mere 5 inches across. Throw in some computer processing and it might get down to 2.5 inches.

Of course NASA has not shortage of ideas about what to do with their new toys but one of the more recent ideas is to ship this satellite to Mars for some unprecedented research of our red neighbor.

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Why we need NASA

April 8th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I am a huge fan of the advances we have made to privatize space flight. Companies like SpaceX are doing amazing things to bring down the costs of getting cargo into space and I can’t wait to buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic once the prices become reasonable. This does not mean, however, NASA’s importance is in any way reduced. If anything the hand off of such responsibilities will allow NASA to focus on what it does best which is pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Take for example the recent announcement of a project to capture an asteroid and bring it into earth orbit for study. As Robert Braun, a former chief technology officer at NASA said “This would be the first time ever humanity has manipulated a space object in such a grand scale.”

Obviously there are outfits like Planetary Resources that are planning to mine asteroids but their success is built upon the problems that NASA solves and I expect they are downright giddy with the recent announcement. Lets also not forget the penchant private enterprise has for vaporware. In order to raise money they have to put of a facade that makes it seem like their incredibly ambitious project is all but a done deal. Otherwise who would invest? That’s why an organization that explores for the sake of science is the keystone to humanity’s bridge off spaceship earth.

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