Sunday, November 25, 2012

Space News Round-Up


Hints have been dropped. An excited buzz is running through the scientific world. Has the Mars rover Curiosity found something truly epic on the red planet? 

To quote a recent article from DVICE:  

If the folks at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory find what they think they've found, it'll be "one for the history books," according to the team.

The insinuation is exciting, to say the least! But team Curiosity is taking their time to check and double-check all the data before they make their announcement—if their suspicions check out and there’s something to announce at all.

Can’t really blame them. After the red-faced experience of prematurely announcing that methane had been found on Mars—an almost sure sign of life—only to discover the data was either wrong or the sample contaminated by properties from Earth, this time they want to be absolutely sure.

Of course my speculative mind is having a field day with what this news could be. Will it be truly Earth-…er, Mars-shaking? According to news sources, the announcement should come within a few weeks. (Like…maybe around December 21, 2012?)

Though the news is generally being back-burnered in favor of the latest football scores and political antics, USA Today may have summed it up best:

In 500 years, nobody will remember what sports team wins the championship or what tax rates were being paid by Americans, but they will remember what country discovered life on another planet...

You can read more at the following links:


What's your guess? What big secret do you think the Curiosity Team is about to break?


"The Last Pictures" is a very unusual art gallery that may claim the prize for longevity. 

It was put onboard a Russian communications satellite launched on November 20 from Kazakhstan, a satellite that could still be in orbit billions of years from now, maybe even after the Earth ceases to exist. The photos include images of a rocket, a typhoon, refugees at sea, Earthrise, a theatre, a church, a mountain and many other images.

Geostationary satellites, those that circle the Earth at 22,300 miles in altitude and spin at the same speed as Earth -- and so are locked into the same spot over our planet -- have orbits that virtually never decay. In this case, EchoStar 16 will serve as the perpetual "museum" for this extraordinary collection. 

Artist Trevor Paglen assembled the hundred images after discussions with over 40 scientists, philosophers, artists and engineers, and had the images inscribed using a nanofabrication technique that will allow them to last for billions of years. The collection is housed inside a golden disk that purposely calls attention to itself by looking out of place on the EchoStar 16 satellite, in hopes it may someday entice an alien race to investigate. The Last Pictures project was commissioned by Creative Time, a non-profit organization. 

See the images here > The Last Pictures Gallery

What images would you include in this "eternal" art gallery?


One of the decisions that came out of the European Space Agency meeting in Naples, Italy on November 21-22, was to provide NASA with a modification of the European ATV as a service module for the Orion program set to launch in 2017. Great Britain will provide most of the funding for the ATV/service module for the Orion craft, which will embark in an unmanned test voyage around the Moon.

This may lead to a joint multi-national mission that is less endangered by any one nations' political whims, and could lead to an ongoing international space exploration program.

Unlike the Space Shuttle, the Orion vessel is designed to leave Earth orbit, with projected Moon and EML-2 missions. EML-2 -- or  Earth/Moon L-2 -- is a spot in space on the far side of the Moon where the gravitational pull of the Earth and Moon essentially balance out, allowing a craft or space station to "park" there and create a platform for future Mars missions or exploration deeper into our solar system.  

What are your thoughts on the future of space exploration with international investment?


  1. Thanks for the round-up! The Mars news (or potential news) is especially exciting. I had somehow managed to miss this in the book release and holiday craziness!

  2. Exciting stuff! Actually I'm still buzzing over this tweet from a fellow scifi fan that might stretch our exploration a lot further (although how soon is the question if it works) -
    Warp drive! Warp drive!!!

  3. Sharon, the breakthroughs are flying at us so fast these days, it's hard to keep up with all the new theories and ideas. I'm not surprised this one slipped past you in all the Book Release Mania. It had honestly slipped by me too, until I started doing some research for this post.

    Oh, that's an inspiring article, Pippa! Warp drive a possibility? Would that ever give new life to our space exploration aspirations! The idea to bend space is not new, but the reasons it was rejected in the past as being undoable now seem much more obtainable once the problem was looked at with a more creative eye. Maybe a Star Trekesque future isn't completely beyond the realm of possibility, after all. Exciting times.

  4. My vote for the Mars news? Water. Probably frozen below the surface and/or in the distant past, but where water exists, so does the possibility of life.

    I think it's great that there is real cooperation on the international front and that the U.S. is actually participating. That is probably our only hope of any true progress in space in the near future, given the lack of political will in this country.

    And WARP DRIVE? Pray that we live long enough to see that!


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