Showing posts from January, 2015

NASA looking at nuclear thermal rockets to explore the solar system

Officially, NASA has been charged with sending astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030s. Toward that end, according to a Friday story in Universe Today, space agency engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center are looking at an old concept for interplanetary travel, nuclear thermal engines. However, some doubts have been expressed whether NASA will be granted the budget to develop such engines.

A nuclear thermal rocket uses a nuclear reactor to superheat liquid hydrogen into plasma that is then channeled through a nozzle to generate thrust. The amount of thrust generated is far greater than can be achieved with a chemical rocket. Trip times to Mars would be reduced by about half.

NASA looked at NTRs in the 1960s and early 1970s as part of the Rover and NERVA programs. Various rocket engines were ground tested with good results. However, the program was shut down after a prospective Mars mission to have taken place in the 1980s was postponed indefinitely. The concept made a brief …

Where Will We Live After Earth?


Why Elon Musk Wants to Launch a Space-Based Internet Service | MIT Technology Review


Kepler astronomers discover ancient star with five Earth-sized planets

This system tells us that planets were forming around stars nearly 7 billion years before our solar system. Astronomers poring over four years of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have discovered a star that’s 11.2 billion years old and has at least five Earth-sized planets.

“We thus show that Earth-sized planets have formed throughout most of the universe’s 13.8-billion-year history, leaving open the possibility for the existence of ancient life in the galaxy,” the astronomers wrote in their paper.

The paper describes Kepler-444, a star that’s 25 percent smaller than our Sun and is 117 light-years from Earth. The star’s five known planets have sizes that fall between Mercury and Venus. Those planets are so close to their star that they complete their orbits in fewer than 10 days. At that distance, they’re all much hotter than Mercury and aren’t habitable.

Steve Kawaler from Iowa State University said Kepler-444 is very bright and can be easily seen with binoculars.

Kawaler’s ro…

Google Lunar XPrize Milestone Awards Announced


Mars One, the “Third Quarter Effect”, and our human journey into deep space


Former astronaut leads team building rocket bound for Mars

For a young boy in Costa Rica the dreams of being a rocket scientist seemed far way, but Franklin Chang Diaz has always been about defeating the odds.

At the age of 17, he moved to Connecticut in the U.S. to live with his relatives and pursued his doctorate in plasma physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through determination and perseverance he became an astronaut in 1980 and went on his first mission in 1986. For 25 years, Chang Diaz was an astronaut at NASA, flying on the space shuttle not just once, but seven times.

Now that his flying days are over, he is still pushing the boundaries. His next project is his most ambitious by far: building the spaceship that will take a man to Mars.


Patrick Stewart Narrating NASA's 'Trek' to Mars in 'Journey to Space'


If Earth falls, will interstellar space travel be our salvation?

Some climatologists argue it may be too late to reverse climate change, and it’s just a matter of time before the Earth becomes uninhabitable – if hundreds of years from now. The recent movie Interstellar raised the notion that we may one day have to escape a dying planet. As astrophysicists and avid science fiction fans, we naturally find the prospect of interstellar colonization intriguing and exciting. But is it practical, or even possible? Or is there a better solution?

Science fiction has painted a certain picture of space travel in popular culture. Drawing on stories of exploration from an age of tall ships, with a good helping of anachronisms and fantastical science, space exploration is often depicted in a romantic style: a crew of human travelers in high-tech ships wandering the Galaxy, making discoveries and reporting back home. Perhaps they even find habitable words, some teeming with life (typically humans with different-colored skin), and they trade, colonize, conquer o…

SpaceX To Build 4,000 Broadband Satellites in Seattle

Elon Musk on Jan. 16 said SpaceX has submitted to international regulators the necessary documentation for a global satellite Internet project to eventually include some 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and initial service within five years.

He also said Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX would not be pursuing a stock market listing for many years given the volatility of the launch-services market.

Musk did not provide a name for his satellite project, and there was no immediate way to verify what he or SpaceX have submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Geneva-based United Nations agency that regulates orbital slots and radio spectrum. Also unclear is what radio frequencies the SpaceX network would used to deliver broadband from low Earth orbit.

“There’s multiple elements to the regulatory things,” Musk said in answer to a question during an invitation-only speech in Seattle announcing the creation of the SpaceX satellite factory there. “There’s the I…

Google reportedly in satellite investment talks with SpaceX

Funding would apparently bolster both companies' goals of creating space-based networks for delivering Internet access via satellite. Google is discussing a possible investment in rocket maker SpaceX to beef up efforts to deliver Internet access via satellite, according a report by The Information.

The investment deal, which has not been finalized, would value the SpaceX in excess of $10 billion, sources described as familiar with the talks told The Information. Such a partnership would bolster both companies' plans for providing low-cost Internet access to underserved regions of the globe

Representatives for Google and SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment.

Silicon Valley companies have been tinkering with ways to provide reliable Internet access to developing regions, while also possibly acquiring a lucrative new user base, without investing in expensive ground-based infrastructure. Facebook said in March it was exploring how to use "drones, satellites, and…

Why humans should go to Mars and other places in space


Interstellar Space Travel


Exoplanets May be More Hospitable to Life with Day-Night Cycle

The search for life on other planets continues. Now, scientists have discovered that exoplanets may be more likely to be hospitable to life and have liquid water than we thought.

"Planets with potential oceans could have a climate that is much more similar to Earth's than previously expected," said Jeremy Leconte, lead author of the new study, in a news release.

Scientists have long believed that exoplanets don't rotate like the Earth and, instead, always show their same side to their star. If so, then exoplanets would rotate in sync with their star so that there is always one hemisphere facing it; this means that one side of the planet would be in perpetual, cold darkness. However, it seems that exoplanets also have the potential to exhibit the same day-night cycle as Earth.

In order to better understand exoplanets, the researchers created a three-dimensional climate model to predict the effect of a given planet's atmosphere on the speed of its rotation, whi…

Elon Musk wants to spend $10 billion building the internet in space

The plan would lay the foundation for internet on Mars Elon Musk's plan for satellite internet is even more ambitious than originally thought. At a SpaceX event in Seattle on Friday, the Tesla CEO told Bloomberg Businessweek that his unnamed Space Internet venture could one day stretch all the way to Mars — and it could cost $10 billion to pull off.

The news comes at the tail end of a busy week for Musk, with the CEO announcing that a five-mile Hyperloop test track is in development only a day earlier. According to Musk, the satellite internet project would make for fast, cheap global internet that isn't impeded by terrestrial wires. "The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber," he says, explaining that internet provided by satellites in low orbit can serve those in sparsely populated areas. However, the dream doesn't end there; with his eyes already on a future Martian colony, the SpaceX founder wants connectivity to re…

Massive boost in the hunt for alien life: Billions of exoplanets are more Earth-like than first thought, claims study

Astronomers believe exoplanets that could hold water rotate around their stars at such a speed that they exhibit a day-night cycle similar to EarthThis contradicts the popular theory that many exoplanets are locked in a rotation which causes only one side of their surface face their sun In their hunt for alien life, astronomers have so far focused on looking for Earth-like planets around smaller, cooler suns.

But these exoplanets - despite having a chance of holding water - are believed to be locked in a rotation around their sun which causes only one side of their surface face the star.

Now astronomers claim that such exoplanets actually rotate around their stars, and spin at such a speed that they exhibit a day-night cycle similar to Earth – increasing the chance of finding alien life.

'Planets with potential oceans could have a climate that is much more similar to Earth's than previously expected,' said Jérémy Leconte, a postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute …

Exoplanets more hospitable to life than thought


Understanding Exoplanets: The Habitable Zone

In this first of a series of articles to come on the scientific search for extraterrestrial life, we explore the magical place around stars called the Habitable Zone. Known by another name, the "Goldilocks Zone", this location is prime real estate for a planet to occupy. For "Exoplanets", which are those planets that circle other stars, the possibility that life as we know it exists there could be maximized if the planet's orbit falls within this habitable location. The zone is exactly that location that is not too hot and not too cold where liquid water can exist on a suitable planet. Looking at Earth for a moment, as we have all learned and confirmed life began in earnest in the oceans. Water is critical to the process if not simply because it allows for the mixing of many disparate materials which can under certain circumstances create the building blocks of life from which we are all composed. Having come from the oceans, to this very day our own bodies re…


One of the most commonly-asked questions in terms of space flight is: “Why haven’t we gone beyond the Moon since the early 1970s?” There are any number of answers that one can provide, politics, funding, and other issues can all be offered up. In terms of missions into deep space, there are more than a few technical hurdles that need to be addressed prior to crews traveling to destinations such as the planet Mars. The time spent between worlds holds all sorts of dangers, from the threat caused by the weakening of the body in the microgravity environment, micrometeoroids - as well as the threat posed by radiation.

If one reviews what NASA and other space-related organizations the proposals as to how these agencies will handle the issue of space-borne radiation, is usually via specially-shielded sections of the spacecraft that will be encased with the water that the crew will take with them to their destination. That is except for, A Voyage to the Planets, in the 2004 television produ…

These Interstellar Cannons Actually Hunt Exoplanets

The ESO's new exoplanet-hunting telescopes on Paranal looks absolutely stunning in this long-exposure night time shot. It shows the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) telescopes during testing.

The Moon appears as the brightest streak among the star trails, the VISTA and VLT domes can also be seen on the horizon. The ESO explains in more detail what you're looking at:

The NGTS is located at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. This project will search for transiting exoplanets — planets that pass in front of their parent star and hence produce a slight dimming of the star's light that can be detected by sensitive instruments. The telescopes will focus on discovering Neptune-sized and smaller planets, with diameters between two and eight times that of Earth.


Colonizing Mars: The Future Belongs to SpaceX and Elon Musk


SpaceX, Elon Musk and the reusable rocket dream

Last weekend, SpaceX made a historic attempt to land a rocket on a floating ocean platform after a launch from Florida.

"Close but no cigar," was how SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk described it.

SpaceX sent cargo to the International Space Station as part of its contract with NASA, and that part of the mission went exactly as planned. However, Musk also used the launch as the first big test of his dream to create a reusable rocket.

"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship," he tweeted, "but landed hard."

After examining retrieved pieces of the rocket, Musk said the problem may have stemmed from its running out of hydraulic fluid just before landing: "Upcoming flight already has 50% more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month."

It's possible the next attempt could be later this month. SpaceX is slated to launch the DSCOVER satellite for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administratio…

Soon, You’ll Officially Be Able To Name An Exoplanet... Sort Of | Popular Science


The Search for a Second Earth


Despite botched landing, a lot went right with SpaceX’s booster flyback

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster accomplished a delicate maneuver after a glowing predawn launch from Cape Canaveral on Saturday, turning around at hypersonic speeds and autonomously navigating its away to a modified barge the size of a football field hidden in darkness beneath a blanket of low clouds, before it crashed — and presumably broke up — on the ship.

SpaceX officials described the landing attempt as purely experimental, but it marked a key step in the company’s long-running effort to make a rocket that can be reused cheaply. All existing launchers drop their spent rocket parts back to Earth and are written off after each flight.

Such a breakthrough could dramatically reduce the cost of spaceflight, SpaceX says.

The pencil-shaped Falcon 9 rocket stage slowed down from a top speed of nearly 3,000 mph at the edge of space and descended toward SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship — a specially-outfitted cargo barge — in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles northeast of Cape Canav…

Telescope Captures Stunning Images of Alien Planets and Young Star


Retro NASA Travel Posters Invite You to Real Alien Worlds


Search for the First True Alien Earth Heats Up



KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla — NASA held an impromptu photo opportunity with the Orion spacecraft that carried out the Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1 ) mission, which was flown on Dec. 5, 2014. During the Jan. 6 event NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expressed the ongoing support that the agency has for commercial space flight efforts – as well as the personality the former Marine Corps General – has become known for. Perhaps more importantly, the administrator hinted that commercial companies might have a role to play in the agency’s deep space exploration efforts.

The Orion spacecraft was unveiled with the opening of the doors at the Launch Abort System Facility located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. After a short wait, Paul Cooper, a manager with Lockheed Martin, the spacecraft’s manufacturer and the Kennedy Space Center Associate Director Kelvin Manning gave brief opening remarks. They were followed by Bolden who lauded the team who recovered Orion, inviting them to join him in …

Eight Newly Found Exoplanets Look to Be “Just Right”

Astronomers are discovering exoplanets—worlds orbiting other stars—all the time, but eight new ones recently found are more exciting: They are roughly the size of Earth, and all orbit in their stars’ habitable zones (the distance where conditions are good for liquid water on a planet’s surface). Two in particular are pretty close to having potentially Earth-like conditions, which is very interesting indeed.

The planets were all first found using NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Kepler has been looking for several years at one patch of the sky containing about 150,000 stars. If planets orbit any of those stars, and the orbits happen to be seen edge-on from Earth, the planets will pass directly in front of their stars, dimming them ever so slightly. This “transit method” has been amazingly successful, and Kepler recently had its 1,000th exoplanet confirmed.

The sizes of the planets can be found by determining how much the starlight dims; the bigger the planet, the more star it blocks. …


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) is set to launch one of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) located in Florida. SpaceX completed a hot-fire test of the booster that will carry out NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 5 (SpX-5) mission on Dec. 16 – setting the stage for the launch that is currently scheduled to take place on Dec. 19. Where are the best places along Florida’s Space Coast from which to watch the launch? Once you have picked out your spot – what exactly are you watching?

So, which spots provide the best viewing opportunities? Which ones are horrible? What if you’re on a budget? Not all locations are ideal and some locations, which are perfect to view a Delta IV launch – are terrible when viewing a launch of a Falcon 9. This is due to the sheer geographical size that encompasses Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Here is SpaceFlight Insider’s r…

Kepler Candidate Planets Searched for Signs of Intelligent Life


Elon Musk Is Trying Something Next Week That Could Forever Change Spaceflight

The first SpaceX launch of 2015 is scheduled for 6:20 am EST on Tuesday, Jan. 6 and could be a game-changing event for reusable rocket technology.

SpaceX had originally slated the launch for Dec. 19, but after the rocket's Merlin 1D engines failed to run for the full three seconds during a static fire test on Dec. 17, the company rescheduled for early 2015.

A second test on December 19 was successful, clearing the rocket for launch in January, which will end with a test of the rocket attempting to land upright on an open-ocean platform — a big hurdle to making reusable rockets. Elon Musk said that the attempt has about a 50% chance of success.

Reusable Rockets

The Jan. 6 launch will ferry 3,700 pounds of science experiments, spare parts, food, water, and other supplies to the International Space Station on the Dragon spacecraft.

But the most important part of the launch will not be what goes up, but what comes down. After the Falcon 9 rocket has emptied most of its fuel, it wi…

2014 | SpaceX Year in Review


The 2014 Space Review: Is NASA Back From the Dead?

This wasn't a year to moonwalk about, but 2014 still ended up being a pretty nifty year for that final frontier known as space. It seems like almost everyone got a little piece of the action. Way over in India, the space agency Isro got a low-cost probe in Mars' orbit on the first crack. In fact, Mars was a big theme this year, as trendy with global super powers as the moon was back in the 1960s. NASA had some wins with certain Martian-type things: the rover Curiosity made a few key discoveries while tooling around the red planet this year. For one thing, the rover detected some methane gas spikes on the planet, meaning that there just might possibly be something alive over there and it just might possibly have gas. Curiosity also found a rock sample that had organic material in it. That and the possible evidence of water on Mars are all promising indicators that there could in fact be something on Mars.

Plus, alien enthusiasts have been crawling all over the footage Curiosi…