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Strangers in the night sky

Everyone knows that while the night sky is black between the stars and planets, it is anything but empty. Throughout our universe, space is filled with all sorts of objects – comets, meteoroids, asteroids and a variety of debris. Ever since man has made its first exploration into space, scientists have been studying the debris found there. Scientists have also made a habit of naming items they’ve found, comets, stars, and even some of those asteroids. Studies have shown a variety of interesting fact that have helped us learn something about our own planet and our solar system.


Test Your Metal

Star Trek, the original series and beyond, helped us to envision worlds beyond our own, opening our imaginations to the possibilities that could exist in such a vast galaxy. Worlds but ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ existed, offering a plethora of life to be discovered and adventures to be had. While none of the events in the series have ever come to past, that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t embarking on their own exciting ventures into outer space.

One such adventure could occur as early as 2015. Scientists had been putting together a proposal for NASA’s Discovery Competition – and the winner actually gets to put their plan into action. Their propsal? Study an asteroid that is a member of the Kuiper belt – the line of asteroids that separate the first four planets from the last four. But asteroids exist in an abundance, right?

True, but this is no ordinary asteroid, but one made of metal and thought to be the core of a protoplanet. The hope is that by studying this great, grey, lump of rock that scientists can learn more about the formation of planets.

Unfortunately, the Psyche mission was not chosen as one of the final contestants, but if nothing else, the discovery of this core does lend itself to the imagination. And who knows, maybe a study of Psyche will come to pass some time in the future.


The Future Enterprise

NASA is not giving up, it seems. News this week reveal that NASA is indeed working on faster than light engines. In fact, they have even come up with a ship design, and named it Enterprise!

Pretty neat, huh? But just how close are we to this? With funding to NASA having been cut drastically, and the US having to rely on Russia to send their astronauts to the space station because the US no longer has transportation to space and back again now that all shuttles have been grounded.

Is this just a media tactic or is there a real chance of this coming to fruition? If there is a chance of this becoming reality, do you think it will happen in our lifetimes? As always, we here at the Poll of the Week are anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter. So head on over to the polls and let us know of your opinion.


The Case Of The Mysterious Stone

In the original Star Trek series, there were several alien beings that would appear or disappear at will and without the use of a teleporter. We don’t have that ability in the real world, but it seems that a certain rock on a certain red planet might.


Weightless Creativity

Animals are no strangers to space. Before man orbited the earth or set foot on the moon, those of the four legged variety have braved the new frontier. Scientists were concerned about the effects of macro and micro gravity on biological functions so used animals to ‘test the waters’, so to speak, before daring to send up a homo sapien. You won’t see animals making the trek up to space so much any longer – or will you?


Even Mars Has Bureaucrats…

Sorry for the alarming title, but the subject matter of this article may just be that alarming. Alarming, yes; but not in the sense of mechanical failure, or economic catastrophe.  Ladies and gentleman, the latest problem to hit the missions to Mars is one that no one planned for, a problem that even the most skilled and versed scientists couldn’t even predict.

It would seem that on that awesome August 6th morning that all was going well. The Rover and its landing module descended through the martian atmosphere with utmost brilliance, and it to rest on the flat red rock that is Mars. Footage can be seen all around the web of the men and women at the control center leaping with joy, as nearly two years of hard work and preparation finally came to a grand and well deserved hallmark. Video detailing the landing, dubbed the “7 Minutes of Terror”, could also be pulled from “dailymotion.com” to YouTube so that all may enjoy one of the most momentous occasions in nearly a decade. That was… until the unexpected happened. In spite of the monstrous success of the mission, and the simple fact that man had done it again, this monumental video footage would still have to suffer the wrath of non other than the Bureaucrats.


Curiosity Broadens the Great Frontier

On the morning of August 6th, 2012 at 05:14:39 UTC, a wondrous and breathtaking stream of data came from the Curiosity Rover all the way back to Earth, who’s nine month journey had finally landed it on the surface of the Mars. The planet is once again being probed by the minds at NASA, and this adventure proves to be one that may strengthen what we know about the infamous Red Planet.

It was on November 26th, 2011 at 10:02 am that the Curiosity rover along with the Mars Exploration Laboratory took flight from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. From there, the Rover representing the American born dream of exploration, would begin its nine month journey into what we could consider here on Earth to be “deep space”. Equipped with state of the art communications and imaging arrays, the hope and chance placed on the SUV sized rover was immense. Due to catastrophic difficulties with maneuverability and and latent imaging, the taste left from other rover expeditions was less than sour. The initial goal of this voyage would be a simple one: to be error free.

Engineers working on the new project would have to be on their toes, thinking of all the things that befell other rovers before Curiosity. Tracks could no longer be used after too many turning issues had been discovered, causing millions in lost dollars. Imaging, optics and sensors would have to be of utmost importance, as well as the power that sustained them, for what is a trip to mars without eyes or even ears to experience it? Wrought with the problems of the past, NASA’s scientists worked overtime to make sure they didn’t happen again. Built of lightweight aluminum, the rover would not be bogged down by its body weight alone. The mobility system featured six aluminum wheels which are powered by four steering motors, allowing it to turn on a dime if need be, as well as follow an arc path.  Complete with upgraded optics, imaging systems and radio transponders, the only thing left to do was to launch. That would be the only means of determining if the fate of Curiosity would be the same as its predecessors.

All that changed on the morning of August 6th, when the module entered the Entry, Decent and Landing (EDL) phase of its rather long flight plan, sensors indicated that the vehicle and its delivery system had successfully broke through the martian atmosphere. The folks at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory control center were blessed with not only pictures of the planet’s surface, but video of its plunge through alien air. The “7 Minutes of Terror” as it was dubbed by scientists present, chronicles the rover’s decent and landing on the planet’s surface without error. 2.5 billion dollars, and 352 Millions miles later, the forever-long dream had finally become a reality (Landing as it Happens).

The mission for now? Well the Rover is slated to explore the various geological facets of the Gale Crater, its original landing position, and through use of the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons or DAN, the hunt for water begins again. Also, on Sol 2, a benchmark for the rover’s activities, it is scheduled to raise its six foot high mast complete with navigational, chemical and imaging cameras for images of the sky above mars, as well as panoramic shots of the alien flatland. All in all the 98 week mission on mars is going to be a fruitful one at that; a mission that will certainly broaden our understanding of the great frontier.

Click this link to view the 257 frames of the Rover’s landing on mars, along with many other facts about the program!


Mission to Mars: Beating Menu Fatigue

Did you know that menu fatigue presents a real problem for long term spaceflight?  Throughout the years since man first traveled into space, food and mealtimes have been one of the things that scientists have focused on. Humans need to eat, so from the toothpaste tubes of the early days of the Space Race to modern, chef-cooked, dehydrated meals, the food taken into space has always been important. Now, as we look towards the future, and a possible mission to Mars, we find that food has once again become the center of focus.


The End of an Era: Saying Farewell to the Space Shuttle

With the final space shuttle launch, a great period of technological advancement as man reached out into space will come to an end. For me, this holds a special place, as I had the fortune to grow up minutes from the Kennedy Space Center complex, and though I no longer live there, the memories of everything will stick with me forever.

The Space Transportation System (STS) was a marvel of engineering and technology when it was conceived. Though it had been thought impossible, the ingenuity of man, along with a huge team of dreamers and thinkers, made it happen. And seamlessly, mankind moved from expendable rocketry to reusable and viable space transport. It was the birth of a new era; one from which we have derived soda cans, Velcro, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), Aircraft anti-icing systems, groundbreaking medications that can be made only in microgravity, reverse lightning rods, fire resistant housing materials, an implantable heart resynchronization device, better and cheaper manufacturing methods for contact lenses, lightweight lifesaving equipment for emergency personnel, better methods of forecasting severe weather, and of course, Tang, the orange powder drink so often associated with the space program.