Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not Space Science But Stonehenge Discovery Still Big News

Despite the fact it is one of the world's most visited tourist destinations, been the center of controversial theories for hundreds of years, and even hosted a few television programs, Stonehenge continues to surprise.

This week British archaeologists announced the discovery of a small village built just a couple miles from the monolithic stone structure which was likely the home for the people who built and used Stonehenge. The village has been dated to nearly 2600 B.C., around the same time as the building of Stonehenge. This is also the time period when ancient Egyptians were constructing the pyramids.

This is obviously not a space-themed story itself, however, it does provide one more piece of evidence that Stonehenge was not, as some would have us believe, built by aliens...

Hubble Telescope Blinded

NASA scientists confirmed today the main camera aboard the Hubble Space Telescope has ceased functioning due to an electrical short circuit. This is the third time in a year the camera has shut down, and scientists say this time it's gone for good.

Two other less powerful cameras are operational and the satellite can still provide a wealth of scientific data, however the most important tool for astronomers around the world, its Advanced Camera for Survey, Hubble's main eye, is completely off line.

NASA says a planned service mission in September 2008 is still on and astronauts will be attempt to correct the problem then.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

SGAC Says: Explorers Wanted!

The Space Generation Advisory Council, a non-governmental agency which touts itself as the worlds largest space youth network, is looking for a few good men and women to join its global space advocacy effort.
Most members are students and young professionals, but anyone between the ages of 18-35 looking to help convince world governments and space agencies to push harder when it comes to the exploration of space, is welcome.
Visit their website ExplorersWanted.com to learn more. Basically, they need volunteers to help them get organized, get the word out and start making waves in the scientific community by germinating, discussing and developing new ideas when it comes to space technology.

The idea for a global network of space volunteers sprang from the minds of International Space University founders Peter Diamandis, Bob Richards and Todd Hawley, who believe that all persons born after 1961 have at least one thing in common: The prospect of human space travel was no longer fantasy...

Heroes of Apollo 1

On January 27, 1967, during a ground test of command module 012 on Pad 34-A, a short-circuit caused a flash fire, trapping and killing its three-man crew in seconds.

Most of us know that ship as Apollo 1.

We know the crew as astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

Officially the tragedy is referred to as the "Apollo Pad Fire"; unofficially it is known that though it took the lives of three honorable American heroes, it forever changed the U.S. space program by ushering in a host of design modifications, safety features and a much better understanding of the sacrifices that would be required for humans to conquer the challenges of spaceflight...

Cool X-Prize Cup Videos

Space.com has a cool new video feature section covering a multitude of challenges at the 2006 Wirefly X-Prize Cup, and as long as you don't mind watching a few commercials they really aren't half bad.

You can check their main video archive here.

There is some cool footage of the Space Elevator competition, the new lunar lander being designed by Armadillo Aerospace, and some general footage of the entire event. There are also interviews with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X-Prize Cup (and Bronx native) and John Carmack, co-founder of id Software and founder of Armadillo Aerospace.

Now into its third year, the X-Prize Cup stands poised to usher in the 21st Century as imagined by science fiction writers, engineers and dreamers for as long as we have had such pursuits...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Iranians in Space

Iran intends to use a modified missile to launch low-earth-orbit satellites. This news came as a shock to world leaders, more accustomed to being leaders in the space initiative than followers. It could also pose a threat to security in the Middle East if Iran marries its pursuit of nuclear weapons with the capability to put a satellite in orbit.

Not surprisingly, Iran has been pursuing this capability for quite some time, only now reaching a point where the technology is within reach. The Iranian Space Agency has specific list of goals including remote sensing, communications and information technology. It also has partners including Chinese, Italian and Russian space scientists.

Iranian government officials have touted their peaceful pursuit of space technology, but countries who have long considered Iran a threat are worried the new technology will only provide a new threat from an old enemy...

The Legend of Lucid

At just 64 years young, astronaut Shannon Lucid is showing no signs of slowing down. Thankfully.

CNN has a nice feature story on her illustrious career and current assignment at NASA, which includes recent work with the crew of Discovery.

Her career is legendary among astronauts, holding the longest space duration record of any US crew member; was born in Shanghai, China, but considers Oklahoma her home-state; and unlike astronaut Norm Thaggard who was unable to walk following his return from the Mir space station, Lucid had no problem sauntering off the shuttle on her own, waving to the crowd like a true hero.

Yet another example of the many accomplishments of women in the field of space science...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Huygens Data Yet Yields Surprises

Hard to believe, but it has been two years since the Huygens probe descended to the surface of Titan, the product of a wildly successful joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA.

The amount of data retrieved by the little probe has run the gamut from surface and atmospheric temperature readings to actual sounds produced by the surface winds. And the data is still being analyzed for more information.

Lakes of methane, polar clouds of ethane and cryo-volcanic eruptions all play a part in Titans topography, now better understood by planetary scientists. Cassini, the satellite which delivered the Huygens probe, continues to weave its way throughout the Saturnian system providing even more information about the curious moon. It will make its next flyby in just three days, coming within 2,000 miles of the surface.

String Theory Unknotted

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have proposed a test to determine whether String Theory is possible.

String Theory proponents say everything in the Universe is fundamentally built of minute 'strings' which resonate at different speeds. This theory provides a unified set of rules for everything in existence, bridging the gap between all the laws of nature from Gravity to Quantum Physics.
The only problem thus far has been proving whether or not it is accurate, because we have no way of detecting these strings. Until now. Well, sort of.

Physicists intend to use the Large Hadron Collider to test how W Bosons scatter in high-energy particle collisions. The test will not prove string theory correct, but rather it will show if any current assumptions about it are incorrect.

Not exactly the proof scientists, mathematicians and physicists around the world have been waiting for, but closer to a solution than we have ever been...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

UFO, or just another trick of the light?

Reports of an Unidentified Flying Object
(or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,
as alien-watchers currently prefer) at
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport
have spread like wildfire ever since
the Chicago Tribune printed a story on
New Year’s Day about the sighting.
Several United Airlines workers,including
supervisors, mechanics and pilots, said
they saw a flying saucer hover over
United Airlines’ Concourse C for several
minutes at around 430 p.m. on
Nov. 7, 2006, before it shot into the sky,
leaving a hole in the clouds.

It took some doing before this story
found its legs.
The National UFO Reporting Center,
based in a former ICBM missile silo
in Washington State, apparently was
the first to report the incident after
a worker contacted the agency. After
the center president was interviewed
by paranormal radio jock George Noory,
whose Coast to Coast AM show airs
across the country (usually in the dead
of night), at least one other worker
corroborated the story to NUFORC.
At some point the Tribune picked
up the story.

We should note that none of the witnesses
have allowed their names to be published.
United denies knowing anything about the
sighting, and Federal Aviation Administration
said air traffic controllers saw nothing out
of the ordinary and detected nothing
on radar. For that matter, nobody has come
forward with any video, which, these days,
is suspect in itself.

But conspiracy theorists have some ammo to
keep this story interesting. FAA at first
denied any knowledge of the event. When the
newspaper asked to inspect tower
communications from that day, however, the
federal agency admitted that a United
supervisor had indeed called the control
tower to ask if they saw an
elliptical object hovering over the concourse.
Who knew that the thugs conducting
the greatest cover up in human history could
be thwarted by a Freedom of Information
Act request?

India Catching-up with Space Faring Nations

India has made no secret of its intention to become a space faring nation. Recently they successfully launched and retrieved their first orbiting space capsule, laying the groundwork for a manned flight sometime in the next few years.

For 60 years the Indian Space Research Organization has sought to develop technologies that will help them fully develop their nation and better provide for the future of their nation. In fact, their research developments have provided better weather forecasting and wireless communciation capability for less-developed portions of their country, thereby increasing its ability to be a productive member of the global community.

The Chandrayaan project aims to put a satellite in orbit around the Moon this year or next, and their pursuit of a scramjet launch system promises to offer a low-cost launch capability in the very near future.
Soon US companies may outsource more than call-centers to India...

China Hits the Bullseye

The Chinese government has officially confirmed what governments around the world realized last week: They possess the power to shoot down any satellite they choose, at will.

SBA does not view this as a threat to world safety, merely as an amazing technological feat. Keep in mind the Chinese system does not blow up the target with a bomb or burn it up with a beam of plasma, but rather uses a blunt-tipped, spear-like, instrument to literally knock the low-earth-orbit satellite down. Nice shot, if you ask me.

Could this weapon be used against China's adversaries around the world? Yes. Of course, so could the arsenal of nuclear weapons kept in silos in the UK, US, India, Pakistan, France and Russia. Not to mention whatever capabilities Iran, North Korea and a host of other nations are keeping hidden.

And keep in mind, China is hardly the first nation to consider using weapons of mass destruction in space.
They are merely the first to tip their hand in this regard...