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Obama Killing What’s Left Of NASA, Shutting Down Planetary Exploration?

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Earlier this week I opined the death of NASA, and a lot of you responded by insisting that even though they were no longer well funded enough to do manned space exploration, their new mandate of exploration of the solar system’s planets by robot was as good or better than anything they could have done with manned missions. Bad news: That may be dead too.

The Washington Times reports that the Obama administration plans to end all planetary exploration by NASA and the United States of America, by the year 2013. Worse, word is that they plan to position the space astronomy program for destruction too. American won’t just stop exploring outer space, we aren’t even going to look at it anymore.

The story published in the Washington Times doesn’t cite any sources and merely says that this “leaked out” in the Obama administration’s budget, so we’ll need more details before we can call this a done deal. But, this move isn’t entirely unexpected, and seems pretty much in keeping with the Obama administration’s overall attitude towards space exploration in recent years.

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Sci-Fi in Real Life: Solar Sails Being Developed By NASA

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Bajoran LightshipNASA may have put an end to the shuttle program, but they continue to pursue cutting edge technology.  The same people who took us to the moon and made memory foam a reality are now attempting to perfect and implement solar sails that could be used as an alternative energy source for deep space travel.  Solar sails function much like regular sails on boats except that, instead of harnessing the power of wind, they harness sunlight.  As Ray Sanders over at Universe Today explains it, photons from the sun are gathered by the sail and stored until there is enough power to provide thrust to a small spacecraft.

NASA has been experimenting with solar sail technology for a little while now.  NanoSail-D, for example, has been slowly descending from the upper atmosphere via a solar sail and transmitting back data for months.  The latest announced demonstration, however, would involve a solar sail 7 times larger than any flown in space to date.  It will also test attitude control and execute a navigation sequence at mission-capable level, bringing us one step closer to implementation of the technology in actual space flight.

Successful solar sail technology would be a great boon to space travel.  It would allow spacecraft to travel great distances on less fuel, potentially lowering the cost of missions if the sails are reliable and affordable enough.  NASA says solar sails could be employed in a number of other areas, as well.  Small solar sail thrusts could remove orbital debris and solar sails integrated into satellites could allow them to de-orbit at the end of their missions.  Solar sails could also provide enough low thrust to stabilize space stations situated in otherwise unstable locations.

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Heads Up: You May Be Hit By A Falling Satellite This Weekend

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This weekend, if you’re out and about enjoying the fresh air of our rapidly fading summer season, there’s a chance that you may be hit by a piece of America’s failed space program.

NASA, or what’s left of it after the US government’s continued callous cuts of already fairly minimal exploration budgets, says a satellite they launched in 1991 is about to come back down to Earth. The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite or UARS has been losing altitude since 2005 and its reunion with Earth’s surface has been pretty much inevitable for awhile now. On Friday, the now irrelevant piece of 90s technology will collide with the ground.

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Newly Discovered Planet Has Embraced The Dark Side Of The Force

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I’m 34-years-old and when I was a kid sitting in science class, the existence of planets outside our solar system was only a theory. Scientists weren’t actually able to confirm the existence of extra-solar planets until 1992, but since then, they’ve been uncovering them at a rapid pace. Nearly 575 different planets have been confirmed to exist in orbit around suns other than our own. But few, if any, of those 575 destinations are likely to be as strange as the one just discovered by the Keplar spacecraft.

One thing all planets have in common, or at least had in common until now, is that they all reflect light. The Earth for instance, reflects nearly 40% of the light sent to it by our sun back out into space. But not this planet, currently labeled as TrES-2b. There the forces of light and dark seem to be at war with one another, and light is losing. Light directed at it never actually reflects back out into space.

NASA reports that this new planet reflects less than 1% of the light hitting its surface. It’s black, really black. So black in fact that seen from space, well it almost can’t be seen from space. The light it does emit, isn’t reflected. David Spiegel of Princeton University explains, “…it’s not completely pitch black. It’s so hot that it emits a faint red glow, much like a burning ember or the coils on an electric stove.”

The really fascinating thing here is that no one’s entirely sure why or how this can happen. One theory is that its atmosphere is composed of some sort of chemical we’ve never seen before, but I have a better theory: cloaking device.

Beware Romulans bearing gifts.

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The Death Star Is Real, Spotted In Orbit Around Saturn

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It’s finally happened. NASA has discovered evidence that the Empire is preparing to move against the Rebel Alliance. They’ve spotted the Death Star in orbit around Saturn.

The following image, recently released by NASA, is a real photo of Mimas, long thought to be one of Saturn’s moons but now revealed to be a space station of awesome destructive power.

mimas death star

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Obama Kills Plans For Space Exploration, NASA Funding Gone

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For awhile it seemed like we were right on the cusp of a new era in human exploration of space. NASA has been putting together plans to go back to the moon and then to use that as a stepping stone to get to Mars. President Bush supported it. Obama is killing it.

CS Monitor says President Obama’s newly unveiled 2011 budget effectively scraps the space program. They’ve cut almost all of their funding, scrapping the planned replacement for the space shuttle, killing plans for a more powerful rocket, and an eventual moon base.

Any hope that Obama would put a new emphasis on science and exploration seems to be gone. It’s back to shortsighted stupidity. America is now out of the space race. Whoever ends up as the Captain of the Enterprise, odds are he won’t be from Iowa.