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Scientists Appeal To Congress To Support Technology To Search for Extraterrestrial Life

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candidate planetsGiven how many candidate planets Kepler has identified, and the recently announced estimate that billions of habitable planets may exist in the Milky Way alone, scientists are understandably excited about the prospect of finding alien life. They’re so excited, in fact, that they made a plea to Congress this week to embark on the next phase of searching for life.

Sara Seager, MIT’s exoplanet expert who came up with her own equation to express the probability of finding extra-terrestrial life, spoke at the “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond” hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and argued that while we have some technology capable of detecting candidate planets and other life forms, we need more. “This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” she said. “People will look back at us as the ones who found Earth-like worlds.” NASA’s head of astrobiology seconded that, saying that humans finally have the means to gather data about other life forms in the universe, which means it’s incumbent upon us to do so.

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British Interplanetary Society Wants To Build Rotating Space Colonies

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space colonyMars One is currently the only thoroughly developed Mars colonization proposal currently on the table. The selection process for the first Mars colonists is currently underway, and if all goes according to plan — and that’s a big if — the Dutch non-profit would land the first humans on the Red Planet in 2023. Elon Musk, who echoes Stephen Hawking’s argument that humans need to colonize Mars to avoid eventual extinction, has grand plans to transport about 80,000 people to Mars via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsules at about $500,000 a ticket. But some people, such as Mars Society Founder and President Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars, thinks that we’re better prepared to send humans to Mars now than we were to send humans to the Moon in the ’60s. He has argued this for a long time, and is impatient at the lack of progress in landing colonists on Mars. And while Mars seems like a clear choice for colonization, other ideas have been circulating, such as colonizing the clouds of Venus. A recent proposal from the British Interplanetary Society is actually the resurrection of a 40-year-old idea to create rotating space colonies in space.

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Asteroid Mining Could Launch Us Even Deeper Into Space

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asteroid miningThere’s been quite a bit of talk of asteroids lately, and not in the usual one’s-about-to-slam-into-Earth-thus-obliterating-all-life-dear-god-Bruce-Willis-can-you-save-us kind of way. Well, sort of that way. The news hasn’t necessarily been about landing people on fast-moving space rocks in order to destroy them, it’s been more about landing people on the fast-moving space rocks and mining them for all they’re worth. The immediate benefits are well and good, but according to this new infographic and short educational video, mining asteroids could just the boost we, as a species, need to start pushing further and further into the reaches of space.

No lie, this sounds a little bit like the beginning of a Red Dwarf type scenario, where I become the last human alive, living aboard a derelict mining ship with an uptight robot, an even more uptight hologram of my old bunk mate, and, of course, a humanoid creature that descended from a common house cat. So basically, my future has never looked so bright, and I can’t wait to start having all manner of wacky deep space adventures.

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Robots Run This Space-Themed Chinese Hotel

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Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel Okay, China. You win. A space-themed hotel is pretty badass, but staffing it with robots? Total genius.

Given that most of us can’t shell out $250,000 to buy a ticket to low-Earth orbit on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft, we can at least pretend to be in space for only $11 a night if we can get ourselves to Shenzhen, China.

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This Video Of A Soyuz Capsle Is The Closest We’ll Get To Experiencing Reentry

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve fantasized about being an astronaut. Maybe this stopped when you saw Gravity, or maybe the thought of running into George Clooney in space only deepened your desire. But if you’re anything like me, you have to content yourself with reading and watching Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson (not that those are small consolations), scouring NASA news, geeking out to incredible Hubble photos, and waiting with a mixture of hope and fear for the Mars One project to produce a spectacular success, a catastrophe, or perhaps nothing at all.

Well, today you can get one step closer to living the dream. The ESA has released a video documenting the return of astronauts from the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. You don’t just get to watch from the outside—you get to watch from the interior. The video comes from a lesson to the ESA’s 2009 astronaut class, and splices together interviews and reentry footage. At just over 20 minutes long it’s not a quick take, but if you have any interest in space whatsoever, you’ll not only watch the whole thing, you’ll likely watch it more than once.

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Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan: A Tribute

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Carl SaganCarl Sagan would have been 79-years-old today. In light of that, a brief tribute to the most famous, most influential cosmologist of all time, is in order.

Sagan started as a professor of astronomy at Cornell, as well as a writer and an ambassador for science and scientific thinking. I learned more from watching Cosmos than from all the science classes I ever took combined. It’s not just that Sagan understands biology, cosmology, and geology—it’s that he understands how all of these disciplines connect. He is famous for articulating that humans are made of “star-stuff,” and driving home the mind-boggling point that the universe isn’t just out there—it’s in each of us. He simultaneously celebrates man’s uniqueness, while also emphasizing the need for humility, as man is but a tiny cog in a giant, giant wheel. Humankind may be tiny, but Sagan stressed that we are mighty, thanks to our individual and collective intelligence, curiosity, and resourcefulness. Space exploration, he argued, was a necessary human enterprise that would bring us answers and information helpful to life on each, but also much-needed perspective:

Space exploration provides a calibration of the significance of our tiny planet, lost in a vast and unknown universe. The search for life elsewhere will almost surely drive home the uniqueness of Man: The winding, unsure, improbable, evolutionary pathway that has brought us to where we are; and the improbability of finding – even in a universe populated with other intelligences – one with a form very much like our own. In this perspective, the similarities among men will stand out overwhelmingly against our differences.