It seems like we’ve been talking about “space tourism” for ages now. One of the oldest players in the game is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic…but they still haven’t taken up any of their long list of paying customers, which includes Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, and Brad Pitt. They’re anticipating being able to begin commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo sometime in 2014. I’m guessing few of us reading these words have the disposable cash to book a flight — $250,000 for a ticket — so the above video, taken during one of SpaceShipTwo’s test flights, will either make you marvel at human ingenuity and the beauty of our homeworld…or just really jealous.
China has already announced plans to land a probe on the moon this year. Now, according to the International Astronautical Congress, in the next decade China will complete a space station able to accommodate up to six astronauts for short-term missions or three astronauts for long-term missions.
The 64th Congress held in Beijing was the perfect opportunity for China to release details about the station. It will include three capsules, as well as a cargo and supply transport shuttle. The core of the station will consist of a 18-meter-long module weighing about 20 metric tons, and the station will have two laboratories in which astronauts can conduct tests and experiments. The astronauts will have about 60 square meters of room in the station, which provides a relatively large amount of space for them.
Space is just awesome and amazing and stupefying and beautiful. Since you’re currently reading GFR, I think we can all probably agree with those statements. One of the great joys of writing for this site is that I’m constantly exposed to new wonders our ambitious species has captured and dragged down into our clumsy, surface-bound existence. Sometimes it’s new discoveries which could fundamentally change our world for the better. Sometimes it’s a new science fiction story which uses the metaphor of the fantastic to comment on the day-to-day questions and crises we all have to deal with. Sometimes it’s just a freakin’ gorgeous picture of our awe-inspiring cosmos…and sometimes it’s a whole bunch of those.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition has just announced the winners of their annual competition across multiple categories, and they’re just as stunning as you might expect. The picture above, entitled “Guiding Light to the Stars,” was shot by Mark Gee of Australia, and is the “Overall Earth and Space” winner. It shows the Milky Way rising over the horizon of New Zealand’s North Island, in the hours before dawn. The bright light on the right is a lighthouse, but even with that extra light creeping in, Gee’s panoramic shot shows gorgeous detail of the heart of our galaxy, clustered together some 26,000 light years away. As Keanu Reeves has been known to say, “Woah.”
Well that didn’t last long. Remember the other day when a team of British scientists claimed to have definitive proof of alien life that they collected from the outer bounds of our atmosphere? Those declarations have now been torn apart and debunked. In defense of the original team, they did only claim to be “95 percent” certain of their discovery. Apparently giving themselves that five percent cushion was the smart move.
The original paper, published in the Journal of Cosmology, claims that, when flying a balloon 27 kilometers into the atmosphere, samples retrieved contained diatoms, microscopic organisms, that they believe originated in space. An article in Slate, published in response to the first, points out a number of gaps in logic and questionable assertions. Chief among these is pointing out that the Journal of Cosmology doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to making wild scientific statements. Not only are there questions with the publishing platform, there are holes in the science as well.
One of the biggest questions that has plagued the human race since we crawled out of the primordial soup is are we alone? Some people look to the heavens for God, for some creator, while others search among the stars for life beyond our own world. If a team of British scientists is correct, then we may have a definitive answer, because they claim to have proof of alien life.
The scientists, who claim to be “95 per cent convinced” of their discovery, have gathered biological organisms from the very edge of our atmosphere, and claim that they could only have originated in space. A team sent a balloon 27 kilometers into the stratosphere to collect samples, and when it returned, they found something interesting.
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you just don’t want to get out of bed? You know, where you hit snooze on your alarm four times, roll back onto you pillow, and mutter something to yourself about how you need to find a job that pays you to stay in bed all day. Well, this dream may finally happen for you, and the employer is someone you wouldn’t automatically think of. NASA, yes that NASA, is in search of volunteers to take part in a 70 day sleep study, where you stay in bed all day. And here’s the best part, they’ll pay you $18,000.
The goal of this particular research project is to study the overall impact and long-term effects of immobility on your body. They want to recreate the consequences of being strapped in to a space ship, not able to move, for weeks on end. They want to examine muscle atrophy, as well as the impact on the rest of your organs and body systems.