The Dawn space probe is about to claim a first in solar system exploration. After spending over a year studying the asteroid Vesta, it is about to depart towards the dwarf planet Ceres. This will make it the first space mission to orbit and study two different objects in the asteroid belt and the first mission to ever study a dwarf planet. If Dawn’s time at Ceres reveals as many beautiful pictures as it got from Vesta, we should be in for quite a treat.
Astronomers have made the sweetest discovery of all time. It’s not a new nebula shaped like a candy cane or the nougat filled center of the Milky Way, it’s a young star surrounded by sugar. Believe it or not, this isn’t just another neat little spacey find, it’s changing the way scientists look at the origins of life and also happens to be the most pun-tastic subject a science writer could hope for.
One of the biggest problems for NASA as a government agency is that their focus on human spaceflight seemingly changes with every new president. While presidents always try to act like they have the space agency’s best interests at heart, when it comes time to make the budgets, NASA seemingly has to fight tooth and claw to just keep it at a steady level. Well, this is an election year, and now the Republicans have released the 2012 GOP Republican Platform, which, interestingly enough, actually has a section talking about America’s space program. Don’t get too excited though, it’s about what you’d expect.
America’s Future in Space: Continuing This Quest
The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S.global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.
Early this morning, an Atlas 5 rocket carrying a new scientific mission for NASA blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The early morning launch was actually the second attempt after a failed tracking beacon caused the launch to be scrubbed last Friday. After troubleshooting the beacon problem, the launch was held a day and then scrubbed altogether as Hurricane Isaac made for some poor weather last Saturday. Held until today, when the launch conditions showed signs of being more favorable, and the Atlas V containing NASA’s RBSP mission launched successfully at 4:05am EST. Enough of all that technical stuff, have a look at this hot action-on-opposite-reaction action…
If you’ve heard a politician or any of the old space establishment talk about America’s place in spaceflight, then you’ve probably heard threats of China taking away our space superiority. China still has a lot of work to do if they want to match America and Russia’s achievements, but it looks like human spaceflight isn’t the only area they’re putting effort into. Now China is serious about the business of finding Earth-like exoplanets, and they’re pretty confident that they’ll find what they’re looking for.
According to The Daily Galaxy, Chinese astronomers have recently set up shop in Antarctica in an effort to find the life-bearing jewels of the galaxy. They have set up the first of three Antarctic Survey Telescopes in a prime location at Dome Argus, the highest point on the whole continent. Director of the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy, Wang Lifan, is extremely optimistic about their chances.
Antarctica has the best conditions on Earth for astronomical observation, as it has very flat ground, a transparent atmosphere and little turbulence. The ground-based telescopes here will bring us precious information from the universe. We will send people there to retrieve observation data next spring. I hope we can find some likely candidates. It’s hard to say precisely how many, but I hope there are no less than 10.
The Liftport Group is a company that has a pretty monumental task ahead of it. Grown out of a NASA study, Liftport has made its mission the development of a truly cheap and reusable way to bring humans and cargo to space, through elevators. While we haven’t gotten to a point technologically where Earth-bound space elevators would be feasible, Liftport says we are ready to do the next best thing, build one on the moon. Now through a Kickstarter campaign with the modest goal of $8,000, they are looking for your help to fund a company that could make a moon elevator a reality.