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The House Seems To Be Supporting Manned Flight To Mars

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man on marsPerhaps the recent National Research Council report lambasting NASA’s plan to get humans to Mars was the wake-up call the government needed. That report (which somewhat ironically cost upwards of $3 million to assemble) couldn’t have been clearer in stating that, under current circumstances, NASA’s manned Mars missions were nothing but a pipe dream, and an invitation to “failure, disillusionment, and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best.” Yikes. But sometimes, a kick (or ten) in the ass is what the government needs, and when the House passed a new NASA reauthorization bill last week, it took the step in providing a more feasible budget for putting people on Mars.

Just before the bill passed the House, Steven Palazzo, Chairman of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said, “We are committed to once more launching American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil,” and argued that the bill would “serve as a pathway to Mars.” The bill also reinforces Obama’s previous commitment to developing a cutting-edge heavy-lift rocket launcher, as well as the new generation of Orion spacecraft, which is currently undergoing testing.

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First Vine From Space Shows Endless Sun

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We’ve got plenty of images and video from space, but now we’ve got the first Vine of the cosmos, courtesy of astronaut Reid Wiseman, who landed on the International Space Station just a couple weeks ago.

It’s a great condensed view of one ISS revolution around the Earth, which takes roughly 92 minutes. That means astronauts on the ISS are treated to 15 or 16 sunrises in a 24-hour period — like at the end of Chris Hadfield’s explanation about how to puke in space. But on Wiseman’s Vine, you’ll notice that the sun never sets. Because space is magical. And because the space station’s orbit aligned with the line between light and dark on Earth, otherwise known as the day/night terminator line.

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A Galactic Particle Collider And An Image Of 10,000 Galaxies

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I just got back from a local art fair, so it occurs to me that the Hubble is kind of like its own ready-made exhibit. I get lost in those images more than any paintings or sculptures, and space never fails to generate paradoxes and mind-boggling patterns. Today’s space news involves two such offerings: a particle collider and the best picture of the Milky Way, along with thousands of other galaxies.

While we have painstakingly created our own impressive particle colliders, the cosmos can do us one better. Five billion light years away, there’s a collision of galaxy clusters that are forming an accelerator estimated to be a million times stronger than the Large Hadron Collider. Clusters of this sort are the largest structures in the universe, and can consist of thousands of galaxies that continue piling up over billions of years as a result of collisions between smaller groupings.

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Researchers Find Evidence Of The Planet That Crashed Into Earth To Form The Moon

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MoonBack in the 1970s, scientists first hypothesized that the moon was formed when another planet, now called Theia, collided with a young Earth, roughly 4.5 billion years ago. The problem with that theory, though, is that computer models indicated that the moon would then have the same composition as the other planet, but the Earth and the moon are very similar in composition. In 2012, scientists found a way to reconcile that discrepancy — if the Earth was rotating much faster than it is now, then a big chunk of Earth’s mantle broke off during the collision, slowing the Earth’s rotation down and explaining why the Earth and the moon are so similar. But now, there’s another explanation — researchers have found material from Theia in a lunar rock found by Apollo astronauts, and it turns out Theia’s composition isn’t so different from Earth’s.

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Massive Mega-Earth Baffles Scientists

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Kepler 10cI imagine that scientists spend a lot of time scratching their heads, stymied by some mystery or unexplained phenomenon. Of these scientists, I figure astronomers are particularly well acquainted with head scratching, as some deeply weird stuff goes on deep in the cosmos. In fact, astronomers just discovered one such unexplainable finding: a rocky planet twice as big as Earth and 17 times as large.

The Kepler 10 system contains two rocky planets, that we know of. One of them, Kepler-10c, has always been known to be bigger than Earth—2.3 times, to be precise. But astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) were only recently able to calculate the planet’s mass. The original data collected by the good ol’ Kepler telescope indicated the planet’s size, but not its weight or composition, so astronomers used additional data from the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS-North) instrument on the Canary Island’s Telescopio Nazionale Galileo. They were surprised by the result.

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Mousetronauts Headed To The ISS

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mousetronautsSoon there won’t be any cosmonauts on the ISS, but new residents will soon arrive, and while they might not be as helpful as cosmonauts, they may be cuddlier. Elon Musk calls them “mousetronauts,” and in August they’ll fly to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship to be part of a NASA study on the physiological effects of long-duration weightlessness.

The rodent research focuses on the physiological changes that occur when living for long periods in zero or microgravity. Even though astronauts exercise while on the ISS, they invariably lose muscle, immune system capabilities, and bone density, among other problems. Prolonged stays in microgravity also affect the nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems, as well as genetic and molecular processes. Researchers believe that studying the mice will help them learn how and why these changes occur.