Rosetta Gets an Extended Mission

Rosetta Approaching Comet - Copyright Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
Rosetta Approaching Comet – Copyright Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

We’ve been watching the Rosetta mission with awe. Rosetta brought us our first contact and close up views of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta set a monumental standard because humans had never had close up views of a comet and we could study the images to learn more about the universe and its creation.

The ESA wasn’t going to stop there though, the Rosetta probe held the lander Philae. The lander was going to be dropped onto the comet and move around, studying Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from the ground. The mission hit a snag when the Philae lander bounced a few more times then anticipated and came to rest in the shadow of a cliff. Because of it’s lack of sunlight, the Philae lander died after it’s batteries expired.

Rosetta has been orbiting the comet ever since, sending back images to study. A surprise came recently as the Philae lander was able to get some sunlight and turn back on, sending signals back to Earth. As exciting as that is, the Rosetta mission was scheduled to be ended in December of 2015.

However, the ESA has decided to extend the life of the mission for another nine months. During this time, the ESA is going to try some harder experiments by flying the probe closer to the surface, hoping at some point to catch the Philae lander that is on the surface. One of these flights will be on the night side of the comet, hoping to observe the plasma, dust, and gas interactions that happen in that region and to collect some dust for study by the probe.

In one last hurrah for the probe, the ESA is going to set the Rosetta lander down on the comet. It will take three months in a slower orbit for the lander to get to the end of its flight and land on the surface.

SpaceX – Dreamers or Crazy?

As we talked about last week, space is the next frontier for humans that are on this planet. Everyday we come closer and closer to having a bigger presence in this Solar System of ours. These days it isn’t only NASA that is on the forefront with new technologies and ideas. Today we’re going to talk about SpaceX.

SpaceX Logo

SpaceX is a company that was founded by Elon Musk. According to their website (www.spacex.com) “SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Sounds like a pretty lofty goal, however they are accomplishing baby steps along the way every single year. The company has 3 different vehicles and has been on numerous missions to the International Space Station, even finding a way into getting a commercial contract with NASA.

It’s hard to go through a day without hearing something about SpaceX. They are innovating the way we go to space. SpaceX has created a vehicle (Dragon) that will take astronauts into space. As big a feat as that is, they are also looking at ways to make space travel quicker and more affordable. SpaceX has started to develop their rockets with the capability to land back on the Earth. This will allow a quicker turnaround between missions and save money on the rockets themselves.

Image of the SpaceX Dragon Vehicle
Image of the SpaceX Dragon Vehicle

These amazing feats are happening everyday in the space world. It is more exciting then it has ever been in my life. Based on my last post – Space – Pushing the Limits – you can see how humans are trying everything they can to continue into space and make our dreams of colonizing distant worlds a reality. So SpaceX – Dreamers or Crazy? I’ll let you decide on that one.

What do you think? Do you think focusing on space is a good idea? I love hearing from you!

Space – Pushing the Limits

Today I want to talk about a topic that has always been near and dear to my own heart. Space – The Final Frontier. *cues ominous music* No really, space has played a part in everyone’s lives since the ramp up of space activities in the 1960’s. The Space Race, now that was something the country could get behind. We had to be the first to the moon. And so it was. Everyone in the country was watching as we took our first steps on the moon. Man had accomplished so much. Then as we made repeat visits to our lunar neighbor, less and less people watched. Until eventually, it seemed like just another day when a rocket blasted off towards the heavens.

Image Courtesy of NASA
Image Courtesy of NASA

In the 1980’s I was born. I grew up during the Star Wars/Star Trek era. Space has always been a major interest in my life. At one point in my life I wanted to be an astronomer. I’m not sure what draws me to space exactly, whether it is the interesting ships that one can create or the spark of exploring somewhere we’ve never been before, space offers a plethora of opportunities. The endless expanse can be a creative release for anyone that thinks outside the box.

Space travel has pushed itself back into the limelight over the last few years. NASA has ramped up activities with the new Orion capsule that will replace the retired Space Shuttle and their commercial contracts for travel to the ISS. We have companies like Planetary Resources popping up that have every intention of mining an asteroid some day in the future. Seems like every other day I see an article talking about the settlement of Mars.

Image Courtesy of NASA
Image Courtesy of NASA

So why has space become something to talk about again? I believe it is because they are finally starting to push the limits again, like they did in the 1960’s. When we first traveled to the Moon, people believed that we wouldn’t be able to do it. The technologies that had to be made just to make it there and back were out of reach for us at the time. But we did it. Today that same trend is happening again. Mars is the next target. Having someone live on a planet that is that far away baffles the mind. Yes, we see things like that in science fiction all the time, but we’re talking about real life. Sending a human to another planet so that they can live. Seems almost unbelievable. But we’ll do it.

If there is one thing I have seen from the original space exploration of the Moon, it is that it is human nature to overcome. When someone says we can’t do it, we will. If it baffles the mind, we will do everything we can to accomplish it. Conquering the last frontier gives something for people to believe in that is bigger then themselves. I believe that we will get to the Red Planet. It might not be 2030, but we will get there, because we’ve set a target to get there. And no target can keep us down when we really work at it.

What do you think about space and it’s implications? I love hearing from you!

Little Green Men – Should we be Trying to Contact Them?

Little Green Men – Should we be Trying to Contact Them?
LittleGreenMen
“LittleGreenMen”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – uploaded by Vincedevries

I was reading an article the other day which piqued my interest regarding alien species in the universe. They brought up the question as to whether we should even try to contact any other being that might be out there?

With the knowledge that there are planets that could possibly support alien life in other start systems, some even pretty close to Earth, astronomically speaking. Astronomers across the globe have been finding new planets that could be habitable. Some are larger then Earth, others smaller or the same size. Each significant in its own way.

Do they have life on them? Have we already found somewhere that there is some little green life form sitting on the ground, staring up at the stars, wondering if they are alone? And if they do exist, should we even be trying to contact them?

Stephen Hawking believes that we shouldn’t. In an interview he did for TheGuardian (link) in 2010, Hawking stated, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” He argues that humans should be trying to avoid in every way possible, contact with an alien species. 

However, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Seti Institute in California, he says that Hawking’s fears are unwarranted. Shostak said in the same article, “If their interest in our planet is for something valuable that our planet has to offer, there’s no particular reason to worry about them now. If they’re interested in resources, they have ways of finding rocky planets that don’t depend on whether we broadcast or not. They could have found us a billion years ago. 

Whether they exist or not still remains to be seen, but I know if someone or something has broken the light speed barrier before we find a way to, it would be scary to deal with a race that could do anything they wanted to Earth without us being able to do anything back. Of course it could just be my sci-fi oriented brain coming to the forefront, but I don’t know…….

What is your opinion? I love hearing from you!

NASA FTL Ship

I’m sure that most people out there know that NASA has been spending time studying Warp Drive Technology. As we become more technologically advanced as a planet, science fiction seems to become science reality.

Since a lot of people have covered this already, I’m just going to show you a nice pretty picture of what the design turned out to be. We can talk more about the direction of NASA in future posts.

For now just enjoy. I get giddy every time I see it.

IXS Enterprise

Commercializing Space: NASA and it’s Contracts

NASA has made a major shift in it’s operations over the last couple of years. With the retiring of the Space Shuttle, NASA has been in dire need of a new astronaut carrier. Currently they are working with Russia to send someone to the International Space Station, but with tensions high in Ukraine, diplomatic problems have arisen.

So why commercialize space? Well NASA has been tasked with sending people deeper into space then we have ever traveled before. There are already plans in the works to send manned missions to Mars and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t stop there. So why set up these contracts with companies instead of relying on the government for funding? I believe they are doing it in the name of science.

Commercial industries do not have the same oversight and budget restrictions that NASA would have by solely relying on government funding. Through the use of their new commercial space program, NASA is also setting up a new industry to be born as companies vie for the chance to send cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. Also through these contracts, NASA has enabled the broadest access to micro-gravity research in the US section of the International Space Station.

Cygnus
Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus
Dragon
Space Exploration Technologies Dragon

Two companies have already been accepted to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences Corporation. Each has uniquely designed their own delivery system to transport cargo to the station. At this point, both companies have successfully resupplied the space station and have contracts to do so again in the coming future. Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft has a mission taking off June 17th.

Along with cargo transportation, NASA also needs companies that are willing to build craft for crew transportation if we are going to succeed in our upcoming space goals. Check back in Part 2 of this series as we look at upcoming crew transportation vehicles and the companies that will build them.

It’s exciting to see Space in the news again! Don’t you think so?