It looks like SpaceX is gearing up to colonize Mars, with the first flight targeted for 2018 (the next time the Red Planet is close enough to give us an orbital shot at getting there quickly). That will just be the first unmanned test flight and attempted non-exploding landing, if they can even make that incredibly close deadline, but damn, I am excited! My favorite article about it so far is the one put together by Space Flight Now, who always do a great job of analyzing all the pros and cons of a proposed space mission. The Dragon 2 spacecraft could possibly deliver 4 tons of supplies to mars per launch (you wouldn’t want to use that craft for the actual mission, since the crew capsule is the size of an SUV), building up to enough food, water, and equipment to make the project viable. No word on when the first humans would head that way quite yet, but I expect them to make some comments once we see how the initial mission goes.
Using solar sails with a laser driven power system to launch from orbit, and traveling at 20% of the speed of light, tiny little Starships will visit Alpha Centauri. There will be a swarm of postage stamp sized nanocraft sent to our nearest neighbor to look for signs of life and give us more detailed information about the resources available there. If you are asking When will this happen?, they are working on it now, with the goal of launching within a decade or two. The folks involved in Breakthrough Starshot include Steven Hawking, Freeman Dyson, Yuri Milner, Ann Druyan, and a host of others.
Physicist Michio Kaku, the originator of Sci-Fi Science on the Discovery Channel, recently got together with The Daily and explained the latest advances that may finally make the Space Elevator a real possibility.
Like space stations and airlocks, this is another space technology originally proposed by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky back in 1895, long before most of his contemporaries consider space as someplace you would go. Along with Germany’s Hermann Oberth and America’s Robert H. Goddard, Russia’s Tsiolkovsky completed the trio who invented rocketry and astronautics, paving the way for today’s modern space programs from around the world.
With the development of Buckey Tubes (Named after Buckminster Fuller who designed the geodesic structure they use, they also named Fullerines aka Buckey Balls after him), or carbon nanotubes as they are also known, we finally have a material both light enough and strong enough to build the elevators. At the moment we can only build Buckey Tubes in small batches, so they are used for things like Biochip interfaces, Nano Radio control systems and other microscopic to nanoscopic scale projects. But now that we have been building them for such applications for the last decade or so, we are beginning to ramp up he production batch sizes, so the space elevator may be able to begin serious construction in another decade or 3. Thanks to the Science News Blog for the heads up on this one.
Besides the Yuri’s Night App I mentioned yesterday, another great way to track all your best Space buddies on tonight’s 50th anniversary of man in space is using NASA Connect. On that link you will find all the best Social Media interfaces to them, including Twitter, Facebook, UStream, Foursquare, and MySpace. There are also links to their YouTube, Flickr, and Gowalla sites you should bookmark and visit. They have some in house communication resources like NASA Tweetup and NASA Chat where you can sometimes find entire gatherings of people during various events. And that is without mentioning NASA Apps, NASA Blogs, and NASA e-Books. Bottom line, this is the single place you need to be able to find to connect and collaborate with NASA.
When the clock hits midnight we kick off Yuri’s Night, celebrating 50 years of manned space flight. April 12th, 1961 is when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave this planet, and there are parties all over the world to celebrate, as there are every year. You can check out what events are close to you at the Yuri’s Night Web Page, or through your phone. For the phone, the Apple App can be found here, or just search the apps store. With any other flavor got to the Yuri’s Mobi pages.
Yes, this is a geek post; deal with it! One of the major results the various Mars orbiters and rovers have been trying to work out is whether or not the red planet has ever harbored life, and one of the preconditions of life is a water supply. At least our kind of carbon based life, and there are good reasons why two planets in the same solar system would bear the same flavor of life. The most obvious two are:
1) Our planets condensed out of the same orbital dust cloud around our condensing star, and are therefore made from the same ratio of elements at the same stellar evolution stage, and
2) High speed impacts on either planet by rocks with enough kinetic energy to blast objects beyond escape velocity will tend to include any organic building blocks. Some percentage of those ejecta will end up raining down on the other planet, thereby sharing enzymes, RNA, DNA, and other life building structures between bio-zones.
With that as a given, it is exciting to find out they now have the evidence that Mars had water, enough to completely reshape the planet and generate clay deposits, as recently as 4 billion years ago. Since life on this planet started evolving 5 billion years ago, we had a clear billion years to cross-pollinate.
But there is one more detail that gave me the biggest grin of all about this; Did you notice that in each article the scientist reporting the Mars results was named after the ERB character John Carter of Mars? Is this going to impact on the movie? I am ready for that film!