NASA’s Planned Mission to an Asteroid



NASA has done it again. Or will do. Maybe.

To their credit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sports a hefty 54 year resume of boring old activities such as: landing on the moon (or not?), dramatically influencing technology, launching numerous manned and unmanned masses of flame propelled metal into space, and consistently planning missions that only psychedelic drug users and post doctoral rocket scientists could dream up. This time it appears that NASA has just about outdone themselves ( ( (IN SPACE) ) ).


Using a cleverly named “Space Exploration Vehicle“, astronauts will dock with a near earth asteroid. Once attached, (then called) astroidnauts will conduct a variety of experiments. Seth Borenstein from the Huffington Post writes:

NASA is thinking about jetpacks, tethers, bungees, nets and spiderwebs to allow explorers to float just above the surface of it while attached to a smaller mini-spaceship.

JET PACKS! Sign me up. Borenstein goes on to say:

It would take half a year to reach an asteroid, based on current possible targets. The deep space propulsion system to fly such a distance isn’t perfected yet. Football-field-sized solar panels would help, meaning the entire mothership complex would be fairly large. It would have to protect the space travelers from killer solar and cosmic ray bursts. And, they would need a crew capsule, maybe two, for traveling between the asteroid complex and Earth.


That’s right science! Start the inventing NOW!

There is even speculation on plans to tow an asteroid into orbit between Earth and the Moon. They’re probably wrong as even NASA failed to comment on such claims but speculation leads to inquiry and inquiry leads to paper work and paper work, as many of you know very well, leads to bypasses and bypasses have to be built.


Studying the asteroid is likely to lead to a greater understanding of the creation of our solar system. Many asteroids are considered to be the last remains of debris from the birth of our dear mother Solaris. Questions such as “Why?” might even be answered.

It’s pretty important to know your neighbors. I’ve had some crazy ones. You know the type, the ones that sound like they’re speaking some form of goat language and have a garage, driveway, and lawn filled with “started-project-debris.” Well The earth’s neighbors are sort of like this too. There hard to follow, hard to find, could and have totally wreaked havoc upon all of earth’s systems, and we don’t know about a lot of them. Dr. David Rabinowitz, of Yale University says that up to 1000 of these neighbors are about a kilometer or larger in diameter. Kinda Scary.

Oh and then there’s all the technology that is inspired by NASA. With every new mission comes a wave of new gizmos and gadgets to make it possible. This feeds our global economy as companies around the world compete for NASA bids.

This mission is considered by some to be a major leg on the space road to mars and in general the preservation of the human race. Humans as a race have a lot of work cut out in order to survive the ever looming explosion of the Sun. Admittedly it is a bit far off. We’ve got around 5 billion years to come to terms with the death of everything we’ve come to love. On the happy side it is likely that the asteroid visit will aid in cultivating further deep space (9) exploration.

NASA plans for this mission to go down in 2025.



Martian Spiders: Seasonal Life on Mars

Since 1998, scientists have speculated on what thousands of mysterious, black, spidery shapes covering Mars might be.  In 2010, scientists were able to capture more detailed images from only 200 miles away and we have discovered that the strange Martian sand growths are none other than: a persistent mystery.  

The black specs dot huge regions of the Martian expanse.  They are sighted almost exclusively on the sunny side of ridges in the Martian deserts.  The strangest part of this mystery is that the black growths appear every Martian spring, popping out of the sand from seemingly nowhere, and then disappear when Winter comes.  70% of the time they reappear in the same exact spot as the year before. They even seem to expand as the sun heats up the surface.

So, what the heck is growing all over the red planet and can we stuff our faces with it? We still have no idea.  Some theories suggest that the sun is heating up an underground layer of CO2, which expands and bursts into the air like geysers on Earth, carrying basaltic sand and rocks in its wake. Other theories suggest that they may be photosynthetic microorganisms, sunbathing and warming themselves in the light of the Martian sun.

My guess is that they are Martian bears, foraging in spring and hibernating in winter. Cute, cuddly, deadly Martian bears.

Only time will tell.  Time, and sweet, sweet technology. 


Ask an Astrobiologist: Global Warming, and What to Expect

NASA scientists have been answering astrobiology questions submitted by the general public through a new feature on their website called Ask an Astrobiologist. 

I would like to share a particular question and answer with you as I find it to be fair, and relatively pertinent.

The question submitted: 


I’ve noticed in many of the answers you state that the far more pressing threat to our planet is global warming. However, I’m wondering what specific threats humans will face if the carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, in the worst-case scenario. What can ordinary people be doing to address the problem of climate change?


David Morrison, Astrobiology Senior Scientist answered with this response on December 27, 2012: 


We are already seeing the impacts of global warming. The rapid shrinking of the arctic icecap has opened the northeast passage to shipping, and within a decade it will also open the northwest passage. The melting arctic ice and permafrost are exposing oil and mineral deposits for exploitation, but also endangering arctic wildlife. Most important, the melting of arctic snow and ice darkens the surface, leading to rapid warming during the summer and a shift in weather patterns over North America. Loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica is also contributing to sea level rise, making destructive storms like Sandy much more likely. The recent severe droughts in the U.S., Russia, and Australia can also be traced to global warming. Within a few years, the accelerating loss of ice from the Himalayas will lead to the summer drying up of several great Asian rivers, which are the source of water for more than a billion people in China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. By the middle of the century, the loss of water from the Colorado River basin and the aquifers in northern Arizona may make Phoenix and Las Vegas uninhabitable, while rising sea levels and stronger storms are likely to lead to the permanent evacuation of much of New Orleans, New York, Miami, Amsterdam, and Venice. By late in the century we can expect to lose Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, London, Rotterdam, Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo-Yokohama, Dhaka, and many other large cities, as well as several small island nations. We don’t know how fast the warming and sea level rise will take place, so I can’t predict the dates for these events, but the direction is inescapable unless we stop polluting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane. In the next century we might entirely lose the great icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica, which would make the situation much worse than I have described above.

Well then, so much for the future…

What are your thoughts on global warming and the future?

Astronauts Vote With Absentee Ballot from Space

They may only be 200 miles away, but keep in mind that that distance is measured vertically.  Astronauts at the International Space Station vote for their choice of president with a birds eye view of the entire spectacle.

They are able to send and receive an absentee ballot to and from Mission Control in Houston.

By the way, the first American to vote in a presidential election from the vacuum of space was Leroy Chiao, in 2004.



New Image of the Universe Captured by Hubble

The Hubble Telescope has captured a new vision of the universe, the deepest vision yet, called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF.  This image reveals thousands of galaxies, 5,500 to be exact. It is actually a tiny fraction of the constellation Fornax capturing light over many hours of observation. “The faintest galaxies seen are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.”

It’s hard to believe that random mess of light is a speck of dust in the mansion of light and darkness that is our home!

Faster Than Light Travel is Possible; Creating the Warp Drive


Scientists have long speculated on the potential of faster than light travel.  If we really want to colonize other planets without terraforming lifeless rocks like Mars we are going to have to find faster forms of interstellar transportation. With our current capabilities it would take hundreds, or in most instances, thousands of years, to travel to even the closest star. We would begin an expedition to another star and our great great great great great grandchildren would complete it.

Because matter cannot travel faster than light without a near infinite amount of energy being used, scientists must use a loophole in the laws of existence.  Space-time itself, or the reality that light exists in, is able to expand faster than the speed of light, as it did just after the big bang and possibly still does.

Scientists have proposed an Alcubierre drive, or a device that contracts space-time in front of a ship and expands it in back.  This would allow the ship to, while still traveling slower than the speed of light, cover distances near instantaneously.  It’s nearly identical to the concept of a wormhole.  Imagine there is a point A and a point B on each side of a sheet of paper.  What is the quickest way to get from point A to point B?  Fold the paper so that the two points touch.  The ship would still obey relativistic laws, but space-time itself would be manipulated to meet the demands of the ship.

This is all amazing, but how much energy would this require?  According to the original Alcubierre drive plans, roughly an amount of energy equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.  But, scientists are now saying that by sightly altering the shape of the drive into a donut-shape instead of a circular-shape, the required energy would be closer to that of a normal rocket launch.

Scientists have begun experimenting with miniature warp drives in order to begin the development of the technology.

It may sound like science fiction, but remember, there was a time when moving pictures were science fiction, when going to the bottom of the ocean was a fairy tale, and when traveling to the moon was viewed as downright impossible. Nowadays we are bored of going to the moon, we speculate on how many dimensions reality is composed of, and send robots to Mars.  Whenever humans imagine, creation is not far off.

NASA Animated Temperature Data From Over 100 Years

NASA has created an animated video showing the changes in global temperatures from 1880 to 2011.  Whether you believe humans are responsible for global warming or not, it would certainly appear, according this data (and a seemingly endless string of other evidence) that the Earth is most definitely warming up.

If you’re concerned about the actual Earth, allow me to impart to you some Carlin-esque wisdom:

“The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”

Plastic… asshole.””

NASA Developing Orion for Human Travel Across Solar System in 10 Years


NASA has completed another round of tests on the deployment of the parachute system of the deep space spacecraft called the Orion.  NASA plans to use Orion and the Space Launch System (SLS) to expand humanity’s presence across the entire solar system.

Orion’s first test flight will take place in 2014.  It will travel to distances 15 times further than the International Space Station up to speeds of 20,000 mph before returning to Earth. NASA plans to launch Orion from the SLS in 2017.



NASA Developing Orion for Human Travel Across Solar System in Next 10 Years

NASA has completed another round of tests on the deployment of the parachute system of the deep space spacecraft called the Orion.  NASA plans to use Orion and the Space Launch System (SLS) to expand humanity’s presence across the entire solar system.

Orion’s first test flight will take place in 2014.  It will travel to distances 15 times further than the International Space Station up to speeds of 20,000 mph before returning to Earth. NASA plans to launch Orion from the SLS in 2017.