Monday, January 30, 2006

Earth Like Planet Near Milky Way Core

Scientists have detected an Earth-like planet orbiting a relatively cool star near the center of our galaxy. The star is located in the Sagittarius constellation, and is about five times more massive than Earth.

(Red Orbit) "This planet is actually the first and only planet that has been discovered so far that is in agreement with the theories for how our solar system formed," said Uffe Grae Jorgensen, an astronomer with the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and a member of the discovery team.

Over 150 worlds have been discovered orbiting stars, but with the exception of this world all defy the evolutionary theory of solar system formation, which may hint at the possibility of a Creator.

Although unconfirmed on whether this world harbors life on it, many researches doubt that any would survive on this world as its environment may be similar to that of Pluto's.

(Red Orbit) Researchers don't think the planet can sustain life, given that it has an estimated surface temperature of minus-364 degrees Fahrenheit, about the same as Pluto's. While it may have a thin atmosphere, the planet's rocky surface is probably covered with deep frozen oceans.

More and more worlds are being discovered outside our solar system, although humanity has still yet to find one that is habitable for its species.

This world would probably be impossible to terraform, although if water ice was detected upon its surface, we would find little difficulty in colonizing this world--that is if we can get there.

Will Russia Defeat America In Lunar Race?

(Hat Tip: Lunar Soil)

After China expressed desires to establish a colony on the moon, it looks as if the US will have to face an old rival towards the lunar surface--one that may not only have the desire to beat America but the funding as well.

(Red Orbit) RUSSIA is planning to race America back to the moon--to mine a precious superfuel. [...]

They aim to set up a permanent base and dig for helium-3.

The substance is considered to be the perfect nuclear fuel as just 25 tons could power the US for a year with virtually no pollution or radioactivity.

Although no Russian cosmonaut has ever strolled upon the moons surface, the former Soviet Union is confident that they will be able to establish a lunar base by the year 2015. This is approximately three years ahead of NASA's projections, and five years ahead of China's.

Although considered irrelevant by some, Helium-3 could potentially become the next OPEC, something that may bring a smile towards nations dependent upon oil for fuel. China is already considering plans for mining the element for fuel, although there seems to be no public display of interest from NASA.

This comes as a surprise from an economical viewpoint, as lunar soil may be worth its weight in gold--if not more.

(ITAR-TASS) "There is nothing difficult from the engineer's point of view in the production of helium 3. It is only a matter of investments," [Russian Academy of Sciences member Erik Galimov] said.

"One ton of helium 3 is equivalent to 20 million tonnes of oil and costs about $10 billion by modern prices. It will cost only $20-40 million to deliver one ton of helium 3 to the Earth," the scientist said. (Source)

If there was any doubt as to why humanity should revisit its nearest neighbor, that doubt has probably been removed. Going back towards the lunar surface should be our highest priority after fighting the war on terror, as both policies affect the future of Earth's inhabitants.

If NASA is unable to stir up the American public to return back to the moon, the US may find itself dependent upon yet another OPEC fuel source and listed as a second rate space power.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Alien TV, Anyone?

It appears that the Europeans are planning on funding the design for the worlds largest telescope. This telescope will not only be powerful, but it will be able to pick up any alien television stations on nearby stars.

( The "Square Kilometre Array" (SKA) will be an international radio telescope with a collecting area of one million square metres -- equivalent to about 200 football pitches [...] Such a telescope would be so sensitive that it could detect TV Broadcasts coming from the nearest stars.

Although remarkably large this future telescope has the potential of revealing one of the Universes biggest secrets--and potentially disproving Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

( The final design will enable the SKA to probe the cosmos in unprecedented detail, answering fundamental questions about the Universe, such as "what is dark energy?" and "how did the structure we see in galaxies today actually form?".

The new telescope will test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity to the limit -- and perhaps prove it wrong.

The telescope will not be built until 2020, although Italy may have built a telescope on the moon by that time period. Some may see this as a "waste of time" but the purpose of telescopes is not only to gaze at the stars but also find another world to colonize.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

So, How Do You Build A Spaceport?

That is the question that New Mexico is pondering of late. Despite the launching of several space tourism companies, with the exception of Space Adventures, none have sent private citizens to the stars, let alone built a fully functioning space port.

But that is not stopping New Mexico from constructing America's first private spaceport--and it looks like they selected a good location for it too.

(MSNBC) The proposed spaceport site is approximately 27 square miles of open, generally level, range land that can be found 45 miles north of Las Cruces and 30 miles east of Truth or Consequences. This site was picked for its low population density, uncongested airspace, and high elevation.

That's ideal rocket country for UP Aerospace of Unionville, Connecticut. They are readying their SpaceLoft XL rocket for a New Mexico spaceport sendoff in late March.

Who would have imagined that America's future would be located in a barren desert? New Mexico hopes that the site will not only be used by private industries, but also governmental agencies as well.

(MSNBC) New Mexico spaceport advocates also envision the project as one of "national significance"--capable of supporting NASA and other U.S. government agencies too. International space agencies can contract with the private sector to loft passengers and payloads from the spaceport to the International Space Station and to the Moon.

Perhaps this author will take a trip out west to visit the new facilities. With all of the bad news going around the world, this is something to surely brighten anybodies day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

India Reaching For The Stars

(Hat Tip: Mars Blog)

Desiring not to be left out of the upcoming space race, India has decided to take its place in the Universe by reaching out towards Earth's nearest neighbor--and to a distant one as well.

( News) After the moon mission, India wants to reach out to Mars and the government is keen to jump onto a possible global bandwagon for this potentially exciting planetary exploration.

Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman G Madhavan Nair said the United States and Europe appear to favour a global partnership in this context, and India would be more than willing to be a partner in this huge exercise.

India is one of the world's largest nation, with about one and six people living within the Asian sub-continent. It is surprising that a nation this large has not already engaged in space travel (as its Chinese "neighbor" has).

The first step for India is the moon, although right now the nation is trying to decide whether to send robots or humans to the lunar surface.

( News) "It's not a question of shying away. Whether we need it (manned mission to moon) immediately or not; that debate is going on. Opinion is truly divided. Some people believe the instruments themselves are more than adequate.

Robots can do the job and so on. A few others believe it (manned mission) is a national pride and we should do it. We are also subjecting this for an internal review as well as in various professional bodies. Maybe in the course of a year, we will have better clarity on that (whether or not India should go for a manned mission)," he said.

Although robots would definitely be cheaper, India should seriously consider sending one of their own instead as it would establish the nation as a space power.

Robots and other machinery can take photos of the rugged landscape, but unless they make a footprint on the world, they may only become a footnote in the space history books.

A Living Ship?

(Hat Tip: Space News Blog)

Orbital Shuttles often face the extremes of outerspace. Floating in a region where temperatures can change from hundreds of degrees above zero to below in an instant can be devastating over time as cracks can form, causing future havoc.

One scientist has come up with a proposal to resolve this issue, by using a technique he found demonstrated in nature.

( "When we cut ourselves we don't have to glue ourselves back together, instead we have a self-healing mechanism. Our blood hardens to form a protective seal for new skin to form underneath," says Dr Christopher Semprimoschnig, a materials scientist at ESA's European Space Technology Research Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, who oversaw the study. [...]

He and the team at Bristol did it by replacing a few percent of the fibres running through a resinous composite material, similar to that used to make spacecraft components, with hollow fibres containing adhesive materials. Ironically, to make the material self-repairable, the hollow fibres had to be made of an easily breakable substance: glass.

Basically whenever the "skin" of the ship is damaged, the fibers are suppose to break open releasing the liquids sealing the crack within. This would allow astronaut's to not only travel through the vast emptiness of space between planets, but also the asteroid belt as well.

Other uses could be applied towards the future Martian colonies (as the wind storms can be hazardous for any future residents). This technology is at least a decade away, but hopefully humanity will see experimentation not only on shuttle craft, but also upon the moon.

Floridian "Astropreneurs?"

After previously snubbing the private sector it seems as if the sun shine state is seeking out "astropreneurs."

(Red Orbit) [Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings] outlined a $55 million program to keep the nation's space program anchored at Cape Canaveral and lure a new breed of entrepreneur -- Jennings referred to them as "astropreneurs" -- from California and other states.

"We know the space shuttle will be retired, we know that astronauts will return to the moon, we know we will send men and women to Mars and beyond," Jennings said. "They need to be coming from Florida, and they need to be coming back to Florida."

Florida is currently ranked third in the nation for employment in the space, aviation and aeronautics sector. Florida plans to maintain its edge in the space field by prioritizing math, science, technology and engineering within its school systems.

(Red Orbit) "Do the math," Jennings said. "The people who are going to be walking on the moon in 2018 are in our elementary schools today. We need to make sure those children are ready for that kind of challenge." [...]

The state would also plan and develop a commercial spaceport for horizontal launches, the current trend in the space tourism industry.

Florida plans to consolidate its "far-flung space-related agencies" into a new agency called Space Florida in order to coordinate the efforts of this initiative. Florida better be serious about assisting the private sector, because if they are not, they may have to take a back seat behind New Mexico.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vatican Opposes Intelligent Design?

(Published on Blogger News)

Although not from the Pope's lips, a newspaper from the Vatican has published an article claiming that Intelligent Design is not science.

( "This isn't how science is done," [Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna] wrote. "If the model proposed by Darwin is deemed insufficient, one should look for another, but it's not correct from a methodological point of view to take oneself away from the scientific field pretending to do science."

Intelligent design "doesn't belong to science and the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside Darwin's explanation is unjustified," he wrote.

Although seen as a way to promote theology, intelligent design (also known as ID) may not have a scientific basis to stand upon. Despite being a perfect way to bring theists together politically, ID is a dangerous philosophy to endorse since it is harder to prove than say, the theory of Creation.

The theory of ID, although interesting lacks observable evidence, and may come across as nothing more than a philosophical point of view. Even the Raelians, (which may appear strange to many individuals) have a belief system that is at least testable.

Evolution does have its own scientific blunders as the gaps in the fossil record has yet to be resolved. But evolution is testable, as is creationism, as both have "specifics" to evaluate against the theories, making them at least observable to historians and scientists alike.

Update: Added extra paragraph.

To Pluto And Beyond (New Horizons)

After a series of setbacks due to weather and technical glitches, it looks as if the New Horizons space craft will launch via an Atlas V rocket.

( The countdown is proceeding toward today's launch of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle. Today's forecast for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida calls for an 80% chance of favorable weather, and no technical issues with the rocket or spacecraft are in work at this time.

Although traveling towards the edge of our solar system, Pluto is not the only Kuiper belt object floating beyond Neptune. Other objects have been discovered as well (such as Xena), although the New Horizon's probe probably will not be visiting those worlds.

Unrelated: Here is a short story that this author has written that may interest Pluto lovers everywhere.

(Icy Worlds) Zureeka was so excited. It was as if all the stars were aligned in her favor tonight. Or rather this morning. It was so hard to tell, since it was already late and it was well past her bed time.

The other girls had fallen fast asleep, but Zureeka could not because of the anticipation that the day would bring. She checked her alarm for the third time, making sure it would awaken her in three hours, then went off dreaming dreams of sunshine and laughter, of dancing high above frozen plains in the dim sunlight.

Continue Reading if you dare.

Martian Rovers On IMAX Theatres

The little rovers that braved the elements of the red planet will be featured on IMAX theatres on January 27th.

( Disney's new IMAX film Roving Mars, set to open nationwide on Jan. 27, chronicles the exploits of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission that entered its third year exploring the surface of the red planet this month. [...]

"My original idea was to wait for the rovers to die and that it would be a dramatic ending," Roving Mars director George Butler told "However, these rovers won't die, which is excellent news."

It will be interesting to see the tale of these machines on the big screen. The film is about 100 minutes long and consists primarily of film that the rovers took while on Mars. This film should be a treat for kids and space loving adults of all ages.

( "That, to me, was the determining factor," Butler said. "Honestly, I was not really interested until I heard these rovers were equipped with IMAX quality cameras. Then I thought, 'Wow, if I could put Mars on an IMAX screen that would be great.'" [...]

"We've been saying for years that the PanCam images were good enough to look good on an IMAX screen and by God they do," [Steve Squyres, the mission's leader at Cornell University] said, adding that he and his team have not been able to view rover imagery at its full potential until now. "A computer screen falls woefully short. It's like looking through a soda straw."

Although Mars has yet to prove its worth as a future home for humanity, this movie will not doubt sow seeds for space travel within the next generation.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dark Matter Galaxies

When it comes to space, Mark Twain's statement that the "Truth is more of a stranger than fiction" is becoming more and more of an understatement. Recently a galaxy composed entirely of dark matter has been discovered which has some astronomers scratching their heads.

(Universe Today) Astronomers think they might have found a "dark galaxy", that has no stars and emits no light. Although the galaxy itself, located 50 million light years from Earth, is practically invisible, it contains a small amount of neutral hydrogen which emits radio waves. If astronomers are correct, this galaxy contains ten billion times the mass of Sun, but only 1% of this is hydrogen - the rest is dark matter. [...]

The team have looked at many other possible explanations, but have found that only the Dark Galaxy theory can explain all of the observations. As Professor Mike Disney of Cardiff University puts it, "The new observations make it even harder to escape the conclusion that VIRGOHI 21 is a Dark Galaxy."

The most common perception of galaxies seems to have been shattered, as apparently not all galaxies are lit by celestial lights. The international team led by astronomers from the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory (as well as from the Cardiff University in the United Kingdom) are excited with the discovery and plan on searching for more of these dark mysterious behemoths. Image Below.

Description: Neutral hydrogen gas streams between NGC 4254 and VIRGOH1 21. Image credit: Arecibo Observatory, Photo from Universe Today.

Friday, January 13, 2006

New Planet Finding Instrument

This new instrument was able to detect a world orbiting a young star 100 light years away. This "Exoplanet Tracker" is relatively small and may help astronomers to locate worlds around other stars.

(Astrobiology Magazine) "In the last two decades, astronomers have searched about 3,000 stars for new planets," said Jian Ge, a professor of astronomy at the University of Florida.

"Our success with this new instrument shows that we will soon be able to search stars much more quickly and cheaply - perhaps as many as a couple of hundred thousand stars in the next two decades."

With hyperspace technology possibly several decades away, this Exoplanet tracker could provide humanity with a way to chart which stars are worth visiting and which ones to avoid.

(Photo Credit: Image from Astrobiology Magazine)

This new piece of equipment has several advantages over the former method of detecting worlds (i.e. The Doppler Effect). It's not only able to view multiple worlds at a time but also is more affordable than its predecessor.

(Astrobiology Magazine) At a development cost of about $200,000, the interferometer-equipped ET is also far cheaper than comparable spectrographs, which cost more than $1 million.

And at about 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and weighing about 150 pounds, it is lighter and smaller. The instrument is based on a concept first proposed in 1997 by Lawrence Livermore National Lab physicist David Erskine.

Although costly, this new piece of equipment should help reduce the amount of spending searching for "other Earths." For the human species to mature, they must not only be willing to leave their cradle, but their solar playground as well.

Brazil Launches First Astronaut

Brazilians everywhere have been waiting a long time for this, and it is encouraging to see more nations become active amongst the stars.

( "I've been waiting for this opportunity for seven years and now finally it comes," [Marcos Pontes] said during a press conference here at NASA's Johnson Space Center, adding that he originally trained to fly to the ISS aboard a NASA shuttle. "Besides all the scientific objectives for us from Brazil, it will be a very strong step for our space program."

Pontes will spend about eight days aboard the International Space Station. He will be performing scientific studies that vary from student experiments from Brazilian schools to nanotechnology tests on board.

Although unrelated, it appears that one of the astronauts, flight engineer Jeffrey Williams is a blogger.

( "The schedule is very busy up there," Williams said, adding that three spacewalks, potentially two shuttle visits and absorbing a third crewmember makes for little down time. "But I personally know that it's important to get the word out to the public."

Despite a tight timeline, Williams said he hopes to spend some of his free time relating his spaceflight experience to the public through journals and log entries.

Although launching about the Soyuz, it will be interesting to receive a "first person's perspective" on what space travel is all about. This author will attempt to locate the link of Williams weblog, although assistance from the blogosphere would be greatly appreciated.

Note: Photo from

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Italy Building Lunar Telescope?

(Hat Tip: Out of the Cradle)

Perhaps Italy will cement themselves in solar history after all.

(ANSA) Italy plans to build a large telescope on the moon that will expand knowledge of the moon, Earth and the universe.

The telescope will be built by robots and positioned in a lunar crater to give a new perspective on the Earth, said the head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), Sergio Vetrella.

Unlike Earth telescopes which have to cope with atmospheric influences and city lights, this telescope will be able to get a clear view of the universal sky. The project will cost about 150 million Euros and 15 years to construct.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Star Wars (Revelations) Episode 3.5?

(Love and thanks to the Google Video Team)

Editor's note: Explanation below. (may work in Firefox, best viewed in Internet Explorer)

Apparently this episode takes place between Episodes three and four, which highlights not only what happens to the surviving Jedi, but reveals a terrifying secret about a hidden Jedi order. That's all that this author will reveal, but this truly is a great "independent" star wars film.

If you are unable to view the video, simply click on the source link and it will bring you hither. May the force be with you!

Update: Corrected video link.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mission To Mars By 2030

(Hat Tip: Mars News)

Hopefully these astronauts will be able to determine not only is Martian habitation possible, but also that going there would be the best use of human resources.

(The Daily Yomiuri) The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to send six astronauts on a 500-day mission to Mars, according to its final draft report on the Mars exploration program. [...]

The human mission to Mars is planned to take 2-1/2 years for the round-trip and will comprise three sets of vehicles.

Following President Bush's space mandate, NASA is planning on sending two unmanned rockets two years before it launches the astronauts towards the red planet. The rockets will carry habitation modules, as well as other equipment, within an eight month time frame.

A transport ship carrying the six member crew will follow, and their journey is expected to be at least six months.

(The Daily Yomiuri) On the surface, the crew will first conduct a short test to determine whether it is possible to stay for an extended period.

When this test is completed, and the astronauts are acclimatized to the environment, they will transfer to a long-stay habitat module where they will live for about 500 days. [...]

The project has also been designed to minimize the exposure of the crew to deep-space radiation and the zero-gravity environment.

While on the surface, the crew will probably be able to answer a number of questions, whether Martian dust fatal towards human flesh, or is the dust hazardous towards mechanical life.

If Mars is found to be fairly habitable, then the next quest will be to search for resources in order to stimulate its sister world (i.e. Earth) to migrate millions of miles away across space.

After all, if humanity is going to colonize the Solar System, they are going to need a pay check in order to motivate the masses.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lunar Chinese Satellite In 2007

(Hat Tip: Out of the Cradle)

One small step for China, one giant leap for Asia kind.

(Xinhaua) China is scheduled to send its first satellite to the moon in April 2007 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, in a one-year lunar mission dubbed Chang'e Project.

Apart from the moon exploration project, China also plans to launch four satellites by the end of this year. These include "Xinnuo 2," a large-capacity satellite for communications. Two others are for scientific research and one for weather forecasting.

Many people have debated on whether or not the Chinese have it within their budget to even reach the moon, comparing its respective economy against the US and Russia.

Whether they have the economy or not is uncertain--what is known however is that China is determined to establish itself as a space power, as their intentions are not to merely scan the lunar surface, but to conquer it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

NASA Renting Russian Rocket Ships?

(Hat Tip: NASA Watch)

After grounding its own shuttle fleet because of safety issues, NASA (with approval from Congress) has decided to "rent" Soyuz rocket ships in order to send its astronauts into space.

(Reuters) Congress last year lifted a weapons proliferation ban so NASA could buy Russian space services. The ban was enacted after concerns that Russian technology was helping Iran develop its nuclear program.

NASA and Russia still have to work out a long-term agreement for Soyuz flights, said NASA spokeswoman Melissa Matthews, but the Russians have agreed to a fee of $21.8 million per astronaut through 2011.

Despite the jokes one may hear of using ancient Russian technology, the former USSR space technology has survived the test of time. Although these space ships are not particularly designed for human comfort, they are built to "get the job done," which has enabled Russia to market the Soyuz towards Japan.

(Reuters) NASA will make an initial payment of $43.8 million for the current space station commander, U.S. astronaut Bill McArthur, to fly home in March, as well as for the launch and landing of astronaut Jeffrey Williams, who was officially named on Thursday as a member of the next space station crew. [...]

The agreement with Russia will keep one seat aboard the Soyuz available for a tourist or paying researcher. So far, three businessmen -- Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen -- have paid a reported $20 million apiece for roundtrip travel to the space station.

Although Russia has squeezed an extra million dollars out of NASA compared to the private sector, Russia does seem intent on allowing space tourists to accompany astronauts towards the space station. NASA is currently designing new space shuttles (or rather rockets) that will enable the US to once again send American astronauts into space by themselves.

Is Mars Really Worth It?

(Previously published on Hidden Nook, as well as Blog Critics)

Before any space lovers accuse this line of thought as solar heresy, let us consider the following scenario's as possible. Martian dust is revealed to be non-fatal towards human flesh and engineers have developed ways to keep the red particles from damaging any machines. Vast water resources are located underneath the Martian ground and science has developed a way to make the red soil fertile for plants.

NASA, as well as international space agencies have devised ways to reduce the amount of time to terra form a world from an extreme 10,000 years towards within a lifetime of fifty years. Last but not least, education has enlightened humanity the need to breed amongst the stars and has encouraged world governments to provide international space agencies with all of the funding they will ever need to accomplish their mission of resettling Mars.

But even if all of these were probable in the near future, Mars is missing a key ingredient to make it a worthy home for terrestian life. That key ingredient missing from the red planet can be summed up in one word--resources.

Now some may consider this logic trivial or silly, but unless Mars has something to offer the solar system (or more specifically, Earth) then it will not be worth the trillions of dollars necessary to turn this barren wasteland into an Eden. Similar to the California gold rush, valuable resources on Mars would stimulate a desire to travel towards the red planet, which in turn would stimulate businesses and corporations to promote an economy upon its surface.

The Moon is a perfect example of this. Until recently, their was little desire to travel back towards the lunar surface, as humanity had already established their presence by landing on the white world in 1969. Despite Presidential direction from the Commander in Chief (i.e. Bush), NASA was still searching for a logical reason to revisit Earth's nearest neighbor.

They were that is until Hubble spotted an element called helium-3 upon the moons surface, an element some researches herald as the perfect non-polluting fuel. Some scientists have analyzed that there is enough of this on the moons surface to power the world for thousands of years, which has caught the attention of fuel hungry nations, such as China.

What Mars lacks is a similar resource that would attract the necessary attention to not only conquer the world environmentally, but also enable a worldwide economy to develop. After all, people are going to need to earn an income while surviving the fierce habitat, especially if Mars is to be home to millions of colonists, let alone billions of future residents.

Once a colony is established on the red planet, it will need to contribute something back towards planet Earth, something other than a few scientific curiosities. If the Martian globe is unable to provide any "fruit" back towards those who invested colonizing the world, then its greatest hope is to become a tourist destination hosting miles of desert for the eye to see.

Sources: Science @ NASA,, Aerospace Scholars NASA

Hyperlink: Red Chasm (Mars)

Could Hyperspace Become A Reality?

(Hat Tip: Mars News)

A hypothetical engine based upon a controversial theory could enable humanity to travel to the stars--and beyond.

( News) The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

If this theory is proven to be sound, a trip to Mars could be reduced to about three hours as well as a journey to a star 11 light years way could take place within 80 days. The US Air force along with the Department of Energy have expressed interest in this new theory, with the latter having the tools able to create the magnetic field for this new "warp engine."

( News) "It would be amazing. I have been working on propulsion systems for quite a while and it would be the most amazing thing. The benefits would be almost unlimited," [Professor Jochem Hauser a physicist at the Applied Sciences University in Salzgitter, Germany, and a former chief of aerodynamics at the European Space Agency] said.

"But this thing is not around the corner; we first have to prove the basic science is correct and there are quite a few physicists who have a different opinion.

"It's our job to prove we are right and we are working on that."

Dramatically shortening the time period of space travel is critical if humanity is ever going to populate the neighboring star system. Such a feat would ensure the survival of the species, as a super nova could wipe out our entire race, regardless of how many worlds we colonized.

If engines like these can be completed in the next several decades, colonizing worlds as far way as Pluto (and even farther) will not be a question of "how," but of "when." If proven to be cost effective and feasible within two decades, we may find our children viewing worlds we only dreamed of viewing through a telescope.

Laser Communication Link (Interplanetary)

(New Scientist Space) A laser communication link has been made across a record 24 million kilometres (15 million miles), between the Messenger spacecraft and instruments on Earth.

The craft and the ground station transmitted pulses back and forth to each other, and although no actual information was transmitted, the experiment shows the potential for interplanetary laser links, says David Smith of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, US.

This technology will enable space craft, as well as future colonies around the solar system to communicate with each other at a higher data rate. Microwave beams are currently being used by many satellites, and although they do not require the pin point accuracy of a laser beam, they are more restrictive in the amount of data that can be sent out per second.

(New Scientist Space) Because laser beams spread much more slowly, they can deliver more power to ground-based optical receivers, allowing higher data rates. This advantage was clear as far back as 1960 when Theodore Maiman--who had just made the first laser--listed space communications as an important potential application.

This may seem like a minor "space toy," but one must realize that communication is an important tool, especially if one is traveling millions of miles away from the home world. This may also enable a future interplanetary internet to take place, as it would allow citizens of one world to surf the net of another.