Thursday, May 25, 2006

Using Earthshine To Discover Alien Life

Although this technique is controversial (as in whether it works or not) some scientists think that they can use "Earthshine," or sunlight reflecting off of our homeworld to detect life on other planets.

(New Scientist Space) Earthshine--the dim glow from sunlight bouncing off the Earth, and reflected back from the Moon's surface--may aid in the search for life on other planets, say scientists. [...]

[Wesley Traub of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and other researchers detailed how the spectrum of Earthshine reveals the presence of ozone and chlorophyll, both sure signs of biological activity on Earth. In the future, it is expected that planet hunting space telescopes will be able to resolve Earth-like planets as tiny pinpricks of light circling around their parent stars.

And though such a "pale blue dot" would not likely reveal any visual details, its spectrum might be enough to distinguish between a sterile and a living world.

This idea is probably worth exploring. Although worlds such as Mercury and Mars (if it has resources) may prove themselves to be worthwhile over time, colonizing more habitable planets would be in our long term best interests. Not only would it cost less money, but would require less energy to colonize as well.

Update: Added photo and corrected html.

Possible Setback For Space Elevator

(Hat Tip: Space Elevator Blog)

Apparently a scientists has noticed a critical setback for building a space elevator. The problems lies not in the overall layout of the space elevator, but rather its nanotube building blocks.

(Nature) Is it possible to make a cable for a space elevator out of carbon nanotubes? Not anytime soon, if ever, says Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy. Pugno's calculations show that inevitable defects in the nanotubes mean that such a cable simply wouldn't be strong enough. [...]

Laboratory tests have shown that individual nanotubes can withstand an average of about 100 GPa, an unusual strength that comes courtesy of their crystalline structure. But if a nanotube is missing just one carbon atom, this can reduce its strength by as much as 30%. And a bulk material made from such tubes is even weaker. Most fibres made from nanotubes have so far had a strength much lower than 1 GPa.

Pugno goes on to state that even if we were able to produce perfect nanotubes, they could (over time) be corroded by oxygen molecules and micrometers from space. When asked whether or not a Space Elevator could be built, Pugno replied, "With the technology available today? Never." There are some however who disagree.

(Nature) [Bradley] Edwards, who is president and founder of the Dallas-based company Carbon Designs, shrugs off the controversy, and says that with adequate funding he could make cables at or above the 62-GPa benchmark in just three years. He suggests that the key step is carefully spinning long nanotubes together in a close-packed way, which encourages cooperative frictional forces that make the strengths of individual nanotubes less crucial.

What many people fail to realize is that the concept of a Space Elevator is still in its infancy. Current technology (including Edwards proposed method) may not be adequate enough to construct an elevator reaching towards the heavens, but we should never rule out future technology to resolve the issue.

Although debate about the possibilities of a Space Elevator are great, we must remember that a construct like this may take decades to build and it would be silly to expect something like this to be finished within a short few years.

The purpose of the Space Elevator is to benefit future generations, not just the near present and if we become impatient because our brains can not rack up a solution tomorrow then we might as well not even try to go back to the moon.

Slamming Ice Into The Moon?

(MSNBC) A strikingly simple concept would provide efficient water provisions for human outposts and even bases on the moon. The idea is to clobber our already crater-rich neighbor repeatedly with tons of water ice — to establish an "anywhere, anytime" delivery system.

Not only could chucking a payload of water ice to the moon help sustain an expeditionary crew there, the impact would mimic--in experimental form — a comet strike. Therefore, it’s a double-whammy: A science mission wrapped within an exploration capability test mission.

The theory behind the idea is to provide astronauts with ice water "whenever, wherever" on the moon. Although some of the ice would be lost on impact, the majority of it would survive on impact. Future astronauts would be able to "mine" water ice from any location within the crater, saving time and energy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Magnetic Sled Hurling Objects Into Space?

With all of the talk of Space Elevators and rocket ships blasting humanity into space, it looks as if someone has found a new way to send objects into orbit--via a magnetic sled.

(New Scientist Space) IT SOUNDS more like a roller coaster than a spacecraft launcher: a levitating sled that whirls around a giant magnetic ring at ever increasing speeds before shooting up into the sky. [...]

LaunchPoint, which is being funded by the US air force, claims a circular accelerator could allow the magnetically levitating sled to progressively build up speed over a period of hours. It would then be launched up a ramp at 10 kilometres per second, firing it into orbit.

Before anyone writes this off as "another silly space idea," they should remember the same thing was probably said of launching satellites into orbit before Sputnik, landing on the moon and (in the future) the Space Elevator. This new method has the potential to seriously reduce the cost of launching satellites (and hopefully space shuttles) into orbit.

(via LaunchPoint's Site) How revolutionary would a Maglev space launch system be? Consider that the first magnetic launch systems are expected to propel payloads into orbit at a cost of roughly $750 / lb, already a significant improvement over the current rocket-launched cost of around $4,000 / lb. Now realize that the total cost to orbit might eventually drop below $100 / lb, and it soon becomes clear how vitally important this technology is to the future of space.

LaunchPoint has already been awarded a $100,000 from the US Department of Defense Small Business Technology Transfer Program, and so far this new piece of technology looks promising. Unfortunately the site does not have a weblog in order for space junkies to keep up with what is happening at the company, but for now email subscriptions will suffice.

Flashy Goggles To Combat Space Sickness?

Space sickness occurs more than the public realizes, affecting at least 60% of astronauts during and after visiting outer space. This often hampers what an astronaut can do during the first few days of flight, which can translate into lost opportunity (and perhaps lost dollars).

A new piece of technology is hoping to change all of that, by targeting an organ few have thought of before--the eyes.

(New Scientist Space) Goggles that simulate a strobe-lighting effect could prevent the nauseating effects of space sickness--and that of more down-to-Earth travel. [...]

[Millard Reschke at JSC] came up with the idea for the glasses after observing a particular astronaut who had returned from a long stay on Russia's former space station, Mir. [...]

Reschke's team noticed that the astronaut's eyes darted back and forth more than normal. The team suspected these eye jitters--known as square wave jerks--were helping to "freeze" the moving visual scene on his retina, protecting him from space sickness.

The "eye wear" resembles 3-D glasses with shutters built in that switch from dark to light extremely fast. This creates a strobe affect and in several tests has successfully proven to prevent space sickness in micro gravity.

More testing needs to be conducted, but if successful, future astronauts may be opting for the goofy glasses rather than taking drugs.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Habitable Exo-Solar Planets Found

Although discoveries of exo-solar worlds are becoming a common phenomenon, its not every day that you hear of a planet orbiting within the "habitable zone," a region of space suitable for Earth like conditions.

(MSNBC) "For the first time, we have discovered a planetary system composed of several Neptune-mass planets," said study team member Christophe Lovis of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland.

The setup is similar to our own solar system in many ways: The outermost planet is located just within the star's habitable zone, where temperatures are moderate enough for liquid water to form, and the system also contains an asteroid belt.

The newly discovered planets have masses about 10, 12 and 18 times that of Earth, and they zip around the star in rapid orbits of about nine, 32 and 197 days, respectively.

Although the two inner most worlds are probably too close to the sun, the outer one lies within "the habitable zone" making it a prime target for colonization. Despite being a Neptune sized planet, it may have lunar bodies which would make them prime candidates for future colonies.

An artist's conception shows the three Neptune-scale planets thought to circle the sunlike star HD 69830. The outermost planet may have conditions capable of sustaining life, scientists say.

(MSNBC) Recent observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope last year revealed that HD 69830 also hosts an asteroid belt, making it the only other sunlike star known to have one.

When the asteroid belt was found, it was suspected that there might be an unseen planet that was shepherding the asteroids; it now seems that there is more than one shepherd. The researchers think the asteroid belt could lie between the two outermost planets, or beyond the third planet.

This star system is about 41 light years away from our own and lies in the Puppis the Stern constellation. Although we do not have the technology to view asteroids, it would be interesting to figure out their composition (as it would increase the value of this system for future colonists).

Bible Being Taught In Public Schools

This news will probably not make many supporters of "evolution only" advocates happy, but it will open up students towards another perspective.

(Christian Post) The long-dormant idea of teaching public school students about the literary and historic importance of the Bible is getting a fresh look this year from state legislatures and local school boards--though with political bickering and questions about what should be included.

The buzz results mostly from "The Bible and Its Influence," a glossy high school textbook with substantial interfaith and academic endorsements. It's available for the coming school year, and some 800 high schools are currently considering the course.

This curriculum is being published by the Bible Literacy Project of Front Royal, Va. and they are even launching a teachers addition next month. Teaching students about the bible will probably expose children to the debate over evolution and theology (which will benefit all) and help them decide on which world view to embrace.

And if any organizations feel threatened by the new curriculum and threaten legal action, the Washington's Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is supplying lawyers free of charge (although the American Center for Law and Justice probably would help out as well).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Monkeying Around In Space? (Lemur)

What has six legs, weighs 26 pounds and can anchor itself to the bottom of a space station? It's not a monkey, but Lemur, the space robot.

(Red Orbit) "Lemur," short for the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot, was originally conceived to help maintain future spacecraft and space stations. It weighs in at just 26 pounds (12 kilograms) and is small enough to hitch a ride on the space shuttle or NASA's planned crew exploration vehicle.

"Lemur could be an astronaut's pet monkey," says JPL engineer Brett Kennedy, principal investigator for the robotic project. "It can perform tasks that are too small for astronauts to do easily. It's built to get into the nooks and crannies of a structure."

This robot is equipped with a swivel camera, enabling to simply "turn its head" instead of having to move the entire body around. It also comes with a microscope camera about the size of a palm, enabling it to examine items up close. If approved for space, this robot may be a handy item, not only for the space station, but perhaps also for the Moon and Mars.

(Red Orbit) To make Lemur flexible and versatile, Kennedy and his team combined the body styles and abilities of an octopus, a crab and a primate into a six-limbed robot with Swiss army knife tendencies. Attachable tools fit onto each limb and perform a variety of functions. Lemur can support itself evenly on three legs while two other limbs are freed up to work. And the sixth limb? "It's a bonus, and besides, five limbs would look funny," Kennedy says. [...]

With all its gadgetry and talents, Lemur might have a bright future not only as an assistant astronaut, but also as a Martian rock climber. Lemur could scamper up much steeper hills and cliffs than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are currently wheeling around on Mars. "We built Lemur with limbs so it can use both arms and legs just as a biological primate would," Kennedy said.

Inspired by nature, this "creature" would be very beneficial towards future colonists everywhere. Hopefully this device will not be too expensive for NASA to launch, as they already have a tight budget to work with.

Rough Camping Out On Lunar World

Going back on the moon will be no easy task for future astronauts. Aside from dealing with a variety of tasks and experiments that NASA (or other nations) will give them, it appears that living quarters may be a little tight as well.

(Red Orbit) The space agency's plans call for the initial shelters to be cramped quarters within lunar landers, similar to the bare-bones enclosures that housed Apollo astronauts during six visits to the moon between 1969 and 1972. [...]

"The best analogy we have come up with is that you would be evolving from a camping trip, at least on the short initial missions, to basically a recreational vehicle," NASA's Larry Toups said of the envisioned shelters.

"The RV would be something that you could check into and possibly evolve into something larger," said Toups, head of the lunar habitation planning team.

It seems that priority (area wise) will be given towards the equipment, such as air locks and their working stations, not to mention housing the dusty space suit every time they venture out. NASA will probably also examine how the dust affects their health, as the fine particles can be hazardous to the lungs over time.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pulling Oxygen From Moon Rocks

If we are ever going to live on other worlds, oxygen is going to be a main ingredient for us to exist upon their surfaces. Although we will have to find ways to "export it" to most potential colony spots, a new invention may make that unnecessary for the Moon.

(Universe Today) Fortunately lunar soil - or regolith - is almost half oxygen. NASA researchers are using a technique called vacuum pyrolysis, where the regolith is heated until it releases oxygen. Light from the Sun was focused by a lens to heat lunar soil to 2,500 degrees C. As much as 20% of the soil was converted to free oxygen, and the leftover slag could be used for bricks, radiation shielding or pavement. [...]

"All you have to do is vaporize the stuff," says Eric Cardiff of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He leads one of several teams developing ways to provide astronauts oxygen they'll need on the Moon and Mars.

The more I seem to look at the moon, the more promising it seems to colonize its surface. Although some have advocated going to Mars first, the Moon is not only a lot closer, but probably much more valuable as well.

Pulling oxygen from moon rocks would not only be a benefit towards future colonists on the moon--it would also benefit future colonies on Mars, Mercury and any asteroid colonies as well.

Could Life Exist On Enceladus?

(Hat Tip: Space Blog Alpha)

While Earth is the only world known to harbor life in our solar system, several others may have some of the basic conditions for life--even tiny Enceladus.

(Science @ Nasa) NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about this mysterious moon.

"We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

Enceladus is one of the icy moons of Saturn, lying within the E-ring system. Unlike Jupiter's moons of Europa and Ganymede, Enceladus may harbor liquid water tens of meters below its surface (as opposed to several kilometers). But what surprised scientists was not the fact that this tiny world contained geyers, but rather the temperature readings from the surface.

(Science @ NASA) High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting huge quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea the particles are produced or blown off the moon's surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility. The jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.

If this is true then that means that bacteria (and other organisms) could survive beneath the icy crust of Enceladus, protected from the vacuum of space. Even if life is not discovered on this small world, it would mean that future colonists could exploit Enceladus's underground oceans and perhaps develop oceanic colonies instead of building on the surface.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Speedy Retrograde Light Beams?

(Hat Tip: Centauri Dreams and Space Blog Alpha)

It seems that fact is definitely stranger than fantasy! While conducting an experiment, a professor at the University of Rochester was not only able to slow down the speed of light but apparently send it flying in the other direction.

(University of Rochestor) [Robert Boyd, the M. Parker Givens Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester] recently showed how he can slow down a pulse of light to slower than an airplane, or speed it up faster than its breakneck pace, using exotic techniques and materials. But he's now taken what was once just a mathematical oddity-negative speed-and shown it working in the real world.

"It's weird stuff," says Boyd. "We sent a pulse through an optical fiber, and before its peak even entered the fiber, it was exiting the other end. Through experiments we were able to see that the pulse inside the fiber was actually moving backward, linking the input and output pulses."

Definitely weird stuff. Although this procedure was theorized by scientists, no one knew whether this could be performed within laboratory conditions. Although there may be no immediate benefits for humanity over this, its discovery may throw down one of many hurdles in creating a light saber.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Those Pagan Creationists? (Bible And Science)

(Hat Tip: Around the World with Ken Ham)

Apparently it seems that a Vatican astronomer is calling anyone who believes in the six day theory of creation (that being a divine entity created the world in six literal days) "pagans." Really?

(Scotsman) Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.

He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events.

I guess this probably means that I need to break out the make up and celebrate my favorite pagan holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. If creationism is false, then the Bible is worthless making the teachings of Christ to be at best relative.

But it seems that Consolmagno has not written off religion completely.

(Scotsman) "Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."

Although Consolmagno's argument sounds cute, he forgets that morality (which is those pesky rules people say we have to follow) is based upon authority, which in turn must be based on truth. Otherwise, the authority loses legitimacy in the eyes of the world along with any writings, movements, ect. connected with it.

Either the bible is or it isn't. Either it's writings are in harmony with science or it is to be placed alongside of other great fairy tales such as Peter Pan, the Three Little Pigs or even Snow White. To claim that the Bible is unscientific yet moral is to claim that oxygen is unnecessary for life yet important.

For those thinking that the Bible lacks anything scientific in nature, here are some verses written thousands of years in advance before they were verified by science.

  1. The Earth is round not flat (Isaiah 40:22)

  2. Planet Earth surrounded by a spacial vacuum (Job 26:7)

  3. Worker Ants being female (Proverbs 6:6)

  4. The enormous number of stars (Jeremiah 33:22)

  5. Differing spectra of stars (1 Corinthians 15:41)

  6. Circulation of the winds (Ecclesiastes 1:6)

  7. Air actually having weight (Job 28:25)

  8. The Water Cycle (Job 36:27-29)

More info can be found over at Clarifying Christianity.

Science is nothing more than an attempt to analyze our world and how it functions. If God exists and if the Bible (your basic instructions on how to get the most out of life) was inspired by him, then science and religion (or rather Christianity) should be in harmony with each other. Apparently Consolmagno seems to have forgotten that when he decided that the Bible was fallible yet relevant.

Chinese Space Station In 2008?

In an attempt to retain its space power status, China it seems is interested in constructing a space station orbiting Earth by next years end.

(Red Orbit) The People's Daily Thursday said in September following the Olympics China plans to launch a Shenzhou-7 spacecraft with three astronauts for preliminary work on a Chinese space station. [...]

The plans call for a 20-ton station, said Song Zhengyu, a research fellow with the First Institute of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp. and deputy director-designer of the launch vehicle. Analysts say China wants to build its own space station to keep up with other countries while showing it can do high-tech exploration.

China is currently leading the Asian world in space technology, with neighbors such as South Korea and Japan envying their status from afar. China's entrance into the space field has been a benefit globally, as it has rekindled a spirit of exploration of the heavens.

Lets hope it will also inspire its neighbors to pursue similar goals (hint: Japan, where are you?)

Checking In At The Inflatable Space Hotel

Imagine relaxing in your pajamas, sipping on solar wine while reading the latest news from the Lunar Times--all from the comfort of your micro-gravity bed. The only catch is that the station your staying in has no hard floors, no direction of "up," and no cutting lasers are allowed on board.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Inflatable Space Hotel.

(Times Online) AN inflatable hotel that will orbit the Earth is being built by a millionaire hoping to kickstart interest in space tourism.

Robert Bigelow, an American hotelier who says he wants to open up space to the general public, is ploughing more than £280m into the project.

The blow-up structure will be launched on rockets and self-inflate to its full size once it is circling the globe.

Its 1ft-thick skin, made from a toughened combination of multi-layered polymer and Kevlar, will allow it to expand while keeping the astronauts protected from space meteorites.

Believe it or not, this project was originally started by NASA, but due to financial constraints they were forced to abandon it in its infancy. Bigelow decided to buy it out in an attempt to not only make money, but also attract Hollywood and drug companies into space.

(Times Online) In addition to being used as a hotel, the structure may be leased to astronauts and pharmaceutical companies wanting to use it as a medical testing centre.

Bigelow hopes the hotel, which would open some time after 2015, will also be in demand as a shooting location for film-makers.

If successful, a future space hotel could revolutionize the space construction industry. Such a project would require fewer launches, allowing NASA to concentrate its efforts on building ships and lunar craft, not to mention working on colonizing Mars.

Bigelow plans on launching a beta type first, which will test the amount of radiation received through "the vessel" (and other dangers) before populating it with humans.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mexico Headed Into Space

It looks as if our Hispanic brethren are going to consider heading towards the stars along with their American neighbors and the Canadians from the great white north.

(MSNBC) They may be light years away from fulfilling their dream, but Mexican lawmakers are preparing to launch a national space agency they hope could one day stand tall beside the United States' NASA. [...]

With an initial budget proposal of less than $2 million, the backers of the Mexican Space Agency say it would struggle to challenge its northern neighbor's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, but hope it would draw Mexico into the international space community, bringing access to cutting-edge technology and research.

Mexican lawmakers still need to pass the bill in order to create this agency, but its addition would not only aid the nation technologically but also economically as well (after all, launching satellites should be cheaper down there).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Saturn's Titan A Desert World, Lacks Methane Oceans

It appears as if the world once herald as harboring oceans of methane is nothing more than a dust bowl consisting of sand. Although nearly a billion miles away from planet Earth, this is a major blow to the future Saturn economy and a temporary setback for humanity.

(Universe Today) Radar images taken when the Cassini spacecraft flew by Titan last October show dunes 330 feet (100 meters) high that run parallel to each other for hundreds of miles at Titan's equator. One dune field runs more than 930 miles (1500 km) long, said Ralph Lorenz of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

"It's bizarre," Lorenz said. "These images from a moon of Saturn look just like radar images of Namibia or Arabia. Titan's atmosphere is thicker than Earth's, its gravity is lower, its sand is certainly different -- everything is different except for the physical process that forms the dunes and resulting landscape."

Scientists are unsure of what the grains of sand (resembling coffee grounds) exactly consist of. Titan's sand could consist of organic compounds, water ice, or even a mixture of both. There was hope that potential rain may provide a resource for methane oceans, but further analysis reveals that rain is just as common on the world as the Sahara desert.

(Universe Today) Observations and models of Titan show that clouds and rain are rare. That means that individual storms could be large and still yield a low average rainfall, Lorenz explained.

When the UA-led Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) team produced images taken during the Huygens probe landing on Titan in January 2005, the world saw gullies, streambeds and canyons in the landscape. These same features on Titan have been seen with radar.

These features show that when it does rain on Titan, it rains in very energetic events, just as it does in the Arizona desert, Lorenz said.

If Titan did posses oceans of methane, then it would have been able to fund future projects to colonize Uranus, Neptune Pluto and beyond. It seems as if this economic jumpstart may no longer be available for humanity to exploit, so unless a new resource comes along, there will be little motivation to colonize any worlds beyond Saturn.

Mars Before The Moon?

It seems that a scientist is advocating that humanity by pass the moon in order to visit Mars.

(Red Orbit) Robert Zubrin uses his vision of the past to extol his vision for the future, but he never allows himself to go off on a tangent. [...]

"Mars is like North America, the moon is like Greenland," Zubrin said. "Greenland is closer to Europe, easier to reach, but it was not really a place where you could establish a branch of new human civilization. That's why we need to make Mars our goal."

It's why there's a Mars Society, because the planet "resolves the question of existence of life in the universe," he said, "and because of the future of humanity. Mars still has the resources to support life in ways the moon ... doesn't have."

Although Mars is a very unique world, it unfortunately will not pay the bills (unlike our lunar neighbor). Traveling to Mars first would be financial suicide as there are no known major resources on the planet or hints of any being discovered. It would mean trillions of dollars of debt for perhaps millions in profit.

The Lunar idea seems not only more profitable, but logical as well (Hint: it is much closer).

Update: Added source link.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Colonizing Mercury, Could It Be Done?

(Published on Blog Critics)

Mercury is a world unlike any other. Reaching temperatures up to 427 degrees Celsius, Mercury is not the place one would choose to go sun tanning.

Mercury is a very barren and harsh planet, with little economic value, unlike the Moon. But what if technology revealed precious metals beneath its surface, enough to convince humanity to face the dangers of space, and reap its potential resources for our benefit. Would we be able to colonize the first rock from the Sun? Could it be done?

Because of its closeness towards the Sun, Mercury lacks the "explorer appeal" that surround both Mars and Earth's lunar neighbor. However, Mercury does have several advantages over both the Moon and the red planet, which might make it appealing towards future colonists heading for the stars.

Mercury is one of the few terrestrial worlds boasting a magnetic field, along with Earth and Jupiter's moon Ganymede. This field is critical as it helps filter out harmful rays from the sun, which can be devastating towards the human body.

Although only at about 1% strength when compared to Earth's, Mercury's magnetic field deflects the solar wind about a thousand kilometers from the surface. Despite its size, this small region of covering may be more than enough to protect human explorers.

Another advantage point is that Mercury's gravity is about 38% when compared to Earth's. Although this may not seem like a major issue, gravity plays an important part in our lives and micro-gravity can be devastating towards the bones and muscles of the human body. Since some scientists consider gravity over one third (or 33%) to be acceptable for the human body, Mercury would be one of the few terrestrial worlds habitable long term.

Although being close to the Sun has its disadvantages, it does carry with it one advantage--solar energy. Since a day on Mercury is approximately 58 and a half Earth days, the planet could benefit from long periods of uninterrupted sunlight. Solar panels could be constructed around the world, with future communities "borrowing power" from sunlit regions or switching to nuclear power during the weeks of darkness.

It's closeness towards the sun would also provide scientists with a way to observe solar phenomenon more closely, allow us to understand space whether and perhaps establish an early solar storm warning throughout the star system.

Aside from basic planetary data, very little is known about this world. As NASA and other organizations set their sites upon the Moon and Mars, they may want to consider adding Mercury to the list, as its density (second only to Earth's) may hint at the possibility of mineral and metallic resources.

Whether through commercial, scientific or possibly penal interests (as a future prison world), colonizing Mercury may not sound as far fetched as some imagine and we may one day in the future call this world our home.

Sources: Solar Views-Mercury, Space Physics Center, Science Frontiers, Enchanted, NSBRI,