Friday, June 26, 2009

Transitioning to WordPress (site will be down over the weekend)

After moving one blog mostly over to WordPress (2.8), I'm moving the second one as well. I'm not doing this out of the joy for WordPress (as I think Blogger has many superior features, especially when it comes to media content and blogging).

However the "shell" of WP is much more user friendly, and since my only (major) complaints about WordPress are behind the scenes, I'll transition for the sake of my readers.

Stay tuned for the new template.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Switching To WordPress

After months of debate I have decided to switch two of my blogs (IsraGood and Colony Worlds) from Blogger to WordPress.

Now I'm not making this decision based on "WordPress is better than Blogger" because IMHO they both have strenghths where the other has weaknesses.

Anyways both IsraGood & Colony Worlds will be down throughout the day, as I import comments, posts and attempt to maintain permalinks on the site.

I will also be sporting new premium themes for each site so stay tuned!!

--Posted via iPhone

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (100 And 101)

The 100th Carnival of Space (note: we've had that many already?!) was hosted by Brian Ventrudo upon One Minute Astronomer which featured many interesting articles ranging from deadly neutron stars to extraterrestrial tweeting to words of Wisdom from NASA's former leader, Mike Griffin.

Interesting articles within our star system included:

  • David Portree (from Beyond Apollo) highlights a previous plan to land a man on Mars.
  • Ken Murphy of Out of the Cradle reviews the Orphans of Apollo film, which focuses on the private sectors attempts at making space a reality beyond governmental employees.

Be sure to check out the rest of the entries on One Minute Astronomer--and without further delay here is last week's Carnival of Space which was hosted by Davide Portree on Robot Explorers.

Interesting articles ranged from space diamonds to extraterrestrial ponderings to close encounters with the asteroid kind.

A few interesting posts within our star system included:

There were many other interesting articles (so be sure to read the rest!), and for those of you thinking about joining in on the next round of space geek madness, be sure to check out Universe Today for more details on how to enter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lunar Dust Dilemma Solved (Via Space Umbrellas?)

Despite having the potential to feed our energy gluttonous world, lunar dust can be fetal to both humans and our robot friends, not to mention very electric (thanks in part to the solar wind).

While scientists have suggested melting down nearby Moon soil in order to counter the rough dust particles, it may be better to construct large space umbrellas thanks to new research regarding lunar dust.

(Moon Today) "Before you can manage the dust, you have to understand what makes it sticky," says Brian O'Brien, the sole author of the paper. His analysis is the first to measure the strength of lunar dust's adhesive forces, how they change during the lunar day -- which lasts 710 hours -- and differ on vertical and horizontal surfaces. O'Brien used data from the matchbox-sized Dust Detector Experiments deployed on the Moon's surface in 1969 during the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. [...]

O'Brien found that later, as the Sun rose and the angle of incidence of the Sun's rays on the dusty vertical surface facing east decreased, the electrostatic forces on the vertical cell weakened. The tipping point was reached when the Sun was at an angle of about 45 degrees: then the pull of lunar gravity counteracted the adhesive forces and made the dust start falling off. All dust had fallen by lunar night.

"These are the first measurements of the collapse of the cohesive forces that make lunar dust so sticky" O'Brien says.

If the Sun is really influencing the stickiness of lunar dust, then the easiest way to combat it may be to erect an enormous space umbrella over the Lunar base.

While this may not give a future settlement an aesthetic look (which would not matter unless one was into the lunar hotel business), it could help reduce the amount of dust that makes it inside these future space habitats (a feature that may appeal to long term residents).

(Image Credit: Fashionably Geek)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Did Somebody Say Anti-Germ Space Paint?

Aside from radiation, micro gravity and cabin fever, keeping a space ship clean can easily spell the difference between life and death.

Since micro gravity has a way of encouraging the growth of deadly organisms, future explorers will probably have to spend a lot of time keeping their "space trailer" squeaky clean--especially the walls.

While cleaning up the space ship may appeal to those in love with Mr. Clean, it may be better for space agencies to coat their space craft walls with anti-germ paint instead.

(Fox News) Scientists at the University of South Dakota have invented a new germ-killing molecule that can be added to commercial brands of paint to give the paint long-lasting antimicrobial properties.

The molecule includes a bleach-like substance called an N-halamine. N-halamines are already used widely, but the South Dakota researchers were able to develop a new type known as Cl-TMPM. [...]

In tests, Staphylococcus aureus organisms were killed with 10 minutes of contact, and E coli organisms were killed with 5 minutes of contact. Paint treated with Cl-TMPM was even effective against the superbug MRSA and other drug-resistant bacteria.

Unfortunately the new paint is only effective against a small selection of organisms, although hopefully scientists will be able to expand it to a variety of organisms known to infest human habitats (whether on our homeworld, off world or even in space).

If perfected, this paint would not only save future explorers countless hours in "de-germing" their extra terrestrial habitats, but make living on another world a lot safer as well.

(Image Credit: eHow)

One Small Step Away From The Moon? (NASA)

Despite pursuing a vigorous course to achieve lunarhood on Earth's nearest neighbor, it looks like NASA's plan for a Moon encounter may potentially be delayed by a few years.

(Orlando Sentinel) NASA's internal plans had called for Ares V to go to the moon in 2018, though the agency had announced a public goal of 2020. Internal deadlines are used by NASA to keep programs on track and to provide a margin of error for developmental problems. But because of growing budget woes, the agency is resetting its internal date to 2020. And privately, engineers say that means the public 2020 date to send humans back to the moon is in deepening trouble.

The news is the lastest sign of upheaval in the agency's Constellation Program which has been beset by financial and design trouble for the past few years. There is even talk now of cutting down the maximum number of crew that the Orion capsule can carry from six to four. It is the latest effort by NASA managers to reduce costs and the weight of the spacecraft.

This news (if true) could not have come at a worse time for NASA as the agency is already having trouble securing a leader after Mike Griffin left. Hopefully NASA can get its game on by 2020, otherwise we may see future Lunar citizens speaking Chinese.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Alice In Spaceland)

Last week's Carnival of Space was hosted by Alice Enevoldsen upon Alice's AstroInfo which featured posts ranging from hot pink galaxies to our Sun's evil twin brother to even Steven Colbert making history by having a treadmill named after him.

Interesting articles readers here might want to check out include:

Be sure to read the rest of the entries, and for those of you interested in joining this weeks upcoming Carnival of Space, feel free to contact Universe Today for details on how to enter.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Universe Today Plus Moon Surprise)

(Note: Preview from the upcoming Moon film.)

Fraser Cain of Universe Today hosts the 98th Carnival of Space which highlighted articles ranging from the mysteries of dark matter to the hand of Galactus (note: you do remember who Galactus is, right?) to interstellar starships (which may require a lot of fuel).

Articles readers here may want to check out include:

Be sure to check out the rest of the entries, and for those of you thinking about joining this weeks upcoming round (note: which this author keeps forgetting) should visit Universe Today for more info.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Are Traditional Space Elevators The Wrong Way Up?

After being first envisioned by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, then perfected by Yuri Artsutanov, Jerome Pearson and Brad Edwards, the space elevator has captured the imaginations of thousands of individuals who believe it's humanities best hope for colonizing the solar system en masse.

This radical space concept led to the creation of two startups (LiftPort and Blackline Ascension), as well as support from NASA who (despite their skepticism) is offering $4 million in prize money towards successful teams/companies (thanks in part to their Centennial Challenge).

Despite the momentum that the space elevator community has built up over the years, their dreams of a 100,000 km "beanstalk" stretching into the heavens may not come to pass as the earliest plans for a structure coming into being hover around 2030.

Rather than spend decades perfecting carbon nanotubes and power climbers (key ingredients if a traditional space elevator is to become a reality), it may be better to focus on Skyhooks (aka orbital space elevators) instead.

Instead of grasping the Earth's surface from either a seaport or a mountain top, a Skyhook would hover 150 km above our home world, giving it several advantages over its earth bound cousins.

While a traditional space elevator would require a massive counterweight at the end (i.e. an asteroid or a large space station), a Skyhook would only need a light counterweight at the top of the structure, which might be feasible with today's technology (not to mention this economy as well).

A Skyhook would also be much shorter than their traditional brethren, spanning a length of no more than 4,000 km compared to 100,000 km for a traditional space elevator. Even if a Skyhook's cable had to be fashioned from carbon nanotubes (which may not be needed as Kevlar and/or Spectra might be sufficient), it would be much easier to fashion due to its shorter length.

Last but not least, Skyhooks would probably not need to beam power to their transport climbers from below, a feat that may be extremely difficult for traditional space elevators (especially 100,000 km away!). Instead, climbers transporting cargo on a Skyhook could be powered by miniature nuclear reactors or via solar power from the rays of the sun.

Although Skyhook's have a significant advantage over their earth bound friends, their Achilles heal lies in the fact one would need to construct a rocket/jet hybrid capable of "breathing air" when flying through our atmosphere, and later on switching to rocket engines when they reach the edge of space.

Fortunately the British are in the process of developing a new craft called Skylon (by Reaction Engines Limited) which may help remove that hurdle, making the construction of a Skyhook possible.

While space elevator enthusiasts may still opt to construct their terrestrial beanstalk in an attempt to link heaven and earth, it may be wiser to focus their efforts on Skyhooks instead--especially now that companies like Lockheed Martin may seriously pursue building a Skyhook which in the end could help open the final frontier to the masses.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Google: We Would Invest In A Space Elevator, But Only If It Worked

Last week, the search engine giant known as Google launched a venture fund creatively known as Google Ventures, which the company will use to invest in startups in and outside of its main industry (example: cleantech, healthcare, bio-tech, etc.).

Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch had a chance to interview both Google execs running the fund, Bill Maris and Rich Miner (the latter known for helping create the Android OS running on T-Mobile's G1 and other phones), and here is what they had to say regarding a potential investment regarding space elevators.

(TechCrunch) The day of the announcement, I chatted on the phone with Bill Maris and Rich Miner, the two Google executives who are managing the fund to get a sense of what they are interested in and how the fund will work.

It turns out they are open to investing in pretty much anything from the Internet and cloud computing to healthcare and mobile. "We don't want to artificially limit ourselves," says Miner. What about space elevators? "Show me one that works," retorts Maris, "and I will invest in it." The two of them will run the entire fund pretty much by themselves, bringing in other Googlers as needed for expertise and to help evaluate startups.

Note: Emphasis mine.
While Google is not shy about investing in space related projects (after all the founders helped launch the Google Lunar X-Prize a little over a year ago), there seems to be a high amount of skepticism regarding space elevators as a whole--at least among Googler engineers.

Perhaps the newly founded International Space Elevator Consortium could help convince Google that a space elevator is something worth investing in, as gaining the support from a public company could go a long ways towards convincing the masses that this long term project is indeed viable.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Japanese Space Androids To Conquer Lunar Frontier

(Hat Tip: Engadget)

What does an country with moon aspirations do when its rival outnumbers it 10 to 1? Send in the robots of course! It looks as if the Japanese are seriously considering leveraging their silicon friends in order to make lunar life more habitable.

(Times Online) But by 2020, Japan predicts, humanoid robots will be ready to colonise the Moon. [...]

The group's remit was to draft a five-year plan on the development and exploitation of space - a programme for action that was initially to have included the goal of putting a human Japanese astronaut on the Moon within the next 20 years. In the latest plans, though, robots have inherited the prime position in Japan's first – and still unconstructed – lunar lander. Experts have been arguing for years that the country’s aim should be to develop humanoid robots to the point where they are capable of everything people can do, and more.

Unless Japan desires to create Cylons (or worse, Terminators) they may want to refocus their efforts on beefing up their own citizens for the lunar stroll.

Although robots would give the land of the rising sun an early advantage against China, it may also devalue their claims of ownership over certain lunar real estate (as a country would have to have a very good reason for injuring a human as opposed to destroying a machine).

Another Blue Collar Space Job: Firefighters

(Image Credit: NASA, Hat Tip: Gizmodo)

If one were to list which blue collar space jobs would be needed for the future, Firefighters would be right at the top of the list (or at least up there with pig farmers).

Since fires can spread a lot faster in micro gravity than on our home world, NASA is preparing future explorers by equipping them with new ways to douse the space flames.

(MSNBC) "In space, fires are like spheres. They're not shaped like what we have on Earth," said James Butz, vice president of operations for Colorado-based ADA Technologies, which last week announced it had received a grant worth nearly $100,000 from NASA to continue work on an extinguisher that coats fires in a fine mist. [...]

The key to getting the droplets small enough is to use compressed gas. The system uses water and nitrogen so it is environmentally non-toxic and has an unlimited shelf life. Also, because oxygen and nitrogen will be aboard the spacecraft, the extinguisher can be refilled if needed.

This technology will not only be critical for future colonists traveling between the worlds, but also to settlers living upon dwarf worlds (like Ceres and Pluto) where the gravity is not as strong.

Even though NASA is preparing future explorers on how to deal with fires on a smaller scale, they may one day need a more specialized force (especially if humanity begins to thickly populate the spheres that dance around our Sun).

Can A New Spaceship Save Russia?

It looks as if the nation that helped bring us to the stars (via Sputnik) is now seeking to build a spaceship that can not only take them beyond our terrestrial sky, but towards the Moon as well.

(MSNBC) The Russian space agency on Tuesday ordered design work to start for a next-generation spaceship capable of flying missions to the moon, setting the ground for a potential new space race with the United States.

The space agency granted the state-controlled RKK Energiya company the $23 million contract for the initial work on a new, reusable craft to replace the 40-year-old Soyuz spacecraft.

With the world wide recession leaving none unscathed (even the NewSpace industry), it may be difficult for Russia to compete against NASA, although an alliance with China may help them close the gap.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Astroengine And Cheap Astronomy)

Two weeks ago, Ian O'Neill of AstroEngine fame hosted the 96th Carnival of Space. There were many interesting articles posted which ranged from lucky space billionaires to Martian girl rovers to even mentions of a Venus manned mission.

Articles readers here might want to check out include:

Be sure to check out the rest of the entries over at AstroEngine, as space here fails to mention the other interesting articles (like interstellar probes).


Last week's Carnival of Space was hosted by Steve Nerlich upon Cheap Astronomy, which highlighted many articles ranging from bouncing Martian boulders to who really fathered American space stations to even how to detect exo-planet worlds via their magnetospheres.

Interesting articles readers here may want to check out include:

More entries can be viewed upon Cheap Astronomy, and for those of you looking to join the next Carnival of Space, feel free to contact Fraser over at Universe Today.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Video: Could Skylon Jets Open Up The Final Frontier?

(Hat Tip: Skymania News)

Finding an inexpensive and effective way to travel beyond the heavens above has been the quest of humanity since the days of the Wright Brothers.

While some see space elevators as the key, it looks as if the British are placing their faith in air breathing Skylon jets.

(New Scientist) Unlike scramjets, Skylon is designed to run in air-breathing mode directly from launch up to a speed of Mach 5.5. At an altitude of 26 kilometres, the engine would switch to conventional rocket power and use onboard oxygen to propel the plane into space.

"It's a pretty unique concept," says Mark Hempsell, director of future programmes at Reaction Engines. "I think at the moment it's the only realistic way to make aircraft vehicles that go into space."

The design should be sufficient to power a 43-tonne plane that can loft 12 tonnes of payload into low-Earth orbit, about half what the space shuttle can carry, the firm says.

If successful, Skylon jets could not only help England leap frog ahead of the competition but also make space affordable for all.

While the Skylon alone will not help humanity become a space faring species, it may reduce the overall cost of traveling beyond the sky, making it easier for our species to construct orbital space stations (and perhaps even a modified space elevator, LockHeed style!).

Nitrogen Powered Rockets (For Titan, Triton And Pluto?)

(Image: A prototype of the Mini-Helicon Plasma Thruster. Credit: Donna Coveney / MIT)

Out "in the black" where the suns rays are much dimmer, future explorers will have to come up with innovative ways to travel to and from the gas giants, dwarf planets and the various moons that dance around their parent worlds.

While solar sails, magnetic sails and nuclear rockets could provide some measure of transport, they will probably be too expensive for the average star ship.

Since mining hydrogen directly from gas giants is suicidal due to their deep gravity wells and very fierce winds (with the only exception being Uranus), colonists beyond Jupiter may look towards nitrogen to solve their space transport needs.

(Space Travel) Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say their new rocket -- called the Mini-Helicon Plasma Thruster -- is much smaller than other rockets of its kind and could consume just one-tenth the fuel used by conventional systems. [...]

The scientists said the Mini-Helicon is the first rocket to run on nitrogen, the most abundant gas in Earth's atmosphere. Batishchev noted, however, it could be years before the technology can be used commercially.

While this technology will have some value on our home world, these nitrogen powered rockets may prove invaluable to worlds like Titan, Triton and Pluto who seem to be blessed with an abundance of nitrogen, respectively.

If future settlers could find ways to harvest this element from these worlds, then humanity may discover a means to travel not only throughout the outer planets, but perhaps beyond the Kuiper belt as well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rechargable Batteries (For Off World Settlers)

Regardless of how humanity decides to power its off world settlements (whether by solar power, geothermal, solar steam, or even algae), they are going to need an efficient and quick way to transfer the energy to not only space habitats, but future rovers as well.

While NASA and Germany have come up with innovative ways at storing energy, respectively, it looks as if researchers from Massachusetts may have developed a way to recharge electrical batteries at lightening speeds.

(Times Online) Scientists in the United States have invented a battery that can charge in seconds, promising a revolution in power storage that could also help green cars and renewable energy.

The advance allows lithium-ion batteries, the standard variety used in consumer electronics and cells for electric or hybrid vehicles, both to charge and discharge stored energy more quickly than at present. [...]

"If you can charge your phone in 30 seconds, that becomes a life changer," said Gerbrand Ceder, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who led the research. "It could change the way we think about technology like this: you would literally be able to charge up while you stand and wait."
This technology could enable future colonists to create fleets of rovers to travel across the surfaces of the Moon, Mars, as well as Jupiter's lunar children (Ganymede and Callisto to be exact).

Settlers could construct electric charging stations to supply rovers en route to distant destinations, thereby enabling explorers to travel their world without fear of running out of energy.

While this technology has yet to be perfected (not to mention tested on Earth), it may help humanity expand across the various worlds that orbit around our golden star Sol.

Mars Probably Has Liquid Water (Too Bad Its Very Salty)

(Image: Salty water droplets on Phoenix Mars Lander. Credit: NASA) 

With temperatures plunging below -100 degrees (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius), Mars is not exactly known as warm and friendly place to live upon.

While the red planet does boast an abundance of ice, it looks as if scientists have discovered that liquid water can exist upon its surface--in an extremely salty form.

(SpaceRef) Temperature fluctuation in the arctic region of Mars where Phoenix landed and salts in the soil could create pockets of water too salty to freeze in the climate of the landing site, Renno says.

Photos of one of the lander's legs show droplets that grew during the polar summer. Based on the temperature of the leg and the presence of large amounts of "perchlorate" salts detected in the soil, scientists believe the droplets were most likely salty liquid water and mud that splashed on the spacecraft when it touched down. The lander was guided down by rockets whose exhaust melted the top layer of ice below a thin sheet of soil. [...]

The wet chemistry lab on Phoenix found evidence of perchlorate salts, which likely include magnesium and calcium perchlorate hydrates. These compounds have freezing temperatures of about -90 and -105 Fahrenheit respectively. The temperature at the landing site ranged from approximately -5 to -140 Fahrenheit, with a median temperature around -75 Fahrenheit. Temperatures at the landing site were mostly warmer than this during the first months of the mission.

Perchlorate salts are not exactly healthy for humans, and their presence on Mars comes with a double blessing.

While this means that future colonists may have an easier time storing water (at least in liquid form), it also means that it will have to be heavily filtered if humans (not to mention our animal friends) are to ever drink it.

Why Japan Needs To Embrace Human Spaceflight

(Hat Tip: Hobby Space)

Earlier this month, the land of the rising sun decided to reverse its robotic space policy and actually embrace the idea of sending flesh and blood to explore the heavens above.

(Mainichi Daily News) The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants "to have the technology for independent manned missions," President Keiji Tachikawa announced last month, in a reversal of Japan's policy against manned space exploration.

The plan on manned space missions was due to be mentioned in a meeting of an expert panel at the government's space development strategy headquarters on Friday. While not setting any specific time frame, it does call for a review of current policy on manned space missions as part of plans for the proposed Space Solar Power System (SSPS), and a future manned mission to the moon.

This is a smart (although late) move for Japan, who had to watch as their rival China conducted its first spacewalk (establishing the Asian giant as the dominant space power).

Although Japan has successfully launched a satellite around the Moon (in HD nonetheless), they need to place more emphasis on sending their own citizens into space, especially now that China is intent on building a military space station by the end of next year.

Unlike their silicon beasts that roam the heavens above, a human presence will help the Japanese establish a public claim to outer space (as robots can always be blasted out of the sky without raising too much public outrage).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Out Of The Cradle)

Note: After taking a mini break from blogging (at least upon my Blogger blogs), not to mention migrating to HostMonster from GoDaddy (which took a lot longer than expected as there were quite a few errors to resolve) Colony Worlds is back from the cone of silence!

To kick things off, here is the latest Carnival of Space from Ken Murphy of Out of the Cradle. Interesting articles highlighted the search for anti-matter galaxies to converting the dwarf world Ceres into an intergalactic radio to even a free lunar book to inspire the children future lunar explorers.

A few articles that readers here may enjoy include:

Be sure to visit the rest of the entries from the Carnival of Space, as well as check out the past carnivals over on Universe Today

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

3 House Plants You May See On Mars, Callisto And Saturn's Titan

Whether it takes a few decades or a few centuries, humans will probably populate the solar system along with a few animal friends such as dogs, pigs and ants.

While one may also expect bamboo to dominate much of the visible plant life (at least as far as off world forests go), we may find space colony offices filled with a few specific house plants.

(GreenSpaces Blog) We have tried and tested these plants for 15 years at Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC™ - STIP) in New Delhi, India. It is a 20 year old, 50,000 ft2 building, with over 1,200 plants for 300 building occupants.

PBC™ - STIP is rated the healthiest building in Delhi by the Government of India.* Their study found that there is a 42% probability of increasing blood oxygen by 1% if one is inside the building for 10 hours. [...]

We saved over 15% in energy costs as we did not have to inject 15-20 cfm of fresh air in to the building as suggested by ASHRAE – an industry standard.

Unless one is fortunate enough to live on the Moon, oxygen will be considered a precious commodity off world.

Despite their fancy names, these three plants may not only help keep air fresh and clean, but they could also help reduce the overall cost and energy needed to maintain a space colony (which is good news for space settlers heading for Mars, Callisto and Titan).

While this may mean that off world settlers will have to hire an extra gardener to ensure that these plants are growing up healthy and strong, future colonists may welcome the extra greenery (as it may help keep them from becoming too home sick).

(Hat Tip: LifeHacker)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Video: In Space, No One Will See You Stitched

Although microgravity is not exactly the greatest place to sustain an injury (unless you are a dangerous microbe), many scientists are exploring new ways of conducting surgery in a weightless environment.

While a space doctor will be needed to help mend the wounds of astronauts, they may choose to use lasers to seal the wound instead of medical stitches.

Since regular earthly stitches are composed of synthetic material and catgut, scientists may prefer using lasers as it would translate into one less item to pack (as well as one less requirement for a future space doctor).

(Hat Tip: Gizmodo)

Confirmed: Moon Is "As Wet" As A Terrestrian Desert

While this comes to no surprise based on last years analysis, it looks as if Japan's lunar satellite Selene confirms what many scientists have suspected all along.

(Moon Daily) "The surface can tell us a lot about what's happening inside the Moon, but until now mapping has been very limited," C.K Shum, professor of Earth sciences at Ohio State University, said in the February 13 issue of Science.

"For instance, with this new high-resolution map, we can confirm that there is very little water on the Moon today, even deep in the interior. And we can use that information to think about water on other planets, including Mars." [...]

The hard surface suggests very little water, researchers said. If there were water, even deep within the Moon, the surface would be more flexible than it was shown to be.

Since hauling water from the homeworld would probably increase the cost of a lunar outpost, future settlers may choose to simply import hydrogen from Earth instead (as it is much lighter).

Colonists could "simply" combine the hydrogen with oxygen extracted from lunar rocks, which would enable settlers to quench their thirst (not to mention help create rocket fuel as well).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Avoiding Future Disaster (Blog Maintenance)

In order to avoid future problems down the road, this weblog is going under the DNS knife (so it may appear choppy for 48 hours).

I'll update this post as soon as it is back up. :-)

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To Fund Or Not To Fund: A Stimulus For SpaceX? (Video)

(Image: Falcon 9/Dragon configured for cargo delivery to the ISS. Credit: SpaceX)

With Congress wresting over the bailout stimulus package, it looks as if SpaceX (who launched their first successful rocket last year) is asking the public to contact their state representatives in order lobby for additional funding for COTS-d (aka the Constellation Orbital Transportation Services).

(SpaceX) What this would mean for taxpayers and high tech jobs in the United States is very significant. Let's consider the default plan under way, which expects that our country will use the Russian Soyuz at the currently negotiated price of $47 million per seat for the period between Shuttle retirement (2010) and Ares/Orion reaching Space Station (2016). Even assuming that we drop the number of US astronauts going to Station from the current 30 per year with Shuttle down to 14 per year, the cost will be approximately $3.3 billion. However, there is also a human cost in the thousands of jobs that the money could have supported back home.

In contrast, F9/Dragon would cost less than $20M per seat and it is 100% manufactured and launched in the United States. We are estimating that it would create well in excess of a 1000 high quality jobs at Cape Canaveral and an equivalent number in California and Texas, where we do our manufacturing and testing. Moreover, the total cost would only be $1.5B, so taxpayers would save nearly $2B. [...]

COTS Capability D can be completed within two years from date of funds receipt. In fact, with a little extra money and some modifications to the plan, it can be accelerated even further.

Since COTS Capability D is an existing option in an already competed contract, NASA could exercise it right away, resulting in immediate job creation. [...]

If you think this makes sense, please contact your representatives in the House and Senate, as well as Rep. Mollohan and Senator Mikulski who lead the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittees. Please encourage them to fund NASA Exploration in the Stimulus Bill and provide the $300M in funding necessary to begin COTS Capability D.

While the public may not be a fan of spending even more tax dollars for the private sector (note: this author is not), Congress should probably fund the COTS-d program (as outsourcing to Russia does not sound like a great idea).

SpaceX has even provided a video, in order to help inspire Americans to support a home grown NewSpace company.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (87 And 88)

Note: In order to help kick off this recap (no future pun intended) I decided to embed this video from Hulu YouTube highlighting the best space geek commercial ever played on the super bowl.

Two weeks ago, Ryan Anderson (note: I think) hosted the Carnival of Space upon the Martian Chronicles, which featured articles ranging from methane on Mars to whether solar power satellites are ingenious or foolish to even detecting vegetation upon other worlds.

Articles readers of this site may be interested include:

  • Alexander Declama of Potentia Tenebras Repellendi highlights NASA's new chariot rover which will enable astronauts to freely roam the lunar surface (without fear of running low on supplies).
  • David Portree from Altair VI discusses how NASA could power moon bases throughout the long lunar night via flywheels (which would store energy collected during the day from solar). Beaming energy from Earth to the Moon is also discussed.
  • Riding with robots creates a video tribute to our mechanical friends who have scouted the solar system on our behalf (note: hopefully their scanners and wheel prints will be followed up by boots).

Before to read the rest of the entries from two weeks ago (as there is a lot of great content mentioned!).


Last weeks Carnival of Space was hosted by Carolyn Petersen over at The Space Writer's Ramblings which featured several interesting articles ranging from Fusion Starships to whether Obama would help or hurt NASA's lunar plans to remembering the Challenger tragedy.

Interesting articles readers here might be interested in include:

Be sure to read the rest of the articles from the Carnival of Space, and if you would like to have your article featured be sure to visit Universe Today for details on how to enter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How To Lose Lunar Dust (Without Losing Your Health)

(Hat Tip: Space Transport News)

As any space faring lunar loving citizen will inform you, living on the Moon will not be easy. Not only will one have to deal with radiation and micrometeorites, but also lunar dust (which is not exactly healthy).

Fortunately it looks as if scientists have figured out an innovative way of removing these pesky particles--without have to resort to "air showers."

(New Scientist) To solve the problem, Clark's team is working on SPARCLE, a "lunar dust buster" that astronauts could utilise in the airlock to a moon base. The device consists of a positively charged metallic nozzle fitted to an electron gun, similar to those used in electron microscopes, which fires a focused beam of electrons from a hot filament.

Following a moonwalk, astronauts would scan the beam across the surface of their dirty equipment, showering it with electrons until all the dust particles and the surface become negatively charged and start to repel one another. This would loosen the particles' grip, allowing them to fly to the positively charged nozzle where they are captured.

If NASA found a way to build this within their lunar outposts, they would probably not need to develop fancy human rated rovers, allowing the astronauts to simply explore the Moon's surface without fear of tracking the white powder to the annoyance of all their lunar crew members.

Video: Martian Methane To Power Red Planet Colonies?

(Hat Tip: Universe Today)

Although its asteroid moons may play a key role in conquering the solar system, Mars itself was previously lacking in the "resource department."

Even though the red planet contains an abundance of water, the crimson world has yet another reason to boast with the discovery of methane emitting from its surface.

(NASA) Methane -- four atoms of hydrogen bound to a carbon atom -- is the main component of natural gas on Earth. It's of interest to astrobiologists because organisms release much of Earth's methane as they digest nutrients. However, other purely geological processes, like oxidation of iron, also release methane. [...]

"We observed and mapped multiple plumes of methane on Mars, one of which released about 19,000 metric tons of methane," said Dr. Geronimo Villanueva of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Villanueva is stationed at NASA Goddard and is co-author of the paper. "The plumes were emitted during the warmer seasons -- spring and summer -- perhaps because the permafrost blocking cracks and fissures vaporized, allowing methane to seep into the Martian air. Curiously, some plumes had water vapor while others did not," said Villanueva.

According to the team, the plumes were seen over areas that show evidence of ancient ground ice or flowing water. For example, plumes appeared over northern hemisphere regions such as east of Arabia Terra, the Nili Fossae region, and the south-east quadrant of Syrtis Major, an ancient volcano 1,200 kilometers (about 745 miles) across.

While NASA scientists debate on whether this methane is biological or geological (note: or would that be areological?), the fact that methane is escaping from the surface is exciting as it could enable future settlers to power their outposts without having to rely upon solar power (which is incredibly weak on Mars) or solar steam (which would be useless at night).

Hopefully NASA is able to send another rover to investigate this, as securing that region could help humanity establish a permanent outpost upon the red deserts of Mars.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Collect Space)

Last weeks 86th Carnival of Space was hosted by Robert Pearlman of CollectSpace. Entries from the Carnival ranged from "Casmir goodness" towards transmissions towards Alpha Centauri to why living one of Saturn's moons could be visually underwhelming.

One article readers here might be interested in comes from DJ of OrbitalHub with an interesting article about Orbital (one of the two companies that won a contract from NASA to transport supplies to the International Space Station).

(OrbitalHub) Orbital relies on proven experience in launch vehicle technology. Taurus II is designed to provide low-cost and reliable access to space, and it uses systems from other members of Orbital's family of successful launchers: Pegasus, Taurus, and Minotaur.

Taurus II is a two-stage launch vehicle that can use an additional third stage for achieving higher orbits. The payloads handled by Taurus II can have a mass of up to 5,400 kg.

Orbital is responsible for overall development and integration of the first stage. The two AJ26-62, designed and produced by Aerojet and Orbital, are powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene. The core design is driven by NPO Yuzhnoye, the designer of the Zenit launchers.
While Orbital may not be as familiar (or popular) as SpaceX, its good to see NASA choose another competent player from the private space sector.

With the looming recession affecting the entire planet, hopefully NASA will be able to outsource most of its production to the private sector, as it may not only be cheaper but it would free up NASA to use its funds towards other promising (scientific) missions.

Be sure to read the rest of the entries from the Carnival of Space, and if you have any desire to join this space parade feel free to visit Universe Today for details on how to enter.

(Image Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Martian North Pole: Water So Pure You Could (Almost) Drink It?

While it has been known that Mars's north pole contains an abundance of water, it looks as if some French scientists have discovered that water ice located up north may be much purer than we have originally thought.

( Radar data sent back by the US Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) point to 95 percent purity in this deposit, France's National Institute of Sciences of the Universe (Insu) said in a press release.

The Martian polar regions are believed to hold the equivalent of two to three million cubic kilometres" (0.47-0.72 million cu. miles) of ice, it said.

Although its fairly obvious that the Martian water would still have to be heavily filtered, this high concentration of water ice does give the red planet some much needed real estate value.

If humanity is ever going to harvest the asteroid belt in the future, they are going to need an abundance of water for not only food and drink, but for fuel as well.

Surviving The Wrath Of Jupiter (By Mapping Its Radiation Belts)

Despite being arrayed in a dazzling display of colors (whether in stripes or spots), Jupiter is not one of the safest locations to establish a colony thanks in part to radiation (with the only exception being the lunar moon Callisto).

In order for humanity to survive upon Jupiter's other moons, we may need to create a radiation map for future settlers.

(Astrobiology Magazine) It's dangerous to remain too long inside the radiation belts of Jupiter. The high-energy particles can damage space probes, and they also can destroy biological molecules or other signatures of life that might exist on inner moons like Europa. A new study plans to determine just how hazardous an impact the radiation belts have on the Jovian system. [...]

Patterson and his colleagues are building a detailed map of the surface of Europa and another map of its sister moon Ganymede. The project—led by Louise Prockter of John Hopkins University as part of NASA's Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program—will identify dead zones where radiation would likely fry any interesting chemical compounds, as well as possible safe havens that might harbor material expelled from the ocean below.

While it is probably doubtful that Europa will visited by anything but robots (as its frozen bare surface is bathed in Jupiter's deadly radiation belts), its bigger brother Ganymede may show more promise in the long run (especially if adequate shielding is built for the Jovian settlements).

Either way a radiation map will benefit future explorers (and robots) who may be able to locate valuable resources upon Jupiter's Galilean satellites.

(Image Credit: NASA / JPL)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Video: Hope Or Hype? Travel To Mars In Just 3 Days?

(Hat Tip: Spaceports)

Although our species has mastered the art of landing rovers upon the Martian surface, we have yet to develop a fast way to transport astronauts from Earth to Mars (assuming we can figure out how to safely land humans upon the crimson soil).

While some "feasible" technology may be able to shorten the overall trip to under 40 days, Moacir L. Ferreira Jr. is proposing that a rocket could potentially do it within 72 hours with the help of his CrossFire Fusor reactor.

(CrossFire Fusor) The CrossFire Fusor relies on magnetic fields for confining radially charged particles and relies on electric fields for trapping longitudinally them. It also relies on electric fields for accelerating the charged particles for reaching great kinetic energy of about 600KeV (7 billion°C) at inexpressive energy consumption.

The CrossFire Fusor is the first nuclear fusion reactor designed for achieving a true three-dimensional confinement plus a three-dimensional charged particles injection, and for having an adequate escape mechanism for the charged products of nuclear fusion thrusting a spacecraft. It also is the first, among the non-neutral plasma reactors, that can confine a plasma in a quasi-neutral state solving the saturation problem.

The CrossFire Fusor also is the first designed for having great flexibility for confining and fusing charged particles comprising positive and negative ions from neutronic and aneutronic fuels. The nuclear fusion fuel can be composed of several light atomic nuclei like hydrogen, deuterium, tritium, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, in special boron hydrides and helium-3.

The CrossFire Fusor also is the first providing a method for converting energy of charged products from aneutronic nuclear fusion directly to electricity by neutralization process, that can reach an efficiency exceeding 95%, and it is the first to present a power supply system with a concept of multidirectional energy flow.
While the technology itself looks promising, we may not see this type of rocket available until 2020 (as nuclear fusion has yet to be perfected).

Either way, if Ferreira's reactor is not used for interplanetary travel to Mars, it may have a future in keeping the lights on for future settlers of Ganymede, Callisto and beyond.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Why A NASA-Pentagon Merger Would Help (And Hurt) America

(Hat Tip: Tales of the Heliosphere and AstroEngine, Image Credit:

Rumor has it that President Elect Barack Obama's transition team is seriously considering "tearing down the walls" that prevents the Pentagon from working with NASA.

(Bloomberg) President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.'s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.

Obama's transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency's planned launch vehicle, which isn't slated to fly until 2015, according to people who've discussed the idea with the Obama team. [...]

"If China puts a man on the moon, that in itself isn't necessarily a threat to the U.S.," said Dean Cheng, a senior Asia analyst with CNA Corp., an Alexandria, Virginia-based national-security research firm. "But it would suggest that China had reached a level of proficiency in space comparable to that of the United States."
According to Bloomberg, the Pentagon's space budget is approximately $22 billion (which is 33% larger than NASA's budget). By allowing both agencies to collaborate together, NASA would be able to easily retire the shuttle as well as prepare for an eventual moon landing.

This could also benefit the Pentagon as it could help encourage citizens to join a "future space force" (which would make the Pentagon very happy).

Unfortunately a marriage between civilian and military would have its draw backs as well, since an alliance between the two could alienate NASA from future space allies like India and Japan who may not be open towards partnering with foreign military agencies.

It could also change NASA's focus from scientific exploration of the universe to a more "divide and conquer" approach (which in the long run could help the US to eventually conquer the solar system).

Will A Chinese Space Station Threaten The ISS?

There is nothing currently more prestigious than for a space power to be welcomed aboard the International Space Station (or ISS).

Despite the fact that China has already conducted a space walk, the US is still refusing to allow China a presence on board (which may have something to do with their anti-satellite test earlier).

Since its very unlikely that the US will change their position (even with the new administration), China is now planning on eventually constructing their own fortress among the stars.

(People's Daily Online) According to Zhang, China's manned space flight program features a three-stage development strategy. The first step is to complete spacecraft tests for Shenzhou I to Shenzhou VI, make breakthroughs in manned spaced technology and carry out some space experiments.

The second step is to establish China's own space laboratory and the third step is to build China's own space station, developing large-scale space applications and realizing long-term space residence for taikonauts.

Unlike NASA, China's space program is allowed to heavily collaborate with its military branch, which means that any space station built could contain more than just scientific instruments.

China could also use the station to host other nations unable to access to the ISS due to being perceived as hostile by the United States and/or Russia.

Unless Bigelow Aerospace decides to rent out their future space stations to the Chinese (with US permission of course), we may end up seeing two rival space stations orbiting our planet, which may not bode well in the long term for China or America.

Chinese-Russian Probe To Explore Red Planet, Radiation And Phobos

After establishing an alliance between each other, it looks as if the two major eastern space powers will be exploring "all things Mars" by sending a probe to analyze not only the Martian weather, but its asteroid moon as well.

(Mars Daily) The first joint Chinese-Russian mission to Mars is set to take off in October and reach the red planet in August 2010, an exploration project designer said.

A Russian Zenit rocket will launch a Chinese Yinghuo-1 satellite and a Russian Phobos-Grunt unmanned lander, Chen Changya, chief designer of the China-Russia Mars exploration project, told Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po newspaper.

Phobos-Grunt is expected to study Mars from orbit, including its atmosphere and dust storms, plasma and radiation, before landing on Phobos, one of Mars' two small moons.
Phobos is one of the prime locations in our solar system, and any nation (or group of nations) that is able to secure this tiny satellite will probably end up dominating the Martian planet as a future space power.

Political ambitions aside, the Phobos-Grunt should help provide more information regarding how much radiation impacts the red planet, as that could determine just how safe living on Mars may be.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Belated: Carnival Of The Space Geeks (82-84)

Note: Since I missed the opportunity to highlight the various space carnivals (from December), I will post a brief update regarding them below. Be sure to check out the most recent Carnival of Space over at Cheap Astronomy .


The 82nd Carnival of Space was hosted by Dave Mosher of the Space Disco, who put together an excellent video highlight of all of the entries which you can see below.

A couple articles that readers here might be interested in are from:


The 83rd Carnival of Space was hosted "down under" by Ian Musgrave of Astroblog, with a few interesting articles ranging from beer in space to geysers on Enceladus to a 3D video flight over Mars.

A few interesting articles readers here might want to check out include:


Last (but not least) the 84th Carnival of Space was hosted by Brian Wang of Next Big Future, which featured articles ranging from Obama administration "looking into" space solar power satellites to the possibilities of warp drives to an interview with one of the drivers behind the Martian rovers.

Several articles readers of this blog may be interested in include:


Thanks for reading, and if anyone out there feels like submitting their own article to the next Carnival of Space, feel free to visit Universe Today on details about how to enter.