Friday, September 4, 2015

Comet Hitchhiker

NASA is studying a concept called Comet Hitchhiker.  In it, a spacecraft would tether itself to a comet via a miles long tether attached to a harpoon.  Reeling in the tether would store kinetic energy, which could propel the spacecraft to its next target without the use of additional fuel.

Several targets could be visited on a single mission.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tiny Telescopes

A team of European researchers are proposing sending a small telescope, 20 inches across, into space to study nearby Earth-like exoplanets in the infrared.

The telescope would be able to analyze the atmospheres of such worlds, suggesting which might have life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Life Huntiing

NASA is considering launching two missions in the 2020s dedicated to searching for life-- one to Jupiter's moon Europa, and the other to Saturn's moon Enceladus.

The two moons, both well outside the Sun's theoretical habitable zone, are seen as the best bets to support alien life in the Solar System.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Starshades

A starshade sits in front of a telescope to block the light from a star, allowing the telescope to directly observe faint worlds that would otherwise be lost in the star's glare.

NASA plans to use starshades in conjunction with its next generation of space telescope to aid in the search for worlds that could support life.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Spreading Life

A new study suggests life could spread through the galaxy in the same pattern germs spread through a population.

The pattern would be the same whether life spread naturally, or was spread by an intelligent race.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Detecting Non-Earth Life

Scientists are trying to develop ways to detect life that is different from terrestrial life on Earth-like exoplanets.  It's proving difficult.

The next generation of NASA space telescope, the James Webb, may be able to detect such alien biosignatures if conditions are perfect.  Otherwise, it might take much longer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sampling Enceladus

A debate has been joined in the scientific community over how to study the prospect of life on Saturn's moon, Enceladus.  Enceladus sports huge geysers that spew contents of its deep oceans into space.  Some scientists want to fly a probe through the geyser plumes, looking for signs of life, while others advocate a more step-by-step exploration program.

The outcome of the debate may determine NASA's approach for decades.