Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Market For SpaceX

The U. S. Air Force has certified that SpaceX is eligible to compete for contracts to launch military and spy satellites.

That opens a lucrative new market for the company as it continues to challenge the Boeings of the world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Solar Sails

Assuming all goes as planned, The Planetary Society will soon be launching a solar sail into space.  It will largely be a technology demonstration flight, proving concepts and showing solar sails are in fact practical in space.

Solar sails ride the solar wind much as sails on boats ride Earth's winds.  They could be useful propulsion systems for deep space cargo flights, for example.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Martian Methane

NASA probes have detected methane in Mars' atmosphere a few times over the decades.  Methane would suggest Mars is alive-- biologically, geologically, or both.

The problem is the detections have been intermittent, possibly suggesting bursts of activity that releases methane.  Further study is needed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Slippery Slopes

The Curiosity rover has, literally, ran into some slippery slopes on Mars.  While exploring the base of Mount Sharp, the six-wheeled vehicle has run into areas where it failed to get good traction.

NASA has plotted detours around areas that are questionable.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Going To Pluto

Could humans fly to Pluto any time soon?  It turns out a propulsion scheme exists to allow such a mission.  A ship propelled by a succession of fusion explosions-- thermonuclear bombs-- could reach Pluto in a year or two.

That tells you, by the way, just how far we are from interstellar travel.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Another Mission

The fourth mission of the USAF's X-37B spaceplane is underway.

Unfortunately, we don't know what happened on the first three missions, and the USAF is similarly silent on the goals of this flight, except to say technology will be tested.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big Planet, Tiny Star

HATS-6 is a red dwarf 500 light years away.  It's about as wide as Jupiter.  In tight orbit around it is a world about the size of Saturn.

Scientists don't know how such a large planet developed around such a small star.