February 21st, 2010
Fortunately, it turns out that there is a good explanation for why Obama canceled the Constellation program. That explanation has been provided by Richard C. Hoagland. Hoagland, you may remember, is the person who discovered the lost city on Mars, and a bunch of giant invisible structures on the Moon that he asserts are the remains of alien civilizations. They're there, he says, but because they are invisible we have to trust him.
Hoagland has come up with a startling revelation… that Obama canceled the lunar program because (drum roll please): he was warned by Space Nazis. [...]
It's crazy, but it's not quite up there with my favourite Hoagland theory, about Iapetus. Now that's quality crazy.
[Via James Nicoll]
February 15th, 2010
8. Greg in Austin Says:
February 15th, 2010 at 11:37 am
I can imagine one of the Cassini engineers here on Earth programming in the flight pattern:
Engineer: "Keep your distance, but don't look like you're keeping your distance."
Engineer: "I don't know. Fly casual!"
February 14th, 2010
January 26th, 2010
Secrets of The Shining: Or How Faking the Moon Landings Nearly Cost Stanley Kubrick his Marriage and his Life…
It is time to shed the lies. But also it is time for the world to view, uncensored, Stanley Kubrick's greatest unknown masterpiece. I ask NASA to release all of the footage directed by Kubrick for the faked Apollo landings.
May I also suggest that NASA use the millions of dollars made from this surely successful movie release to fund another mission to the moon?
December 13th, 2009
The British version of the X-Files is no more:
The government has shut a unit which has investigated UFO sightings for more than 50 years, judging its resources better spent on more earthly threats.
"The MoD has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra-terrestrial life. However, in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.
Sceptical readers will note that they don't say that UFOs don't exist, just that there's no threat to the UK. Is this because they've found no evidence of alien visitors to UK airspace, or <paranoia level="maximum">compelling evidence that the government has already signed a non-aggression pact with an alien power?</paranoia>
[Via Blood & Treasure]
November 24th, 2009
November 13th, 2009
On the way past Earth one last time, the Rosetta probe grabbed a couple of gorgeous photographs of the crescent Earth.
I can't make my mind up which I prefer: the shot of a blue-and-white planet posted by Emily Lakdawalla or the warmer, more colourful picture posted by the ESA, featuring sunlight glinting off the ocean.
November 8th, 2009
The universe turns out, once again, to be stranger than we had imagined. It's been suggested that the neutron star at the heart of Cassiopeia A has a very peculiar atmosphere:
The properties of this carbon atmosphere are remarkable. It is only about four inches thick, has a density similar to diamond and a pressure more than ten times that found at the center of the Earth. As with the Earth's atmosphere, the extent of an atmosphere on a neutron star is proportional to the atmospheric temperature and inversely proportional to the surface gravity. The temperature is estimated to be almost two million degrees, much hotter than the Earth's atmosphere. However, the surface gravity on Cas A is 100 billion times stronger than on Earth, resulting in an incredibly thin atmosphere.
October 14th, 2009
50 Years of Space Exploration would benefit from a decent key explaining some of the colour coding, but even without such frills it's still pretty wonderful.
Be sure to download the large version.
[Via James Nicoll]
July 17th, 2009
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has started taking photos of the Apollo landing sites.
At the moment LROC is orbiting at a relatively high altitude, but NASA plan to make further passes over the landing sites in September which will give us a better look at the Lunar Modules, the instrument packages and the tracks left by the Lunar Rovers. I can't wait.
July 10th, 2009
I've seen plenty of film of the Space Shuttle blasting off. I've even seen footage from a camera strapped to the side of a shuttle at lift-off. Until today, I'd never seen a film showing a Solid Rocket Booster's fall back to Earth.
The images of the shuttle taking off and accelerating towards orbit are pretty routine. The latter half of the film, from the last glimpse of the Shuttle – still attached to the external fuel tank – carrying on into orbit while the booster begins the long, long fall earthwards, is one of the most awe-inspiring film sequences I've ever seen.
June 13th, 2009
Purposefully crashing something into the moon just to watch what happens is akin to a schoolboy cutting up a live frog to see what makes it jump. It is an example of the domination of the left-brained rational scientific approach over the intuitive.
Did these scientists talk to the moon? Tell her what they were doing? Ask her permission? Show her respect?
[Via Ben Goldacre]
May 21st, 2009
Alan Stern discusses the history of NASA's attempts to find evidence of the presence of water ice on the Moon and details the steps NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be taking over the next year to resolve the issue:
What is clear about lunar polar ice is that it is hard to confirm with any single technique from orbit. And although it would be much easier to confirm with a properly equipped polar rover, such a mission would be far more expensive than LRO and is not yet on the books. NASA planners putting together the payload for LRO recognized both of these facts, and assembled an armada of five separate instruments that could search for the ice from orbit, each using an independent and complimentary technique.
May 16th, 2009
STS-125 Atlantis and the Hubble Space Telescope captured as they pass in front of the Sun.
March 25th, 2009
After careful study of images taken by the Mars Phoenix lander, some of the mission's science team have authored a paper suggesting that there's evidence of the presence of liquid water in the vicinity of the lander:
First off, get rid of the image in your head of pools of pretty blue water that you could swim in sitting on the surface. If you must think of an Earth analogy, you'll get pretty close with the Great Salt Lake in Utah, except much saltier, in much less quantities, and not on the surface. Specifically, the liquid water suggested in the paper is not pure liquid water, but instead a brine. Brine is liquid water that has a very high salt concentration, either approaching or at saturation. [...]
February 16th, 2009
The US National Weather Service warned of unusual weather conditions last Friday:
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSON KY
1145 PM EST FRI FEB 13 2009
…POSSIBLE SATELLITE DEBRIS FALLING ACROSS THE REGION…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN JACKSON HAS RECEIVED CALLS THIS EVENING FROM THE PUBLIC CONCERNING POSSIBLE EXPLOSIONS AND … OR EARTHQUAKES ACROSS THE AREA. THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION HAS REPORTED TO LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT THAT THESE EVENTS ARE BEING CAUSED BY FALLING SATELLITE DEBRIS. THESE PIECES OF DEBRIS HAVE BEEN CAUSING SONIC BOOMS … RESULTING IN THE VIBRATIONS BEING FELT BY SOME RESIDENTS … AS WELL AS FLASHES OF LIGHT ACROSS THE SKY. THE CLOUD OF DEBRIS IS LIKELY THE RESULT OF THE RECENT IN ORBIT COLLISION OF TWO SATELLITES ON TUESDAY … FEBRUARY 10TH WHEN KOSMOS 2251 CRASHED INTO IRIDIUM 33.
[Via Planetary Society Blog]
December 24th, 2008
Can I just say that makes me feel positively ancient to be reminded just how long ago it was that the Apollo program was a going concern, with new missions setting new landmarks every few months…
[Via Planetary Society Blog]
October 19th, 2008
9. Why are the Martian hemispheres so radically different?
This is one mystery that had frustrated scientists for years. The northern hemisphere of Mars is predominantly featureless lowlands, whereas the southern hemisphere is stuffed with mountain ranges, creating vast highlands. Very early on in the study of Mars, the theory that the planet had been hit by something very large (thus creating the vast lowlands, or a huge impact basin) was thrown out. This was primarily because the lowlands didn't feature the geography of an impact crater. For a start there is no crater "rim." Plus the impact zone is not circular. All this pointed to some other explanation. But eagle-eyed researchers at Caltech have recently revisited the impactor theory and calculated that a huge rock between 1,600 to 2,700 km diameter can create the lowlands of the northern hemisphere [...]