Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
That's one for the flying spaghetti monster
8 supporters of intelligent design policy ousted in the election
All PRAISE the Flying Spaghetti Monster
A faith based asteroid defense
You know that an issue is getting overhyped when a parody goes by like this one
The so-called Apophis Amelioration Plan as proposed by DeLay would deflect the asteroid through the use of the two primary tools in the Republican toolbox: lower taxes, and sops to the religious right.
The first prong of the attack would be a 35% tax cut for the wealthiest 1% in the United States. This, according to DeLay, would stimulate industry and investment and "make the time we have left" more agreeable, at least to those who receive the cuts. The cuts would be offset by major reductions in less vital federal services such as Medicaid, environmental protection, food stamps, and asteroid tracking and collision prevention.
The second prong is a raft of new federally-funded "faith-based initiatives" designed to coax Apophis off its collision course with the earth through the power of "prayer, bigotry, intolerance, and positive thinking". Funding for the initiatives will be available to all faith-based organizations that accept Jesus Christ as the One True Lord. Members of other religious affiliations will be involuntarily relocated to the predicted Apophis impact site at no cost.
Labels: asteroids, religion, sarcasm, space, space05
Deep Impact gets "Vision to reality" award
The Space Frontier Foundation has given Deep Impact the Vision to reality
award. It was the single most watched unmanned mission ever - and gave us a picture of an otherworld body that was more than skin deep.
In other news Hayabusa
, limping along on one out of three reaction wheels, is GO
for the first landing attempt on Nov 19th. And they are blogging the event, in both japanese and english, as it happens
The Dawn mission stands down
There are a lot of budget cuts going on at JPL - the rewards of success are seeing your projects canceled to fund the manned programs. Sigh. Still I confess that I have been very lukewarm about the Dawn mission for a very long time.
1) It's using antiquated hardware originally designed as a backup for the Deep Space 1
mission. By the time of launch the basic hardware will be well over 10 years old.
2) It's a 9+ year mission to study two very large differentiated bodies in a realm (the asteroid belt) where SEP (solar electric propulsion) does not work well.
Distant differentiated bodies like Ceres don't interest me. All that means is that the useful materials are buried deep where they can't be easily got at by the primitive mining techniques we have as yet developed. Undifferentiated rocks are possibly of less interest to science, but are far easier to mine.
Far better to launch Dawn towards any of the 3000+ near earth asteroids and comets, where it could survey 1 NEO (more or less) per year
in flight, thus giving us a much better overview of the characteristics of the most energetically available off-planet resources.
Dawn stands down: “Yes…NASA has asked us to stand down,” said Dawn’s principal investigator, Christopher Russell of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “None of us take this as any indication that they [NASA Headquarters] do not want to launch Dawn,” he told SPACE.com, given “strong words of support” from space agency personnel in Washington, D.C.
Russell said that Dawn is an extremely robust mission. The particular launch opportunity that the spacecraft mission is heading for is extremely long—over a year long, he noted.
I won't cry if Dawn is canceled entirely... but I would jump for joy if someone in congress or NASA got a clue
and vectored Dawn towards an M class ("M" meaning metal-bearing) asteroid like Amun
or an Apohele
like 2003 CP20
or any of a variety of other noteworthy asteroids
Labels: asteroids, dawn mission, space, space05
Chip writes in about the pictures on the side of voyager:
It's been years and years since I saw it, and the simple innocence of it kills me today, as it did when I first saw it. Mankind, innocent, hopeful, naive. The way we should be.
Do you suppose anyone ever will?
It just tears me up.
Damnit all, wtf are we doing?
We should be out there by now, we should have been out there long ago. What the heck are we waiting for?
Signs of intelligent life down here?
Worms and methane hydrate and rocket fuel and food
I've had one of those months where a phrase kept popping up in different contexts long enough for me to pay attention. "Methane Hydrate"
has been the phrase. It started when I looked to the gulf of mexico at the current series of hurricanes, and ended up, as always, distracted by the crater that signaled the KT extinctions.
I discovered that since I'd last paid attention a decade ago a lot of evidence had been piled up in favor of the KT event - including the discovery of four other craters that appear to have nearly the same impact time and composition of the KT event.
At the same time I was listening to Vernor Vinge talk about the singularity
that Kurzweil is also talking about
...while remembering that in Vinge's last book, he had used exotherms - heat loving bacteria - as a means to get around a planet with frozen air.
...while thinking about the problems of transporting cryogenic propellants. Compression isn't the problem (we have plenty of materials that can contain pressurized gas), it's cooling the gases involved down to a liquid state - and keeping them cool - that's the problem... and about how the ISS wasn't even close to being a closed ecosystem - and Biosphere 1 and 2 weren't either.
I also ran across an interesting alternate theory about the KT extinction and others, one that involved methane hydrate release
The next day I ran across methane in another context - as a proposed simpler fuel for the last parts of the upcoming moon shot....
Something was nagging me though, about this substance... I kept thinking of spiders
, until finally the word I'd seen related to methane hydrate popped into google - archaea
. Then I saw pictures of mussels and shrimp
feeding off halo bacteria...
(Halo bacteria live in a unique niche: the hypersaline environments of the world. Halobacteria are able to resist high levels of radiation, and thrive on both chemical and light energy)
From the NASA article:
Without light for photosynthesis, bacteria and archaea engage in "chemosynthesis" near the Gulf of Mexico methane seeps and brine pools, converting methane and hydrogen sulfide into food that supports larger organisms. Around the seeps, those include mussels, clams, shrimp and tubeworms, as well as ice worms that burrow into the gas hydrates. Only microbes can survive within the brine pools, but mussels flourish on the edges.
And I asked myself - hmm... transporting huge amounts of liquids in space, in a very cold environment that needs the liquids for fuel, life support... and food supply... perhaps somewhere in the briney deep of our food chain are some germs of some good ideas.