Over this past weekend, the Orlando Sentinel published an article about a proposed NASA space station at the second Earth-Moon Lagrange Point—beyond the Moon, where the Earth’s and the Moon’s gravity cancel out each other, creating a near-stable zone. At about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, such a base would be the farthest a human being has ever ventured from the planet. Whether it serves a practical purpose or is merely just a “make-work” for NASA’s current Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule, however, is up for debate.
Undeniably, there are some advantages of NASA’s lunar ambitions. For instance, the Earth-Moon L2 point enjoys almost complete radio shielding from Earth, making it an ideal location for an astronomical research station—assuming, of course, that NASA does not want to do it with a much cheaper and practical artificial satellite. A more hands-on advantage to humans, on the other hand, would be to test preventive technologies against deep space radiation and studying the effects of long term deep space exposure on humans, which in fact could be considered as a logical step toward a future Mars mission—however small.
Despite some of its merits, however, disadvantages of this plan are also plenty,
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the twin Voyager spacecrafts that are now approaching the boundaries of interstellar space. Well, yesterday, Voyager 1 turned 35 years old—her big sister, Voyager 2, is actually a couple weeks older. Yet, despite their old age, both spacecrafts are still functioning and sending back data from the farthest place that humanity has ever reached. This is pretty remarkable, reminding me of all the wonders mankind is capable of.
If you have a few minutes, go and learn a little about this marvelous human achievement:
These days when every silly idea can amass huge amounts of money on various kick starter sites, I find myself dumbfounded by the lack of support for those projects that would truly deserve our attention and help. One of these is Uwingu, a new proposal to fund space-related research and educational projects.
Please check out the above link and consider donating. Your money is going to the right hands to support a worthy cause. But, in case if you are not sure, here is a video explaining the thought and intention behind the project:
Ever wondered what it would be like to witness Curiosity’s landing? Well, thanks to the recent cooperation between NASA and Microsoft, you can not only do that now but also control the rover as it descends onto the Red Planet—so to speak. :)
From yesterday morning, the Kinect game “Mars Rover Landing” is available on Xbox Live free of charge. If you own an Xbox with a Kinect sensor, I recommend you go and check it out. The game is fun, looks great, and has quite a bit of educational value, not to mention the potential to get kids excited about science and space exploration!
The cooperation between the space agency and Microsoft, however, does not end with "Mars Rover Landing." The list of real life and online events commemorating Curiosity’s landing—of which I am updating continuously as new information comes out—gained a new entry, as Microsoft will also broadcast the event via Xbox Live!
If you are at all interested in space exploration, you know how important early August will be. If you do not know, here is a little recap: on August 6th 5:31 UTC, Mars Science Laboratory—or Curiosity—the most sophisticated piece of technology ever to land on an alien planet, will arrive at Mars and begins its descent.
While landing spacecrafts has always been a risky business, Curiosity’s fiery, four-stage descent, including the much talked about sky crane, is extraordinarily dangerous. Scientists and space enthusiasts all around the world will bite their nails bloody during the rover’s descent, or as they call it, the “seven minutes of terror.” Here is a short video from NASA introducing the unprecedented maneuver:
If you are among the above mentioned “space enthusiasts,” I am happy to announce that there will be plenty of events going on at the time of Curiosity’s arrival, many of which are open to the public. So, if you got some time off on August 5th or 6th—depending on where you live—here are a few opportunities for you; both real life and virtual on the web: