Monday, September 30, 2013

Quote of the Month

"Somewhere, something incredible
is waiting to be known."

- Carl Sagan

Thursday, September 26, 2013

CAT Thruster - Alive and Well!

Even though the University of Michigan Kickstarter for the CAT engine—a revolutionary idea for cubesat propulsion—had failed to reach its funding goal, the project did not die. Yesterday, the team had posted an update on their Kickstarter page, detailing future plans for the project:

We hope you are well and wanted to let you know that we have an announcement coming in early October about a new CAT Engine Kickstarter campaign. We are hard at work on this and appreciate the tremendous support and encouragement to date.

In the meantime, we've had some nice progress on the hardware development for CAT and will reveal that during the launch. Additionally, we have listened to your suggestions and are working on exciting new rewards and a revised social media presence for the upcoming campaign.

Thank you, we look forward to your continued support.

-The CAT Team

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Confirmed: Voyager 1 left the Solar System!

About a year ago, the twin Voyager spacecrafts possibly reaching the boundaries of our solar system had begun to surface. But scientists needed time to confirm the data. Well, today NASA has announced that Voyager 1 has indeed left the solar system and is now in interstellar space. The following is an excerpt from the official announcement from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind's historic leap into interstellar space," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we've all been asking -- 'Are we there yet?' Yes, we are."

At about 12 billion miles (19.3 billion kilometers) from Earth, well beyond the orbit of Pluto, the 36 year old spacecraft is our farthest ambassador, a truly remarkable accomplishment of all of humanity. What is most remarkable, however, is that Voyager 1 still has power estimated to last until 2025, relaying back data about the conditions of interstellar space, further advancing our knowledge and understanding of the universe. After that, it will orbit the center of our galaxy until the end of times. Just imagine: when we are long gone, Voyager 1 will still be out there, crossing the great void, with messages from a long forgotten civilization, on a tiny golden record.

Science is amazing!

* Illustration and video are from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Monday, September 9, 2013

Curiosity Rover Tracker

Ever wondered what Curiosity had done on a specific day? Did you ever wanted to see the entire timeline of the largest Mars rover? Well, if you answered 'yes' to any of these question, you are in luck. The folks over at The New York Times created an interactive timeline for Curiosity, encompassing the entirety of the mission, from Sol 0 to present day. You can check out nearly every day the rover had spent on the Red Planet and see what it did during a specific time period, as well as, look at related images. It is an awesome tool that should make every space geek smile! If you are at all interested, follow the link below:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What is the Deal with Water on Mars?!

Every once in awhile, news about water on Mars pops up on science blogs and news outlets. In fact, the topic has been in the spotlight so much in recent years that many people just shrug when they read about it. What is the big deal; didn’t we find water on a half a dozen celestial bodies already? It is supposed to be a pretty common substance. We found traces of water on the Moon, on asteroids and comets, heck the entirety of Europa’s surface, Saturn’s largest moon, is comprised of mostly water—under a thick layer of ice. So why is Martian water so important? Well, the answer is quite interesting.

Everyone knows that water is an integral part of human life; in its liquid form, we need it for our everyday survival. We can also split water into oxygen and hydrogen and use the resulting elements as rocket fuel, to generate electricity or to produce breathable air. The role water plays in long-term manned space missions is fundamental, making this seemingly simple substance a crucial part of any future Mars initiative. But it is also a heavy substance! Carrying all the water astronauts will need on a years-long mission to Mars is expensive, even if we assume that most of it can be recycled. But what if much of the water needed would be readily available at the destination, therefore alleviating the need to ship it from millions of miles away? Such a case would significantly decrease the launch costs of manned Mars missions. Luckily, this precisely what seems to be the case as NASA has repeatedly demonstrated the existence of subsurface water ice. We also know that both polar caps consist of mostly said material, as well as the thin Martian clouds. To put it simply: Mars’ demonstrable water reserves bring us to the dream of a—at least partially—self-sustainable Martian outpost that much closer. But water has not only practical but tremendous scientific implications as well!