Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), mission scientists have solved a lunar mystery almost as old as the moon itself.
Early theories suggested the craggy outline of a region of the moon’s surface known as Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, was caused by an asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it formed would be the largest asteroid impact basin on the moon. However, mission scientists studying GRAIL data believe they hav [...]
The six-person Expedition 41 crew of the International Space Station was hard at work Wednesday supporting research with down-to-Earth benefits and gearing up for a series of spacewalks to maintain the orbiting laboratory.
Commander Max Suraev and his team of five flight engineers began the day at 2 a.m. EDT, with some time for morning hygiene, breakfast and an inspection of the station. Afterward the entire crew participated in a daily planning conference with the flight control teams around [...]
*NOTE: While NASA has awarded this contract, NASA has instructed Boeing and SpaceX to stop performance on the contract while the GAO resolves a protest.*
NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) remains a trendsetter in human spaceflight with the Sept. 16 naming of two companies to build the next generation of American space systems capable of carrying astronauts into low-Earth orbit. The program retained the advantages of competition by laying out criteria that permits each design to progress on [...]
NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will carry it into space are at their penultimate stops in Florida on their path to a December flight test.
Orion was moved Sunday out of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Delta IV Heavy rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, made its move Tuesday night, to nearby Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was raised Wednesday from the horizontal p [...]
Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini mission have discovered that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere there cooled dramatically.
The scientists found that this giant polar vortex contains frozen particles of the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide, or HCN.
"The discovery suggests that the atmosphere of Titan's southern hemisphere is cooling much faster than we expected," said Remco de Kok of Leiden Observatory [...]
Four possible landing sites are being considered for the ExoMars mission in 2018. Its rover will search for evidence of martian life, past or present.
ExoMars is a joint two-mission endeavour between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency. The Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, will be launched in January 2016, arriving at Mars nine months later. The Rover and Surface Platform will depart in May 2018, with touchdown on Mars in January 20 [...]
The Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has taken this beautiful image, dappled with blue stars, of one of the most star-rich open clusters currently known — Messier 11, also known as NGC 6705 or the Wild Duck Cluster.
Messier 11 is an open cluster, sometimes referred to as a galactic cluster, located around 6000 light-years away in the constellation of Scutum (The Shield). It was first discovered by German astronomer Gottfried Kirch [...]
On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.
"We used to think major flaring episodes from red dwarfs lasted no more than a day, but Swift detected at least seven powerful eruptions over a period of about two weeks," said Stephen Drake, [...]
The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust.
This sharp close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded in 2009 by the H [...]
Past patterns of exploration, colonization and exploitation on Earth continue to provide the predominant paradigms that guide many space programs. Any project of crewed space exploration, especially of the magnitude envisioned by the 100-Year Starship Study, must guard against the hubris that may emerge among planners, crew, and others associated with the project, including those industries and bureaucracies that will emerge from the effort. Maintaining a non-exploitative approach may be difficult in consideration of the century of preparatory research and development and the likely multigenerational nature of the voyage itself. Starting now with mission dreamers and planners, the purpose of the voyage must be cast as one of respectful learning and humble discovery, not of conquest (either actual or metaphorical) or other inappropriate models, including military. At a minimum, the Study must actively build non-violence into the voyaging culture it is beginning to create today. References to exploitive colonization, conquest, destiny and other terms from especially American frontier mythology, while tempting in their propagandizing power, should be avoided as they limit creative thinking about alternative possible futures. Future voyagers must strive to adapt to new environments wherever possible and be assimilated by new worlds both biologically and behaviorally rather than to rely on attempts to recreate the Earth they have left. Adaptation should be strongly considered over terraforming. This paper provides an overview of previous work linking the language of colonization to space programs and challenges the extension of the myth of the American frontier to the Starship Study. It argues that such metaphors would be counter-productive at best and have the potential to doom long-term success and survival by planting seeds of social decay and self-destruction. Cautions and recommendations are suggested.
As governments and corporations continue to engage space security, commerce, exploration and colonization, the Christian Church will not be far behind. Historically the Church has always been part of the first waves of explorers and colonizers, with its ideological interests being easily supported by generous resources and strong infrastructures. The exploring Church has not always been a friendly guest, however, and at times has initiated or condoned great harm. This paper offers a beginning framework as one way of insuring an appropriate presence in space for the Church. This framework is built with three common religious planks, namely, theology, ecclesiology and church worker vocation. Each of these is recast in terms of the off-planet scenario. This paper concludes that an appropriate off-planet Church will be founded on an "exomissiological" theology, will embrace an ecclesiology that emphasizes religious health, and will adequately select, train and monitor its off-planet church workers.
The prospect of millions of civilizations in the Galaxy raises the probability of receiving communications in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). However, much depends on the average lifetime of planetary civilizations. For a lifetime of 500 years, an optimistic forecast would predict about 65 civilizations in the Galaxy at any one time, separated by 5,000 light years. No prospect of communication. For a lifetime of 10 million years, over a million civilizations would be spaced 180 light years apart. Communication among them is feasible. This indicates that extraterrestrial communications depend on civilizations achieving long term stability, probably by evolving a global religion that removes sources of religious strife. Stability also requires an ethic supporting universal rights, nonviolence, empathy and cooperation. As this ethic will be expressed in the planet-wide religion, it will lead to offers of support to other civilizations struggling to gain stability. As stable civilizations will be much advanced scientifically, understanding the religious concepts that appear in their communications will depend on how quantum mechanics, biological evolution, and the creation of the universe at a point in time are incorporated into their religion. Such a religion will view creation as intentional rather than accidental (the atheistic alternative) and will find the basis for its natural theology in the intention revealed by the physical laws of the universe.
Motivations for interstellar travel can vary widely from practical survival motivations to wider-ranging moral obligations to future generations. But it may also be fruitful to explore what, if any, "cosmic" relevance there may be regarding interstellar travel. Cosmocultural evolution can be defined as the coevolution of cosmos and culture, with cultural evolution playing an important and perhaps critical role in the overall evolution of the universe. Strong versions of cosmocultural evolution might suggest that cultural evolution may have unlimited potential as a cosmic force. In such a worldview, the advancement of cultural beings throughout the universe could have significant cosmic relevance, perhaps providing additional motivation for interstellar travel. This paper will explore some potential philosophical and policy implications for interstellar travel of a cosmocultural evolutionary perspective and other related concepts, including some from a recent NASA book, Cosmos and Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context.
Realizing interstellar travel by machines or living beings will require not only scientific and technological progress, but also a shared secular belief among a determined minority that this enterprise is important for the human future. Their efforts may have to extend beyond individual human lifetimes. Historical perspectives, on both the past and the future, are proposed. Interstellar probes could be a more thorough way of searching for alien forms of life and intelligence in nearby systems, particularly if there were intelligent beings there who did not employ technologies our astronomical observing devices can detect from here. Perspectives on the ethical, policy, and design issues of such close encounters with alien life and intelligence are presented. Ways of accelerating the coming of interstellar probes are suggested.
The role of the soul and spirit in the composition of human endeavour generally takes the form of motivational poster catch phrases or third-hand quotes. If the spirit equals the life of a creature, and one of the signs of life is locomotion, are humans not obliged by something even deeper than our humanity to explore the universe? This paper examines the roots and perspectives of our worldviews on identity, exploration, and the limitations and capacities of humanity. It will equip the reader to discuss the nature of exploration with audiences across a wide range of worldviews. Current cultures, regardless of religion or politics, are looped into a series of nihilistic patterns that must be broken by rediscovering our nature as living beings, and our obligations as human beings.