Voyager Journeys

The two Voyagers were launched at a particular moment in our solar system’s clock, in order to take advantage of the line-up of the planets so as to slingshot themselves out of the solar system, something which will not occur again for 200 years. 1977! I was 12, and I thought this was but the beginning…

The Paths of the Two Voyagers

Scientists using European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory have detected water vapor escaping from two regions on the dwarf planet / asteroid Ceres. The question then becomes whether it is erupting from cold volcanoes or if it is subliming, with a possible answer coming in 2015 when the NASA Dawn spacecraft orbits the planet/asteroid. Water on Ceres supports “models of the solar system in which giant planets, such as Jupiter, migrated to their current positions, mixing material from the outer and inner regions of the solar system. This mixing could have moved Ceres and Vesta far from the sites where they formed. Ceres probably formed close to its current position, but accreted material from further out. … The findings also suggest that asteroids may have delivered some of the water in Earth’s oceans.”

And, strangely enough, Ceres features in James Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, which I just finished reading. Cue Twilight Zone music…

Water on Mars

I didn’t know that water on Mars had previously been discussed. Given the job of reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, I couldn’t help but imagine a not-so-distant future where the presence of water on Mars becomes central to colonization efforts of the planet.

Sites of dark streaks on Mars

Sites of dark streaks on Mars

See: Nature.

Space Science Roundup

I will, at some point, have to write some science fiction set in space, if for no other reason than it will be the only way that I will ever get into space. Clearly, watching a man walk on the moon at four years of age had a deep and lasting impact on me. (I have no other way to explain my fascination with space exploration, except perhaps my mother’s love of Star Trek.)

  • The first thing that caught my eye was the idea that how the moon was formed was not, as I had grown to believe, established. Far from it. That big impact that spewed debris into our orbit that congealed into the moon? Maybe that isn’t the way it was.
  • NASA listens to Jupiter and so can you. (At least now I want to try.) NASA even has a Radio Jove program that lets you set up your own radio astronomy station.
  • There’s some new rocket technology that might make travel in our neighborhood faster: the VASIMR plasma rocket: “VASIMR stands for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, which makes use of argon gas (one of the most stable gasses known to man) and a renewable source of energy found in space, radio waves in the form of light.” On Space Industry News.
  • Here at home there are vast reserves of freshwater trapped beneath the oceans. On ABC Science.
  • Finally, Space.com has coverage of scientists telling Congress that we have the technology to discover alien life. (The trick, it seems to me, would be to find intelligent life in Congress.) On Space.com.

Starship Design

The Economist reports on the most recent meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society that took up the question of starship design, which, it turns out, is enjoying a bit of a boom. This may very well be because of the recent proliferation of not only international space agencies but also of private space agencies. As the report makes clear, there is a distinct difference between getting objects into orbit, especially low earth orbit, and getting from Earth to some place else either in the solar system or, as the name starship implies, from one solar system to another.