Thursday April 8th 2010

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Novel Technologies Aboard the IKAROS Sail

Not long ago we looked at IKAROS, an interesting solar sail concept out of JAXA, the Japanese space agency. Osamu Mori, project leader for the sail mission, offers up further background in an interview available at the JAXA site. IKAROS is notable because rather than relying solely on photons for propulsion, it would use solar cells covering part [...]

Notes & Queries 3/5/10

Nuclear Cannon A Descendant of Orion The new Carnival of Space is now out, from which I’ll focus on Brian Wang’s interesting notions on nuclear propulsion. The power behind the indispensable Next Big Future site, Brian has been writing about an Orion variant for some time now, one that should be able to get around the nuclear testing [...]

Targeting Nearby M Dwarfs

We’ve been talking for the last six years (since Centauri Dreams‘ inception) about finding a terrestrial world in the habitable zone of another star. It’s an exciting prospect, but the reality about space missions like Terrestrial Planet Finder and Darwin, each designed to make such identifications, is that the budget ax has [...]

Human Compulsions Among the Stars

What are the odds for survival of a technological society? We don’t know yet, having but one example to work with, but it’s interesting to speculate, as Ray Villard does in a recent online post, about the kinds of intelligence that may evolve in the universe. All too often we equate technology with intelligence, which may skew our view [...]

Gravitational Lensing Measures the Universe

Data from the Keck telescope (Mauna Kea), the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Array have been used in conjunction with the findings of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe to offer up a new way to measure the size of the universe, as well as how rapidly it is expanding and how old it is now. By determining a value for the Hubble [...]

SETI: The Solar Sail Perspective

I love what Dan Wertheimer, a Berkeley astronomer and one of the powers behind the [email protected] distributed computing project, told a session at the recent AAAS meeting in San Diego. Wertheimer was talking about the possibility of using the Sun’s gravitational lens for SETI purposes, and as quoted by Alan Boyle, said that such an observatory [...]

Enceladus Hotspots, and Memories of Orion

Although we’ve been preoccupied largely with theoretical matters this week, I don’t want it to close without reference to the new Cassini imagery of Enceladus. This shot was made at a phase angle of 145 degrees when Cassini was about 14,000 kilometers from Enceladus, during the flyby of November 21. The remarkable jets spraying from [...]

Other Life in the Multiverse?

What conditions would you say are ‘congenial to life’? For physicist Robert Jaffe and colleagues at MIT, the phrase refers to places where stable forms of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen can exist. Jaffe explains why: “If you don’t have a stable entity with the chemistry of hydrogen, you’re not going to have hydrocarbons, or complex [...]

Millis: Approaches to Interstellar Flight

How do you go about pushing the frontiers of propulsion science? Tau Zero Foundation founder Marc Millis discussed the question in a just published interview with h+ Magazine. One aspect of the question is to recognize where we are today. Millis is on record as saying that it may be two to four centuries before we’re ready to launch an Alpha [...]

Missions Cometary and Otherwise

The Stardust spacecraft recently completed a course adjustment maneuver as it continues on its way to comet Tempel 1. The burn began at 2221 UTC on February 17 and lasted 22 minutes and 53 seconds. The net result: A change of the spacecraft’s speed by 24 meters per second. That may not sound like much, but it has big ramifications for this [...]

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