So Where Are All Those ETs?


Fermi’s Paradox is a theory named after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) who, during lunch with a fellow scientist, posed a question kind of like this, “Where the heck are the aliens if they are supposed to exist?” The premise of his theory goes something like this:

  • Billions of stars similar to our Sun exist with many of them billions of years older than our own planet.
  • It is highly probable that some of these stars would be orbited by Earth-like planets with conditions that could lead to the development of intelligent life.
  • If intelligent life developed on these older “Earths” their respective civilizations might have developed interstellar travel and have already begun investigating Earth.

Combine all these facts and you come up with the conclusion that Earth should have already been visited by ETs. So, like Fermi said, “Where is everybody?” Despite mankind’s best efforts Fermi could not find any credible evidence of alien visitation. The conclusion then must become that the existence of intelligent life is:

  • Extremely rare, or…
  • Alien intelligent civilizations have not contacted Earth.

In 1961 a scientist by the name of Frank Drake took Fermi’s 1950 theory and applied a mathematical formula to the probabilities. It is called the “Drake Equation”. The formula is expressed as:

N = R* · fp  · ne · fl  · fi  · fc · L

The variables are defined as follows:

N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

But what does the formula mean to scientists? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Some scientists translate the results to be wildly optimistic that there is, indeed, intelligent life out there. Others feel quite the opposite. When Frank Drake met with Carl Sagan to speculate on the calculations, they estimated the existence of 1,000 (on the low end) to 100 million (on the high end) possible intelligent civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy. To counter their claims, scientists Frank Tipler and John D. Barrow put forth that the average number of intelligent life civilizations in our galaxy would be much less than one. Seeing as how human civilization exists, that would consequently, then, rule out the possibility of any other intelligent civilization existing at the same time.

The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) sees the Fermi’s paradox and accepts the reality that either interpretation of the possibility of the existence of intelligence life has a chance of being true. Thus, they continue their efforts, erring on the side of optimism. And the gringa likes that. Why not hold out hope? Why not be curious? And why not exercise such curiosity with a healthy dose of skepticism to balance out the equation and prevent a full-scale pre-disposition to crazy alien conspiracy theory by maintaining strict scientific standards?

SETI continues exploration and research as they search for others out there in the galaxy. They believe in the possibility that if a suitable environment was allowed enough time, that it is possible for intelligent life to develop. By using all sorts of science and technology (satellite arrays, chemistry, optical telescopes, and sophisticated radio signaling devices) SETI not only searches for signals from other civilizations but reaches out with messages of our own to anyone who may be listening. And with their Education and Public Outreach program (EPO), humans of all ages and walks of life can be a part of their endeavor. For educators there is nothing more exciting than to introduce to a classroom of elementary and middle school students SETI’s “Life in the Universe” curriculum. So log on and order your first package today and get students engaged with a lesson plan that is certain to pique their curiosity and hopefully inspire them to be the future of our world’s STEM programs, because we need them.

Sources:

www.seti.org

www.yahoo.news

wikipedia.org

Image Credit:  bing.net

 

 

The Hi’s & Lo’s of JAXA


Back in February space agencies around the world were cheering on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as it launched a new space observation satellite that was going to get us all some darn answers about black holes. This joint effort between JAXA and NASA caused a bit of confusion among outsiders because the satellite went by different names depending on if you were an Eastern space enthusiast (Hitomi for you) or a Western space enthusiast (ASTRO-H for you).

The gringa prefers the moniker Hitomi. This Japanese word has several meanings, all of which the gringa likes much better than the anacronym ASTRO-H. Hitomi literally means the “pupil of the eye”. However, when you break the word down into its phonetical language parts “hito” and “mi” it becomes “beautiful history”. As I look into the vastness of space and the stars that are kazillions of years old, the cosmos most certainly is the most beautiful history I have ever beheld.

Unfortunately, however, Hitomi’s story is not so pretty. Launched back in February, space fans everywhere were so excited that soon the satellite would be orbiting about 300 miles above us and collect data on X-rays emitted by black holes as well as galaxy clusters. Scientists have been eager for any means to gather more information since the detection of gravitational waves were announced which are directly related to black holes.

After a successful launch the evening of February 16, JAXA and NASA announced that Hitomi’s solar arrays were operating properly and began anticipating the arrival of data and images. Japan’s sixth satellite for the research of X-ray astronomy, the science community waited with bated breath for what they were certain was going to be groundbreaking information from the latest state of the art space satellite technology.

By March 26, contact with Hitomi was lost. By April the announcement came that finally, all hope was lost as well. Bye-bye Hitomi.

Once Hitomi reached its orbit things began to go wrong. Scientists reported that communication was lost within days and that their only conclusion was that the satellite had most likely disintegrated. A quarter of a billion dollars converted to space junk in a matter of weeks. How terribly disappointing. The director general of JAXA, Saku Tsuneta, officially announced the abandonment of the project with his deepest regrets.

Researchers believe that the solar panels that control the instruments may have broken away from the satellite. This would have basically transformed the satellite into a rudderless ship adrift in space. It will be about twelve more years before anything matching Hitomi’s capabilities will launch when the European Space Agency (ESA) completes a similar project.

On a side note, the gringa is surprised that conspiracy theorists haven’t jumped all over this story. When communication was first lost with the satellite, hope was revived when JAXA detected three signals they believed originated from Hitomi. However, after more scrutiny, it was discovered that the signals were not from the spacecraft. Hmmm. The gringa wonders just where, or whom, those signals came from. Could it have been some very clever and covert space aliens who captured human technology? Only time will tell!

Sources:

www.japantimes.co

www.nasa.gov

phys.org

www.bbc.com

Image Source: i.dailymail.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Only 4 More Years…


No, the gringa’s not talking about high hopes for an historical third term of Obama’s presidency to rescue the entire world from the potential disaster of a Trump presidency. The gringa is talking about China and Mars. In just 4 more years China plans to land a rover on Mars.

Now, this may not seem like big news considering that NASA has had a fleet of robotic spacecraft on or around Mars dating back as far as forty years. The significance of China’s contribution is that, well, the more the merrier when it comes to increasing knowledge about Mars and creating the technology necessary for human exploration.

China’s plan is patterned after NASA’s successful Viking I mission that landed the first rover on Mars forty years ago. China intends to orbit the Red Planet, land a rover, perform rover exploration and, once the mission is accomplished, learn from the experience to take another step forward in their own ambitions of a manned mission to Mars.

Like NASA, China’s space program also collaborates with private industry which is not only stimulating their economy, but rapidly advancing their mission objectives. In 2003 they launched their first manned spacecraft, Shenzhou. They also have their very own laboratory and space station orbiting the moon, Tiangong 1. Chinese astronauts aboard Tiangong 1 have performed a space walk and successfully explored the Moon with rover Yutu.

All of this space activity is really preparations for the greater goal, landing a manned mission on Mars. Next month China will launch a mission to deliver the components to recreate Tiangong 1, their experimental space station, into Tiangong 2, a permanent space station. Spacecraft Shenzhou 11 will deliver a 2 person crew who will reside in the space station for several days performing the necessary renovations.

Once China’s space station has successfully been converted to a permanent site, they can plan a manned mission to the Moon and begin rehearsing for a Mars mission. While other countries have slowed their space mission activities, China’s ambitious program has 20 missions planned for 2016. So, keep your eyes turned toward China for interesting developments.

It seems the space race is on to see who gets to Mars first. NASA plans a manned Asteroid Redirect Mission for 2025 and a manned orbit of Mars in the 2030s. The gringa would rather it be a team effort rather than a flag planting competition. However, if a race is what it takes to motivate engineers and scientists to up their game and move full speed ahead in the greatest exploration adventure of the gringa’s lifetime, well, who am I to judge?

Sources & Image Credit: http://www.nasa.gov, http://www.sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/china

 

A Challenge That Could Help Save The World


Who is up for a NASA challenge? The gringa hopes that many dear readers are because NASA can always use new talent. And the talent they need is not just limited to scientists. Here are the details for a summer challenge, perfect for anyone who considers themselves a videographer:

Challenge – “CineSpace – NASA Imagery Your Vision 2016”

Description – Film competition designed to expand knowledge through space exploration, drawing off past, present and future inspirations. Use NASA sourced imagery in original cinematic creations to bring art and science together.  NASA challenge partner and sponsor, Houston Cinema Arts Society, will be primary host of the SpaceCom convention (there will be simultaneous venues worldwide). Finalists and winners will be announced by Houston Cinema Arts Society.

Prizes: Grand Prize $10,000; 2nd Prize $5,000; 3rd Prize $3,000; Awards for special categories.

Opens: June 1, 2016 Submissions begin to be received

Closes: July 31, 2016 Deadline for submissions

If this challenge has great appeal for you, dear reader, but you simply do not have the time to get your submission ready, don’t be disheartened. This is an annual event. So, take your time and perfect your craft! For more information on this event log on to www.cinespace16.org.

Another NASA challenge that is open to all and ongoing is “The GLOBE Program”. This is a worldwide environmental learning and observation initiative inclusive of students, teachers, scientists and citizens. To participate, simply engage in the following investigative fields:

  • Atmosphere
  • Biosphere
  • Hydrosphere
  • Soil (pedosphere)
  • Earth as a system

Examples of environmental measurements: clouds, soil moisture levels, rainfall, temperatures, weather systems, soil contaminants, lake levels, etc.

Local observation data is submitted to the GLOBE data information system which is accessible online and available to the public.  This program boasts over 10 million student participants from over 100 countries, participating since 1995. 2016 will be the first year the program will expand to include participation from all citizens. To join, log on to www.globe.gov.

Despite the fact that climate change seems painfully obvious to the gringa, the reality is that there are many climate change deniers, resistors of necessary change, people who simply have no knowledge and folks who are apathetic and just don’t care. Anyone can contribute to NASA’s effort to strengthen public understanding of climate change.

Participants of “I See Change Community Climate & Weather Journal” have very simple tasks for such an important mission. Citizens contribute to the “I See Change” weather journal with photographs and text messages. How simple is that? How many times throughout the day do you text a loved one or upload a photo from your smartphone to social media? Well, now those common actions can help change the world and save the Earth!

And, for citizens with a science background, you can step up your participation level a notch. NASA also has a citizen science corps that shares spaced based experiences and observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and how they vary seasonally and from year to year. To sign up visit www.iseechange.org.

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit:  www.nasa.gov, http://www.photoxels.com

 

Say Hello to R2 aka Hardhat Harry


Robonaut. It sounds like the title of a cheap sci-fi flick or perhaps the name of a second-rate children’s superhero action toy. In reality, Robonaut, Robonaut 2 (R2), to be exact, is a vital part of the crew aboard the International Space Station. He is a humanoid robot the gringa likes to call “Hardhat Harry” because of the types of jobs he performs as well as the future plans NASA is cooking up for him and future Hardhat Harry clones.

Presently Hardhat Harry is going through his paces as NASA engineers study how well he performs at this job. NASA hopes that one day Hardhat Harry will be able to join astronauts in their dangerous and risky spacewalks when they perform the necessary maintenance and repairs required on the outside of the space station.

But Hardhat Harry is more than just a handyman, he is also a scientist. In the Destiny laboratory he takes velocity air measurements. However, he is not above giving handrails a good scrubbing. And, just like the gringa, Hardhat Harry likes to flip switches and push buttons.

Guess how he performs his duties? Does the dear reader envision a programmer sitting in front of a computer screen inputting commands? Perhaps an image flashes through your mind of something like a video game with an engineer using a joystick to maneuver Hardhat Harry through his tasks. Nope, it’s even cooler than that. Crew members on board the ISS get to play a very serious scientific game of virtual reality, donning virtual reality headgear and controlling Hardhat Harry as if he were themselves!

Although Hardhat Harry has plenty of charm, don’t fall in love yet. Don’t get any ideas of thinking you will be able to visit one of the many space centers around the world when he returns from his mission and get his autograph. NASA has no plans for Hardhat Harry to ever return home.

Hardhat Harry will continue to be improved and upgraded as researchers learn how to adapt the technology to perform in the vacuum of space and eventually embark on deep space missions. Fleets of R2 Hardhat Harry clones will become the world’s future hi-tech repairmen, traveling far and wide to repair and upgrade communications and weather satellites. There is also great hope that a Hardhat Harry crew will be developed and shipped off to Mars for a surface mission or mine geological resources from the Moon.

Hardhat Harry and his kin will not replace astronauts, so, dear readers, if you are an astronaut hopeful like the gringa there is no need to despair. R2s are simply going to go first and make the way safer for exploration. And, by performing the boring repair jobs, astronauts can devote more time to discovery.

The next phase of progress is to deliver Hardhat Harry some legs. It may seem kind of silly to have Hardhat Harry up there, trying to get the job done without any legs, but remember, he is working in microgravity. He doesn’t necessarily need legs to move about the ISS. And, the legs they will be sending him don’t even have feet. They have grasping contraptions at the end of his “legs” that will secure him to railings while he works.

And, by having removable legs, Hardhat Harry has the option to rove about planetary surfaces centaur style. NASA is developing a four-wheel vehicle that Hardhat Harry’s torso can attach to as he zips about the Moon or Mars or wherever his adventures take him or NASA needs him.

Fans of R2 (aka Hardhat Harry) can keep up with all his exploits in space via Twitter @AstroRobonaut. So, for all the gringa’s dear readers who love robots and have great big dreams and ambitions with robotic technologies, keep your dreams alive and see if NASA can help you make them come true!

Source & Image Credit:  www.nasa.gov

 

Moon Music – It’s Classified!


When astronauts are orbiting the Earth within the International Space Station they can entertain themselves with all sorts of digital media. We see their tweets of fantastic sunrises and sunsets. We watch, mesmerized, at their videos taken as they float about in zero gravity, uploaded to YouTube via their personal smartphones and other devices. We listen to their narratives and interviews in real time, streaming live through any number of digital media sources. Certainly, space exploration and space living has come a long way since the 1960s.

When astronauts launched on a moon trip in 1969, they had no such devices. Their only link was their communication radio that transmitted direct to mission control. There was no live transmission for the world to follow along with. The rest of us Earthlings had to wait for on-the-ground command to filter what we were allowed to hear and deny us what the powers that be considered classified. Recently, many classified documents, videos and audio recordings have been “de-classified” and NASA fans have been absorbed with sifting through these records searching for a fantastic story.

The gringa’s favorite so far has been the Moon music audio reported by the Apollo 10 mission in 1969. The Science Channel ran a feature on this in a special entitled “NASA’s Unexplained Files”. As the astronauts orbited around the “dark side of the moon” they claim to have heard what they specifically called “outer space-type” music. So what were these cryptic, mysterious sounds heard through the spacecraft’s radio? Was that the purpose for the follow up Apollo 11 mission that got boots on the ground on the Moon? Were they searching for a lunar brass and strings ensemble?

Crewmen Eugene Cernan, Thomas Stafford and John Young listened for almost an hour to this eerie space symphony and transcripts record their reactions:

  • “The music even sounds outer-spacey, doesn’t it?”
  • “You hear that? That whistling sound? Woooo?”
  • “Sounds like… you know, outer-space type music.”

Then, after almost an hour, the sound suddenly stopped. Upon returning home, NASA chose to archive the transcripts and report of the “Moon music” as “classified”.

Now, the gringa wants to know exactly how and why a document or video or audiotape is determined to be “classified”. President Barack Obama made changes to the United States government classification system with Executive Order 13526. Every new administration creates a new Executive Order regarding classified documents because these documents are not governed by a constitutional government that governs and legislates on behalf of the people. Classified documents are governed by the Executive Branch. So, when a new President is seated, a new Executive Order governing classified documents must be administered.

To classify a document, video or audio recording, first, levels of sensitivity have to be considered. Sensitivity is rated according to how much damage to national security would occur if the information were made public. “Classified” has three levels: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Confidential is the least sensitive, Secret a step up, and Top Secret the highest level of secrecy (well, almost). To publish classified documents is a criminal act, espionage.

There are also sub-levels of sensitive information that are not classified: Sensitive But Unclassified, Sensitive Security Information, Critical Program Information, For Official Use Only, Public Safety Sensitive and Law Enforcement Sensitive. These documents are still restricted and not available to the general public for reasons such as privacy regulations, court orders, ongoing investigations, and national security.

Nuclear and atomic energy information has its own form of classification. Documents related to these industries are “Restricted Data” and “Formerly Restricted Data”. Whereas most classified information is automatically de-classified at its twenty-five year anniversary, not so with nuclear and atomic energy. These documents are under the complete authority of the Department of Energy to de-classify whenever they darn well feel like, if at all.

Even if a person has the highest level of security clearance, Top Secret, that does not mean they have access to every Top Secret document. Some Top Secret documents are further secured with a required code word. These are known as “Sensitive Compartmented Information”. A person must have Top Secret clearance and authorization to know the code word in order to access the document. An example of a Top Secret document with code word requirement is the report on the incident of the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy research ship that was attacked in 1967 by an Israeli Air Force jet and Israeli Navy torpedo boats.

To classify a document, video or audio recording, the information must fit into one of the following categories:

  • Military plans, weapon systems, or operations;
  • Foreign government information, relations, or activities with U.S involvement;
  • Intelligence activities, methods, sources, confidential sources & cryptology;
  • Scientific, technological or economic information of national security and defense;
  • Nuclear materials and facilities;
  • Infrastructure vulnerabilities, capabilities, installations, projects, plans or security;
  • Development, production and use of weapons of mass destruction (say what? Are they also classifying documents that might reveal U.S. development, production and use of WMDs? I mean, we had a President that started a bogus war over that stuff [because it ended up that they didn’t exist in the “enemy’s camp” after all]. So, the gringa’s just sayin’ if classified documents of WMD programs are not just a stack of papers about “terrorist” organizations and “rogue” nations, but includes docs about our own WMD program, um, I kind of have a problem with that).

So, the gringa wonders which of these criteria did the Moon music fall under? I suppose, because NASA is responsible for satellites related to the national defense, any space exploration document could be loosely classified for that reason. Or, perhaps they thought the Moon music was the communique of a “foreign government” so that criteria was applied. Perhaps it had to do with intelligence gathering activities and they thought the Moon music was an encrypted secret space alien code.

The gringa thinks Apollo 15 Pilot Al Worden perhaps explained it best. He said, “NASA would withhold information from the public if they thought it was in the public’s best interests.” The gringa believes NASA thought that the general public would go bananas thinking there were little green harpists, pianists, percussionists and trumpet blowers living on the Moon.

They must have felt it best to classify the documents so as not to reduce the world to mayhem as panic ensued at the thought of invasion by, not just intelligent extraterrestrials, but MUSICAL ones as well! HOLY COW! The HORROR of it all. And with the social upheaval of Elvis, the Beatles and many others subversively altering the youth of Earth into beatniks and hippies, it’s no wonder that the government thought it in the best interest of security to prevent a space alien music rage to invade and take the world by storm.

NASA’s official position is that, perhaps, it was atmospheric interference picked up by the space capsule’s radio. However, the Moon has no magnetic field to create any type of interfering frequency. Despite NASA’s “theory”, Worden chose to believe that the Moon music remained an unsolved mystery. He stated matter-of-factly that astronauts were well educated on what was “normal” space noise to be expected. The gringa is also certain astronauts know what music is when they hear it, no matter what its biological or terrestrial origins. In an interview Worden said, “Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there.” Whoa, ho, ho! Methinks I hear the distinct possibility of an ET radio broadcast version of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 blasting from a lunar DJ being alluded to in that comment. How ’bout you, dear reader?

When the gringa listened for herself, I made note of the more interesting points of the eight minute audio recording amidst the chatter and background noises:

  • 2:52 – “That music even sounds outer-spacey doesn’t it? Ya hear that? That whistling sound… Wooo!”… “It sounds like ya know, like, outer space type music.”
  • 3:10 – Cernan asks Stafford (Tom) if his window insulation is all burned off. Stafford affirms that it is. Cernan informs Stafford that his window’s insulation is also burned off and that the sound is “eerie”.
  • 4:45 – A fluctuation in the sound.
  • 5:25 –.A sound like rapid shutter clicks of a camera (they were photographing the Moon).
  • 5:34 – A momentary lapse in recording.
  • 6:00 – Sound fluctuations.
  • 7:45 – The crewmen comment back and forth: “Well, that sure is weird music… Nobody will believe us… It’s a whistling, like an outerspace type thing.”
  • 8:00 – The tape ends

Now, the gringa has listened and all I hear is what sounds like a high-pitched siren, not music. However, the astronauts specifically used the word “music” three times. The word “eerie” was used to describe what they were hearing. A high-pitched siren sound is annoying, not eerie. A high-pitched siren sound does not sound like “music”. Three times the astronauts described the “music” as sounding “outer-spacey”. A high-pitched siren like sound does not sound “outer-spacey”. It sounds very terrestrial and pesky.

At first the gringa considered it was possibly caused by the acoustics within the capsule changing as a result of the insulation being burned off the windows. However, that theory is dashed when I remember that after almost an hour of being entertained, the space concert abruptly ended. If the burned off insulation had been the culprit, the sound would probably have lingered throughout the flight, at least throughout the orbit cycle. And if the lack of insulation resulted in such a noise, wouldn’t that indicate the possibility of a breach of the hull? A minute crack creating a windy whistle? There was no loss of cabin pressure and hull integrity was remained throughout the brutal re-entry burn. So, I don’t think it had anything to do with the burning off of the window insulation.

Also consider that NASA has only made available this eight minute clip yet it is reported that the astronauts listed to the “music” for almost an hour. The gringa would like to hear the remaining fifty-two minutes, please (eyeball roll, fingertips tapping the desktop).

From what I heard, there was not much to cause a big panic or scare among the population of Earth. I can’t see much there to justify all the trouble and drama of classifying the recording. So, the gringa suspects there is more to the story than what has been de-classified and released.

The gringa believes that there was definitely some sort of interference or feedback affecting the recording and that is the siren like noise heard. That siren like noise, however, is not what the gringa believes they are discussing. Just as it was very difficult to hear Astronaut John Young because he was distanced from Cernan’s microphone, I believe the interference was near the microphone and drowning out the “eerie, outer-space music” that was in the background, like Young’s voice. The astronauts were actually hearing that background noise, because they all heard it distinctly and discussed it.

If ufologists are fiercely dedicated to their pursuit of information about extraterrestrial life, the gringa recommends that they clean up the audio. Because I want to hear what the astronauts were actually hearing. And I think that darn siren noise is the “interference” NASA is talking about and most definitely NOT the music the astronauts are talking about. To hear it for yourself, click on the link below:

“eerie, outer-spacey Moon music drowned out by pesky siren-like interference”

 

Source: www.nasa.gov & New York Daily News

Image source: Getty Images

 

 

 

How Bad Is 82%?


Did the gringa’s dear readers hear the news? The Earth’s report card has arrived and, well, it doesn’t seem to be all that bad. It’s a “B”, after all, 82%. That’s the grade the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory gave our lovely planet. What, exactly, does that mean?

By using what the laboratory calls the “habitability index”, our planet was graded on the likelihood of supporting life. It rated an 82%. The same guidelines used to determine the habitability of life on other exoplanets throughout the vast cosmos was applied to Earth and she got a “B”. Among these guidelines are factors like: atmospheric pressure, terrain, existence of water, etc.

The funny thing is that if we didn’t live here already, and sent out a probe to conduct an analysis of our planet according to this habitability index, we wouldn’t think the planet was inhabited or capable of sustaining life if we wanted to pay it a visit with boots on the ground. We would think it was too hot to support life. What? Yes. Our scientists would think it too close to our host star, the Sun. The gringa says, “That’s crazy!” I then have to wonder how many other planets out there in space have been deemed “uninhabitable” but, in actuality, could very well support life and possible may be doing just that?!

The researchers at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) seem to be thinking along the same lines as the gringa. Now, SETI typically keeps a fairly low profile. However, with the discovery of exoplanets, there is renewed vigor in the organization’s work.

When work first began in the 1980s, SETI was not a group of ufologists looking for little green men. These were serious scientists who were actually skeptical that intelligent life existed in the universe other than here on Earth. And then the discovery of exoplanets was made. These cosmic bodies orbit stars just like Earth and our neighbors within our own Solar System.

In addition to the discovery of exoplanets, extremophiles were also discovered. These are living organisms that survive within an extreme ecosystem, such as bacterial ecosystems around a 700 degree Fahrenheit hydrothermal vent, surviving without sunlight and under extreme oceanic pressure.  That means that life in the most basic form that evolved into all that populates our planet today can exist in outer space. In fact, it’s highly likely that it does, somewhere, we just have to find it.

You see, about 2,000 exoplanets have been discovered and that is just scratching the surface of an infinite universe. Mankind’s limited exploration abilities have yet to uncover what is likely to be hundreds of thousands, possibly millions and billions, of exoplanets. That dramatically increases the chances that somewhere out there is an exoplanet supporting life.

Consider that many of these exoplanets are much older than Earth. That means they have had plenty of time for bacteria to evolve into intelligent beings. Now, more than ever, is the gringa excited about the future of space exploration. The nearest exoplanet with a score high enough on the habitability index to consider a likely place to start in such a search is over 1,400 light years away. The gringa would rather go there than Mars.

 

Photo Source:  www.rawscience.tv.com

 

 

Moon or Mars?


The gringa has been down in the dumps, a bit, but, I will soon bounce back and become moon-eyed over what will have to become my new pet project. You see, after getting me all excited and pumped about getting to Mars, Congress has gone and rained all over my parade, the ol’ party poopers.

You see, Congress just doesn’t have what it takes to believe in a starry-eyed dream. NASA’s dreams Congress wants to shoot down:

  • Landing a human on an asteroid by 2025
  • Manned mission to Mars in the 2030s
  • 2nd manned mission on the Moon

Congress had a hearing on these subjects. The gringa can just hear all the discouraged “Tsk, Tsking” that must have gone one amongst all these “responsible” folk who know nothing about dreaming big. If the responsible purse-string holders don’t get more details on NASAs budgetary needs for these goals, then NASA may only get approval for the Moon mission.

Now, the gringa does not deny that these goals are not just ambitious but, to some, may sound downright outrageous. But, hey, the reality is that it is the outrageous dreamers that brought us the telephone, computer, car, steam engine, etc., etc.

It is also true that much of the technology necessary to survive a mission to Mars doesn’t even exist except in the minds of scientists and their scratched out theories on paper. But isn’t that the very first step? Aren’t these outrageous dreams what inspires innovative minds to try something that seems impossible and, finally, to accomplish it? Isn’t that the greatest way to create history?

I mean, if it wasn’t for the dream of traveling through space and solving the inherent problems of that goal we would have never come up with things like digital music, lasers, etc. Developing science and technology to solve space exploration problems is not wasted taxpayer money. There are all sorts of benefits to Earth and humans with spin off technologies.

Congress even hinted at an ultimatum: Mars or the ISS. The money is simply not there to do both. The idea is being tossed around to ditch Mars and concentrate on the ISS and returning to the Moon. Some see the development of a Moon base as an opportunity to exploit the mineral resources of the Moon.

Well, Congress may be packed with a bunch of Negative Nellie Republicans, but the gringa is proud that her president is encouraging all the dreams of NASA. Not only is President Obama openly encouraging a return to the Moon and the establishment of a Moon Base, but he hopes NASA stays on track to get to Mars in the 2030. I guess one positive of the liberal mindset of a Democrat is that they dream big and believe nothing is impossible to achieve!

Although Obama has been supportive throughout his two terms in office, his last term is coming to an end soon. NASA realizes the very real possibility of a government transition and a new president that might just nix the Mars mission altogether. They have been enjoying this dream being supported for almost eight years and now have to consider the possibility of a newcomer dooming it. The gringa thinks that not only would that be small-minded, but also just downright mean.

However, it may not be all that surprising if a new president expects the space agency to turn its focus Moonward rather than Marsward. After all, that is the focus of the ESA. Europe wants to establish a lunar orbit working colony that remotely controls Moon-bots that work below on the surface.

With all its focus on Mars, NASA has only considered the Moon in the sense of it being a waystation on the way to the Red Planet that is the real goal. This strategy may have to be reconsidered. It seems that the ESA is not alone in thinking the Moon to be the most desireable space goal at the moment. Geological industry and geological related businesses are seeing that it may be a way of turning a profit. European businesses are ready to team up with the ESA and get a Moon mission off the ground.

Russia is also on board the Moon mission idea and has private sector partners that are putting together their plans for a Moon base to be a reality within another decade or so. The plan to go robotic, rather than have boots on the ground, is what may be the saving grace of this Russo-European Moon dream. It is much more feasible and economically achievable when human survival technology is taken out of the formula. Russia and Europe may end up leaving the Americans in their dust by not only achieving an orbital Moon base but also a similar orbital Mars base with astronauts orbiting safely and controlling rovers and robots down below on the dusty, red surface.

So, now the gringa may have to change her vocabulary. Instead of, “To Mars! To Mars!” I may have to channel the late, great Jackie Gleason, “To the Moon!”

Source:  www.nasa.gov

 

Amazing Italy, From Art to Astronauts


My cosmic sister, Bea, hails from Italy and therefore has a special interest in the Italian Space Agency (ASI, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana). So, the gringa dedicates this post to Bea.

Since its inception in 1988, ASI has consistently made significant contributions to space technology development. ASI is part of the European Space Agency (ESA) and works closely with NASA as well. Italy has been, and will continue to be, a key player in the international space exploration community. Whether it is technology that gets a manned mission to Mars or technology that helps Earth observers intervene to prevent or respond to environmental disasters, the world can all extend a “brava” to Italy.

Italy has three active space centers. Ten kilometers east of Matera is ASI’s “Space Geodesy Center”, which opened for business in 1983. Earth observation and imaging is the primary mission of the programs at work at SGC. The “Luigi Broglio” Space Center, in operation since the 1960’s, is located on the coast of the Indian Ocean near Malindi, Kenya. It has an Earth segment base and an ocean segment base which launch and control satellites. The center that manages and analyzes all collected scientific data (ASDC) can be found at ASI headquarters in Rome. Not only is data analyzed here but mission monitoring is also conducted at this center.

The primary missions Italy’s has high involvement with are:

  • Created Multi-Purpose Logistic Modules (MPLM) Leonardo, Raffaello and Donatello for transporting scientific research necessities to the International Space Station (ISS)
  • Space Habitability – March 2001, Italy became the 3rd nation to launch an element integrated into the ISS, the logistics module “Leonardo”
  • Life Sciences – Biotechnology research to improve knowledge of: the aging process and effective countermeasures, immunology, technologies to enable the colonization of space by humans, therapeutic studies for improving the quality of life for all humanity
  • Bioregenerative Environmental Control Project (CAB) – to put it in plain English, gringa language, scientists learn how to recycle and repurpose just about everything into something useful such as: plant based life support system, water purification through transpiration, space greenhouses, etc.
  • Motor and Cardiorespiratory Control Disturbances Project (DCMC) is a program with the goal of improving the quality of life for people who suffer from neuromotor and cardiorespiratory disabilities.
  • Osteoporosis and Muscular Atrophy Project (OSMA) is of particular interest because of how conditions of reduced gravity cause these debilitations, that are typically linked with aging, to affect young, healthy, physically fit astronauts. The research goal is to understand how gravity controls the functions of bone and muscle.
  • Bed-Rest is a study that simulates the effects of zero gravity by having volunteers stay in bed for 7-120 days in a head-down position so that studies of the cardiovascular and renal systems can be conducted.
  • Earth observation and telecommunication with satellites: Miosat, PRISMA, ROSA, COSMO-SkyMed, PRIMI, and COPERNICUS
  • High Energy Astrophysics study is an Italian only programme that conducts research on the most violent space phenomena that occurs throughout the Universe. Satellites involved in this programmed: GLAST/Fermi, SIMBOL-X, SWIFT, PAMELA, INTEGRAL, AMS, AGILE
  • Cosmology and Fundamental Physics programme studies the evolution of the Universe. Satellites involved in the programme: BOOMERANG, GAIA, EUCLID, GALILEO GALILEI, HERSCHEL, LARES, Olimpo, Planck, Plato, Lisa Pathfinder

Lisa Pathfinder is the most recent success of Italy’s space agency that has made worldwide headline news. Lisa’s purpose is to detect gravitational waves in space. Italy designed the overall architecture of Lisa and is managing the project with the cooperation of Italy’s National Institute of Physics as well as ESA partners.

Lisa launched successfully last month and will lock into its final orbit around mid-February. This is phase one of the future construction of a space observatory that will continue studies of gravitational waves. Project completion is expected to be around the end of 2034. Italian scientists are beside themselves with pride that finally, after Einstein published his theory of general relativity over a century ago, the search for gravitational waves has, at last, begun, thanks, in huge part, to Italy.

And what else does the world have to look forward to from Italy? Of course, the gringa’s favorite space subject, GETTING TO MARS! Italy boasts leadership of both phases of ESA’s two phase EXOMars mission. In 2016 a probe will launch to orbit Mars and study methane and other gases as well as attempt to detect any presence of life. Later, in 2018, a rover will land on Mars and begin analysis of the soil. One more objective is to study any possible risks for future manned missions.

So, Italian suits, Italian shoes, Sophia Loren, Galileo, Michelangelo, and… astronauts, scientists, researchers, technology mavens. THAT IS AMAZING, ITALY!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.asi.it

 

The Federal Space Agency AKA Rocosmos


The Russian Federal Space Agency has an illustrious history managing the space assets of Russia as well as being a cooperating partner with many other nations involved in space exploration. Russia has played a significant leadership role in advancing the technologies and capabilities of exploring space safely.

Although the Russian Bear has historically been depicted by American literature as the “enemy”, and there certainly are Defense Ministry aspects to Russia’s space program, this should not overshadow the fact that Rocosmos is dedicated to the purpose of developing space technologies for socioeconomic and scientific purposes. In fact, their website expressly states that Rocosmos is committed to maintaining “coordination and cooperation with foreign states under cooperation agreements in the field of peaceful space exploration and research…”

Areas of activity Rocosmos is committed to using its space technologies for are:

  • Environmental monitoring of natural disasters and emergencies, natural resource exploration, gathering hydro and meteorological data
  • Improving current space navigation system and creating a unified data transmission system
  • Global communication support over Russian territories
  • Support International Space Station missions
  • Research and development of space technologies and microgravity medical research
  • Research and development of space vehicles, launching systems, experimental facilities and infrastructure

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, visitors are welcome at Rocosmos. Simply write a letter to:

Russian Federal Space Agency (Rocosmos)

42 Schepkina st.

Moscow, Russia  107996, GSP-6

Or, you can send your visitor request by fax to: (495) 688-90-63, (499) 975-44-67. After you send your fax, call (495) 631-94-44 or (495) 631-94-48 to confirm that it was received. A digital request can also be made online through their website:  http://en.federalspace.ru/

Online requests will receive a written response via snail mail. If you do a digital visit request, make sure you use the Rocosmos website form and do it correctly. Boo-boos are rejected.

A brief recap of Russia’s accomplishments in space begin even before World War I:

  • In 1929 Konstantin Tsjolkovsky introduced the concept of the multi-staged rocket
  • 1933 the first Soviet rocket launched
  • 1951 the first Soviet rocket with animals aboard launched with successful recovery of live crew
  • 1957 the first intercontinental ballistic missile launched
  • 1961 the first human, Yuri Gagarin, safely completed a single orbit
  • 1961-1963 six manned spaceflights, including the longest flight up to that date, 34 hours
  • 1963 first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova
  • 1968 first living creatures reach the moon & successfully return, Russian tortoises
  • 1971 first space station, Salyut 1
  • 1980 first Hispanic and Black person in space, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, Soyuz 38
  • 1984 first woman to walk in space, Svetlana Savitskaya, Salyut 7
  • 1987 first crew to spend over one year in space, Vladimir Titov & Musa Manarov, Soyuz TM-4, Mir space station

So, the dear reader asks the gringa, “What are they up to today?” Well, they are the only space agency that currently has space flight capabilities. Since the United States scuttled the shuttle program, all astronauts around the world have to rely on Russia to ferry them back and forth between Earth and the ISS.

They also manage an orbiting remote sensing system (RSS). Its mission objective is to monitor the Earth and provide images used to manage natural resources, monitor atmospheric/water/soil pollution, monitor natural and man-made disasters, and conduct research.

There are the Meteor-M No. 1 Spacecraft and ELEKTRO Geostationary Hydrometeorological Spacecraft. These spacecrafts observe Earth’s atmosphere and provides hydrometeorological data used for scientific and socioeconomic purposes.

The Kanopus-V spacecraft and Resurs-P spacecrafts are devoted to monitoring natural and man-made disasters. It does this by providing high quality imaging of Earth.

The gringa is a big fan of Rocosmos and grateful that the Russians do not mind letting American astronauts hop aboard and hitch a ride to outer space. It is my greatest hope that this type of cooperative relationship will spill over into all aspects of international dialogue and engagement because the gringa continues to dream a dream of cosmic proportions.

Source:  en.federalspace.ru