100 Years To Launch – 1,000 Years To Know


There are plenty in the science community who believe mankind is the result of Anthropocene. They think that the biological materials that resulted in life as we know it on our home world arrived accidentally as hitchhikers on cosmic intruders like comets or meteors. There are even a few who consider the possibility of one of these comets or meteors being purposely seeded with the materials and then manipulated by an advanced civilization in outer space so that the celestial object’s newly adjusted path would cause it to collide with Earth.

Now there are scientists who want to do a bit of human-directed Anthropocene toward other planets throughout the Universe. However, they don’t intend to shoot comets or meteors their way. They plan to create automated laboratories that will arrive peacefully and set up shop to terra-form an inhospitable world into a place we humans can call home.

Frankfurt, Germany’s Goethe University has an ambitious professor, Claudius Gros, who is the mastermind behind The Genesis Project of the University’s Institute of Theoretical Physics. His plan is to create life on other planets with a fully-automated genetic laboratory. By being able to skip that pesky early-infant planet stage, scientists can jump ahead by nearly 4 billion years to a more higher developed stage where a planet can support at least a single-cell organism. Dead planets could advance billions of years as the laboratory creates the conditions of a Precambrian era, the earth age when animals began appearing.

The gringa finds this fascinating and is a bet envious of those scientists working on the project who get to choose what organisms will be introduced. I am certainly hoping there are no sadists on the team who would insist on adding to the list something like mosquitoes or cockroaches or fleas. Surely an ecosystem does not need such revolting creatures to be balanced and thriving.

It seems that there are millions of stars with suitable planets orbiting their systems. It is a formula of planet size and distance from its sun that will determine which planets to weed out and which ones are keepers. But what about oxygen? Water? Surely researchers aren’t just planning to make a deposit and hope for the best. With all the money invested in a project with a long-term goal of 100 years to launch, the gringa highly doubts they want to leave anything to chance. How will scientists know the planet’s environment will support the seeds of life? They send a probe.

The crazy thing about scientists, however, is that despite how most people see them as people locked into strict systems of yes or no, cause and effect, truth or fallacy, facts and absolutes, sometimes they are simply motivated by hope and inspired by a future achievement that they will never live to see realized. Although a Genesis laboratory may be ready to launch in about a century, even if we launch a probe today the results from its findings may not return to Earth for about one thousand years! So, the process would go something like this:

  • Launch a probe today that would analyze the environment of a potential Earth twin planet somewhere in the distant Universe.
  • 100 years later launch an automated Genesis laboratory to the same planet the probe was sent to analyze (hoping for the best).
  • Perhaps a few hundred years later launch another probe to analyze the progress of the Genesis project.
  • A thousand years after the 1st probe launch Earthlings receive its telemetry informing us if the planet would support the life contained within the Genesis laboratory.
  • A few hundred years later receive telemetry from the 2nd probe and see if any Earth life is flourishing on the other planet.

The gringa appreciates the faith and hope involved in such a prospect. It would be my hope that within the next 100 years, before the Genesis laboratories are completed, we would have developed the technology to render a one thousand year wait for planetary details obsolete. But, who knows if we’ll all even be here in another hundred or thousand years! So, why not launch? What does any of us have to lose other than a few kazillion dollars invested in a fancy automated Anthropocene space gadget?

Sources: www.goethe-university-frankfurt.de

uk.businessinsider.com

Image Credit: inspirescience.wordpress.com

 

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Buzzed By Space Junk or ET’s?


In 2017 Earth is expected to be “buzzed” by a mysterious object being tracked by satellites and called “1991 VG” because in 1991 it did its first recorded fly-by of our planet. In December of that year the object, which is about 30 feet (10 meters) across, buzzed past Earth as it continued in its orbit around the Sun (called a heliocentric orbit in fancy Science-speak). Stargazer James Scotti at University of Arizona’s Kitt Peak observatory, using the Spacewatch telescope, spotted VG in November and continued to track it as it passed by.

Observers noted that it shone brightly but this brightness would often go through rapid fluctuations. Scientists argued that this was indicative of it not being an organic object like an asteroid. Could it be a man-made piece of space junk that has been destined to orbiting the Sun until it disintegrates? Well, let’s see just how much space junk is out there in a heliocentric orbit:

American Space Junk

  • Pioneer 4 (1959)
  • Ranger 3 (1961)
  • Mariner 2 (1962)
  • Ranger 5 (1963)
  • Mariner 3 & 4 (1964)
  • Mariner 5 (1967)
  • Pioneer 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 (1966-1969)
  • S-IVB upper stage panels of Apollo 8 (1968)
  • S-IVB upper stage panels of Apollo 10, 11 & 12, & #10s ascent stage panel LM Snoopy (1969)
  • Mariner 6 & 7 (1969)
  • Mariner 10 & Mercury (1974, 1975)
  • Mars Observer (1992)
  • CONTOUR (2002)
  • Genesis, Spitzer Space Telescope, Kepler Telescope, STEREO-A & STEREO-B

Russian Space Junk

  • Luna 1 (1959)
  • Venera 1 (1961)
  • Mars 1 (1962)
  • Zond 2 (1964)
  • Zond 3 (1965)
  • Venera 2 (1966)
  • Mars 4, 6 & 7 (1974)
  • Venera 11 & 12 cruise stage (1978)
  • Venera 13 & 14 cruise stage (1982)
  • Vega 1 & 2 (1984-1986)
  • Phobos 1 (1988)

European Space Junk

  • Helios 1 (1975)
  • Helios 2 (1976)
  • Giotto (1986)
  • Ulysses (1990)
  • Herschel Space Observatory & Planck Observatory

Japanese Space Junk

  • Sakigake (1985-1999)
  • Suisei (1985-1991)
  • Nozomi (1998-2003)
  • MINERVA mini-lander (2005)
  • DCAM1 & DCAM2 (2010)
  • ARTSAT2:DESPATCH (2014)
  • IKAROS, SHIN-EN, & SHIN-EN2

Chinese Space Junk

  • Chang’e2

India Space Junk

  • Mangalayaan (2013-2014)

Despite the number of man-made objects orbiting the Sun, there are some space enthusiasts who eagerly await 1991 VG’s arrival, wondering if it might be an alien space probe sent to observe our planet. Scientists don’t know exactly what it is… yet. Here are some of the details they are certain of through telescopic and satellite observations:

  • It has a strange rotation.
  • It has existed a very long time in outer space.
  • It rotates rapidly
  • It has reflective fluctuations

Here are the theories bandied about as to what it could be:

  • Alien space probe
  • Small meteorite
  • Apollo 12 rocket

However, after researching each man-made possibility, they have ruled them all out. So, we are left with the possibilities of a small meteorite or an alien-made object. It’s reflective properties has scientists leaning toward a non-organic object which then leaves only an alien-made object left on the list. However, scientists also do not rule out the possibility of a Russian-made object that the science community is simply unaware of. During the years of the Soviet space program, they were very secretive. Information about failed space missions that resulted in space junk left floating about into infinity and beyond was often suppressed. So, there is the possibility that it is a bit of old, secret Soviet space history.

In tracking the trajectory of the object’s orbit, it can be determined that 1991 was not the first fly-by of VG. It also would have passed near the Earth in March of 1975. Repeat visits are another reason scientists rule out an asteroid or meteor because typically if such an object neared Earth like 1991 VG, it would either be trapped by our planet’s gravitational pull and either burn up in the atmosphere or crash (worst case scenario) or have its own trajectory affected and changed by Earth’s gravity. This object’s trajectory remains unaffected by Earth’s pull.

Because its orbit is very similar to Earth’s path around the Sun, some scientists speculate on the alien observation probe theory. Next summer Earthlings will get another up close opportunity to peek at the object as it skims over the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Edinburgh mathematicians have calculated the very real possibility that extra-terrestrials could be successful at launching observation space probes across vast galactic distances to spy on humans. Their work, published in the Journal of Astrobiology, asserts that by taking advantage of gravitational fields surrounding stars they could achieve the necessary speeds for an observation probe to travel to Earth from the far reaches of space of which humans are completely ignorant of and incapable of exploring. In fact, humans are already using this technology in the Voyager probes zipping about the universe.

Regardless of whether it’s a big space rock, hunk of junk or extra-terrestrial peeping Tom tool, the gringa has her calendar marked for the Summer of 2017. I expect interesting things to happen.

 

Sources & Image Credit:

www.motherboard.vice.com

en.wikipedia.org

www.ewao.com