October 2010

NASA: The Hunt for Good Ideas

October 15, 2010

Is NASA going to start pushing back into the realm of truly innovative ideas? Maybe so, to judge from what Robert Braun continues to say. Braun, who joined the agency in February, is now NASA chief technologist, a recently revived office that coordinates mission-specific technologies at the ten NASA centers. This story in IEEE Spectrum […]

Read the full article →

Dust and Fast Missions

October 14, 2010

The recent debate between Jean Schneider (Paris Observatory) and Ian Crawford (University of London) is the sort of dialogue I’d like to see more of in public forums. When I began researching Centauri Dreams (the book) back in 2002, I was deeply surprised by the sheer energy flowing into interstellar flight research. True, it lacked […]

Read the full article →

Interstellar Flight and Long-Term Optimism

October 13, 2010

It’s fascinating to watch the development of online preprint services from curiosity (which is what the arXiv site was when Paul Ginsparg developed it in 1991) to today’s e-print options, hosted at Cornell and with mirrors not just at the original Los Alamos National Laboratory site but all around the world. Then, too, the arXiv […]

Read the full article →

Interstellar Flight: The Case for a Probe

October 12, 2010

Back in May I looked at Jean Schneider’s thoughts on what we might do if we discovered a planet in the habitable zone of a nearby star. In an article for Astrobiology called “The Far Future of Exoplanet Direct Characterization,” Schneider (Paris Observatory) reviewed technologies for getting a direct image of an Earth-like planet and […]

Read the full article →

A Look Into Titan’s Haze

October 11, 2010

Voyager’s controllers thought so much of Titan that when Voyager 1 approached Saturn and the choice arose between sending it on to the outer planets or taking a sharp jog off the ecliptic to view the enigmatic moon, they chose the latter. We all know the result: Titan remained as mysterious as ever, its surface […]

Read the full article →

Waiting Out New Horizons

October 8, 2010

The outer Solar System has always been something of an obsession for me, to the point where as a kid, I used to haunt the libraries looking for books on planetary science. Absurdly, I had the notion that even though little was known about places like Triton and Pluto, I might just stumble upon the […]

Read the full article →

Advanced Propulsion in Context

October 7, 2010

I want to run through the particulars on the upcoming 2010 Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop at the University of Colorado in a moment, as the deadline for abstracts is still three weeks away for those who are thinking of submitting papers. But looking through the presentations at conferences like this one — it’s sponsored by […]

Read the full article →

Rethinking Alien Encounter

October 6, 2010

by Larry Klaes Larry Klaes wraps up his two-part essay on our attitudes towards extraterrestrials by looking at how the subject has been treated in the past, and speculating on the scenarios that might bring disaster. Do Earth-shattering depictions of space invasion reflect what people really believe, or are they merely a form of escapism? […]

Read the full article →

Why Do We Fear Aliens?

October 5, 2010

By Larry Klaes Just how we would react to the reception of a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization is an increasingly controversial question, and one filled with import as we take the SETI search in proposed new directions. The ongoing Royal Society meeting in Chicheley (UK) probes the issue, with panel discussions on whether or […]

Read the full article →

A Tour de Force of Planetary Discovery

October 4, 2010

Steven Vogt (UC-Santa Cruz) is suddenly the buzz of the blogosphere, though not in ways he might have intended. The designer of the HIRES spectrometer that made the detection of Gliese 581g possible, Vogt can claim pride of place as the discoverer of the first near-Earth mass planet found in the habitable zone of its […]

Read the full article →