July 2015

Envisioning Starflight Failing

July 31, 2015

Science fiction has always had its share of Earthside dystopias, but starflight’s allure has persisted, despite the dark scrutiny of space travel in the works of writers like J. G. Ballard. But what happens if we develop the technologies to go to the stars and find the journey isn’t worth it? Gregory Benford recently reviewed […]

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Reddish Arcs on Saturn’s Moon Tethys

July 30, 2015

Looking for a good science fictional link to Saturn’s moon Tethys (you’ll see why in a moment), I came up short until I recalled Harry Bates’ story ‘A Matter of Size.’ First appearing in the April, 1934 issue of Astounding Stories, the novelette tells the breathless tale of giant humanoid beings who live on Tethys, […]

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New Horizons: Thoughts on Looking Back

July 29, 2015

The New Horizons imagery has been breathtaking, and never more so than in the image below. Here we’re seeing Pluto seven hours after the July 14 closest approach, looking back at Pluto as it occults the Sun. The backlit atmosphere shows us layers of haze reaching 130 kilometers above the surface. Image: Pluto sends a […]

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EmDrive Back in the News

July 28, 2015

Martin Tajmar’s presentation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition in Orlando yesterday has been getting plenty of press. Tajmar is looking at the device now commonly called an EmDrive, studied by Sonny White’s team at Eagleworks (Johnson Space Center) and advocated by Roger Shawyer, Guido Fetta and […]

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Searching for Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence: Knowable and Unknowable

July 24, 2015

We recently looked at the $100 million infusion into the SETI effort by Yuri Milner, with backing by major figures in the field. When I’m considering SETI developments, I always look to Michael Michaud, whose judicious perspective in his book Contact with Alien Civilizations (Copernicus, 2007) remains a touchstone. He served in senior international science […]

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Earth 2.0: Still Looking

July 23, 2015

I’ve come to dislike the term ‘Earth 2.0.’ It’s not so much the idea of a second Earth as the use of 2.0, which in our technological era invariably recalls software updates. Windows 2.0 was better than Windows 1.0, but Windows 3.0 was the one that really took off — the idea here is that […]

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New Horizons: New Mountains, Pluto’s Moons

July 22, 2015

We’ve already had the pleasure of naming features on Pluto, at least informally, highlighted by the moment when the heart-shaped area revealed by New Horizons was named Tombaugh Regio, after the world’s discoverer. The fact that two of Clyde Tombaugh’s children were in the audience during the news briefing where this occurred made it all […]

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Ernst Stuhlinger: Ion Propulsion to Mars

July 21, 2015

If you’re a Centauri Dreams regular, you’re familiar with Adam Crowl, an Australian polymath who is deeply involved in the ongoing Project Icarus starship design study. Adam maintains a blog called Crowlspace where interesting and innovative ideas emerge, some of them related to earlier work that has been largely forgotten in our era. A recent […]

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A $100 Million Infusion for SETI Research

July 20, 2015

SETI received a much needed boost this morning as Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, along with physicist Stephen Hawking and a panel including Frank Drake, Ann Druyan, Martin Rees and Geoff Marcy announced a $100 million pair of initiatives to reinvigorate the search. The first of these, Breakthrough Listen, dramatically upgrades existing search methods, while Breakthrough […]

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Small Interstellar Probes, Riding Laser Beams – The Project Dragonfly Design Competition Workshop

July 17, 2015

Today we look beyond Pluto/Charon toward possible ways of getting a payload to another star. Centauri Dreams readers are familiar with the pioneering work of Robert Forward in developing concepts for large-scale laser-beamed missions to Alpha Centauri and other destinations. But what if we go smaller, much smaller? Project Dragonfly, in progress at the Initiative […]

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