With the Phoenix Mars lander now on its way, it’s interesting to see how communications will be handled during the crucial descent phase next spring. So that the final thirteen minutes to the surface will be well monitored, Phoenix will transmit a continuous data stream to NASA satellites already in orbit around Mars. And the European Space Agency’s Mars Express will play a key role, its elliptical orbit offering a vital communications window. How networking is established on and around Mars presages the day when networks link probes throughout the Solar System, sparing us the need to dedicate antennae like Goldstone’s to single spacecraft and making data acquisition far more efficient.
I had never heard of the Grupo Independente de Radio Astronomos, but Melbourne’s The Age says they have transmitted messages into interstellar space, joining messages including pictures and music that have already been sent by Alexander Zaitsev and team at the Evpatoria radio telescope in the Ukraine. Is ‘brightening’ the visibility of our civilization a dangerous risk, or have we already flagged our presence through radio, television and military radar signals? Centauri Dreams leans toward the former view, and argues that at the very least international discussions should involve representatives from many nations and disciplines before further messages are sent. The Age‘s backgrounder offers thoughts from some of the key players in this debate.
Can the magnetic field of a rapidly rotating neutron star cause a disturbance in surrounding plasma that moves faster than light? It’s a controversial notion, but one that may not violate relativity. To find out how, read this Los Alamos Monitor story about the work of one Andrea Schmidt, whose work was presented at a recent Los Alamos Symposium. One snippet: “Just like the people in a ‘wave’ – where individual fans stand up to make a rapidly moving wave around a football stadium – the individual electrons and nuclei do not themselves move faster than the speed of light, but the disturbance they create can easily exceed it.”
The Lifeboat Foundation offers a short report by scientific advistory board member Robert Shapiro on the case for going to the Moon. Shapiro references Martin Rees, whose dark view of our current state suggests that civilization has no more than a fifty percent chance of surviving until the year 2100. Centauri Dreams doesn’t share Rees’ dark assessment, but emphatically agrees with Shapiro that a nearby sanctuary serving as a kind of civilizational ‘backup’ is in the best interest of the species. The Moon could be a significant first step, provided we have the wisdom to take serious advantage of our renewed presence there.