The Kentucky space program may get back to the Moon before NASA or the Chinese. If that sounds cryptic, do visit the latest Carnival of Space, held on Wayne Hall’s KySat Online site, which supports this innovative and student-led program to get the educational system into the business of designing, building, and operating small satellites. Wayne writes:
The very first project of this ambitious enterprise is a cooperative, student-led effort to design, build and fly a CubeSat that kids from the eastern mountains to the western Mississippi river shore can figuratively reach out and touch from classrooms all over the state. The first of many planned efforts, it will rocket to orbit sometime late this year or early next.
Good fortune accompany the attempt! I hope many states are watching what Kentucky is doing, an educational activity that spreads interest and enthusiasm for space projects to the next generation of scientists.
As to the Carnival itself, I normally choose one post of particular interest to Centauri Dreams readers, and this week I send you to Colony World‘s musings on Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, famous for the retrograde orbit that seems to argue that it is a captured object. Darnell Clayton is intrigued by the proximity of Neptune’s helium-3, and the possibilities for future human settlements in this remote part of the Solar System. Just how much might Triton be worth to us?
I also want to note Adam Crowl’s comment about Triton in a recent post, which notes a paper by Paul Schenk and Kevin Zahnle that implies even more melting of the moon’s crust than we see around Enceladus’ southern pole. Is a sub-surface ocean possibly bursting through in cryovolcanic events, as Adam speculates? So far we have all too little data from spacecraft, but the Voyager imagery tells us how rich a Neptune orbiter mission would be. Fraser Cain at Universe Today offers a nice chart of the known trans-Neptunian objects in the context of a backgrounder on how we have come to define the word ‘planet.’ Useful stuff in these confusing times, and helpful to those of us who speculate about the discoveries yet to be made in the Edgeworth/Kuiper belt.
Although not in this week’s Carnival (well, for that matter, neither is Adam’s Triton post, but bear with me as I collate various things I’ve been meaning to write about), Brian Wang looks at an electric solar sail concept developed at the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the plans for a test mission. This one uses an electron gun to charge long metallic tethers, riding not the momentum imparted by photons but the solar wind, an interesting variation on existing magsail concepts.