June 2005

Reflections on Cosmos 1

June 20, 2005

We’re a little over a day from the Cosmos 1 solar sail launch, testing the technologies that may one day make travel within the inner Solar System faster and far more efficient. Centauri Dreams has discussed the involvement of Ann Druyan’s Cosmos Studios; the documentary film and entertainment company put $4 million into the project, […]

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Solar Sail Close to Launch

June 18, 2005

As we near launch, let’s run through the Cosmos 1 sail mission again. The vehicle is privately funded (by Ann Druyan’s Cosmos Studios and The Planetary Society), and will be launched aboard a converted Russian ICBM. Once in orbit, the spacecraft will deploy eight mylar sails. The principle is straightforward: Photons have no mass but […]

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Harvesting Antimatter in Space

June 17, 2005

Two studies stand out in the list of Phase 1 awards recently announced by NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Gerald Jackson of Hbar Technologies (Chicago) will work on “Antimatter Harvesting in Space,” while James Bickford of Draper Laboratory (Cambridge, MA) will study “Extraction of Antiparticles Concentrated in Planetary Magnetic Fields.” Both offer solutions to […]

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Probing Red Dwarf Habitability

June 16, 2005

With exquisite timing, the SETI Institute has announced the first of a series of workshops to study the habitability of planets around M-class red dwarfs. The issue became highly visible recently with the announcement of the rocky planet discovered around the red dwarf Gliese 876, some 15 light years from Earth. Although thought to be […]

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Correction on Red Dwarf Lifespans

June 15, 2005

Yesterday’s post “On Red Dwarf Stars and the Hunt for Life” incorrectly stated the lifespan of an M-class red dwarf star as 100 times that of the Sun. The correct figure is ten times as long, making an age limit of perhaps 100 billion years for the average red dwarf. G-class stars like the Sun […]

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New Horizons on Schedule for Pluto/Charon

June 15, 2005

New Horizons, the doughty spacecraft soon to be sent to Pluto, Charon and on into the Kuiper Belt, has been shipped from its birthplace — the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD — to NASA’s Goodard Space Flight Center in nearby Greenbelt. At Goddard, New Horizons will begin another round of […]

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On Red Dwarf Stars and the Hunt for Life

June 14, 2005

‘Normal’ is a tricky word when you’re talking about extrasolar objects. As in ‘normal star,’ a phrase used during yesterday’s news briefing about the new planet detected around Gliese 876, and in much of the press coverage since. The planet’s low mass (about 5.9 times the mass of Earth) rules out the possibility that it […]

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Small, Rocky Exoplanet Discovered Around Nearby Star

June 13, 2005

Finding a planet that resembles the Earth is the ultimate goal of our exoplanetary explorations. It implies the possibility of life on a world not so different from our own, and encourages the speculation that Earth-like worlds are out there in huge numbers. We certainly haven’t found such a place yet, but we’re getting closer. […]

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New Exoplanet Findings Tomorrow Afternoon

June 12, 2005

We should have some interesting news about exoplanets tomorrow afternoon. That’s when a media briefing will be given to reporters at the National Science Foundation in Arlington VA. The briefing is titled “Scientists Make New Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar System,” and although I have a hunch what this one is about, I’m not […]

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The Case for Helium-3

June 11, 2005

“Fusion reactors powered by deuterium/helium-3 are a good candidate for a very advanced spacecraft propulsion. The fuel has the highest energy-to-mass ratio of any substance found in nature, and, further, in space the vacuum the reaction needs to run can be had for free in any size desired. A rocket engine based upon controlled fusion […]

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