May 2012

Changing the Risk Paradigm

May 16, 2012

As we continue to think about the implications of Planetary Resources and its plans for asteroid mining, I was interested to see exoplanet hunter Sara Seager (MIT) make a rousing case for the company’s ideas and for commercial space ventures in general. Seager, who works with Planetary Resources as a science advisor, tells The Atlantic’s […]

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A Near-Term Enterprise?

May 15, 2012

It’s too bad we don’t already have a workable Enterprise, that vast near-term rendition of the Star Trek vehicle that a systems engineer named ‘Dan’ has been talking about on (a site which has been so heavily trafficked in the last 48 hours that it has proven almost inaccessible). What Dan has in mind […]

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Remembering Dandridge Cole

May 14, 2012

I’ve been thinking all weekend about Dandridge Cole, the aerospace engineer and futurist whose death at age 44 deprived interstellar studies of one of its most insightful advocates. Cole died in 1965, just five years before a deadline he himself set (in 1953!) for a manned landing on the Moon. But then, the former paratrooper […]

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Pushing Beyond Pluto

May 11, 2012

What would you do if you had a spacecraft pushing toward the edge of the Solar System with nothing much to do? The answer is to assign it an extended mission, as we found out with the two Voyagers and their continuing data return that is helping us understand the boundaries of the heliosphere. In […]

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KOI-872: Timing is Everything

May 10, 2012

It’s no surprise that the techniques we’re using to look for moons around exoplanets should start turning up new planets on their own. We’re still looking for that first exomoon, but a team of researchers working with the Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler (HEK) project has found transit variations that have revealed a second planet […]

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Space Exploration: A Closing Window?

May 9, 2012

Our expectations determine so much of what we see, which is one of the great lessons of Michael Michaud’s sweeping study of our attitudes toward extraterrestrial intelligence in Contact with Alien Civilizations (Springer, 2006). But extraterrestrials aside, I’ve also been musing over how our attitudes affect our perceptions in relation to something closer to home, […]

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Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer

May 8, 2012

Mars has always been a tempting destination because of the possibility of life. Thus the fascination of Schiaparelli’s ‘canals,’ and Percival Lowell’s fixation on chimerical lines in the sand. But look what’s happened to the question of life elsewhere in the Solar System. We’ve gone from invaders from Mars and a possibly tropical Venus — […]

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Planetary Annihilation around White Dwarfs

May 7, 2012

Can we tell something about the planets around another star by examining that star’s atmosphere? A new study out of the University of Warwick makes a strong case for the method in the study of white dwarfs, following up on a landmark 2007 paper by Benjamin Zuckerman (UCLA) that looked at pollution in white dwarf […]

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Rogue Stars Leaving the Galaxy

May 4, 2012

Having just re-read Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars for the first time in a couple of decades, I’ve been preoccupied by the idea of ‘deep time,’ and astronomical events that play out over billions of years. The fictional trick, of course, is to pair human observation with events that take aeons to […]

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The Asteroid and the Telescope

May 3, 2012

One of the topics receiving fairly little coverage in the excitement of the Planetary Resources announcement is asteroid deflection. It seems clear that learning how to reach an asteroid and extract everything from water to platinum-group metals from it will also teach us strategies for changing an asteroid’s trajectory, in the event we find one […]

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