Interplanetary spaceflight, astronauts, and beyond. NASA is leading the exploration into space.
There's an X-Files poster on my bedroom door. You know the one: a grainy photo of a UFO blown up against a canopy of pine trees with "I WANT TO BELIEVE" written in block letters across the bottom. TheX-Files poster. And while I deign to admit it, I'm a poser. I've seen maybe 10 full episodes of the show (and read the two fun YA prequels about teenage Scully and Mulder solving crimes in the 70s) and have no intention of continuing. Serialized media and my commitment issues aren't the best combination. But still, that poster has been on my door for two years and will continue to remain there in the future.
Dates: Dec. 21, 1968 – Dec. 27, 1968 The second manned spaceflight mission in the United States Apollo space program, Apollo 8, was launched on December 21, 1968. It became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Earth's moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth.
Space is the current, unexplored frontier. People have been really fascinated by the new idea of the actual ability to colonize another planet such as Mars. There are even some trips planned to go to Mars in the next couple of years. At one point in history, all this was science fiction and something beyond humanity. Today, it is a possibility, people are excited to learn, discover and experience new things on Mars. However, this should not be the priority of space agencies, especially since there is so much that is unknown about space and by sending people with little knowledge, they would be at risk. There are health risks, environmental and technological problems that haven’t been resolved yet.
On the floor of the Spaceflight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory there is a plaque that boldly proclaims: “The Center of the Universe.” With large screens on the wall displaying data being downloaded from various spacecraft across the solar system and engineers pouring over rows and rows of glowing screens in the darkened room, the Spaceflight Operations Facility resembles a scene from a science fiction film. It is a fitting description as this is the only place on Earth where we can communicate with robotic spacecraft in deep space.
The history of the Black Knight Satellite, an object orbiting our planet in polar orbit, should not be so controversial. Polar orbit is an orbit that goes in the opposite direction that our planet naturally revolves. This polar orbit has been used for surveillance, and neither The United States or Russia had capabilities of launching satellites into that orbit when the Black Knight Satellite was supposedly discovered in 1954.
When searching for extraterrestrial life, the focus tends to be, naturally, on worlds far away, such as Mars, Europa or distant exoplanets. But could there be evidence closer to home, even near Earth itself? It's a seemingly unlikely but not unheard of possibility. That said, there is an interesting new report from the Russian news agency TASS that living "alien" bacteria have been found on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). Say what?
Astronomers just announced the discovery of yet another exoplanet, just one of thousands now, but this one is quite interesting and exciting for a variety of reasons. The planet, called Ross 128 b, is an Earth-sized world orbiting a star only 11 light-years away. Not only is it nearly the same size as Earth, the observations show that it is likely quite temperate, with temperatures similar to those on our planet as well. These findings make it possibly the best exoplanet candidate yet in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Exoplanets have been found in all different types and sizes, showing how much diversity there is among planets outside of our own Solar System. Now another one, a "monster exoplanet," is of interest to astronomers because according to current models of planetary formation, it shouldn't exist — but does.
Last week, something unusual was detected moving through the Solar System, a small object which didn't seem to behave like any known comets or asteroids. In fact, its behaviour suggested that it originated from outside of our Solar System. So what was this mystery interloper? While not 100 percent identified yet, it seems to be an interstellar asteroid or some similar rocky body.
Nikolai Kardashev is a little known Russian astrophysicist—certainly in regards to the current phenomena of science-related pop-culture icons, but despite this, some of his ideas have seeped in through the cracks. If the layman recognises his name at all, it won't be for the work that he put into examining the quasar CTA-102, but for the more theoretical exercise of developing what we now know as the Kardashev Scale. Even if you're not familiar with its name, there's a chance that you'll know a bit about its substance: Nikolai proposed the idea that some galactic civilisations would be possibly millions—even billions—of years ahead of us in regards to technology, and developed a scale in order to help with the categorisation of any civilisations that we may come across, or possibly fit into ourselves.
There was some big astronomy news this week, as astronomers announced the first direct observation of gravitational waves produced by the collision, or merging, of two neutron stars. This collision even produced some heavy elements, such as gold. It sounds like science fiction, but is very real. Gravitational waves have been seen before, but those ones were caused by the collision of two black holes. This was also the first time that such an event (known as GW170817 in this case) had been detected in both visible light and gravitational waves.
When the New Horizons space probe launched in 2007 I couldn’t wait for it to reach Pluto in 2015 and finally reveal many secrets of that mysterious dwarf planet. Once that time came I was fascinated to read about the physical details of Pluto that had never been seen before, such as Pluto giving off x-rays. I experience the exact same curiosity whenever a new extrasolar planet is discovered, as well as distant quasars (almost as old as the universe itself).