Tag Archives: space exploration

A shuttle. A Space.

Last week, I found out that the Space Shuttles are going to be retired next year. Currently, NASA is looking for the shuttles’ final home: several institutions consider displaying America’s Expensive and Great Leap Of Faith Into Space. Sarcasm aside, seeing the first Space Shuttle take off and land, and that all live on TV: as a young kid, that was fairly amazing, yes. However, I’ve never been a fan of manned space exploration (previously on xsamplex).

Slightly more exciting: it’s the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, and NASA celebrated that with this pretty picture of ‘Mystic Mountain’. What can I say about the Telescope? I remember that the initial launch and deployment were not that successful and that thanks to the Space Shuttle, the ‘Scope wouldn’t have been making as pretty as pictures as it does now.

The Telescope, however, will last for a couple of more years and is to be replaced by the ‘Webb Telescope’ in 2014.

May 15, 2010: Atlantis’ Last Voyage.

Planet 9

US astronomers have made the first photo of an exoplanet that makes it rounds around the star Formalhaut. It took a couple of years (and a lot of patience) to actually confirm the planet though. Additionally, another team of astronomers made a picture of 2 planets orbiting a star called HR8799 (Washington Post report). Generally, it seems. it was a good week for astronomy.

New Scientist had an article about a theory that the Earth might be in the center of a void: at the heart of the discussion is the 1998 discovery that some galaxies seem to have been racing away from us instead of slowing down. This discovery is currently explained by introducing ‘dark energy’, the energy that tends to accelerate the rate of expansion of the universe. The new theory proposes that our universe (the Milky Way) is surrounded by a ‘bubble’ that causes photons to lose energy but gaining energy while leaving this bubble.

I also read that India has succesfully landed a probe on the moon. For the next couple of weeks, the probe (‘Chandrayaan 1′), will measure the composition of the moon’s thin atmosphere.

Mars Express

I was reading about ‘the active glacier’, found by the ESA’s Mars Express earlier this week, which led me to look up the Mars Express website. Excellent (and amazing) imagery. My favourite one is the photo of the Cydonia region. While we’re at it, you may remember that (quite a while ago) Google launched maps for Mars, so here you go.

The ESA has been plugging away to make their websites as user-centric as possible: there are desktop downloads available in the form of screensavers and wallpaper. While I’m not really into screensavers (I have been running the same screensaver for ages, it appears: only recently I decided to switch to a screensaver depicting an aquarium in 3D OpenGL), I thought that the Mars Express wallpapers would have been interesting enough if they were available in the 16:9 resolution ratios (like 1280 x 800). They’re not and frankly, I’m too lazy to start cutting those images up.


Via MetaFilter: A NASA article about faster than light traveling, space colonization and science fiction. The article is an excellent overview of current propulsion techniques and what we’d need to travel to the nearest habitable planet.

If you’re into SF, Star-Trek and that and you are slightly unfamiliar with the paradoxes that traveling at the speed of light brings, you’re in for a disappointment. We don’t know enough about physics and we need (at least) make breakthroughs really soon now.

Charles Stross (author of Glasshouse and Halting State) has more sobering thoughts, highlighting the issues with sending a manned mission to (for example) Proxima Centauri: he notes that getting a vehicle at 10% of the speed of light requires the equivalent energy output of 400 megatons of nuclear missiles. Naturally, since we don’t want to overshoot Proxima Centauri, we need that same amount of energy to decelerate:

For a less explosive reference point, our entire planetary economy runs on roughly 4 terawatts of electricity (4 x 1012 watts). So it would take our total planetary electricity production for a period of half a million seconds — roughly 5 days — to supply the necessary va-va-voom.

Bruce Sterling wrote in 2004 (on colonizing Mars) that it’s a lot cheaper to colonize the Gobi desert than Mars. The two places are literally much alike: ‘they’re both ugly, inhospitable and there’s no way to make it pay':

On the other hand, there might really be some way to make living in the Gobi Desert pay. And if that were the case, and you really had communities making a nice cheerful go of daily life on arid, freezing, barren rock and sand, then a cultural transfer to Mars might make a certain sense.

More on this I will discuss in 2416, but I’m in a rush now: I have to travel to the future and tell the descendants of my twin-brother that they’re about to discover a wormhole to Proxima Centauri.

Oh, yeah

There’s this excellent BBC documentary about Titan (the moon) and Huygens (you may remember the successful Huygens touchdown). If you’re a movie aficionado, pay attention to the music that accompanies many scenes. You may recognize some of them.

There’s a myth out there that you can’t run Disk Defrag and MediaPlayer at the same time. Or that you need at least 2 Gig to have MediaPlayer play smoothly. This is bullocks.

National Geographic has a great article about malaria and mosquitoes (more on malaria at the WHO).

I’m not sure if this one fits in this posting, but, remarkably, a couple of developers announced Sylph-Searcher, a program that promises fast searching through (Sylpheed) MH folders. Wait: the announcement was made in the Postgres developers mailing-list. Apparently, you can use a database to store all your important e-mails from within Sylpheed. This makes perfectly sense: I mean, do you remember your very first e-mail? 100 to 1 that you don’t have that one anymore and that you wished you saved it somewhere safely into a database.

Computers and other news.

Earlier this week, I heard that the International Space Station’s computers crashed. ‘It was the Americans fault’, according to the Russians:

Russian specialists believe that the new solar panel installed by the Atlantis astronauts during their spacewalk could be the origin (of the breakdown).

Apparently (just today), the Russians were able to reboot the computers1, 2. If you had a bad computer day, think about it if you were in charge of a multi-billion dollars space station! (Related: Space Station Computers)

So, the budget made it through it, despite the premier’s last minute efforts to get Conservative MPs to vote against the amendments to the Atlantic Accords. The other day, I was listening to a CBC interview with NL’s premier Danny Williams (who apparently doesn’t get along with the federal Tories as reported earlier) and he literally ‘cut into’ Peter MacKay (A Tory MP for NS). Too bad the CBC doesn’t keep recordings online.

Via Nu.nl (Dutch language alert!), I read that Amsterdam Airport was selected best European airport of the year. This is huge! Wait. It isn’t: Even the ACI’s website doesn’t mention this achievement. Their site,though, has an interesting news item (dated 03/12/07), which mentions Halifax airport as the best airport with fewer than 5 million passengers. Other contestants were Ottawa, Porto (Portugal), Malta (Malta) and Sandefjord (Norway). As for Amsterdam Airport (or Schiphol) being best European airport: if I think back at the number of times I flew in (and out) to/from that airport I must confess that I never had any problems there (as opposed to the many problems I had at that other big European airport which I shall not name here).

1 Uh, what now, partially restored?
2 Nope: they still appear to have problems (warning: that’s a non-static link)

The Tech, The Science and Space

For no New Horizon’s Flybyreason I was earlier up than normal, today: with the extra time I had I looked into several compiler-compilers (or parsers/scanners) targetting C#. I ran into a couple of ones: First of all there’s ANTLER (Public Domain, needs runtime). Secondly, there’s GOLD (written in VB, Freeware, needs runtime), which can output to multiple programming languages, including C#, ADA and Java. And there’s COCO/R (other link), a system I’m actually familiar with, if I just can find those earlier experiments.

The hunt for the Higgs Boson is almost on: Today, a milestone was reached in the construction of the LHC, as the BBC reports (reporter’s impression). Cern has a report too.

Two flybys made it in the news: First ESA’s Rosetta made it past Mars (News in chronological order: 1, 2, 3) and shot some pretty images. And then, just today, NASA’s ‘New Horizon’s’ probe flew by Jupiter and sent back imagery from Jupiter and some of its moons (news at NASA, fly by trajectory).