Better Than Earth? Are There Superhabitable Worlds In The Milky Way?

I’ve said many times in the past that the Earth is the best planet in the Universe. No matter where we go, we’ll never find a planet that’s a better home to Earth life than Earth. Of course, that’s because we, and all other Earth life evolved in this environment. Evolution adapted us to this planet, and it’s unlikely we could ever find another planet this good for us.

However, is it the best planet? Are there places in the Universe which might have the conditions for more diversity of life?

Continue reading “Better Than Earth? Are There Superhabitable Worlds In The Milky Way?”

Want To Explore Mars? Send Humans To The Moons Of Mars First: Phobos And Deimos

Humans to Mars. That’s the plan right? The problem is that sending humans down to the surface of Mars is one of the most complicated and ambitious goals that we can attempt. It’s a huge step to go from low Earth orbit, then lunar landings, and then all the way to Mars, a journey of hundreds of millions of kilometers and 2 years at the least.

Continue reading “Want To Explore Mars? Send Humans To The Moons Of Mars First: Phobos And Deimos”

Bringing Mars To Earth. The Plans For a Mars Sample Return Mission

One of the great accomplishments of the Apollo missions was to bring home hundreds of kilograms of lunar rock. Suddenly, geologists had a lifetime’s worth of lunar samples captured from several different spots across the Moon. These rocks and dust have been under continuous analysis since the Apollo 11 astronauts came home over 50 years ago.

Continue reading “Bringing Mars To Earth. The Plans For a Mars Sample Return Mission”

A Spacecraft Is Going To Assemble Its Own Solar Panels In Space: Archinaut One

Artist's illustration of Archinaut One with its solar panels extended. Credit: Made In Space

As I’ve mentioned in several episodes now, humanity is in a bit of a transition period, a time when it makes sense to launch material up and out of Earth’s gravity well into orbit, and beyond. But it’s really expensive, costing up to $10,000 per pound you want in orbit, and 10 times if you want it on the Moon. 

But over the coming decades, more and more of our space-based infrastructure will be built in space, manufactured out of materials that were mined in space.

Continue reading “A Spacecraft Is Going To Assemble Its Own Solar Panels In Space: Archinaut One”

Why Build Big Rockets at All? It’s Time for Orbital Refueling

On Tuesday, July 30th, NASA announced 19 different partnerships with 13 different companies to use their expertise to help them develop space technologies, from advanced communications systems to new methods of entry, descent and landing.

Instead of contracting out specific projects, NASA will make its employees, facilities, hardware and software available to these companies, for free.

Continue reading “Why Build Big Rockets at All? It’s Time for Orbital Refueling”

Spacecraft Gyroscopes And Reaction Wheels. You Can Never Have Enough

On January 8, 2019, the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations due to a hardware problem. Image Credit: NASA/STScI.

It’s amazing to think there are telescopes up in space, right now, directing their gaze at distant objects for hours, days and even weeks. Providing a point of view so stable and accurate that we can learn details about galaxies, exoplanets and more.

And then, when the time is up, the spacecraft can shift its gaze in another direction. All without the use of fuel.

Continue reading “Spacecraft Gyroscopes And Reaction Wheels. You Can Never Have Enough”

One Year, Almost 1,000 Planetary Candidates. An Update On TESS

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Telescope launched back in April, 2018. After a few months of testing, it was ready to begin mapping the southern sky, searching for planets orbiting stars relatively nearby.

We’re just over a year into the mission now, and on July 18th, TESS has shifted its attention to the Northern Hemisphere, continuing the hunt for planets in the northern skies.

Continue reading “One Year, Almost 1,000 Planetary Candidates. An Update On TESS”

What Are Light Echoes? Using Reflections Of Light To See Even Further Back In Time

Star V838 Monocerotis

When we look outward into space, we’re looking backwards in time. That’s because light moves, at the speed of light. It takes time for the light to reach us.

But it gets even stranger than that. Light can be absorbed, reflected, and re-emitted by gas and dust, giving us a second look.

They’re called light echoes, and allow astronomers another way to understand the Universe around us.

Continue reading “What Are Light Echoes? Using Reflections Of Light To See Even Further Back In Time”