August 16th, 2019
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.
One of the most notable of these partnerships will be with SpaceX and NASA’s Glenn and Marshall Centers to help advance the technology of transferring propellant in orbit.
In other words, NASA is going to help SpaceX figure out how to refuel a spacecraft while it’s in space. And if they can figure this out, it could completely change the way missions are launched and flown.
August 15th, 2019
In this week's questions show, I answer if techno optimism is blinding us to the challenges of spaceflight, why there aren't spacecraft at all the planets right now, could the Great Attractor be dark matter? And more...
August 12th, 2019
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.
It’s all thanks to the technology of reaction wheels and gyroscopes. Let’s talk about how they work, how they’re different, and how their failure has ended missions in the past.
August 9th, 2019
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.
As part of this shift, NASA has announced a handful of fascinating new planets turned up by TESS, including a couple of worlds in categories which have never been seen before.
August 8th, 2019
In this week's questions show, I answer a question about solar sails, what geologists might learn from lunar rocks, if Earth could survive inside Jupiter, could gas giants be closer to the Sun, and more.
August 5th, 2019
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.
August 1st, 2019
In this week's questions show, I explain how long it'll take for space junk to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, would it be possible to put advertising in space, and why panspermia is appealing as a hypothesis.
July 30th, 2019
As NASA prepares to return to the Moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program, the agency is focusing its efforts on exploring the Moon’s polar regions. These are areas of the Moon which seem to have a lot of water mixed in with the regolith.
Some of these craters are permanently in shadow, and might still have large quantities of water, that’s accessible to human and robotic explorers. This is a critical resource, and the Moon might be just the place to help humanity as it pushes out to explore the rest of the Solar System.
But it might also be an illusion. We really won’t know until we look up close.
July 24th, 2019
In this week's QA, I tackle constant acceleration. Do we have anything that can accelerate at 1G for long periods of time? Why are there different sized stars? And do the heavier elements come from supernovae or colliding neutron stars?
July 23rd, 2019
People are always worried that alien civilizations will detect the transmissions from our old radio shows and television broadcasts, and send in the invasion fleet. But the reality is that life itself has been broadcasting the existence of life on Earth for 500 million years.
Blame it on the plants.
In addition to filling the atmosphere with oxygen, plants give off a very specific wavelength visible in infrared radiation. It’s the kind of signal that other civilizations could search for as they’re scanning the galaxy.
It’s what we’ll be looking for too.
But don’t just blame the plants. Other forms of life have been giving off signals too, signals we can search for as we discover new exoplanets and wonder if they have life there.