20 January 2006

Today in the Science News: Part 1: Space News

There is a ton of interesting science news today. So much, in fact, that I'm breaking it into a couple smaller posts, which I should probably do anyway because those posts get pretty dadgum long.

I'll begin with space news, since we all know that's my one true love.

Kuiper-style belts found around two other Sol-like stars:
I bring this up primarily so I may point out that Pluto is a Kuiper Belt object.

By the way, for those of you who might be curious, "Kuiper" is pronounced "Kye-per." (I'm pretty sure.) The Belt in question is a ring of rocky, dusty debris that formed around Sol, our sun. According to the article, such debris rings have been inferred around many other stars, but only nine (including ours, and the two this article is about) have been directly observed on visible wavelengths.

Space.com's story about the belts also mentions the theory that our sun has a companion, called Nemesis, because apparently that would help explain the smooth edge of the Kuiper belt.

Of course, employing Occam's Razor, it's probably more simple to posit that we don't understand debris belts thoroughly, rather than to posit that there is a brown dwarf that we've somehow not managed to notice in our very own solar system.

Space junk!:
We do have a lot of space junk (old satellites, rocket stages, etc.) around the Earth, and it is somewhat of an issue. It doesn't affect the shuttle or ISS at the moment, because it's at a different altitude, but it could become more of a problem as space becomes commercialized.

But that key word, "commercialized," is what makes me not worry about it too much. I wouldn't be surprised if some company invents a way to gather and cannibalize space junk to help provide raw materials for their own endeavors.

1. Collect space junk
2. ?????
3. Profit!

CEV overhaul:
Apparently NASA has finally dropped the idea of using shuttle engines and instead wants to use an updated version of the Saturn 5 engine. Sweet.

CEV stands for Crew Exploration Vehicle, incidentally. My understanding at this point is that NASA is finally going about this the smart way. Instead of trying to have one vehicle do everything (as the shuttles currently do, or would do if they weren't grounded), we will instead develop a fleet of vehicles. One to get people to LEO (low Earth orbit), one to manuever people around once they're in LEO, one for unmanned heavy lift to LEO, etc. I just hope they have the sense to build an orbital manufacturing center, preferably at L4 or L5 (two points in the Earth-Moon system), because once we start making interplanetary trips, it will be much simpler, and cheaper fuel-wise, to manufacture large vehicles in microgravity.

And yes, I know this is one massive space geek wet dream. Just let me have my fantasy, won't you? While other women are fantasizing about a closetful of shoes and a pool boy, I'm fantasizing about leading a group to colonize Mars.

The Rocket Racing League!:
I read the headline and said to myself, "Wth?" but then as I read, I upgraded my initial doubt to,"Ok, that does kick ass." So, go read for yourself. Although I wonder where they will get pilots. Also, any crashes are pretty much guaranteed to be fatal, aren't they? Including a considerable hazard to spectators? I'm surprised the government hasn't stopped it. It must be incredibly tightly regulated.

As long as we're talking about Mars:
It had snow and glaciers once upon a time.


...ahem. Sorry. I should have known having an entirely space-devoted post was a bad idea. Fortunately, that was the last of the space news. Stay tuned for Today in the Science News: Part 2: Human Behavior!


Blogger Russ said...

Mrs. Peel, I think you should think big.

A closet full of space boots, a pool boy, AND a split level townhome on the Red Planet.

Of course, don't forget all the government paperwork you'll have to do to free all that water onto the surface of Mars. Is there such a thing as "drylands remediation"?

7:31 PM  
Blogger Jack Michaels said...

Pluto = Planet.

Not a "KBO".

Not a "Double Planet".

A planet.

Class dismissed. :)

10:45 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

Russ, pool boys tend to be unattractive and definitely lacking in the smarts department. I think I'd rather have a dashing second-in-command who would play the charismatic Commander Riker to my stern Captain Picard.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous m. duquesne said...

I'd put you in charge...but only if but your uniform might resemble Deanna Troi's from the first season.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Jack Michaels said...

Hmmm...you identify with Picard, and not with Janeway?


11:55 PM  
Anonymous m. duquesne said...

guess she prefers her "number one" to have a beard rather than facial tattoos?

12:12 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

Jack, I loved Next Generation, and I gave the next two a couple seasons apiece before I gave up on them. Janeway definitely never appealed to me. That voice - ugh!

Anyway, I don't really "identify" with Picard, but his leadership style is the ideal toward which I strive. But a charismatic second-in-command is crucial with that sort of personality.

DuQuesne, I'm not even going to dignify that with a response, you sexist pig. Shame on you. Shame!

(It's not like I could pull that costume off anyway...)

12:19 AM  
Anonymous geoff said...

(It's not like I could pull that costume off anyway...)

That's why you have us - we can pull it off for you. (nyuk, nyuk)

7:42 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

yay, geoff caught the joke I set up! I set up a lot of jokes, and most of them go ignored, which is annoying because I figure people should return the favor and ask me if I like Turkish candy.

And, DuQuesne - you know I was kidding, right? Anyone who takes his moniker from Doc Smith is more than welcome to stick around.

(I actually have a small teddy bear I named DuQuesne. It looked evil.)

10:39 PM  
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