Blog Archives

What “Gravity” Gets Wrong

Let’s establish a few things at the very beginning. I love movies about space. I quite happily go along with improbabilities like warp drives, phasers, Vulcan mind melds and the concept that every extraterrestrial species we encounter will be remarkably

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Posted in human spaceflight, Spacecraft

Hurray For Plutonium!

Wait a minute! Isn’t plutonium that nasty stuff they make bombs from? Radioactive? The stuff Doc Brown stole from Libyans to fuel the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine? Well, yes…but there’s more to it than that. Plutonium exists

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Posted in Planets, Spacecraft

In Saturn’s Shadow

One of the most astounding images of the space age is about to be replicated. Take a look at this image of a backlit Saturn eclipsing the sun. This is a mosaic of images taken over three hours in September,

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Is Interplanetary Space Too Hot For Humans?

Radioactively hot, that is. While the Curiosity Mars Rover was cruising for eight months between Earth and Mars, one of the instruments aboard was measuring the radiation levels encountered along the way. The Radiation Assessment Detector—RAD—was inside the spacecraft, shielded

Posted in human spaceflight, Mars, Solar System, Spacecraft

Ice On A Sun-Scorched Planet

The universe is full of surprises. More than once I have read an article about a new discovery and told myself something like this: “That can’t be right! They must have messed up somewhere, and we’ll read about how in

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Survivor

The formation of our solar system, with multiple planets and other bodies of varying sizes and compositions—this was not a simple process. The more planetary systems we discover around other stars, the more we confirm the truth of this. Scientists

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Posted in Solar System, Spacecraft

Curiosity’s Communication With Earth

You may have read that the Curiosity Mars rover is communicating with Earth mostly by relaying data through one of the spacecraft orbiting Mars, and wondered why that is so. Even if you haven’t wondered, I have! Hence this post.

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How To Satisfy Your Curiosity About Curiosity

Quote: “This is just insane. The Internet is still totally exploding over what happened…” Rather than try to recap everything, I’m just going to point you to the two best web sources: the Curiosity site itself, and Emily Lakdawalla’s blog,

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Curiosity on Mars–One Way or the Other

In just a few more days, the largest and most complex spacecraft ever to land on Mars will either have six wheels on the ground or will be a smoking billion-dollar crater. I’ve posted this video before, but it’s cool

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft

Pluto’s Fifth Moon

Poor little Pluto! Every third-grader’s favorite planet got officially downgraded to a “dwarf planet” in 2006, and nothing’s been the same since. Although planetary scientists have known for more than 20 years that Pluto is just one of the larger

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Spacecraft