MarkWhittington writes: The National Science Foundation announced that the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington have detected gravitational waves for the first time. The gravitational waves, first postulated by Albert Einstein just over 100 years ago in his General Theory of Relativity, are ripples in space/time caused by catastrophic events in the universe. Scientists postulate that the gravitational waves, detected last September, were caused by the collision of two black holes over a billion years ago.
MarkWhittington writes: As Ars Technica noted, the FY 2017 NASA budget proposal from the White House contains funding for the asteroid redirect mission (ARM) but delays the start of it from 2019 to 2023. ARM is a very strange proposed mission that has evolved over time and for which no one can find a sound purpose, even in the asteroid science community.
MarkWhittington writes: Both Jupiter and Saturn, the largest gas giants in the solar system, have been explored by robotic probes. Galileo orbited Jupiter for a number of years, exploring the planet and its many moons, for several years before plunging into its atmosphere in 2003. Cassini is currently orbiting Saturn, unlocking the secrets of the ringed planet and its moons. Now, according to Science News, scientists are looking at similar expeditions to Uranus and Neptune, the two ice giants that lay beyond Jupiter and Saturn. Each planet and its moons have interesting features that bear studying further. They were last visited by the Voyager 2 spacecraft decades ago.
MarkWhittington writes: The Obama Administration has put forth its FY 2017 NASA budget proposal, according to GeekWire. The overall spending level is $19 billion, an almost $300 million cut from the current fiscal year. Much of the money comes out of the development for the Orion deep space vehicle and the heavy lift Space Launch System, the very basis of the space agency’s plans for exploring deep space beyond low Earth orbit.
MarkWhittington writes: Reuters reported that North Korea launched a long-range missile that is said to have placed a satellite into space. The launch happened much to the consternation of North Korea’s neighbors, South Korea and Japan, as well as the United States. Pyongyang claimed that the missile launch was part of that country’s peaceful space program. But, other countries are pretty sure that the launch was a test of an ICBM capable of placing a nuclear weapon on any target in the world, particularly the United States.
MarkWhittington writes: Some young women are using their Tinder apps for a purpose that they were not intended, which is to try to persuade young men to support Bernie Sanders for president. Tinder, which is part of the Match Group Inc., is not amused and is locking these young women out of the app. Tinder is for setting up cheap, semi-anonymous hookups and not for politicking, thank you very much.
MarkWhittington writes: The most recent finding from New Horizons show that ice bergs have broken off from the hills surrounding the Sputnik Planum, a glacier of nitrogen ice, and are floating slowly across its surface, eventually to cluster together in places like the Challenger Colles, informally named after the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, which was lost just over 30 years ago. The feature is an especially high concentration of icebergs, measuring 37 by 22 miles. The icebergs float on the nitrogen ice plain because water ice is less dense than nitrogen ice.
MarkWhittington writes: According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 85. He flew as lunar module pilot on board Apollo 14, which flew to and from the moon between January 31, 1971 and February 9, 1971. His crewmates were Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa. Apollo 14 was the return to flight for the moon landing program after the near disaster of Apollo 13 in April 1970 and explored the Fra Mauro highlands on the lunar surface
MarkWhittington writes: As the Verge noted, Audi’s Super Bowl commercial takes on an Apollo moon landing theme. The commercial depicts a retired astronaut, identified only as “the Commander,” who is quietly remembering the time he and two other men rode a Saturn V to the moon. Finally, his son or grandson takes him on a drive in the new Audi R8. The Commander smiles for the first time in what must be in a while, for the R8 is so sporty and high tech, it is the closest thing there is to flying to the moon in a vehicle that roars down the highway on four wheels.
MarkWhittington writes: Testimony at a hearing before the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Space suggested that NASA’s Journey to Mars lacks a plan to achieve the first human landing on the Red Planet almost six years after President Obama announced the goal on April 15, 2010. Moreover, two of the three witnesses argued that a more realistic near term goal for the space agency would be a return to the moon. The moon is not only a scientifically interesting and potentially commercially profitable place to go but access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would make the Journey to Mars easier and cheaper.
MarkWhittington writes: Whether and when Russia will try to send cosmonauts to the moon is an open question. The Putin government has heavily slashed spending on the Russian space program, a measure brought on by declining oil and gas revenues. But, as Popular Mechanics reported, Russian engineers have gone ahead and have started to design a lunar lander for the eventual Russian lunar surface effort. When money is going to be forthcoming for such a vehicle is unknown, though Russia could partner with another country with lunar ambitions, such as China or the European Union.
MarkWhittington writes: The Economic Times noted that France has entered into an agreement with India to facilitate space cooperation with a plan to land a probe on Mars in the near future. India has already demonstrated that it is a space power to be reckoned with. The South Asian country recently orbited the Mangalyaan around the Red Planet, studying its atmosphere. Before the Mars mission, India orbited the Chandrayaan-1 around the moon. India plans to land the Chandrayaan-2 on the lunar surface sometime in 2017.
MarkWhittington writes: ?Space Daily reported that NASA is preparing to test a new kind of communications modem that works with a new technology called photonics. The idea is that like most microchips and circuits use electrons to work, a device using photonics uses light. If the technology can be made to work, it will change just about every form of technology, from computers, to telecommunications, to medical imaging. The User Modem and Amplifier (ILLUMA) will serve as a terminal on board the International Space Station for NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, or LCRD experiment.
MarkWhittington writes: Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, was at the StartmeupHK Festival in Hong Kong recently where he opened his mind about both his and his company’s future. He not only suggested that he would take a personal journey into space within the next few years, but that his lifelong dream of setting up a colony on Mars would be set into motion in 2025, less than ten years from now
MarkWhittington writes: In what has to be the weirdest rap battle in history, an Atlanta rapper named B.o.B. released a “diss track” called “Flatline” that called out celebrity astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson for his belief that the Earth is round, Rolling Stone reported. The musical salvo elicited a response in the form of another diss track called “Flat to Fact” launched at B.o.B. by Tyson and his nephew, rapper Stephen Tyson.