Category Archives: Space

The NASA MAVEN mission to study Mars

A NASA image of Mars from the Hubble Space Telescope

The NASA mission to mars, MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile     EvolutionN), will be launching in a little over a week on November 18. This very exciting mission is going to investigate what happened to Mars’s atmosphere. It is thought that at one time the atmosphere was dense enough to support water on the surface of Mars. The mission will give clues about whether Mars could have supported life at one time. MAVEN will take 10 months to reach the planet of Mars.

You can keep tabs on the mission here.


Europa’s ocean may have similar salts to Earth’s ocean


Image of Europa from NASA/JPL

A recent study done with the Hawaii Keck telescope looked at spectra from Jupiter’s famous icy moon Europa. Many scientists have speculated that the moon may harbor life in an ocean underneath its thick ice shell. Now, spectra are showing a magnesium sulfate compound on the surface of the ice. While it is though the sulfate component may have come from the volcanic moon Io, it is still speculated that the magnesium may be from salts within the ocean. Thus, there is hope there are similar salts in Europa’s ocean to what is in Earth’s ocean. Read more about this here.

The Privatization of Space Exploration

This past year has been quite exciting year for the popups of private space companies. With the NASA budget decreasing, and looming budget issues within the US, privatization of space offers a glimmer of hope. I’m actually pretty excited to see how this pans out in the next few years.

Wired has a great overview of some of the private sector progress for space exploration.

It may be a few years before many of these things come to pass. In the mean time, here are some videos from a few of these companies to offer hope for future space exploration.

Planetary Resources

Golden Spike Company

Watch as NASA’s GRAIL Spacecraft Crashes Into the Moon Today

If you happen to be perusing the internet and want something to watch, NASA will be providing live commentary as the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) craft crashes (purposefully) into the moon today. The mission has mapped the moons gravitational field, and allowed scientists to get a better understanding of the interior structure of the moon. Read more here.

Voyager 1 now on a Magnetic Highway

Recently I wrote about recent talk of the changes that voyager 1 has been seeing as it reaches the outer edges of the solar system. There are three things that would help determine an exit from the solar system which include an increase in cosmic particles, a decrease in charged sun particles and change in the magnetic field.

While there have been decreases in sun charged particles and increases in cosmic particles, there hasn’t been a flip in the magnetic field. Scientists now think that voyager is in a newly discovered region in the edges of the solar system where interstellar magnetic field lines are connected with the sun. In this area, particles from inside the heliosphere are leaving, while cosmic particles are quickly entering the heliosphere replacing the lost particles. This area has been dubbed the “magnetic highway.”

NPR Interview with Ed Stone

Video describing the Voyager 1 entry into the magnetic highway:

Mars Curiosity rover finds interesting things


NASA has released information about some findings from the Curiosity mission. In a return from soil analysis, Curiosity detected water in addition to evidence of a simple carbon compound.

This is very exciting news, since carbon often leads to more complex organic materials. Now it will be a process of determining whether the carbon has come from Mars, or if it came from an outside source.


Has Voyager 1 Left the Solar System?


A few weeks ago it seemed the evidence was looking good. Voyager may have left the solar system, although it seems its not 100% official yet. The three things used to help classify whether it has left are increases in high-energy cosmic rays, a drop in charged sun particles, and a change in magnetic field. The high-energy cosmic rays and decrease in charged sun particles have been seen. It will be interesting to see what the data shows in the coming weeks.