Just two days and forty-three years ago was some of the most exciting news about either space or aliens that has ever happened. The news this week isn’t nearly so exciting as Apollo 11’s landing, but it is strangely… eccentric. There’s a lot of ‘space itself’ research going around, from lava planets to the metallic scent of its vacuum. This week also features some science fiction-esque, whimsical technology, like space habitats and giant heat shields.
To Live in the Final Frontier: Though we’re getting more interested in Mars, various potentially Earth-like moons, and the resources of near-Earth asteroids, there’s no real way for people to get to them, especially for the long time necessary to get anywhere beyond the Moon. But NASA has been working on a Habitation Systems Project, which should provide working ideas for quarters, laboratories and workspaces in mobile modules. The next project might be working models for Mars colony pods --- we still have that Mars One deadline ahead of us.
Lava Land: New planets are popping out of the vacuous woodwork, even when scientists aren’t really looking for them. Instead of an Earth-like world this time, they’ve discovered UCF-1.01, a planet that probably looks like the intro to Zombieland. The planet is 33 light years away and is so hot that we’ll never visit it even if it weren’t out of our way, but it’s a planet covered in lava, and that’s pretty cool.
Sunscreen for Shuttles: The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment, which was supposed to be launched yesterday, is now set for launch today. It consists of inflatable nitrogen rings and a thermal protective blanket that will protect returning hardware and cargo upon reentry. Anything to make reentry safer seems like a pretty good idea, seeing as how something forcing its way through the atmosphere has to deal with a temperature of 1850 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water, Water Everywhere But Not as Much as There Might Have Been: Earth has a randomly perfect set of circumstances for having life, including an abundance of water in liquid form. But, when it really comes down to it, Earth is not even one percent water – and scientists are curious why. They spent some time researching an icy zone in the solar system, a line at which one side is dry and closer to the Sun and the other side has icy rocks and planets. While potentially not that important in our solar system, finding out about that line could help us narrow down our Earth-like planet search.
The Scent of Space: Apparently, it smells like metal. Astronauts have compared it to arc welding, different from the ISS smell of machine shops and engine rooms (and a touch of roast beef), but it’s probably all the vibrating ions. So, space has a smell – not only is that a bit weird, it’s a touch of realism to add to any sci-fi you plan on writing.
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.