9.10.2012

September 10, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


By on 12:23 PM

While you won’t see a lot of headline news about NASA or any various alien- and space-related ventures this week, a lot of hardware is getting stuff done out there. There are crafts surveying the surface of the moon, probes investigating asteroids and dwarf planets, and, more terrestrially, a lander being made to explore moons. Our understanding of the universe also might be shifting – no biggie.
 
A Little On-Planet Variety: The downside of most science fiction that features alien planets, even Star Wars, is that all planets are pretty one dimensional. You have the all-over swampy planet Yoda retires to, desert planets, and abominable snowman planets. Mars has also long been characterized as a dusty and desert-like, red, lifeless planet. However, the Niels Bohr Institute is paying attention to the wildly different climate variations, especially the ice caps.
 
Indiana and China Join Forces to Explain the Universe: Trying to figure out the universe is a large part of what astrophysics, quantum physics, and just about every kind of physics is about. Dark matter and dark energy have flummoxed the best and brightest for a while, but a couple of mathematicians are updating Einstein’s equations to allow for our increased knowledge of the universe. The scientific basis of sci-fi space travel, at the very least, might be about to change.
 
NASA’s Doing Stuff – in Alabama?: NASA ran the “Mighty Eagle” prototype lander through a whole gauntlet of tests earlier this week. There’s so much awesome contained in the Mighty Eagle concept that it’s hard to focus on just one thing: it’s primarily fueled by hydrogen peroxide, it’s robotic, and it’s the prototype of a fleet of landers destined to explore moons and asteroids.
 
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Dawn Has Left the Asteroid: Last week there was a lot of focus on Dawn, which was orbiting the asteroid Vesta. After spending the past year mapping out the asteroid and taking some awesome pictures, Dawn left Vesta behind. Now it’s heading out towards Ceres, a dwarf planet/asteroid in the inner solar system. We should hear about Dawn again in 2015.
 
The GRAIL Gravity Map: Two lunar-orbiting spacecraft have been mapping out gravity’s effect on the moon’s surface, giving us a lot more topographical detail than we’ve had before. Now that they have a basic overview finished, the two GRAIL spacecraft are going to deeply analyze the moon’s surface and subsurface features. Maybe once they’re done surveying, they’ll start with real estate offers. (This is a joke --- space legality has a long way to go before we can start shipping out.)

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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.

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