October 7, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News

By on 4:36 PM

CRS-1 Set for Oct. 7: SpaceX has been busy. After the delays and tentative successes we watched in the early summer, a Dragon is setting out to the International Space Station today to bring over 1,000 pounds of supplies. But that’s not all it’s going to do. After staying at the ISS for three weeks, Dragon will return – return, not burn up on reentry like other supply vessels in the past – loaded with over a ton of samples collected for engineers and other scientists to analyze. So far it looks like NASA made a good choice about who to contract out to.
Smile for the 3-D Analysis!: All of the space technology launched so far that has been equipped with cameras has been equipped with 2-D cameras. The only way to get 3-D data in the past has been to cluster a bunch of cameras in the just right way to build 3-D with a whole lot of complicated math. But the idea of a 3-D camera built for space flight has been buzzing in the aerospace world ever since they’ve been well-built for terrestrial uses in 2000. Thales Alenia Space, SINTEF, and Terma, in particular are studying all available alternatives to make it happen.
Venus Has Ice?: Be a bit skeptical, scientists caution, but recent data might note the existence of carbon dioxide ice and snow on Venus. This is surprising, seeing as Venus is usually portrayed as being terrifyingly hot and carbon dioxide ice doesn’t exist unless you dip heavily into the negatives.  But data about the concentrations of carbon dioxide gas at different altitudes allowed scientists to calculate the temperature at different spots just as night was turning to day on Venus, and a patch high in the atmosphere that falls to a chilly -175 degrees Celsius. The news is so surprising that the ESA starting an investigation into how other gases in the atmosphere, like carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and oxygen, are affecting the data.
Next on the To-Do List – Black Holes: Black holes remain more than a bit of a mystery seeing as nothing, let alone any device to analyze them, can get anywhere reasonably considered to be ‘close.’ As a matter of fact, the closest thing we knew of next to the supermassive black hole in our galaxy had been a star that orbited it every 16 years; but UCLA astronomers just found another star that orbits it every 11½ years. Astronomers like Andrea Ghez are ecstatic about this, because having two points of reference that orbit the black hole several times within a human lifespan opens up the possibility for several experiments that will probe the nature of black holes. More specifically, we’ll learn more about how black holes bend space and time.
The First Dig for Microbial Kind: Landing a rover on Mars is a feat in and of itself, but a lot of people have been waiting for the star event in Curiosity’s investigations into Mars. The rover is about to start its first analysis of Martian soil, during which it will look at past environmental conditions and look for the chemical components necessary for life. And maybe, just maybe, it might find something wiggling around in it and dramatically change life as we know it. But we’ll see.
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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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