December 20, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News

The Kind of Unsurpassable Barrier of Gravity: This isn’t a new idea. Gravity has had a lot to do with terrestrial evolution – and, should it exist, extra-terrestrial evolution, most likely – in ways that we can’t even begin to predict until we send things away from gravity. The most obvious has always been spinal and muscular degeneration, and even issues of sex and reproduction in space have been featured in quite a few internet articles and discussions. Plants, too, suffer from a lack of gravity when tossed into space, and have problems getting sufficient oxygen or dealing with too much water. But a botany professor from Wisconsin-Madison is going to send mouse-eared cress to the ISS in March and see what happens to it. It’ll be one of the first of many steps in getting us ready for potential life in space.

Space Is Good for Business: Spin-off technology is the back-up benefit for any space travel advocate facing an unmoved audience, and it’s a good one. There’s not much that was discovered or created during the race to the moon that didn’t make its way into the commercial sector in innovative and life-saving ways. Fortunately, that trend didn’t stop just because people stopped going to the moon. Layered Composite Insulation (LCI) and a foam-aerogel called Aerofoam have a history in space shuttles and other NASA launch vehicles and they have a probable future in hydrogen cars, military transportation, food storage, and even cryogenic piping. This article discusses both the various uses these insulators have in the commercial market and a focus on the business side of bits of space technology, which is a good thing for people to focus on. As scientists move toward new frontiers and old frontiers become commercial territory, it’s nice to see that there is considerable, and fairly benevolent, commercial interest.

Space Tourism Really Is in the Works: Space tourism has always seemed a bit glorious and Hollywood-esque, for all that it’s completely awesome. The derivative minutiae, on the other hand, makes the idea more real (and still awesome). This article discusses what criteria doctors should use to judge whether their patients are healthy enough to venture to space. Space, after all, is still incredibly dangerous, and not all would-be tourists will be as fit as typical astronauts. But even the fact that this area of focus is even in demand bodes well for the emergence of space tourism – we just can’t screw it up by having people die and giving it a bad name.

Friendly Earth-Orbiting Spidernaut, Dead of Natural Causes: A red-back jumping spider was sent to the ISS as part of the high school YouTube contest from quite a few months ago. This spider, called Neferiti and later Spidernaut, lived above our heads for a while in microgravity and then returned – and adjusted to – Earth at the end of last month. Space doesn’t appear to be the thing that killed her: she ate and behaved in space just as she did on Earth both before and after her trip, which points favorably toward terrestrial life being able to survive in space. However, all scientific benefits aside, we can not escape the horrible precedent of space spiders we’ve created. 

Go to the Moon for a Cool $1.5 Billion: Feel free to whistle at that price tag at any time. It might be the moon, but that’s still five zeroes too big for even a house. Of course, this price isn’t too far off the mark for what NASA or the ESA might need for their own space missions so we can’t be too outraged. There are going to be a whole lot of start-up costs involved in the world’s first forays into space tourism, and it’s not surprising that those factors will put it out of most of our budgets. However, the company offering these rides to the moon is supposed to start fulfilling their promise in 2020, so maybe some of us will live to see it become more reasonably affordable.

Want to share all the good news? Please be sure to recommend this post on StumbleUpon – all it takes is a click! 

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.


Seth Shostak: E.T. is (Probably) Out There

Here's a great video from astronomer Seth Shostak about his work with the SETI institute, the search for extraterrestrial life, and how SETI can shape the future of American scientific literacy. Shostak does a fantastic job of addressing the possibility of finding alien life in a wonderfully humorous and entertaining way. What's also really interesting about this TED Talk is the brief overview Shostak gives about the past, present, and future of the search for extraterrestrial life at SETI.

Of additional note is Seth Shostak's ideas on what will happen after the discovery of alien life. While the “Columbus and the New World” analogy gets brought up fairly regularly, it's interesting for somebody to admit it might simply be impossible to accurately predict the eventual outcomes of first contact.

Additionally, if you're interested in some of Seth Shostak's ideas on what how people might react to microbial life you can click here.

But what do you think? How do you think people will respond to alien contact? Do you think we'll find aliens in the next few decades? Tell us in the comments!

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.


Six Days Left Until Nothing Happens

December 21, 2012. 12-21-12.

It’s being predicted as the most annoying day on Facebook. It’s the day Arthur Dent will lay down in front of the bulldozer that’s trying to destroy his house, the day the Mayans will get some rather unsatisfying revenge on the European-descendant-dominant global whatever that historically wiped out the majority of civilizations in the Western Hemisphere (because all Indians are, of course, the same), and the day the world will end. Probably in a very exciting cluster of multiple apocalypses.

Only one of those is true, and it’s the Facebook one. Which is really sad, because I was sure that the most annoying day on Facebook would have been any given 24 hours in the three months leading up to the presidential election.

So, to anyone who’s concerned about living past the zombies, galactic alignment, or cosmological what-have-you this upcoming Friday, here’s Neil deGrasse Tyson laughing at you in 2009. For the rest of us, here’s Neil deGrasse Tyson in his usual mix of entertainment and information about some planetary pseudoscience. 

It's the Internet, and we've all come across the 12-21-12 hype. If you've found any particularly hilarious space-related theories, or a video of Steven Hawking or someone debunking cleverly, be sure to share the fun! 

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.