What a weekend… I’ve had family visiting, a fire on the farm, and a once-in-a-lifetime encounter between a comet and Mars to photograph. Oh, and a Carnival of Space to publish. Something had to give, and unfortunately it was the Carnival. Sorry about that! But you didn’t come here to read my excuses, you came for the latest and best writing on space science and astronomy, so if you just keep reading, I’ll make sure that that’s what you get.
First up, the beautifully accessible official blog of the Chandra X-ray Telescope, writing about their expectations for the close encounter between comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) and Mars. Chandra joined an interplanetary network of telescopes to observe the comet as it passed by the red planet.
The next submission was from Next Big Future, about the USA’s need to develop space travel in the same way that it developed its highway network in the first half of the 20th century. According to the author, The US should leverage its lead in space and robotics technology to develop the Spaceways and industialize space. The time is right for a Spaceways program because Spacex and Blue Origin are very close to getting reusable rockets. Spacex is already one of the lowest cost commercial rocket launch provider. As of March 2013, Falcon Heavy launch prices are below $1,000 per pound ($2,200 per kg) to low-Earth orbit when the launch vehicle is transporting its maximum delivered cargo weight . As of March 2013, Falcon 9.1.1 launch prices are $4,109 per kilogram ($1,864/lb) to low-Earth orbit when the launch vehicle is transporting its maximum cargo weight. The Federal highways used a fund to pay for highways, so ther should be a fund to pay for more launches to lower the costs over time.
Also from Next Big Future, a piece on how the airline industry can be a model for space. The US spends $60 billion per year on NASA, military and intelligence space programs. This means over $1.8 trillion over 30 years is what would be the expected budget. There is also the commercial space industry and international space efforts. The proposed $500 billion over 30 years would have to be carved out of the existing programs. The International Space station cost over $100 billion. The cumulative budget put into the space shuttle program was over $200 billion. Strategically investing $500 billion (perhaps in conjunction with China, Europe, Japan and other countries) would provide high frequency reusable launches with demand like the airmail deliveries did for the airlines. It would be an investment in infrastructure like the highway system. The Earth and some orbit infrastructure is discussed but this level of effort would require orbital fuel depots and refueling and orbital and space industrialization.
This is followed by Universe Today, covering a recent paper about the possible discovery of a subsurface ocean on Saturn’s moon Mimas. They don’t stop there, though, but go on to discuss the six other places in our Solar System believed to have liquid oceans that might even harbour life!
Speaking of life on other worlds, Universe Today also offer a brief essay on the search for extra-terrestrial life and why it might be harder to find than we thought. There are various atmospheric markers that researchers have long assumed would point to the existence of life (such as the methane in Earth’s atmosphere) because they are chemically reactive enough that they cannot exist for long in the air without a biological source to replenish them. It may not be as simple as that, though, for reasons the article explains.
And finally, The Meridiani Journal takes us home with the impressive news of the first ever properly detailed weather map of a planet outside our Solar System. It seems that astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to study exoplanet WASP-43b in infrared light, and over time were able to build a heat map of the surface, which served as the foundation for a weather map that’s probably quite basic but still pretty astonishing.
And that’s the end of our Carnival. If you’re keen for more, follow me via social media (links can be found to the right and up): I announce every carnival as it goes live. Till then, cheers!