Posts Tagged Space Science


Posted by on Wednesday, 10 November, 2010



Got a letter from one of my fans.

MisterScienceAintSoBad, you wrote that the manned space program is “stupid”. I think YOU’RE stupid.  – GottaBeHonest41

OK for you, GottaBe. I appreciate your candor. I guess I have been kinda rough on the manned space program. Quoting myself, quoting myself, I did say (talking about a Mars mission):

I don’t want to sound like a broken blog, but this isn’t the first time I’ve discussed the expensive conceit of sending humans to Mars. Quoting myself, “Throughout NASA’s history, there’s been considerable tension between those who believe in the symbolic importance of getting our human butts out there and those who feel that the astronomical (good word here) costs and barely manageable risks aren’t justified when robots are proving themselves so capable.”

You’re not gonna like this much, GottaBe, but  Sara Yin describes (PC Magazine)  a 1000 day project to send an astronaut-like mechanical gizmo to the moon, inspired by the practical reality that we can’t AFFORD to send humans up there during an economic recovery that most people seem to think is still a recession.

Don’t get me started.

In the past, the human or “manned” program had two things going for it:

1. No other choice since, at the time,  robots weren’t good enough.

2. Very dramatic since death always lurked round the corner.

Kept up the public’s interest, it did. A good thing since politicians could leverage the heroics of astronauts to win more public funding for pet space projects. But not much money in the pot these days and new missions are even more dangerous and problematic. Is it even possible to survive a Mars trip? Politicians are being forced to act (relatively) rational. Skip the heroics. You wanna do space? Here’s what I got. What can you do with it, pal?

NASA, it seems, got the message and it’s up with the hardware, down with the fleshware (hence NASA’s humanoid robot). The robot they came up with looks like a spaceman.spacewoman. A dead ringer for a person that’ll be able to use tools designed for human hands.



So. MisterScienceAintSoBad says we should give the robot a name and enough personality for the public to identify with. Big doe eyes too, okay?

I guess I AM kinda pleased to read that NASA has decided to send a robot to the moon all dressed up like an astronaut. There’re about 76 good reasons to do space explorations with robots instead of people at this point.  It’s cheaper, it’s safer, and it advances the art of robotics.

Must be 73 more.

ScienceAintSoBadRating for robotic space missions in lieu of human ones? Why a 10. Of course.

Drawing credit:

By Walké (Image crée à partir de Image:Bote Boas Vindas2.png) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Uncle Europe Wants YOU!

Posted by on Sunday, 29 November, 2009
First Humans On ... Earth

First Humans On ... Earth

Image based on a model (Lunar Electric Rover) by Google 3D Warehouse.

SpaceScience: Mars Without The Gamma Rays. The European Space Agency’s looking for volunteers to spend 520 days pretending they’re on a trip to Mars.


Posted by on Thursday, 12 November, 2009
A Planet-happy Star

A Planet-happy Star

SpaceScience: Stars Give Themselves Away

How do you know if a star has planets?


In fact, it wasn’t until 1995 that we nailed the first such planet (I’m not counting the one we’re standing around on, or its neighbors, of course).

Even “neighboring” stars are so far away and so bright that you can’t really make out their planets with a ‘scope. So two indirect methods are used to find out if a planet’s present: We look for a slight reduction in starlight as a planet passes in front of its star. Or we try to observe the miniscule wobble of the star due to the orbiting planet.

We’ve been, it seems, doing it the hard way.

An article in Nature (lead author, Garik Israelian) says that stars with planets seem to use up more lithium than stars that don’t. The authors figured this out using the European Southern Observatory’s ability to analyze starlight as well as to detect (the hard way) planets.

This is amazingly fantastic news as it will greatly speed the time that we can say, for certain, that the only Republicans in the entire universe are on this planet.*

Very, very nifty piece of work.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10

* I’ll make fun of liberals in my next post, OK?