Scientists, as per usual, are straining not to dramatically announce that something has happened.
Has there ever been life on Mars? Well, here’s an exciting finding. Maybe. Maybe not.
What’s on your mind?
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A clumsy Austrian astronaut overnight fell 40km from a capsule attached to a helium balloon in the upper stratosphere and miraculously survived by landing in a small can of energy drink.
Forty-three year old Austrian Felix Baumgartner has set several precedents with his incredible survival feat, not the least of which being he is now the most interesting Felix since the popular but largely forgotten cartoon cat of the early-to-mid 20th century.
Incredibly, Baumgartner maintains that he actually meant to do the jump. By saying this, he has instantly become a pinup boy for a generation of people who believe that life is so dull, nothing is worth doing unless it nearly kills you.
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It’s an awesome concept – a probe sent from Earth into the Milky Way with messages of peace for any alien life that may be encountered outside our solar system.
We sent them love songs and concertos and messages of peace as a demonstration of humanity. We sent them a demonstration of humanity at its highest – our moments of brilliance, of unity and of selflessness.
Last week, the Voyager celebrated its 35th anniversary of its launch to explore Saturn and Jupiter. Now, it is at the cusp of our solar system, on the brink of exiting the celestial realm that we are familiar with and launching into interstellar territory.
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The passing of the man who made that one giant leap for mankind, should give us all pause to consider exactly what that small step signified.
The lunar landing was met by a universal reaction of awe and celebration that was much bigger than the efforts of one nation or one man. It was a celebration of human achievement. Neil Armstrong’s famous quote clearly ascribed the success to “mankind”, as did the plaque left by the mission, which read: “We came in peace for all mankind”.
It was a fine hour for America, but an even greater moment for the world.
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A friend posted on Facebook today: “When I was a little girl I loved learning about space, solar systems, planets, walking on the moon. But when I grew up I learnt how much space exploration costs and how many people here are sick, hungry, abused. Now I see no justification for funding our curiosity until we improve life on earth”
Yesterday I spoke to another friend who was beside himself with excitement at this extraordinary pursuit of knowledge, and the incredibly feat that we – mere blips in the great expanse of the universe – have landed Curiosity on Mars.
There are the heartbreaking questions that come alongside the expansion of human understanding, that come with doing things that have never been done before just to see if we can… those heartbreaking questions include: Why is it more important to explore a dusty, red planet that has taken eight years and two and a half billion dollars to reach; than to feed the 25000 people who die every day from poverty.
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Trust the Yanks to use a gridiron term to describe the landing of the one-tonne plutonium-powered rover, Curiosity, on Mars.
But it was somewhat appropriate considering the landing itself was something of a “Hail Mary pass” - a phrase that originated in American football, meaning a very long forward pass made with limited chances of success.
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Remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure, how amazingly unlikely is your birth. And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ‘cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.
Well, except for some astoundingly bright people who do things such as theorise about dark matter and the existence of the Higgs Boson field and who develop fascinating things like the Drake Equation.
One of those enormous and overactive brains belongs to British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell – a tracker of quasars, and discoverer of pulsars.
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Welcome to the third edition of Dr Tinman’s Ignorant Remedies for the Aching Soul.
I am Dr Tinman, life-doctor and former yoghurt manufacturer.
Today’s question comes from a person who is - from what I can deduce from the handwriting - either left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous.
A NASA astronaut probably won’t be the next person to take a small step for man on a planet or moon a giant leap away from Earth. The US space agency is a shadow of its former self, facing death of a thousand budget cuts. Its space shuttles are retired, their replacements canned.
It’s far more likely that the next footprint on the moon will be sponsored by a cashed-up entrepreneur. Think Richard Branson, the airline tycoon who founded Virgin Galactic. Or think American hotel chain billionaire Robert Bigelow, who wants to build a space station.
Or maybe think Gina Rinehart. Stuff NASA, we could have GINA: a Ginormous Investment in National Aerospace, sponsored by our very own chief mining magnate. Our richest person could put an Australian on the moon. Maybe even build an Australian colony. It would be revolutionary: for her, and for the country. And she could do it.
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The God Particle is so 2011. This year’s sexy science story is a hole in time. Yes, it’s a sci-fi nerdtopia complete with the opportunity to use the compound adjective “space-time” in ordinary conversation.
According to science journal Nature, scientists have managed to create a ‘time cloak’. Using a time-lens that breaks light up they can make an event temporarily undetectable.
Sure, it’s only on the picosecond scale, but still: Phwoar!
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Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the coming carbon tax calamity? No! It’s Asteroid 2005 YU55!
The 400m-wide rock (please let us know if you need this translated to Olympic swimming pool or football field units of measurement) will whiz by Earth today at a whopping 19km a second, a mere 324,600 km away. That’s closer than the friggin’ moon!
But don’t head for your swine-flu-resistant bunker, we’re going to be fine. Reassuringly, NASA says we’re not going to get smashed to bits by asteroids for 100 years. That means your bunker’s probably a good real estate investment, keep stockpiling that Spam!
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This is the end of an era. The final space shuttle launch takes place in less than a week, when Atlantis roars from the pad at Cape Canaveral, and I for one will watch this final flight with mixed emotions.
After more than 30 years and 135 missions, NASA is under presidential direction to retire the remaining shuttle fleet due to high operational costs and to free up revenue for other projects. Private enterprise will have to continue the dream past the space station’s orbit and focus on getting astronauts to asteroids and the outer planets in the coming decades.
Has the shuttle program been a success? Was it worth the fiscal cost and the loss of 14 lives in two separate accidents? History will be the judge, I guess, but it’s sad for this 60-something space nut to look back at the space program and think that since 1972, no human being has been any further than 600 kilometres from planet Earth.
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Thursday December 9, 2010, was an interesting day for news in the world. It was the first time in human history a private company launched and returned a capsule from orbit, possibly opening transport possibilities to the International Space Station.
The interesting thing about this is the remarkable lack of fanfare surrounding anything to do with humanity’s exploits in space these days.
When you consider that 40 years ago the world stood united by the feat of landing a person on the moon, it’s quite remarkable that now, when people are in space are doing life threatening work on a space station people really don’t care.
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Australia could lose its bid to host the World Cup of science, accused of being “cheap” and “arrogant”.
Although it’s slipped under the radar, Australia is one of two countries short-listed as sites for the world’s biggest radio telescope.
The Square Kilometre Array is one of the “most important international scientific projects of the 21st century”, according to Brian Boyle, the SKA director at the CSIRO.
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The FIFA World Cup bid announcement won’t be the only huge story tonight. In America, at 4am eastern Australian time, NASA appears certain to announce it has found signs of life on a moon of Saturn.
No doubt it’ll just be boring microbes or, you know, some kind of shapeless Lara Bingle monster. But hey, life’s life. Well done, NASA. Thank you in advance, as they never, ever say in the classics.
Only one question now remains. Is there any evidence of life in NASA itself? Let’s examine the evidence…
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It’s Tuesday at The Punch.
American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon today in 1969. Space junkies can launch their own interactive moon landing mission here.
Got something else on your mind? Share it here.
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I recently learned a few things about the desert. You think you know about its vastness, but it is another thing to actually see it. When the sun goes down it’s bloody cold. And on a cloudless night the sky is simply breathtaking.
Last month I had the privilege of witnessing the re-entry of the Hayabusa spacecraft into the Earth’s atmosphere. Standing on the side of the Stuart Highway about 170 km north of Woomera, I was with a couple of dozen others – government representatives, media and hard-core stargazers – who had made the pilgrimage to witness the finish of the longest return space journey ever.
At precisely 11.23 pm a star appeared, grew brighter, developed a trail and then spectacularly exploded across the sky, lighting up the ground around us. Reminiscent of the final moments in Return of the Jedi, it is a scene I will never forget.
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Just beyond the south western extremities of urban Canberra is the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla. Surrounded by hills – part of the scientific attraction of the relatively radio quiet site –is the most startling technology tucked away in a typical rural Australian setting. Kangaroos, sheep and cattle share the land with high powered radio telescopes and gum trees.
As you approach Tidbinbilla and the giant dishes first appear around a corner the contrast of modern technology upon a backdrop of countryside provides a moment that takes your breath away.
On 26 February this year Australia celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA. Back on 26 February 1960 Prime Minister Menzies and US Ambassador Sebald signed the Agreement Between the Government of Australia and the Government of the USA relating to Space Vehicle Tracking and Communications.
Are we alone? Does it matter?
I’ve long come to terms with the idea that there is probably no God, but I’m optimistic there’s something else out there. It’s SETI’s 50th anniversary this year – that’s the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
SETI is both a concept – the search – and an institute dedicated to finding the answer. There is plenty of funding, links with NASA, serious science. It employs 150 professionals. There’s even an Australian SETI centre.
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It’s Tuesday @ The Punch
Today in 1961 Soviet astronaut Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin became the first man in space.
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It’s Thursday @ The Punch
Today in 1986 the US spacecraft ‘Challenger’ explodes and killing the seven astronauts onboard.
It’s Christmas eve @ The Punch
Today in 1968 the Apollo 8 became the first manned spaceship to orbit the moon.
Photography in space had a slow start. The first American to orbit the earth was John Glenn, the addition of a 35mm camera to his equipment on board Friendship 7 in February 1962 was according to NASA’s official history website “an afterthought”
“An Ansco Autoset 35mm Minolta was bought at a drugstore and hastily modified so the astronaut could use it more easily in a pressure suit.” The website goes on to tell us.
Little it seems was expected of these early attempts at photographs in space.
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