Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Farewell, Discovery

The Space Shuttle Discovery will be launching for the last time on February 24th at 1:50pm PST. Mission STS-133 will be the 39th flight of the 27 year-old spacecraft, and will be bringing the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo to the International Space Station, as well as the Robonaut 2 robotic astronaut helper.

With only two more Space Shuttle flights scheduled (Endeavour in April and Atlantis in June), this represents the end of an era of ambitious human space exploration, as after that the US will be left with no means of sending astronauts into space and will rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS.

With the cancellation of the Constellation moon program in October 2010, the only serious prospect for US manned space flights is the privately funded and operated Dragon capsule from SpaceX, which, although a remarkable achievement for a private company, is a return to 1970's designs, and is nowhere as advanced and capable as the Space Shuttle. And Dragon will not be operational before 2013 at the earliest.

Watch the historic flight live in HD on ustream TV.

Update: For those who missed it, here is the video of the launch.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Apollo 18 movie: Cloverfield meets the Space Program

We finally have a trailer for the upcoming movie 'Apollo 18', a horror science fiction movie about a hypothetical 18th Apollo moon landing. As most of you know, in real life the last Apollo mission was Apollo17th. The premise of the movie is that an 18th mission actually took place, but it was kept a total secret. The movie shows raw footage from portable cameras brought aboard by the crew, just like in the movie Cloverfield.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ares I Resurrected! Give me Liberty

ATK, the makers of the Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters is joining force with European aerospace company Astrium/EADS, the makers of the Ariane 5 rocket, to propose a new rocket to launch US astronauts into space after the Space Shuttle retires later this year. The new Liberty rocket would be operational in 2015.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gliese 581g, Mono Lake and the Drake Equation

In September 2010, scientists discovered a new extrasolor planet, Gliese 581g, that is to date the planet the most similar to earth that we found. It is in the Gliese 581 star system, only 20 Light-years from us, and orbits its sun at the right distance to have liquid water, so it is not too warm and not too cold. It has a gravity similar to earth (between 1.1 and 1.7 G) strong enough to maintain a thick atmosphere.

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