Monday, March 31, 2008

The Phoenix

Phoenix is well on its way to Mars. This site,, talks about the mission itself, mostly being a lineup of credits from some of the most important (or at least highly ranking) people. The site also details organizations and other contributors to the project, and this time there's actually a serious Canadian contribution. Information on landing site and broad objectives are detailed. So what exactly is there to find on Mars? Hopefully we'll figure that out.

The Viking missions have already been there, though they didn't find much. There are some interesting finds (such as methane, deposits, soil systems, and frozen water) that can suggest the presence of liquid water or life, but it isn't as if they couldn't have been caused by other things, as critics to these theories have noted. With a very low atmospheric pressure relative to Earth's, combined with very low temperatures and the fact that we're having one hell of a time finding visible, liquid water that didn't just fizzle into gas or freeze, life won't be straightforward to find, if it's there. What happens if this mission fails to find life, anyway? That's a question just like if it does pretty much assert that there is, in fact, some form of life, ending that debate. If there's more inconclusive evidence, then will there be another Phoenix mission? Meta-Phoenix? Imagine what would happen if we were to establish permanent residence on Mars and find, after many expensive failures, that there was no life on Mars. Alternatively, it would give us some faith in pursuing such goals if life was found that wouldn't be passive to our serious invasion. If we do find something like life on Mars, will it have all the traditional characteristics of life on Earth, or at least all of the fundamental ones? Might this theoretical life prove to behave as life, but have no genetic code as we know it, or no cellular structure?

In the end, I don't think that, relative to our capabilities, finding life on Mars would have been such an epic and consuming search compared to where we could have had to go, in this scenario. Other solar planets, masses, and beyond are massively more difficult to reach than Mars, even with just robots, as I've repeated incessantly. May the next question be: is there life outside of our solar system? Outside groupings of stars we're in, our area of the galaxy, the galaxy itself, our group, etc? I don't know what would lead the universe to create life restricted in some odd way to a star cluster, but we really don't know yet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Beyond Extremely Dangerous...

Going into the atmosphere at this point carries risks, but people shouldn't die too often. Going further out gets progressively more dangerous, as the distance to bailing out gets longer and some systems more systems would have to work, for longer, to get a vessel in trouble back to Earth and then land safely. The Moon hasn't happened in a while, but I'm not assured that another mission would meet safety and reliability standards for most people today. We haven't sent people further than that. Mars has weather that might not have been currently insurmountable, if not for the fact that we sometimes don't get satellites that far simply in the void, and then the aforementioned weather is made much more problematic by extreme lack of hospitality (food, unfrozen water, heat). Getting further out in the solar system is even more annoying and then I have to mention going beyond it. That would be interstellar space; with extremely little matter in it and light years to cross in order to find another star, leaving looks a lot like space launch did before aviation.

When we get into the issues of even more dangerous things, like intergalactic voids and black holes, it doesn't seem too fearful to say that maybe those things will sit merrily in theory while humanity concerns itself with the possible. That doesn't get us anywhere. We don't claim to know much about the universe. It may very well be that we'll find something(s) that would allow such travel that we've imagined, and been stumped by. Stations and self-sustaining colonies are interesting theories, but they still have to assume we have technologies we don't have now. I have a saying for this I made up just now: browsing for a future. Humanity is looking around at some things it might be able to pull off, then works on a few of them. In history, things we find weren't in the booklet. They don't ever seem to be in the damn booklet that is our imagination. That isn't entirely true, there are discoveries that have to do with where we want to go. Accidents and wonderfully epic failures usually aren't in the booklet. Thanks, Mr. Observation. Messing up our perfectly conceived universe. At least you make it a bit easier to find Ms. Reality. From step by step to a fell swoop/a few fell swoops, we may yet figure out the hazards of space, and travelling safely.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adapted Technology

When I searched 'space inventions' on the Internet, I got a section of the kids zone of the NASA site. Initially I was wondering if I would find anything useful, but there is in fact interesting info over there on what has been adapted from space. Things on Earth based on space research is broad, as I have been led to believe, but what I find really odd is why so many technologies here are based on innovations made for space travel. These are quite obviously based on problems that would usually be mission and life threatening in space. For example, let's take satellite dishes. These, as seen in the site, were used for correctly interpreting noise when data was transmitted. Here, this would be needed for making some forms of wireless communication clearer, like on a TV when images are being sent at a constant rate. Noisy pictures and transmissions could make an incredibly expensive mission fail on account of the information being imprecise or just useless. We also use systematic redundancy in emergency equipment. As here, when emergencies rely on equipment that won't malfunction easily, space exploration requires systems that will not only stay intact in the event of a beating, but another equally tough backup has to be somewhere else and kick in if primary systems fail. A final example, plastics used as cheap, solid, and versatile materials were developed in space for dependable structures that weren't expensive and yet still reliable. Such plastics are now used often for containers of many sorts. In space, circuits were printed onto these plastics, provided with an effective base. Still, why weren't some of these things thought of on Earth, where the uses for all of these are invaluable?

Taking the expression that necessity is the mother of invention, it makes sense here. Though some of these inventions here are even saving lives, they aren't an absolute necessity to existing on this planet. They are all requisite, like others such as advanced imaging, wireless equipment and aerodynamic design on a smaller level for a successful and productive mission. Even if they aren't all completely necessary, it's reasonable to say some other things rode on the wave of discovery of space technology. This is possibly the greatest immediate benefit of space; we come up with technology that's excellent here, but would take a long time to come up with without pushing ourselves and finding it through a direct problem in space. If we were to find all those things easily just by thinking of them without space it would be great, but it doesn't look like such numerous, similar realizations come up without some sort of other problem we try to solve.

In other news, for all those getting time off due to spring break, it's over now. Depressing as it may be, another day or two off is coming up due to Easter. Thank you March! I hope everyone had a nice break (or just a nice week like any other), I'll be waiting through April and May for the part of summer with a lot of time off in it. Thanks for reading (as I always wish, if I don't ever actually write it...)!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bio Energy? (In Space!)

I thought this looked very intriguing. Not only here did they have ideas for using very self-sustaining biological ideas here, there were a good number. Let's see... using microorganisms that generate current with sugar, doing the same with waste and pollution products (biological and industrial, take your pick!), protein surfaces that could produce some combination of power from radiation and kinetic sources, and more bacteria that could take the waste of other energy producing bacteria in a cascading effect. Power aside, some algae in the process could take waste CO2 and give oxygen! These sources alone would run out at a point, and the effectiveness awaits testing. However, even if it isn't massively efficient, we can modify the bacteria or even chose other candidates as we please to see if anything better is available. Even using these on a short trip would conserve a decent amount of resources for life support when in spacecraft. Innovative ideas like this work sometimes, check it out!

Also, happy spring break! In addition, I forgot a few months ago... happy winter holidays. There, I finally said it. To all the people who come here, have a nice break, I'm going to assume that if you come here you deserve it :).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

United States 2006 Policy: Privitization and More Ownership

"...departments and agencies shall: ...

-Continue to include and increase U.S. private sector participation in the design and development of United States Government space systems and infrastructures;

-Refrain from conducting activities that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety;

-Ensure that United States Government space activities, technology, and infrastructure are made available for private use on a reimbursable, non-interference basis to the maximum practical extent, consistent with national security..."

Of course, why would a country like the United States seriously restrict space commercialization? This ties deeply into the previous idea of who owns space anyway, but this starts to go into companies, their ties to countries, and how those relations work. Sovereignty over space can be hotly disputed, but large economic powers like the U.S. can unleash the might of capitalism all over space and claim it has basically nothing to do with them! Through a subtle system of regular taxation and piggybacking, the benefits would have enormous potential, keeping loose laws would draw the business to the States, and the economy would have a new source! Brilliant! Still, other countries could do the same. The next major space breakthrough could happen anywhere, seeing as the EU, Japan, China, India, and friends are all working towards space observation and advancement too. This is still a major unresolved factor (or unresolved factors) of who gains power in space first, if it even happens. It could happen that a country or a private entity would gain new access, and this would seriously influence how the whole story would play out. The U.S. is saying that they will make working in space fairly straightforward, in essence, don't threaten the people and the people won't threaten you. The exploiting of space can happen fairly easily here in the United States.

This is probably the conclusion of my analysis of the U.S.' space policy, but I've given it already three installments. This fairly substantial attention, I believe, is well justified, because of their current status as an economic superpower. As I have said before, their influence, if different in decades to come, will likely still be felt. Policy will almost certainly morph dramatically when capabilities improve as such (policy, after all, is supposed to be based on reality, which is usually different than expectations), meaning that the current ideas will be very different at the time and possibly entirely different concepts will emerge, smaller areas could be magnified intensely with what comes next. My opinion is that for the initial stages of space commercialization, a watchful eye should be kept on activities, especially where people are directly involved with getting farther from earth. However, for the industries to bloom, some liberties will likely be needed. I eagerly anticipate the budding ideas that look into the short term, for the future gets exponentially fuzzier the farther out we go. Sticking closer to the present can see more planned discoveries, the little steps that are more likely to occur as planned.