Mars Curiosity captures the hurtling moons of Barsoom

Curiosity must have a pretty good eyeball on her, the little mobile probe phoned home with this overhead dance of the two Martian moons passing quietly in the dead of night. In fact, judging by the illumination, where half the moons are lit, that was near Martian midnight. It must have been colder than the South Pole, with stars clearer than in the skies above the highest desert in Wyoming, when those images were taken. [Read more…]

Size does matter in space exploration: smaller might be way better

There are more than one-hundred sizable objects in our solar system with ice or liquid water, each reachable and explorable with present day technology

There are more than one-hundred sizable objects in our solar system, many of them with ice or liquid water, including planets, moons, asteroids, and KBOs, each reachable and explorable with present day technology

Small probes the size of a human hand or smaller could be a big help to planetary exploration. Moore’s Law and tightening budgets could team up to make that technological leap sooner rather than later. In particular, small probes packed with microelectronics and advanced software capable of learning on the alien spot might bring the deep subcyrosphere of moons like Europa or Saturn’s Dionne under scrutiny: [Read more…]

Rover hill, rover dale, as we hit the dusty trail

In the wake of the somewhat disappointing news about Mars Curiosity this week, there are reports of another rover in the works. That got me to think’n! We’re getting good at building these things and we might be on the cusp of a generalized rover design that would work in many places all over the solar system. A standardized, scalable and adaptable primary architecture and power train married to one of several reliable EDL packages that could turn this century into an age of discovery on par with the one kicked off by Columbus 500 years ago. Hey, a boy can dream. [Read more…]

Mars Curiosity news tomorrow … NOW STREAMING


First a researcher on the Mars Curiosity mission lit up the science blogosphere when he said the rover had found something ‘earth shaking’ for the ‘history books’ during Thanksgiving Week. Then NASA back peddled and clammed up leading to all sorts of speculation. Finally, news made the rounds last week that Curiosity hadn’t found much of interest and it was just an excited researcher happy that the soil sampling and analytical tools were operating as designed. NOW — there are reports the rover may have found some carbon compounds, but they’re not gonna say what they are tomorrow: [Read more…]

Meet the Methanogens

Most Americans are emerging bleary-eyed from a tryptophan induced coma today and grudgingly marching back to work after a glorious extended weekend. In this twittering multimedia digital world many stories compete for a slot on our rested minds. The scary looming fiscal cliff and backroom dealings in DC that might fail to ease us down its gentle slope, the political back-and-forth back stabbing continues unabated as Republicans wrestle with ballot box defeat and Democrats continue to come out of the decades long reflexive crouch. It would be easy to miss what could turn out to be the most important story of the season. Right now its mere speculation over tantalizing hints, past and present, centered not on the third rock from the sun, but a more enigmatic planet, the fourth world out. NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover may have found something interesting in the arid frozen soil of the Red Planet. Right now the smart money is on a substance called methane. [Read more…]