Sunday, July 8, 2012, marks the first anniversary of the last launch of the Space Shuttle Program. Atlantis lifted off LC-39A at 11:29:03 after a very brief delay and began STS-135, the last mission in the three-decade-long program.
For an astrophysicist, perhaps the most amazing aspect of 3D spider webs is how much they resemble computer simulations of the cosmic web -- the filamentary structure of the Dark Matter in the universe.
Despite any inclination to believe yourself among the brightest bulbs around, new research indicates that even when the universe was considerably younger, there were heavy elements enough to spawn planets that could... spawn life.
Just to get to Mars you would have to spend seven months in a "transit habitat" with three other people. I don't know if any Mars One executives have ever seen The Shining, but if they haven't, they probably should.
Last weekend, something very unusual happened -- I found myself in the right place at the right time. That was because the National Space Society was holding its 2012 International Space Development Conference right here in Washington, D.C., just a week after I'd moved in for my Congressional internship.
News like this -- that the galaxy is bristling with potential broadcast platforms -- will only embolden these go-go pioneers. Hand them 160 billion planets and what will they say? What they've been saying all along: They just have to be out there -- meaning them.
They share the goal to see the expansion of exploration but must acknowledge the new economic and political realities we face. Resistance will not help usher in the sustainable future they desire!
For all the Star Wars and Star Trek resonances in this mission, Robert Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon seems a better fictional precursor.
There is no pretense that Hollywood aliens might accurately reflect actual inhabitants of the galaxy. But is it all just free-form imagination? Can contemporary science say much about whether these cinematic sentients might be ciphers for the real thing?
After dealing with a buildup of static electricity and a few other minor problems, an announcement suddenly flashed across the main TV screen -- an unknown object had been detected, on a collision course with the Spacecraft!
Iranian officials consider it to be a reconnaissance satellite that will remain in orbit for 18 months. That's the longest any Iranian satellite has ever been in orbit.
Recently, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told 60 Minutes that the reason he seeks to develop spacecraft is to save humanity itself.
Spaceflight is hard. Really hard. And that's one reason that we bother going to space at all.
What surprised me in the symposium, however, is how much telerobotics and telepresence is being used today, right here on our own planet, enabling people to survey, explore, mine, and even kill from great distances.
I'd never heard of a space conference for business majors before. How exactly would students in BU's School of Management or the equivalent elsewhere explore space?
Will we look back and ask ourselves whether the decision to abandon space was a wise decision? Or will historians look back and identify this decision as a textbook example of when America sacrificed long-term strategic goals for short-term interests.