Farewell Dive

Cassini Bids Bye Bye With Last
Jump Into the Rings of Saturn

The spacecraft that’s been orbiting Saturn for the past 13 years, is executing its final dive today. It’ll be a grand finale, fireworks and all, as it’ll crash while taking the last of thousands of pictures and videos it already took from the ringed giant.
It was a risky triumph for NASA, for the $3.4 billion, plutonium-powered probe swung up close by us, in 1999, to use Earth’s gravity to shoot up towards Saturn. A mishap could’ve been disastrous, but it was worth: we’ve learned so much with the little probe that will die today.
These expensive and far-reaching missions always prompt questions as to their validity. It’s no different with Cassini. Many doubted its science, and to some politicians its cost-to-dividend ratio could never be compared to, say, another monstrous taxpayer-funded sports arena.
Since it’s hard to quantify the exact impact Cassini‘s will have on our knowledge – apart from, well, so much more than we knew before -, projects like these may be on their way out. While it traveled to Saturn, nanotechnology, for instance, experienced a quantum leap.
Advances in computer science and robotics, as well as the entry of private enthusiasts in the field of space exploration, may assign a different role to organizations such as NASA, and the European and Italian space agencies, that collaborated to make the Cassini project an astounding success.

A TRANSCENDENTAL STEP IN SPACE
For, however be that as it may, the orbiter, and its hitch-hiker, the Huygens lander, dropped on Titan in 2005, represent a staggering milestone. Its secrets will still challenge us long after everyone alive now is gone. That, by the way, is the only form of immortality that makes sense.
It’s the part when space as a metaphor to the human adventure on this planet resounds the most transcendental. That’s how Italian Giovanni Domenico Cassini, and Dutch Christiaan Huygens, both mathematicians, remain alive and even more relevant today than during their XII century existences.
The Cassini journey has also an added benefit: allowing mankind to witness a complete cycle, which started (more)
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Worlds Away

New Earth-Like Planet May
Have Everything But a Moon

It’s almost as warm as our planet. It may have liquid water on its surface. It orbits a twin of our own sun. Kepler-22b, the newest exoplanet found by NASA’s space hunter mission Kepler, is but one of hundreds already found that could harbor life. But it’s somewhat unique in what its size is comparable to earth’s in ways many before it aren’t.
No astrophysicist is hyper ventilating about it just yet, though. The observations are based in a lot of assumptions and, at this point, we have no idea whether the new discovery is a rocky or a gaseous body. There’s also no word yet on whether it has a moon.
The Kepler mission has accelerated a thousand-fold the hunt to find a place fit for life as we know it, and a few obscenely massive black holes to boot.
In fact, the mission’s findings will be combined with observations made by the S.E.T.I. project, one of the oldest searches for alien life that was recently revived.
It’ll now direct the eyes of its system observatories to the same area in the sky that Kepler has been pointed to.
As for us, in the meantime, all we have managed was to multiply threats to the environment and to our own survival on this planet.
BUILDING A NEW BODY
But no one is ready to pack and board the first rocket to the unknown just yet. In fact, we’re far to even being able to consider the possibility of a mass exodus from earth as a viable survival option to our species.
Never mind diminishing budgets and interest in space travel, as sad as it may be. Or the creeping malaise of conformism and settling for the Continue reading

Shooting Stars

A Traveler From Outer Space
Pays Earth a Short Visit Today

Perhaps the retirement of the Shuttle Fleet has something to do with it. The fact is, out of the blue, it seems that meteor-related news have been popping up like, well, shooting stars, lately.
It all sort of culminates today, of course, when asteroid 2005 YU55 passes by earth at a shorter distance than our Moon. Pretty close, in astronomical terms, but far from harm us.
That may not be the kind of news apocalyptic cults all over, and religions zealots of many cloths, would wish for. Thank goodness. Once again, they get tripped over by their own predicament.
As for reality-bounded folks like us, though, there’s still a lot to contemplate from what’s going on above us. For when meteors are not busy ending civilizations, they do teach us a lot about our origins and, quite possible, our near future.
A CLOSE ENCOUNTER
2005 YU55, the 400-meter diameter carbon-rich rock that’s about to zip by was discovered in Dec. 2008, and despite some concerns, was never Continue reading