Tag Archives: NASA

EmDrive – Has NASA Created a Warp Field?

The latest news out of NASA is that the experimental EmDrive has produced some rather interesting results. While the propulsion system, which doesn’t run on any kind of fuel and produces microwaves to provide thrust, is highly experimental and very controversial, it’s created a lot of buzz recently.

NASA did an experiment where they fired lasers through the resonance chamber to where the thrust comes from. It’s still unknown how it does it and where the microwaves come from. But the strange thing is that the lasers appear to travel faster than the speed of light through the resonance chamber. This means it may be producing something similar to a warp field. Crazy, isn’t it?

This is the set up for the Eagleworks Warp-Field Interferometer Test
This is the set up for the Eagleworks Warp-Field Interferometer Test

Well, they need to be able to reproduce this in a vacuum, which is the next step of the experiment.  If it produces the same effect, that is the lasers travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, then this may verify that faster than light travel may be possible. Of course, they’ll keep doing tests to see if they can get consistent results, and also to figure out what the heck is going on.

This is all happening while there’s a strong push to search for extraterrestrial life, on Mars (which has had exciting results recently), on Europa, on Enceladus, and beyond the solar system. Even Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist predicted earlier this month that we’ll discover evidence of alien life by 2025.

Also, in the past few years, we’ve seen the development of technologies such as tablet computers (PADD from Star Trek), teleportation of photons and information (transporter), 3D printers (replicators), the potential for 3D printing of food (food replicators), injections without the use of a needle (hypospray), and even the possibility of developing tractor beams, energy shields, cloaking devices, and more.  Is Star Trek coming true?

You know what I think? Gene Roddenberry was actually from the future. He came back in time to create Star Trek and plant the seeds of all those ideas in the minds of young people so they would invent everything from Star Trek and set in motion the whole Star Trek reality.

No?

What do you think about everything that’s going on?

An Ocean on Ganymede

It seems that after I posted about possible life-bearing worlds in our solar system, all these announcements have come out.  Well, now it’s Ganymede’s turn.  Not on my top five list, it may need to be included, though looking at the structure of Ganymede, it’s still a low possibility.

Ganymede_g1_true_2Ganymede is the largest natural satellite in the solar system, even larger than the planet Mercury, but it doesn’t contain as much mass.  The reason is that Mercury has a huge iron core, while Ganymede’s is smaller.  It’s also not common for a moon to have an iron core, and it and Europa are the only two icy moons to be lucky enough.  Ganymede’s molten iron core gives it the distinction of having its own magnetic field, and even aurora.  And it’s just that particular feature that scientists were looking at with the Hubble Space Telescope.  What it enabled them to discover (or rather confirm what has been guessed) that Ganymede has a very thick salty ocean that is 100 km deep.  That means that it has more liquid water than Earth does.  That is quite remarkable.

So what does this mean for life on Ganymede?  Well, considering that the ocean layer is sandwiched between an icy crust and an ice mantle, I don’t think there’s much of a chance of hydrothermal vents.  More like no chance.  That ice mantle is extremely thick.  This differs from Europa in that the smaller icy moon has a liquid water ocean over a rocky mantle.  Europa has a far better chance at having hydrothermal vents and life.  But it’s still very interesting, and I’m really enjoying the recent discoveries.

You can read a full writeup on this at The Planetary Society.

Welcome to Ceres

Welcome to a new world.  The largest asteroid is now being visited.  It’s also the smallest dwarf planet.  NASA’s Dawn is currently nearing Ceres and will be entering into orbit around it over the next day.  We’ve been treated to some great images of it over the last month.

A couple months ago, we knew there was a bright spot on Ceres.  A month ago, we could see it was still there.  A couple weeks ago, we saw that it was very bright and small.  More recently, we found out it was actually two bright spots.  But we don’t see it clearly enough yet.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Just look at that.  What the hell is that?  It’s so much brighter than the surrounding surface, and even as it passes over the terminator from day into night, it’s still bright for a short time.  It’s in the centre of a large impact crater, so it’s possible it’s the central peak of the crater.  However, there are two of them.  Could they be fresh impact craters that revealed ice below the dark regolith?  Or are they ice volcanoes?

As Dawn explores Ceres over the next year, we should learn a lot about it.

What do you think that bright spot is?

The Great White Spot of Ceres

Dawn is approaching Ceres.  In just over a month, on March 6th, Dawn will enter orbit around the largest asteroid and one of the so-called dwarf planets.  It’s 952 km in diameter, which is pretty big for an object that isn’t quite a planet.  It’s relatively spherical, as well.

There are many mysteries that will be addressed as Dawn orbits Ceres, including whether it may have a possible liquid water ocean lurking beneath its icy crust, and if it’s venting water vapour into a possible tenuous atmosphere.  But the big thing that many people are wondering is what’s that bright spot?

PIA19168-Ceres-DawnSpacecraft-20150113-AnimationThe above animation was captured by Dawn on January 13th, 2015, and this is the best view we had of Ceres up to that date.  There are evidently impact craters.  The bright spot is easily visible in the images.  But what is it?  Is it fresh ice from a liquid ocean below?  Or is it a recent impact crater?  Either one is possible, but my guess is that it’s a fresh crater.  What’s wonderful is that we’ll know very soon.

jan25-dawn-ceresAnd looking at the most recent image from January 25th, we get an even clearer view.

What do you think that bright spot is?

The Skies of Mars Are Getting Busy

Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey are being joined by a pair of probes this week.  There will be five active orbiters around Mars.  That’s certainly a new record.

MAVEN concept art, NASA.
MAVEN concept art, NASA.

Already arrived is NASA’s MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. It arrived at Mars on September 22nd, and has assumed orbit.  It will study the atmosphere and try to determine where the water had gone.  What’s interesting is that it’ll study how quickly the atmosphere is being stripped away by solar winds, so they may be able to extrapolate the thickness of the atmosphere billions of years ago, as well as see how much water there was.

Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.
Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.

The second probe arriving at Mars is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), or Mangalyaan. It arrives at Mars today! This mission is exciting not because of what it will do, as much of it is pretty simple compared to what NASA and ESA orbiters have done, but it is the first time India has sent a probe to another planet.  Seeing other countries with successful interplanetary missions is very encouraging.  Apart from testing the technology, which is the primary mission, it also has scientific secondary objectives, including studying the mineralogy, morphology, and atmosphere.  This should be interesting.

Pretty busy at Mars now, isn’t it?  Which mission are you interested in?