New Horizons and Ultima Thule – the bonus mission

On 1 January 2019 the New Horizons probe – the one that whipped past Pluto in 2015 – will encounter another outer solar-system body: 2014 MU69. Informally it’s become known as Ultima Thule. The neat part is that this body wasn’t even known when New Horizons was launched in January 2006. Back then, the probe … More New Horizons and Ultima Thule – the bonus mission

Space X’s trans-lunar mission isn’t a new idea – but it’s cool

I don’t know whether to applaud or shudder at Elon Musk’s announcement that Space-X will launch a private ‘moon tourist’ mission late in 2018. I want to applaud because it’s deeply cool, damned bold, and it’s what humanity needs to be doing if we’re to keep any kind of space dream alive. Good stuff. But … More Space X’s trans-lunar mission isn’t a new idea – but it’s cool

Five cool things about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven worlds

It’s SO COOL that we’ve found seven rocky and (broadly) Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star just 39 light years away. How cool? I’m talking leap in the air and shout ‘this is totally fucking uber-cool‘ scale cool. It’s exciting like nothing else astronomical for a long while. It’s – well, figure this: it’s … More Five cool things about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven worlds

Breakfast in space, on an asteroid, in a tin can

The other day I picked up an interesting snippet about the likely breakfast menu on NASA’s upcoming Orion spacecraft. Because the vehicle is weight- and volume-critical, there are going to be problems packing enough food in for the expected 28-30 day duration asteroid investigation missions. The same issue also applies to storing the – er … More Breakfast in space, on an asteroid, in a tin can

Would aliens attack us, Independence Day style?

The idea of aliens arriving and promptly attacking us, Independence Day fashion, recently popped up again largely on the back of another Independence Day movie. But it’s also been offered as a warning by no less a person than Stephen Hawking. And when Hawking says something – well, it pays to listen. Is it true … More Would aliens attack us, Independence Day style?

Why the new ‘Earth 2.0’ is more likely to be Venus 1.1

This week the SETI institute announced they were going to check the newly discovered Earth-size world 1400 light years away, Kepler 452b, for radio transmissions. I don’t think they’ll find any. Here’s why. The problem is that near-Earth size, insolation and orbit – which is all we know just now – doesn’t necessarily mean Earth-like. The planet was … More Why the new ‘Earth 2.0’ is more likely to be Venus 1.1