I miss old Mars. The Mars of imagination, the world with deep blue skies and red deserts filled with whatever magical societies and cities our whims desired. Real Mars is interesting too, and it’s there, and it’s what we’re going to have to deal with if we ever leave this planet. That Mars too can … More The wonder of old Mars and its sands
The problem with going to Mars (of which the Moon, I am told, is a part) is that it’s not just a long way off, it’s also kind of desolate. No atmosphere to speak of. Barren. Waterless, except a bit. Was once a fertile place. Then it suffered climate change. All that was about three … More Let’s go to Mars (of which the Moon is a part)
Lately space science has made a slightly disturbing discovery. Space travel makes you go blind. Really. It’s a bit of a surprise, given that in other ways science has found solutions for most of the biomedical problems of free fall and, along the way, learned an awful lot about osteoporosis, which is a spinoff of … More Don’t space travel. You’ll go blind.
Shiver in your shoes, Martians! This month – specifically, 19 October at 18:28 Zulu – Comet C/2013 A1 ‘Siding Spring’ makes its closest approach to Mars. The nucleus, a few kilometres in diameter, will come a smidgeon under 120,000km from the red planet. That’s close. Though not as close as once feared. When the comet was … More Is Comet Siding Spring going to turn our Mars probes into shredded tinfoil?
They were heady days, the 1960s. Back then nothing seemed too big to engineer on Earth. Or off it. When the moon race began in 1961, humanity had barely begun to step into space. But the job was done – twice. The Soviets had a serious programme, but started late, were under-funded, and work was divided … More Remembering ROMBUS and days of future passed
I am often bemused by people who use ‘why is the sky blue’ as rhetoric – often to symbolise some question for which there is no answer. Actually there is an answer, and we’ve known it since 1871: ‘Rayleigh scattering’. It’s also why sunsets look red and orange. The effect is named after John William Strutt, … More Why is the sky blue? And other annoyingly rhetorical questions
NASA has plans afoot to build a second nuclear powered Mars rover, Curiosity style, and land it on the planet in 2020 with another fireball-and-rocket crane spectacular. Once there it will look directly for signs of ancient life, on the logic that there won’t be any to find easily today. But an older, wetter and … More Is there life on Mars – again?