Aiming for Alpha Centauri with Light-driven Nanocraft

Some people say we’re living through a golden age of science fiction and fantasy, and I for one agree. I’d also argue that we’re living through a golden age of science and exploration, especially of space.

Breakthrough Starshot is a new-to-me initiative whose aim is to “demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation.”

Breakthrough Starshot Light-driven Art image3

Alpha Centauri would be reachable within a reasonable timeframe if unmanned space flight could reach 20 % of the speed of light. Ultra-light craft with solar sails could, they calculate, reach and fly by the system in just over 20 years.

The Breakthrough Initiatives were founded in 2015 by Yuri and Julia Milner to “explore the Universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.”

Judging by their News section, however, Breakthrough Listen—which is “a $100 million program of astronomical observations in search of evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth” directed from UC Berkeley—is currently producing the most interesting results.

The board of Breakthrough Initiatives consists of three people as of this writing: Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg (yes, of the Facebook reputation), and Yuri Milner (an Israeli-Russian physicist, entrepreneur, and capitalist).

I must say that the initiative sounded more exciting to me prior to checking who the board are. Then again, who knows—after all, SpaceX has had its share of successes despite having essentially started as a millionnaire pet project. At least the Breakthrough Listen data is supposed to be open to the public.

Found via Helsingin Sanomat (NB. Finnish only).

This post has been edited for clarity.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Video Compilation of Roving on Mars

A new Mars video is out, and it’s incredibly beautiful. The compilation was created on the basis of images captured by three Mars rovers. The imagery was turned into a 10-minute video with amazing detail.

Yoinked from the description by ElderFox Documentaries on YouTube:

“A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video.

“The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched.”

New: Mars in 4K by ElderFox Documentaries on YouTube

It’s amazing enough to think that we, ugly bags of mostly water, have sent probes into the far reaches of our solar system to capture high-definition photos and send them back. Now we also have rovers on multiple planetary bodies. (Two counts as multiple in my book, LOL!)

Found via Colossal.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Mars City Test Build Outside Dubai Is in the Plans

At CNN, an article by Poppy Koronka returns to the project launched in 2017 by the United Arab Emirates to colonize Mars within the next 100 years.

To me, though, the real point of interest is that there are now architectural plans for a potential Martian city—and plans to build a test version in the desert outside Dubai.

Bjarke Ingels Group Dubai Exterior Air

Bjarke Ingels Group Dubai Rooftops

Quoting from Koronka’s article:

“Mars Science City was originally earmarked to cover 176,000 square meters of desert — the size of more than 30 football fields — and cost approximately $135 million.

“Intended as a space for Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to develop the technology needed to colonize Mars, architects Bjarke Ingels Group were asked to design a prototype of a city suitable for sustaining life on Mars — and then adapt it for use in the Emirati desert.”

 

Bjarke Ingels Group Mars Features

Bjarke Ingels Group Hybrid Building Method

The materials available online are surprisingly extensive; if interested, I definitely encourage you visit the Bjarke Ingels Group website to read further.

Bjarke Ingels Group Dubai Outdoors

I can’t say I routinely follow the Mars research; mostly I just read whatever happens to come my way, so plans this advanced were a surprise to me. Very impressive!

Found via File 770.

Images by Bjarke Ingels Group

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Squashed Between the Earth and Our Moon

This video by Nick (who posts as yeti dynamics) has been out for over a year at this writing, but it’s still very impressive: what would it look like if, as impossible it was, all of the planets (plus Pluto) in our solar system were between the Earth and our moon?

What would it Look like with all the planets between the earth and the moon? by yeti dynamics on YouTube

Wow. Great job, Nick!

Found via File 770.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Happy Belated Birthday, Hubble!

Oh my goodness, the Hubble telescope has turned 30 years!

NASA Large Magellanic Cloud Apr 2020 Sm

More specifically, it’s been operating, up there in Earth orbit, for 30 years. It was projected to be in service only about 10 years when it launched on April 24, 1990, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Impressive.

Read more at the NASA website:

Happy belated birthday, Hubble! Thank you for all of the space pics you’ve sent down.

Found via File 770.

Image: Large Magellanic Cloud, a vast star-forming region composed of the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020), by NASA / ESA / STScl via NASA

LightSail 2 Spacecraft Is Successfully Driven by Solar Sails

Have you guys heard of the LightSail project?

The Planetary Society LightSail 2 Australia New Guinea

Run by The Planetary Society (the world’s largest private non-profit space organization), LightSail is a crowdfunded project that successfully launched a solar sail driven spacecraft into Earth orbit in June 2019 in an effort to lower the cost of space exploration.

While not the first spacecraft to successfully use solar sails, LightSail 2 has managed to slow down the deterioration of its orbit and on occasion to reverse drag created by the atmosphere and correct course. Indeed: one of the mission’s functions is doubling as a probe of far-atmospheric thickness.

LightSail 2 deployed its solar sail in July 2019, and has been sending data down to Earth since then. Access the LightSail project page or LightSail 2 mission control for some interesting browsing.

Really cool, isn’t it?

Image: Australia and New Guinea from LightSail 2 by The Planetary Society (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission—the spaceflight that landed the first people on the Moon.

Ben Feist, a software engineer and historian at NASA Johnson Space Center, and a team of other experts put together a website for Apollo 11 video, audio, and pictures of the astronauts and mission control.

Apollo 11 in Real Time Ben Feist Screencap

The site consists entirely of original historical mission material, with data and audio restored plus transcripts corrected. There’s video, too, and views of the Earth receding and Moon showing up in the viewscreen, various details from the lunar surface, and support teams back home. And a whole host of additional data.

How cool is that!?!

Image: screencap from the Apollo 11 in Real Time website by Ben Feist

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Space Mural Bookcase Wall

Melissa Ng and her husband hacked their IKEA bookcases with a space peel-and-stick wall mural. The results certainly have more than a bit wow factor:

IKEAhackers Melissa Ng Space Mural Bookcase Wall
Melissa Ng, via IKEAhackers.

So cool, isn’t it?

I wonder whether there is any fantasy-themed peel-and-stick wallpaper—I noticed myself daydreaming of scifi book shelves backed with space murals, fantasy shelves with amazing forests or creatures, history with vintage wood or brick or castles, etc.

Found via IKEAhackers.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: The Occultation of Saturn

One of the best things about social media—like the Internet, too—is how many different phenomena you can witness if not first hand then at least in a secondary capacity; way more than would be possible in a regular human lifetime.

Case in point: the occultation of Saturn (i.e., hiding behind another object, in this case the moon) a few days ago.

Twitter Ian Griffin Saturn behind Moon
Ian Griffin on Twitter

This view and others on Griffin’s Twitter account were taken from Portobello in New Zealand.

Holy moly! The space nerd in me is impressed.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Happy Holiday Wishes with Northern Lights Seen from the ISS

I grew up seeing Northern Lights every winter, so for me they’re not a novelty—except when seen from space.

NASA Instagram ESA Alexander Gerst Northern Lights from Space

This amazing photo was taken by the European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst at the International Space Station.

I think it’s fair to say we’re living in an age quite unlike any previous one from a scientific and research perspective. It’s amazing and incredible.

We’re vacationing for a week or so. Until then, Happy Merry!

Image: Northern Lights from space ESA/NASA-A.Gerst via NASA at Instagram.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.