How to Explore a Planet? You Need to be Airborne! #poem #poetry #NASA #MAR2020 #drone

NASA concept - helicopter on Mars

NASA concept of a helicopter on Mars

About to leave for Mars.
No, it cannot fly through space.
It hitchhikes for the ride.
Once its rover host
Touches down
And backs off quite a ways,
Will relay orders from the Earth,
To test it makes the grade.
Can solar cells keep it charged,
And keep it warm at night?
Can it rise three meters high
On a ninety second flight?
Then we’ll have a helicopter
On another world.
As thrilling
A capability
As any that I’ve heard.

Kate Rauner

It may seem like a small step, but Mars’ atmosphere is like flying 100,000 ft above Earth’s surface, about three times the height of commercial airplanes. Many outlets cover this element of the Mars 2020 mission, including Reuters


Europa-Best Chance to Find ET Life and Congress Says We Gotta Go #NASA #science #tech #solarsystem

Europa_mosaicWho says Congress can’t get anything done? They’ve told NASA “you gotta go,” could be as soon as 2022. Jupiter’s gravitational flexing generates a lot of heat inside the moon – enough for a 150 km deep water ocean to exist under the ice crust.

What’s more, rusty colored stains on the ice around the cracks suggest that the water is heavy in salts and minerals. Chemistry plus energy plus time—all of which Europa has in the right mix—may be all that is necessary to cook up life…

[A lander’s] ultimate goal would be to peer directly into the calmer waters of the ocean and perhaps even go swimming.

Congress is a blunt instrument, so I hope their requirements don’t hurt the mission. NASA still has problems to solve. But I can’t wait to find out what’s swimming in Europa’s seas.

Thanks to for the article and quote.

Mars Odyssey 15th Birthday #NASA #science #space #Mars

Not what Odyssey found on Mars - those must be tattoos on the princess - no way they'd stay in place as she moves

Not what Odyssey found on Mars – those must be tattoos on the princess – no way they’d stay in place as she moves

Odyssey launched on April 7 fifteen years ago. It was NASA’s 2001 space odyssey, named for the classic scifi novel, and became the longest-lived Mars spacecraft in history. It still has fuel for several more years.

There was a lot we wanted Odyssey to accomplish: study geology and radiation, and hunt for water. Water is important to humanity’s future on Mars, and understanding the planet’s radiation environment is vital to keeping explorers and (maybe?) colonists alive. Geology may determine where the first human explorers touch down. Odyssey became a relay station for surface craft that followed it, so it’s part of many missions.

We know so much more about Mars than before Odyssey, even if there are

Scifi colonists may not survive on the real planet Mars

Scifi colonists may not survive on the real planet Mars

still plenty of mysteries. Mars has become a real place rather than a backdrop for fantasy and serious efforts are underway to send people to Mars – to explore, to learn, and perhaps to colonize. But not to rescue scantily clad princesses. Today we need black holes or warp drive to reach such space creatures.

Happy Birthday Odyssey.

Thanks to

Latest Group of Martians Finish Their Mission #Mars #space #explore

Mars Society domeCould you live for eight months in a dome – about the size of two two-car garages stacked one on top of the other – sealed in with five coworkers? You’d be monitored via surveillance cameras and body-movement trackers. You’d have email and internet, but with a twenty minute lag (makes my rural-America internet look great!) You’d have some work to do outside your dome, but you’d have to wear a space suit.

Sound like a new reality show?

It’s a NASA Mars Analog – the third mission ended recently. They’re learning what makes life more bearable – I noticed a few recipe contests – and what personality traits go into the best teams.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa leads this study, with support from team members at Cornell University, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, University of South Florida, the University of Maryland, the Institutes for Behavior Resources, Smart Information Flow Technologies, Blue Planet Foundation, and from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES).

NASA’s not the only outfit worried about the technical and psychological problems that may assault the first humans on the Red Planet. The Mars Society has run over a dozen short Mars simulations.

Not all the obstacles can be tested on Earth: not the effects of low gravity, invasive dust, and the fact that no one can help you – at least, not for a long time. But we can study the social, interpersonal, and cognitive factors that affect teams. Biosphere Two tried a two-year experiment and that team had numerous interpersonal conflicts.

Of course, eight months may not be long enough to simulate what it will be like to be a Martian. Some volunteers are ready to spend the rest of their lives on Mars. It will be difficult and dangerous. Would you go?

#NASA ponders sending #spaceship to icy moons: Enceladus – What Tell Ya Us? #poetry #science #poem

Enceladus orbits i Saturn's E Ring - it's water geysers may have created the ring. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute PIA08321

Enceladus orbits in Saturn’s E Ring – it’s water geysers may have created the ring. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute PIA08321

Wrenched by Saturn’s gravity,
By tides within its core,
Or radioactive isotopes
Releasing heat galore.

A water ocean circulates
Beneath an icy shell
That blocks the solar photons.
Here living things could dwell.

Consider near-bacteria,
Imagine pseudo-fish.
Supporting life like this.

Oceans are revealed, by geysers
Blasting through the cold.
Jets from the southern pole.

Mostly water vapor,
Some nitrogen, organics.
A sample thrown into the sky
If we can just collect it.

What may have surfed its boiling plumes?
What from the depths might rise?
A pseudo-fish’s brethren
On Saturn’s rings may ride.

By Kate Rauner

R&R 1 2nd edition ebook cover

2nd edition now available! Expanded!

Visit for possible missions to Europa and Enceladus, two moons that may harbor life in their liquid water oceans. See more on Enceladus at wikipedia.

Visit me for a new poem every other post (or so.) Or try one of my collections – science inspired rhyming poetry, and a few haiku too.

#Pluto – Ringleader of the #KuiperBelt

Pluto's heart shaped feature - NASA

Pluto’s heart shaped feature – NASA

Pluto and Charon – a double system that steals that uniqueness from Earth/Moon. Pluto – orbiting in an ecliptic plane all its own, weird compared to the Sun’s planets. Pluto – largest of the Kuiper Belt objects (that status retrieved from Eris thanks to New Horizons). Pluto – in its own vast ring of millions of objects, the largest known object in the solar system beyond Neptune. Pluto – whose minions have infiltrated closer to the Sun as Neptune’s moon Triton and Saturn‘s Phoebe.

Pluto – no dull, frozen lump. “NASA scientists giddily throwing around words like ‘amazing’ and ‘mind-blowing.’ The pictures appear to upend some of our previous ideas about the presumed dead, dwarf planet. Most notably, it might not be dead.” []

It’s “geology is ‘astoundingly amazing,’ declaimed Jeffrey Moore, New Horizons co-investigator. He focused on the ‘vast crater-less planes’ he’s also calling ‘not-easy-to-explain terrain’ and ‘icy frozen plains’.”

Pluto sports “one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system.” Some ice peaks are as tall as mountains in the Rockies, and still rising from geological activity not understood. All this, and scientists have only received about 2% of the data New Horizons has collected.

Pluto – who needs to be called a “planet” by bureaucrats on some distant, inner sphere?

BTW 1 – I was also thrilled to discover, once again, that what I know ain’t so. I’ve had in my head that the Sun would appear as merely another bright star from Pluto. No so! “The Sun from Pluto is still pretty dang intense. It would hardly look like just any other star: it would greatly outshine everything else in the sky. Painful to look at, most likely.” badastronomy

BTW 2 – I don’t get personally agitated over calling Pluto a dwarf-planet. Human beings love words to the point of arguing over the abstraction rather than seeing the reality. Are viruses alive? Can an Australopithecus anamensis mother birth an Australopithecus afarensis baby? Is Pluto a planet or a dwarf-planet? These are questions about labels, not about reality.

I’ve quoted a few articles above, but search on “Pluto New Horizons” and you’ll find tons.