Mars-ward Ho #space #science #explore #Mars #tech @MarsOneProject #SpaceX

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

Orbiting the planet,
above Viking’s bones,
Odyssey’s a switchboard
that seeks new landing zones.
Global Mars Surveyor
measures gravity,
Magnetosphere, minerals,
and topography.
MAVEN and Mangalyaan
sniff at the Martian air,

Japan will gather samples
and bring them back from there.
Joining Opportunity
in studying the rocks,
Rover Curiosity
seeks life’s building blocks.

UAE will gather data
on the frigid dry climate.
China’s rover should be very good
at biotech.

Yup, that's me at Biosphere 2

Yup, that’s me at Biosphere 2

Sands of a planet solely occupied
by robots,
Soon will carry boot-prints from
eager astronauts.
Far beyond horizons
where ancestors have roamed,
Mars One and SpaceX
want to claim Mars as a home.

By Kate Rauner

The list of missions to Mars – failed and successful – is long, but the list of planned missions is growing longer. Thanks to for the update. You can visit Biosphere 2 in Arizona where environmental studies are ongoing.

Visit Mars yourself, in my science fiction series On Mars.

On Mars 3 covers over planet (298x300)



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.

O Pluto, Pluto! Wherefore art thou #Pluto? #space #NASA #science

Tis but a moniker that yields strife;pluto-in-true-color_2x_JPEG-edit-frame
Thou art thyself, though not a planet.
What’s planet? It is nor rock, nor atmosphere,
Nor dwarf, nor comet,
Nor bow wave in the solar winds.
But intermediate twixt them all, and unique,
Orbiting the Sun.
Retain that dear perfection
And doff attempts to classify.
Oh, be some other thing!
That which we call a rose
By any other name
Would smell as sweet.

By Kate Rauner
With apologies to The Bard

Thanks to and Plutophiles everywhere.

Just Saw Mercury #mercurytransit #space

sun porjected - sorry, but the dots of sunspots and Mercury too small to show up in the photo

sun projected – sorry, but the dots of sunspots and Mercury too small to show up in the photo

Mercury is transiting the sun – right now! With our small telescope projecting onto a piece of white paper (never look directly at the sun!) I can see a sunspot group and a dot of shadow. Had to check twice over an hour to see that dot had moved relative to the sunspots – to be sure it’s Mercury. Cool.

Galactic Year – a #SolarSystem #poem by Kate Rauner



As our sphere orbits Sun,
So Sun orbits Black Hole
At the center of our galaxy,
As eternity unfolds.

In a quarter billion earthly years
Our solar system circles round,
Weaves thru the mid galactic plane
Where other stars are densely found.

Fifteen times since life began
We have circum-rotated,
And ten times in each orbit grand
The planet’s devastated.

Our Sun’s own cloud of comets
On the solar system’s edge
Are jostled from their sedate paths,
Fall inward from their ledge.

With corresponding timing
Ancient craters have been found.
It seems Earth’s plagued with comet storms
As the cosmic year spins round.

Life sized model

Life sized model

Bombardments are not good for life.
Half a dozen times
Mass extinctions cleared our world
As doomsday peals chimed.

Things have been quiet for some time
Since dinosaurs disappeared.
The Sun careens past cosmic dust,
Dark matter, stars, and fears.

Such grand cosmic motion can only be estimated, and the number of Earth’s mass-extinctions depends on your definition, but our movement through the galaxy makes me feel very small and oblivious. on extinctions and comet strikes
Wikipedia on Galactic year

Colony On Mars – First Step for Who? Or What? #Mars #explore #space #solar #sun


Hallucigenia_sparsa (200x156)

Wonderful Hallucigenia of the Burgess Shale fossils.

“Eventually we’ll have to get out of this solar system because our Sun is dying. If humans want to survive as a species they’ll have to get out.” Stephen Petranek, award-winning science writer – see his TED talk on the end of the world.

Many people want a colony on Mars as insurance against human extinction on Earth – usually from nuclear war to asteroid impacts.

But from the Sun dying?

In 5 billion years or so the Sun will expand and swallow the inner planets before collapsing into a white dwarf.

But in only 2.8 billion years life on Earth will end when the last of the hardiest microbes die off in the Sun’s brutal solar output. Humanity’s progeny will be gone long before then.

Two new modeling studies find that the gradually brightening Sun won’t vaporize our planet’s water for at least another 1 to 1.5 billion years. Earth will suffer a “runaway greenhouse” in 600 million to 700 million years when we’d probably be best off living in undersea cities.

Realistically, how long have we got? Let’s choose a nice, round 500 million years. Let’s say all goes well – we adapt to global warming, we refrain from exterminating ourselves, and we grow into an admirable species. That species will not be Homo sapiens.

Five hundred million years is a long time. Looking backwards at history, the Cambrian explosion of life was well underway 500 million years ago when various fascinating wormy creatures lived in Earth’s oceans. It took over 400 million years for primates to originate (85 million years ago) and another 65 millions years for the Hominid family to emerge (20 million years ago). Another 15 million years passed before our own genus, Homo, emerged (3 million years ago – there’s no point in being too specific on timing – just round the numbers off), and you still wouldn’t want to bring Homo habilis home.

What does this mean? Five hundred million years from now, our descendants will be as different from us and we are from Hallucigenia.

How much do you care about these strange future creatures?

I once read a science fiction story where nuclear war destroyed most of the world, and a few people survived on barren Pacific atolls where they evolved into something like walruses. How much effort would you put into preserving that species?

Go to Mars, go to Europa or Titan. Aim for the stars. But don’t worry about the Sun exploding.

Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What alien_wizard_fenn_03.svg.medwonders, or terrors, does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in…the Outer Limits,” The Sixth Finger episode.

#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.