Seeing as how SpaceX managed to pull off the first commercial rocket launch to reach orbit over the weekend, I figure we’re allowed to get a bit excited about space again… it’s a welcome distraction from the World Cup, if nothing else. It might have been even more of a distraction to our antipodean friends, some of whom spotted weird lights in the sky that may (or may not) have been parts of the Falcon 9 falling back to Earth [via SlashDot].
But who can we trust to tell us the truth of it, hmmm? After all, the Chinese have a history of telling porkies about their space program, and hell knows the Cold War space race was all about giving the people the story you wanted them to believe… it might be fun to work as a spin doctor for a multinational space company.
Speaking of the Cold War, did you know that Venera, the Russian mission to Venus, was the first to send back photographic images from another planet? If any nation-state or corporation is taking a poll on where we should send space probes next, my vote goes for Titan – it’d be fun to find out if those atmospheric anomalies are actually the signal of methane-based microbial life that they appear to be…
Combining two of the most compelling tropes from science fiction: floating cities and colonising other planets, Geoffrey Landis, a scientist at the NASA Glenn Research Center (who also writes science fiction, apparently) suggest the idea that humans could live in aerostatic cities in the upper atmosphere of Venus:
50 km above the surface, Venus has air pressure of approximately 1 bar and temperatures in the 0
A big team of astronomers studying Venus’ atmosphere have found a new type of heavier carbon dioxide molecule that absorbs more heat than the one more commonly found on Mars or Earth. The molecule, which is believed to have two additional neutrons in one of its oxygen atoms, allows it to absorb an additional infrared wavelength of 3.3 microns, which is what tipped the teams off to the discovery. They believe this is part of the reason Venus has such a hot atmosphere – the bigger percentage of these molecules creates an even bigger Greenhouse Gas effect than normal CO2.
As soon as I read this article comparing Mars’ cold atmosphere to Venus’ hot one in relation to the quantities of this new molecule, I immediately thought of Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Red Mars’. If this gas contributes more global warming than normal CO2, in the future it may be a very valuable tool if we ever came to terraform our red neighbour.
[link and image via ScienceDaily]