Carnival of Space 170

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The Carnival of Space 170 is up at the National Geographic Breaking Orbit blog.

This site provided an article of different high power density systems to go with VASIMR plasma rockets.

The VASIMR mission  architectures with the 39-day travel times had assumed an overall mission mass of approximately 600 tons. The VASIMR-based Mars mission concepts, he said, assume an alpha of 1 kg/kW.

Here we will review ways to approach or exceed 1 kg/kw power sources, which would enable VASIMR rocket to get to Mars in 39 days.

Molten Salt Fast Reactor would take about 50 kg of plutonium and get to about 3 kg/kw.

Uranium nitride reactors are funded and being commercially developed for 2013-2018 and could get to 2-3 kg/kw.

Vapor Core Reactors have a bunch of academic study and are expected to achieve 0.3-1 kg/kw.

Stretched lens solar arrays could go from 3kg/kw to 1kg/kw.

A proposed strontium 90 beta decay thermophotovoltaic system could achieve 10kg/kw and better photovoltaics and other improvements might enable about 5kg/kw

Alan Boyle at MSNBC Cosmic Log looks at Boeing plans for space tours by 2015

The Boeing Co. and Virginia-based Space Adventures unveiled the outlines of their deal to market passenger seats on orbital spaceships. Boeing’s commercial space capsule, known as the CST-100, is expected to be operational by 2015. The craft’s main purpose will be to service the space station after the space shuttle fleet is retired. Boeing expects there to be open seats on the CST-100 space taxis — which should be able to seat seven, albeit under tighter conditions than those that exist on the shuttle. Space Adventures will be given the task of marketing those extra seats to non-NASA customers once the capsule comes online. The best they could say was that the price would be competitive with the cost of a ride on a station-bound Russian Soyuz craft, which is currently pegged at $40 million a seat.

Universe Today talks about the prediction that a habitable exoplanet will be found in 2011.

Centauri Dreams examines a bioengineered future in deep space.

Assuming we eventually find and travel to a planet that could sustain human life (and assume as well that no sentient species lives there), which would be the superior moral choice: 1) Terraforming the entire world so as to suit our kind of life; or 2) Bioengineering our colonists so that they adapt to the environment they find themselves in?

Ian O’Neill at Discovery News wonders What if the sun’s magnetic field weakened so much that it wasn’t able to muster the strength to produce a single sunspot?

This scenario may sound a little odd, but according to researchers at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona, the sun is exhibiting a strange decline in magnetic strength, the driving factor behind sunspot production.

e researchers have noticed an average magnetic field strength decrease of 50 Gauss per year (as a comparison, the Earth’s magnetic field barely measures in at 1 Gauss).

“…we assume that the magnetic threshold of 1500 Gauss represents a real physical
limit for the formation of a dark spot (either a pore or a sunspot) on the solar photosphere,” they add.

If the decreasing trend continues its downward slope, by 2016, the average sunspot magnetic field has the potential to be below this 1500 Gauss threshold, leading to the possibility that the sun will generate no sunspots.

The last time this happened in documented history was in the 17th and 18th century when the sun didn’t produce any sunspots for decades. This extended period of calm, known as the Maunder Minimum, coincided with an extended period of cooling on Earth, a period called the Little Ice Age

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