1. Amy Shira Teitel (Vintage Spa ce) Building off the success and public response to Curiosity, NASA has renewed its commitment to exploring Mars. But the new plan is really a rehashed, lesser version of the old plan he agency abandoned 10 months ago because it was too expensive.
Yesterday, NASA announced a bold new plan of exploration for the coming decade on Mars. It’s exciting. I love plans that include a methodical exploration of other worlds that will help answer the bigger questions out there, like why Mars developed into such a different world than the other inner bodies. But looking a little closer at what few details the agency’s released, it looks less like a concrete plan with a goal and more of a bid to capitalize on Curiosity’s unexpected fame. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just sort of an odd thing.
In brief, the new Mars plan will see a series of smaller missions launch in the next eight years culminating in a flagship mission in 2020. In 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter will reach the Red Planet. The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – InSIGHT – mission will follow in 2016 and take the first look into Mars’ interior. NASA will also support the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars missions – it will provide the “Electra” telecommunication radios to its 2016 orbiter and an astrobiology instrument on its 2018 rover. The climax will be another science-heavy rover akin to Curiosity launched in 2020.
Both the Moon and Mercury have similar polar environments and processes. The long debate – a scientific controversy for over 50 years – about water at the poles of these objects has been resolved. The next steps will be to characterize these deposits in situ using a soft lander and selected instruments to measure the amounts, states and distributions of water in the polar areas. Because of the great difficulty in even getting into orbit around Mercury (let alone landing there), doing this first on the Moon will mostly likely happen first. So, here again is another rationale for sending a robotic surveying lander and rover mission to the poles of the Moon – in addition to characterizing these areas for our future presence there, by inference, we will also learn about the polar processes on and environment of Mercury.
7. Artscope blog – In a ground breaking world first – A LIVE exoplanet transit was broadcast into a Google Plus Hangout on air for the #deSTEMber event at the +Google Science Fair and +Girlstart promoting the STEM curriculum and women connecting with science. Peter Lake, Scott Lewis, Shahrin Ahmad and Tamara Hudgins were special guest hosts – and they nailed it.
9. #100 100th Everyday Spacer Part 1 If some ‘critical mass’ of Everyday Spacers may tip the scales and leverage the whole world to some awareness and/or action, how can we decide against doing everything we can to make the possibility come true?
Just by sharing the beauty of APOD or the night sky, inspire others by reading to children, use social media to ‘share’ cool space stuff, read Abundance and understand accelerating acceleration, find blogs like Simventure, we could get our ’100th Everyday Spacer’ (monkey) and the innovation – travel to the stars can “…jumped over the sea…” and we will give future generations hope, room, wealth, innovations, spinoffs… and more.
12. Links Through Space has the story on the Asteroid Toutatis. Read the article as the asteroid makes it’s closest approach to Earth. Asteroid 1749 Toutatis is really special to our astronomy club, as we bare it’s name. This peculiar asteroid will be visited by one of our satellites, so it makes of this event even better to follow!
14. Nextbigfuture – Scientists have long suspected that a vast ocean of liquid water lies under the crust. A new study suggests that the internally generated heat that keeps that ocean from freezing solid depends far more on Titan’s interactions with Saturn and its other moons than had been suspected.
“The picture of Titan that we get has an icy, rocky core with a radius of a little over 2,000 kilometers, an ocean somewhere in the range of 225 to 300 kilometers thick and an ice layer that is 200 kilometers thick,” he said.
Previous models of Titan’s structure estimated the icy crust to be approximately 100 kilometers thick. So if there is more ice, then there should be less heat from the core than had been estimated. One way to account for less heat being generated internally is for there to be less rock and more ice in the core than previous models had predicted.