The waves came from two black holes circling each other, closer and closer, until they finally collided. The recently upgraded Large Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) captured the signal on Sept. 14, 2015. Not every scientific discovery gets this kind of reception, so what exactly is all the hype about, and what's next for LIGO now that it has spotted these elusive waves?
First of all, detecting two colliding black holes is thrilling by itself — no one knew for sure if black holes actually merged together to create even more-massive black holes, but now there's physical proof. And there's the joy of finally having direct evidence for a phenomenon that was first predicted (by Einstein)100 years ago, using an instrument that was proposed 40 years ago.
Most of us see the Moon as just a small circle in the sky. Naveen Jain, co-founder and chairman of space-mining startup Moon Express, sees quadrillions of dollars worth of valuable minerals, more than a million tonnes of fusion fuel and some prime business estate -- and he wants to own it.
"So many resources which are extremely rare on Earth are abundant on the Moon," Jain says. "We shouldn't only be mining the Earth, we should be thinking of the Moon as our eighth continent."
Last December, Moon Express became the first private company to successfully build and test a Moon-capable robotic lander -- the MX-1 -- here on Earth. By 2016, it plans to land on the Moon itself in a bid to claim the $20 million (£13m) Google Lunar XPRIZE for the first private lander to successfully travel 500 metres along the surface and transmit high-definition imagery back home. In October, in partnership with Nasa, it was on track to launch a shuttle to retrieve experiments from the International Space Station.
For the past 15 years, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has been the great mystery of the space industry. The rocket company, founded by the Amazon.com chief executive officer, received attention because of its super-rich backer and the occasional test-launch video that wowed space geeks. For the most part, though, Blue Origin avoided publicity and, frankly, didn’t seem to be accomplishing all that much relative to its peers—namely, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But it’s now very clear that Blue Origin is ready to move into the limelight and that a modern, thrilling space race is well underway.
On Monday, Blue Origin sent its New Shepard ship into space and brought the body of the rocket back down to earth. The spaceship landed just four and half feet from where it took off, despite 120-mile-per-hour crosswinds. “Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” Bezos said in a statement. “Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”
US space agency NASA is offering startups a license to 15 categories of patented NASA technologies for free.
The move follows Google's offer earlier this year of 'free' patents to select startups - and it could be just as valuable given the 1,200 patented technologies available for license under NASA's new Technology Transfer Program.
NASA hopes the program will make life easier for cash-strapped startups short on intellectual property, which would effectively be repurposing NASA's existing patents for new commercial products or services.
Tired of the bragging it hears from the IT vendors, NASA is using its rockets to launch colored clouds.
“Rocket launches are spectacular, “wow” events that most of us don’t get to see with our own eyes. But between 7 and 9 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 7, residents in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States may get a glimpse of NASA”s next suborbital launch from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Approximately six minutes after launch, the sounding rocket will deploy four sub-payloads containing mixtures of barium and strontium will be released, creating a cloud that is blue-green and red in color.
Residents from Long Island, New York, 235 miles north of the launch site, to Morehead City, North Carolina, 232 miles south, 165 miles west in Charlottesville, Virginia -- and everyone in between -- could get a glimpse of the colorful evening launch.”
The movie, The Martian, is a testament to fierce human determination to survive, and it is also a tribute to human ingenuity. I predict it will be good for NASA and for STEM broadly.
Mark Watney, the Matt Damon character, describes his predicament
“I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty- one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.”
But he does not crawl under a rock and die, he innovates and then some as the movie vividly shows.
The characters are science polymaths as one explains
“Everyone has multiple roles. I’m the doctor, the biologist, and the EVA specialist. Commander Lewis is our geologist. Johanssen is the sysop and reactor tech. Martinez pilots the MDV and MAV. “
Ridley Scott, the director, is no stranger to space and science fiction with credits like Alien and Promotheus. This movie weaves in the Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA locations in Houston and Cape Canaveral, and from the Chinese space agency – and celebrates astrodynamicists, botanists and a variety of other STEM careers.
The movie is adapted from a book which in itself is a tribute to crowdsourcing of STEM disciplines. In 2009, Andy Weir
“started posting the story chapter by chapter on his personal blog where anyone could read it for free. The early version of his self-published book attracted a lot of science-minded readers, and they offered feedback. Weir is a (software engineer and) space nerd, but he says chemistry is not his area of expertise. "Chemists actually pointed out some problems in early drafts," Weir said.”
NASA is basking in the PR from the movie. In a blog post they say
The Martian movie is set 20 years in the future, but here at NASA we are already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film. The movie takes the work we’re doing and extends it into fiction set in the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface. Here are a few ways The Martian movie compares to what we’re really doing on our journey to Mars.
Go enjoy the thrilling movie. Even more so, thank it for the next generation of STEM enthusiasts it will encourage.
Fired from a jet plane, the LauncherOne rocket lifts satellites weighing as much as 500 pounds into orbit for about $10 million per launch, much less than the $50 million to $60 million most of its competitors charge.