Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Space -- the good, the bad, and the oblivious

Lots of interesting news about space  -- you know we SF authors love the stuff. But interesting and credible can be different ...

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has completed a year on station. And an exciting year it's been. I'm especially impressed by the quantity of data: 40 terabytes! Read all about it, here.

But you don't need an expensive spacecraft to make space news. An expensive telescope will suffice, as we see with this report of an asteroid(?) strike on Jupiter.

It's seriously keen that the Hayabusa probe made it home with samples from an asteroid.

Not news -- except in the way any person making wild claims is news -- is this assertion of a Watergate-scale cover-up of UFOs.

Meanwhile, astronomer and SF author Mike Brotherton, bringing us the sociological perspective, suggests that overly sensitive people be eaten by black holes. I wonder what the people who have drawn Mike's ire would make of the Winnie the Pooh lyric, "Sing Ho! for the life of a bear."


Robert said...

I may not be old enough to remember when 1MB was a lot of memory, but even 6 years ago when I bought my first USB flash drive (256 MB)1 TB was unimaginable, and having 1 TB of information to store was even more amazing. 40 TB now is big but new digital encoding methods are using more and more space, I remember reading somewhere that all of the written works in the library of congress would only fill about 14 TB. Thinking about digital storage mediums makes me wonder about the data storage capacity of the human brain and the data processing ability of the human brain. (Which I think you handled very well in “Fools Experiments” with the neural interfacing and the users perception of time)

The Hayabusa probe is an interesting story, but what got my sci-fi interest up was the fact that it was only the fourth sample return from space in history. I realized that I have taken for granted that even with all of the space flight we have done we have returned very little material intentionally and most that we bring with us unintentionally is incinerated during reentry, as we have seen on our own planet the diversity and resilience of life is amazing, with a universe bigger than we can conceive we have no idea what exists beyond our tiny sphere of life. The classic story of astronauts bringing back something hostile has been overused but knowing that humanity has retrieved so little from space brings new light to a classic story.

(I have to agree with Mike Brotherton about the overly sensitive people)

Edward M. Lerner said...

It's amazing -- and sad -- that Hayabusa was only the fourth sample-return mission.

Not that such a timid pace is unqiue to sample-return missions. Fifty years after the Wright Brothers' first successful flight, transcontinental air travel had become common. Forty-nine years after Yuri Gagarin's flight, private space travel remains available only to the very wealthy. And those paying millions for a flight can only skim the top of the atmosphere, like astronauts and cosmonauts did in the 60s.

For the fiftieth anniversary, the US will "celebrate" by retiring its only crew-rated launch system.

- Ed