Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spacesuit gloves Space Volcanoes and More!

One of the Brickmuppets' crack team of science babes reports that the NASA glove challenge has been won! Because they must maintain pressure in a vacuum, spacesuit gloves are particularly challenging and NASA has, after millions of dollars never quite gotten them right, however, the Astronaut Glove Competition program put up a prize of $200,000.00 for the best improved design....less than a year later ...RESULTS!! The winning design was developed by an inventor in Maine. :)

Top down central planning approach....wrong way....Capitalism and competition by back yard loons....right way !

Anyway, while we here at Brickmuppet Blog were slaving away on exams, lots of cool things happened on the space front.

In a related story to the one above the Regolith excavation challenge is set for May 12th.
(Hat Tip Clarke Lindsay)

The most Earthlike planet ever discovered was found only 20.4 light years from Earth orbiting Gliese 581, a red Dwarf star. Now given the very narrow and close life zone of a red dwarf the planet is probably tidally locked, and red dwarfs tend to flare a bit, but the planets surface temperature is such that liquid water could exist on its surface. With just over twice the gravity of Earth and its probable vastly different character (being tidally locked) this is not a promising place for human habitation, but depending on the atmosphere, this is a very exiting development! It may well have implications for the Drake equation.

In other news Mark Wade has updated Encyclopedia Astronautica to include a long report on the canceled Navaho and M.I.S.S. programs of the late 1950s. Programs that could have changed history (and in the case of Navajo DID). It is important to remember that even failures cab be the genesis of spectacular success if learned from.

John Goff over at Selenian Boondocks has a long and informative post on the importance of developing in space propellant transfer. This is one of the most crucial technologies for a spacefaring society and it has not gotten the attention it deserves.

The New Horizons space probe took some truly spectacular pictures of the Jovian System as it sped on it way to its rendezvous with non-planet Pluto, including a massive eruption of the Tvashtar volcano on Io.

Note: New Horizons got to Jupiter in 13 months. While it is a light spacecraft that pushes the state of the art, this does show that even with current chemical engines the outer planets can be reached in time frames compatible with a manned mission. Of course uch a mission would be orders of magnitude more challenging. For one thing, beyond simply scaling it up a few hundred times or more to take people and life support, enough fuel to return must be brought too, but it is (just) within the realm of possibility, particularly with the nuclear and ion engines currently under development. Indeed, NASA seriously looked at this in the 1990s . More on that at the end of this previous post.

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