April 2012

Mining in space may be more than just sci-fi dreams

Mining other planets and asteroids is a staple element of a great many science fiction stories.  The prospect of being able to loot other rocks for the precious minerals that they contain is a corporate dream, though with the technology we have today it looks like that dream is probably unrealistic.  That does not, however, stop people from trying to figure out a way to do it.

Some people who are far too rich for their own good (director James Cameron among them) are looking to make the dream a reality.  Their targets are the many asteroids near the planet Earth and their goals include the veins of gold and platinum which they believe to be encased within.  Some experts estimate that as much as $50 billion worth of platinum could be present in one 30-meter diameter asteroid.  With hundreds of thousands of these asteroids within a reasonable distance of Earth, the potential for huge profit is there. And with huge profit comes the incentive to get things done.

NASA snubs European Mars Mission, aims to launch its own


More evidence has been emerging recently that Mars may have been something other than a dead planet in the past.  Scientists have found clues that life may have existed in some form and may still possibly be there.  This is not alien life, of course, and no threat of Martian invasion is expected, but bacteria may be present, which indicates the possibility of Mars being a life-bearing planet to some degree.  This evidence comes from data retrieved by the Viking mission in 1976 that has been studied for nearly 40 years.  It is only recently, however, that the possibility of life became a serious consideration.

China’s space program looking to make history


With the space programs of the United States and Russia declining, China has been pushing the boundaries of its own space program and trying to make a name for itself in the history books.  It was only a matter of time before the Chinese accomplished things that other countries haven’t, and it looks like it will come in the form of being the first to put a female astronaut into space.  This summer, China’s fourth space mission will commence and if it goes off successfully they will have obtained their goal.  In addition to launching a female astronaut, this will also be China’s first attempt at a manned space docking.

Habitable planets fill the galaxy


It has always been suspected that there are other habitable planets in the galaxy.  Simply based on the odds, it is more likely that there are many of these types of celestial bodies rather than none.  Now, however, it looks like there many be quite a few more than were first thought.  Scientists are theorizing that potentially billions of habitable planets exist within our galaxy, though they have only discovered nine likely candidates in more than six years of searching the skies.

The types of planets that scientists are currently looking at are what they refer to as “super-Earths,” so called because of their large mass.  These planets exist in red dwarf star systems, orbiting within the habitable zone.  Red dwarf stars are cooler than our own sun and thus create a larger zone where life may exist.  Being that red dwarves make up approximately 80 percent of all stars in the Milky Way, there are an estimated 150 billion to choose from.  At least 100 of this number could be considered close to our own solar system – relatively speaking, of course.