Are We Alone?

Modern astronomy tells us some interesting things. First, space is absolutely, mind-numbingly massive. Second, there's a staggering number of stars out there. Third, most of those stars have planets. The sky should be full of signals from alien civilizations, but we've yet to see the sings of life anywhere. Where is everybody? Here's an OUTSTANDING look at the Fermi Paradox. WARNING: there's some adult language for those who are sensitive to that.

NASA hands space enthusiasts the keys to a 1970s-era spacecraft | Ars Technica

Fourteen days after I was born, NASA launched a spacecraft designed to study solar winds, before being repurposed to study comets. It's mission ended in 1997, but the craft continued to orbit the sun. It'll be closer to Earth than at any point in decades this summer, and recent contact with the probe let us know all its systems are in good working order.

That's right. A 35 year old spacecraft that's been dormant since my first year of college still works fine and even has some fuel left. Unfortunately, NASA doesn't have the budget to support the craft, even thought it could be useful for further science work.

So, a bunch of nerds decided to take over the space craft and put it to work. Incredibly, NASA gave them an official go-ahead today. It's an unbelievable turn for citizen science, and I'm thrilled with NASA's decision. The race is on now for the team to work out communications and fire it's thrusters in time to bring it into a stable orbit at the L1 Sun-Earth Lagrange point, where it can once again measure the solar winds.

Godspeed, ISEE-3 team.

Mars Odyssey to Act as Relay for Curiousity Landing

Mars Odyssey

Mars Odyssey

Curiosity will land on Mars early Monday morning.  Based on some course corrections, the rover will be over the Martian horizon when it lands with no direct line of communication to Earth.  Luckily one of our oldest operational spacecraft in Martian orbit is ready to act as a relay.  NASA's Mars Odyssey has been in Martian space since 2003, and may give us the first word of a successful landing.