Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Curiosity Right Over

Unlike the Russians, at least we can get our Mars missions out of Earth’s orbit.

NASA launches super-size Mars rover to red planet

The world’s biggest extraterrestrial explorer, NASA’s Curiosity rover, rocketed toward Mars on Saturday on a search for evidence that the red planet might once have been home to itsy-bitsy life.

It will take 8½ months for Curiosity to reach Mars following a journey of 354 million miles.

An unmanned Atlas V rocket hoisted the rover, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, into a cloudy late morning sky. A Mars frenzy gripped the launch site, with more than 13,000 guests jamming the space center for NASA’s first launch to Earth’s next-door neighbor in four years, and the first send-off of a Martian rover in eight years.

See also:
NASA Rover Begins Long Cruise to Mars
For NASA’s rover Curiosity, it’s ‘Mars or Bust!’
NASA Launches Hefty Curiosity Rover to Mars
NASA launches $2.5 billion rover to Red Planet
Super-size Mars rover blasts off, biggest robotic explorer ever built to roam another planet
Launch of Nasa Curiosity Mars rover could lead to human mission by 2030
NASA launches super-size rover to Mars: ‘Go, Go!’
NASA rover launched to seek out life clues on Mars
Nasa rover begins journey in search of life on Mars
Curiosity on its way to Mars – November 26, 2011
NASA Rover to Begin Journey to Mars
Curiosity Starts Nine Month Journey to Mars
NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Takes Off
Will NASA’s Curiosity rover find signs of life on Mars?
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory

Well, so far so good, the mission is off to a good start. Of course, there’s still plenty of thing that could go wrong, the landing sequence for setting Curiosity down on the Martian surface looks to be extremely complex, like something Rube Goldberg would come up with.

/for $2.5 billion, Curiosity had better perform as advertised and discover something spectacular

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A Preview Of Coming Attractions

So much for Homeland Security. From Russia, without love, hitting us where it really hurts.

Foreign hackers targeted U.S. water plant in apparent malicious cyber attack, expert says

Foreign hackers caused a pump at an Illinois water plant to fail last week, according to a preliminary state report. Experts said the cyber-attack, if confirmed, would be the first known to have damaged one of the systems that supply Americans with water, electricity and other essentials of modern life.

Companies and government agencies that rely on the Internet have for years been routine targets of hackers, but most incidents have resulted from attempts to steal information or interrupt the functioning of Web sites. The incident in Springfield, Ill., would mark a departure because it apparently caused physical destruction.

See also:
Was U.S. water utility hacked last week?
Foreign cyber attack hits US infrastructure: expert
Illinois Water Utility Pump Destroyed After Hack
H(ackers)2O: Attack on City Water Station Destroys Pump
Cyberattack investigation centers on Curran-Gardner water pump
Feds investigating whether Illinois “pump failure” was cyber attack
Broken water pump in Illinois caused by cyber-attack from Russia, claims expert, but DOH denies terrorism
Cyberattack on Illinois water utility may confirm Stuxnet warnings
Water utility hackers destroy pump, expert says
UPDATE 3-U.S. probes cyber attack on water system

The SCADA vulnerabilities to a remote attack have been known for years. The solution is real simple, DON’T CONNECT YOUR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO THE INTERNET!

/how hard is that, is it going to take a disaster for us to learn this basic lesson?

Partly Cloudy With A Chance Of Falling Satellites

Here we go again, this time it’s the German’s turn to randomly drop [expletive deleted] from orbit.

Falling German Satellite Poses 1-in-2,000 Risk of Striking Someone This Month

A big German satellite near the end of life is expected to plunge back to Earth this month, just weeks after a NASA satellite fell from orbit, and where this latest piece of space junk will hit is a mystery.

The 2.4-ton spacecraft, Germany’s Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT), is expected to fall Oct. 22 or 23.

The satellite will break up into fragments, some of which will disintegrate due to intense re-entry heat. But studies predict that about 1.6 tons of satellite leftovers could reach the Earth’s surface. That’s nearly half ROSAT’s entire mass.

There is a 1-in-2,000 chance that debris from the satellite could hit someone on Earth, though the likelihood of an injury is extremely remote, German space officials say. For German citizens, the risk of being struck is much lower, about 1 in 700,000.

All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude, could be in the strike zone of the satellite’s re-entry.

See also:
Falling ROSAT satellite to make reentry between Oct. 21 – 25
German satellite to plunge back to Earth
Huge German Space Junk Satellite To Fall To Earth Sooner Than Expected
Dead German satellite to fall on earth
Massive German satellite will fall to Earth this week
Duck and cover: ROSAT is the next re-entry
Reminder: ROSAT’s coming down soon
ROSAT expected to fall to Earth sometime this week, scientists say
German satellite set to fall to Earth
Not NASA but German Satellite will fall to Earth this weekend
Last chance to see doomed German satellite in night sky
Falling German Satellite Has a 1-in-2,000 Chance of Hitting Somebody
Track Germany’s Falling, 2.4-Ton Satellite in Real-Time
The ROSAT Mission
ROSAT

You’d think that by now, we’d have the technology to orbit powered drones with robotic arms that could guide these massive dead satellites into a controlled deorbit.

/joking about a 1 in 2000 chance of getting hit by tons of space junk moving at terminal velocity is all fun and games until someone actually gets hurt

It Came From Outer Space

Life from the sky.

DNA building blocks found in meteorites

For 50 years, scientists have debated whether the components of DNA — the molecule central to all life on Earth — could spontaneously form in space. A new analysis of a dozen meteorites found in Antarctica and elsewhere presents the strongest evidence yet that the answer is yes.

Meteorites are space rocks that have fallen to the ground, and the new report bolsters the notion that heavy meteorite bombardment of the early Earth may have seeded the planet with the stuff of life.

“[M]Meteorites may have served as a molecular kit providing essential ingredients for the origin of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere,” write the authors of the report out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

See also:
Found: A Batch of DNA Molecules That Seem To Have Originated in Space
Building Blocks of DNA Found in Meteorites From Space
NASA: Building blocks of DNA ‘can be made in space’
DNA in Meteorites Suggests Life Came from Space
DNA components confirmed to come from space
Scientists find building blocks of life in meteorites
NASA researchers find DNA building blocks can be made in space
DNA From Asteroids

Hey, if these DNA laden meteorites are showing up on Earth, they’re showing up on other planets too, thereby making the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe much more plausible.

/God works in mysterious ways

Goldilocks And The Five Planets

Book your travel plans early, the closest one is millions of years of travel time away.

NASA finds dozens of planets that might support life

A catalog of possible planets discovered far out in space includes more than 50 candidates that could possibly support life, NASA scientists said Wednesday. If, as expected, most of the planets are confirmed as real, the Kepler mission — now finishing its second year — would nearly triple the number of planets discovered over the last decade and a half.

With 1,235 planetary candidates surrounding a collective 997 stars in an area 500 to 3,000 light-years away, the tally to date provides a wealth of data for scientists to sift through in search of Earth-like planets.

“This is the first step in understanding the possible distribution of life in our galaxy,” said William Borucki, principal investigator for the Kepler mission at NASA Ames Research Center in the Bay Area’s Moffett Field.

He noted that of the candidate planets, 54 reside in the so-called Goldilocks range — in a “just right” distance from its star to be neither too hot nor too cold to permit liquid water and therefore the presence of life as we know it. Five of those 54 are close to Earth’s size.

The space-based Kepler telescope, which circles the sun trailing Earth’s orbit, observes more than 155,000 stars and every half-hour measures the amount of light they give off. If a planet is orbiting a star, it is detectable because it temporarily blocks a bit of light each time it crosses in front of its star.

See also:
5 Earth-sized planets spied in ‘habitable zone’
NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets
NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets
1,235 alien planets out there?
Kepler space telescope is finding a cornucopia of possible planets
NASA reveals more than 1,200 potential planets
Hunt for planets yields surprises
Kepler space telescope spots five Earth-sized planets in our galaxy
NASA Detects Potential ‘Habitable Zone’ Planets
Kepler: Home Page
Kepler (spacecraft)

Well, this is a great scientific achievement, but I’m not sure what practical value there is in it. Okay, so there’s all these possibly habitable planets, so what?

/we’ll never get there to find out for sure.