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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Happy Ada Lovelace day for yesterday, ISS to start 3D printing telescopes, and more....

Happy Ada Lovelace day:

The sad truth is that there's still a huge disparity between the numbers of women and men in science and engineering, To help get the world moving on fixing this why not celebrate Ada Lovelace day (Tuesday 13th), and check out #ilooklikeanengineer , which is simply for anyone who doesn't fit the white male stereotype of engineers.  Ada Lovelace, by the way, was the daughter of Lord Byron, a writer, a mathematician, and she wrote the worlds first ever computer program. In the nineteenth century.

Above: 'The Enchantress of Numbers' (her genuine nickname), Ada Lovelace.

 Moonspike: A Kickstarter to the Moon:

Moonspike is what I'd call an ambitious project: A tiny team of rocket and spacecraft engineers intend to launch a tiny spacecraft to the Moon. That's pretty ambitious by itself, but they plan to raise all their own funding via kickstarter (follow the title link) and build both the Moon lander and the rocket to get it into space, all by themselves.

I don't know if this will work, but if it does become the worlds first 100% open source Moon mission I'll be very pleased to have made a little donation to it (to be honest I'll be happy enough even if it fails, because I admire the guts, optimism, and borderline insanity these engineers must have)

Above: The Moon - in few years  t might be getting more crowded. Courtesy of NASA.

Does the planet Mercury cause sunspots? 

Now here's an intriguing idea: Sunspots are more than just dark splotches on the Sun, they're extremely complicated structures made of magnetism, plasma, and electric currents. We're not totally clear on how they work and what governs their behaviour and their cycles - but one thing  wouldn't have expected was that they'd be influenced by a planet! However the paper linked in the heading seems to have found evidence that something about the planet Mercury could be influencing them as it orbits the Sun.

Above: The alien complexity of a sunspot, seen up close. Courtesy of NASA.

ISS crew to build a telescope with 3D printing 

3D printing has been making a lot of waves recently - even been described as the first step towards a Start Trek style replicator. So it seems appropriate that the International Space Station should have one, and it does! The crew have already used it to make tools, and now they're going to try and make a telescope! This is more than just fun and games: The ability to manufacture almost any component in space could revolutionise space exploration - rather than having to build satellites that can survive the stress of launch just send up the materials to a printing sat!

Above: The International Space Station, proving ground for new technologies, home of hundreds of unique experiments, launch base for fleets of miniature satellites, and home to up to twelve astronauts. I don't know about you but I'm impressed. Courtesy of NASA

The US president's classified reports on the Soviet N-1 Moon rocket:

Here's an interesting little snippet of space history: Every morning the American president is given sort of newsletter. by the CIA, on events around the world. In 1966 one of the things that started being a regular feature was the Soviet's efforts to build a Moon rocket. Today we know it as the monstrous (and hugely unreliable) N1 rocket, but at the time it was a worrying and sinister development.
In 1966 the CIA stated that “the first launchings could take place early next year.” It added that “The nature and the size of the construction now indicate that the pads could handle space boosters developing thrusts as great as ten million pounds.”
The article linked above gives an impression of how the information America had on this gigantic booster came across, and if you'd like to know more on the N-1 itself just follow this link or watch the Equinox documentary below:

Do we live in a galactic internet? 

Paul Glster's blog, Centauri-dreams, is always a good place to look for something thought provoking, and often speculating on the edge of what we know. This week he's taken a look at SETI's hunt for alien signals and asked if the reason we've not heard anything yet is because we're sitting in a sort of 'hole' in a galactic internet, where everyone is careful to only communicate with other members.

Above: The The Milky Way galaxy. Is there anyone besides us out in that mass of suns and planets?

Three stories from the Planetary Society:

As it's Ada Lovelace day I've included  three articles from The Planetary Society, because they have everyones favourite planetary science blogger - and one of relatively few well known female faces on the space exploration scene - Emily Lakdewalla:. Also because they're both interesting and entertaining, but it gives me a nice way to bring this post full circle!

Planetary society interviews the man who imaged an extrasolar planet

The Planetary society makes progress on its next solar sailing mission

The Planetary Society isn't that impressed with NASA's Mars plan

Above: 'b' Marks the spot - this is one of the first ever images of an extrasolar planet.

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