Fantastic Falcon 9 Launch

Spaceflight changed today with the much anticipated demonstration launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule set atop. The rocket is being designed as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. In other words they want a way to get things (and people) up to the International Space Station. Falcon 9 is the first ever commercial launch vehicle to have been launched, orbit the Earth, and then re-enter. Over the coming years we’ll being seeing a lot more of it. Exciting times ahead!

BBC News article

SpaceX website

Drake’s Equation: The Search for Life

The BBC television series Bang Goes the Theory (@bbcbang) has managed to do a truly fantastic job of engaging people, young and old, in science and technology. Now one of their presenters, Dallas Campbell, is hosting a special one off, one hour documentary on the Drake equation.

I’m quite excited about it for it is one of the most important equations, at least in my opinion, ever conceived. The equation sets out to figure how many planets may be suitable for life in the galaxy, and on those planets whether life arises, and ultimately how many intelligent civilisations there are capable of communicating with us.

Carl Sagan did a short bit on this equation in his 1980’s TV series ‘Cosmos’. Since then however we have learnt more and can refine the numbers we input to get ever increasing more accurate answers.

The chaps at BBC Bang are surely going to manage to pull off quite an astonishing programme. It airs on Tuesday 14th December on BBC Four at 8pm. Be sure to set your recorders.

In the meantime here’s a sneaky peek. A video of Dallas interviewing Dr Felisa Wolfe-Simon about the (highly debatable, I might add) discovery of Arsenic loving bacteria.

Edit: I meant to add that my OU course head lecturer, Dr David Rothery, was one of the scientific consultants for the programme. More information on the programme is here if you want a read!

A Little Overwhelming

Well, I’m getting a little bit overwhelmed with this OU work. I’m pretty much a newbie to the Open University having only studied 1 Level 1 course and have now moved onto a Level 2 course. I’ve gone through the first four chapters of book number 1 (and it’s a big book) and I’ve really enjoyed them and found them interesting. I was a little annoyed there wasn’t more on planetary volcanism and fluvial and aeolian processes, but hey. (For those who haven’t read the ‘About’ section, I’m currently studying S283 Planetary Science and Astrobiology). So over the last few days I’ve been reading about planetary atmospheres, something I thought I might find interesting. I’m a meteorological weather observer as part of my job and find the weather and things very interesting. This stuff started in way above my head though. Quantum mechanics came into it. Quantum bleeding mechanics!  Continue reading

Exciting Astrobiology Discovery

Stay tuned for an exciting astrobiology discovery! NASA are holding a news conference tonight at 1900 GMT to discuss a finding ‘that will affect the search for life’. Sounds jolly intriguing. Looking at some of the discussions on the OU forums from our course head, it looks likely to be based on lifeforms that can use arsenic in place of phosphorous. It could demonstrate separately developed life on Earth, increasing again the chance for life elsewhere.

Enough guessing and stuff though we’ll find out from the conference tonight. You can watch it here at NASA TV. Starts 1900 GMT on the media channel I believe!