Let me first introduce new readers to this feature. We try to (but don’t always) give a rundown of the day’s news in astrobiology/planetary/space/Earth sciences. We’ve been a little lax on this lately, mostly because our fearful leader (aka yours truly) has been slow in getting accounts approved for the others to post. But! I’ve finally done it.
Anyways, onto tonight’s countdown.
3… Space policy has appeared in political news the last couple of days, as the Republican primary has moved onto Florida and the space coast. I’m sure you all have heard about New Gingrich’s plan to set up a Moon base by the end of his second term. I’m not going to comment on that plan here, but I will say this highlights something I’m always disappointed by: the continued lack of discussion about NASA’s science goals and accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong – human spaceflight has been one the greatest achievements our species has ever accomplished. However, it’s not the only kind of spaceflight we’ve achieved. We have missions at planets all over the solar system, another mission discovering new planets all the time, and another set of missions that are monitoring the health and condition of our home planet. And I wish that from time to time the passionate scientists and astounding engineers that work on these missions got more credit, and the relevant issues more public discourse. For example, I’d love to hear a discussion about the extent to which NASA should partner with space agencies from other counties to pursue the ambitious science goals such as the direct imaging of an extrasolar planet or sample return from Mars.
2… As if we needed a reminder of how important the space sciences are to humanity, the radiation from a particularly intense solar storm hit the Earth this week. Because of our constant monitoring of the Sun from space, we were aware of this storm ahead of time. The worst effects were thankfully avoided. However, this knowledge allowed precautions against those worst-case scenarios. For example, some intercontinental flights were re-routed through the Earth’s polar regions, which are well-shielded from the Sun’s radiation.
1… The FameLab Astrobiology preliminary in Denver is in two weeks! If you’re an astrobiology researcher that lives in the Denver area (or even if you don’t live there) you should sign up! If you live in Denver and you’re not an astrobiology researcher… you should keep the evening of Friday, February 10th free so you can see some fantastic science communication.
LAUNCH! (We often, but not always, close this post with a little treat.)