"One lifeforms deadly radiation may be another lifeforms lunch."
David Grinspoon, member of the science team for NASA's Mars rover, and interdisciplinary scientist for the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission.
Prominent astrobiologists have warned that we humans may be blinded by our familiarity with carbon and Earth-like conditions. In other words, what we’re looking for may not even lie in our version of a “sweet spot”. After all, even here on Earth, one species “sweet spot” is another species worst nightmare. In any case, it is not beyond the realm of feasibility that our first encounter with extraterrestrial life will not be a solely carbon-based occasion.
While the "man" in mankind is lacking these days, with our boldest and bravest endeavours being criticized as costly or dangerous by people who can't even spell the words involved, we're still adventuring into outer space. If we can't go, with our shuttles retired and our future unclear, we've built batallions of robots to explore outer space for us. They last longer, they don't complain about one-way trips or freezing to death, and the probability of artificial intelligences coming back to kill us has been measured as "only happened in 10% of Star Trek movies."
Ultradense cosmic cannonballs used to tear around the universe, punching through regular galaxies like a bullet through candyfloss, going their own way and heaven help the heaven that got in their way - and scientists don't know where they are now. Luckily this is cosmology, not cinema, or the answer would be "Right behind you!"
It's right out of NOVA or the scifi channel: Microsoft is sponsoring the 2009 Space Elevator Conference, a four-day long event with movies, presentations, and workshops where engineers and entrepreneurs gather to discuss the technical and logistical issues of building an actual elevator to space.
"It's bringing top people around to present ideas from a research standpoint and a business standpoint," said conference spokesperson Melinda Young. "We're talking about a way to supplement travel to space by rockets."
In further proof that NASA are cooler than most people manage without liquid hydrogen, they've started analyzing a meteorite - on Mars. This scores them a double "Space Stuff" bonus, and proves that no matter how incredible things get, the universe always has more to offer.
The Opportunity rover (still running after five years despite being built for ninety-day mission) made the mega-Martian discovery when it spotted "Block Island" - a half-meter chunk of rock absolutely nothing like anything anywhere else on the planet so far. Because it probably isn't from the planet, with scientists saying it's a meteor which made Mars its final resting place.