In final proof that sports channels don't know what the hell they're doing, for the last five years NASA and The Spaceward Foundation have been running "The Space Elevator Games" - a competition to build a robot and cable to literally CLIMB INTO SPACE - and TV still shows skateboarding instead. The future is happening, and nobody's watching.
Some scientists are saying that warp drive might be possible after all. Yes, it's obvious pandering to the new Star Trek, but be fair: these guys are career physicists. Star Trek was theirs to begin with, and now it's cool we should at least give them press. Especially when they want to talk about awesome things like faster than light travel.
"Robotic exploration probably will always be the trail blazer for human
exploration of far space," says Wolfgang Fink, physicist and researcher at Caltech. "We haven't yet landed a human
being on Mars but we have a robot there now. In that sense, it's much
easier to send a robotic explorer. When you can take the human out of
the loop, that is becoming very exciting."
Mars is slightly outside the AAA callout zone, which was a bit of a problem for the Rover mission. When you spend three-quarters of a billion dollars sending a vehicle to another planet it's a bit annoying when one of the wheels stops working. This actually happened. Luckily, NASA is by definition an organization composed of rocket scientists and they've figured out ways around this and numerous other faults and breakdowns in off-planet missions. But wouldn't it be better if breakdowns didn't matter?
The project isn't just an awesome opening cinematic, though - the realities of living on the moon (and that's a sentence that brings joy to anyone alive at a time you can say it) mean it could be a key step to effective lunar life. The low gravity and dusty nature of the moon are such that any conventional launch will blast a wide area with rocket-blasted grit and debris. The "there isn't actually any air out there" issue requires supply shuttles to land relatively close to the crewed quarters to avoid all sorts of inconveniences. The combination is a recipe for disaster.
Competition heating up between Japan and the US to build the world's first "space elevator". The technology required to create a physical link between Earth and outer space is getting closer to being a reality with Japan's announcement that it was researching plans to build a space elevator – a link to space that could transport cargo and even tourists – for 1 trillion yen ($11 billion).
"Just like travelling abroad, anyone will be able to ride the elevator into space," chairman of the Japan Space Elevator Association, Shuichi Ono, told The Times. The news is reported to have shaken up scientists at NASA, who have traditionally focused on rockets to reach space but could now be considering following Japan's suit.
Caltech scientists are working on intelligent exploratory craft which could investigate alien worlds without human instruction. This research is excellent news for fans of space research, robotics, and science writers who fist-pump and go "Yes! Now I can reference WALL-E!"
While missions to MARS can be remotely controlled, as we set our sights further afield the light speed limitation will cause significant problems. Even within our own solar system interesting targets like Titan are far enough away that signals would take an hour to get there and back. Cripplingly slow when you're carefully navigating "left a bit ... wait an hour .... left a bit more ...."