X Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari, who became the first privately funded female space traveler in September 2006, answers a few questions at Wired, which also posts video Ansari took while aboard the International Space Station. She touches on several issues in the interview, including the business of space and science education.
On colonizing the moon or Mars:
Wired: You must have a better view of space exploration than just about anybody else. Do you have a personal guess on the timeline for colonizing the moon or Mars?
Ansari: Personal guess, I would say probably about 25 to 30 years. (A lot depends) on the back-to-the-moon program NASA is looking at. Part of it is to have a permanent base there. If the government will set the first stone then everyone else will follow.
See the Wired article for more, including the video.
Using an observatory in Chile, astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet to date, according to the BBC. The planet is in orbit around a red dwarf star Gliese 581, which is about 20 light years away according an article on the front page of the USA Today.
The original story may be located here, at the European Southern Observatory web site, which has this to say:
'We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,' explains Stéphane Udry, from the Geneva Observatory (Switzerland) and lead-author of the paper reporting the result. ' Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky - like our Earth - or fully covered with oceans,' he adds.
The image is an artist's impression of the system around Gliese 581, which has other, gaseous planets, in orbit.
Image credit: The European Southern Observatory.
Something about solar sail technology has really appealed to me in the brief time I've been blogging KySat. It's mostly been, I suppose, the aesthetics of the enterprise - one essay cited by Centauri Dreams has called such technology "Canvas of the Night."
But today it's the technology's potential speed. Is it possible to sail to Mars in one month? If that interests you, the Centauri Dreams has more information on the speed factor, including the possibility that solar sails could power a craft through space at 60 kilometers per second.
I just returned from the 2007 CubeSat Conference in California. Over 100 individuals from about 15 countries met for three days to discuss the rapidly growing small satellite (SmallSat) industry. Also participating from Kentucky was Tyler Doering from UK, a member of the KySat2 Design Team. Bill Hutchison (KySat1 Team) from the University of Louisville was scheduled to attend but had to cancel because of a conflict with his graduate work.
Presenters included representatives from NASA, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, John Hopkins University, Istanbul Technical University and Stanford. A good deal of focus and discussion was on future SmallSat payloads and missions. Attendees agreed that areas where these small satellites can have real impact included experiments involving effects of microgravity and radiation on biological systems, space weather, astrochemistry, energy, communications and novel space architectures.
Advances in miniaturization and nanotechnology will enhance their functionality and value even more.
I along with Tyler also participated in the first briefing for a scheduled 2008 Dnepr launch from Kazakhstan, Russia, which may carry KySat1 into orbit around the Earth.
A number of issues explored at this meeting will be discussed at the upcoming KySat Conference on Thursday, May 3 in Lexington.
Since I just mentioned the possibility of solar sails being used for interstellar travel, it's worth pausing to remember the two most distant human-made objects, Voyager 1 and 2, both of which are beginning the transition into interstellar space. Both are still returning data. Reading a bit about the two craft on the mission page, NASA says that the mission team is down to 10 people.
After 30 years, that's dedication.
Image source: NASA/JPL