Some of our more popular posts included videos of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explaining how water behaves when being wrung out from a washcloth in space, or demonstrating how to drink coffee in a microgravity environment. This, by far, surpasses even those kick-ass productions. Mr. Hadfield, you are our hero.
EDIT: This post originally appeared on May 13, 2013. It seems a fitting tribute to repost this, today.
Bill Nye and The Planetary Society have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a solar sail spacecraft. And if that’s not enough to get you over there to back this amazing project he’s got Neil deGrasse Tyson on board as well AND it’s going to be launched by SpaceX! Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and SpaceX. Need I say more?
Okay, Ceres isn’t actually a planet, but a dwarf planet. Still, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Pluto is a dwarf planet, and we still know about it. So why did we not learn about Ceres? Oh, sure, you may argue that Pluto is 14 times more massive than Ceres (and you’d be right), but there is one reason to believe the solar system’s smallest dwarf planet might be the most exciting one:
It’s a water planet.
Scientists believe Ceres contains rock in its interior with a thick mantle of ice that, if melted, would amount to more fresh water than is present on all of Earth. The materials making up Ceres likely date from the first few million years of our solar system’s existence and accumulated before the planets formed.
Not only that, but geysers on Ceres appear to be erupting water into space, where the liquid sublimates into ice, possibly resulting in snow (which explains the white spots in the above image). Yes, that’s right, we may have our own mini-Hoth in the sol system. All we need now is to genetically engineer some tauntauns, and we’re ready for colonization.
Rosetta is the first spacecraft designed to orbit and land a probe on a comet <gulp>. It is waking up right now, after over two years of sleep. Because Rosetta is so far away, ESA and NASA are using the 70-meter Goldstone Antenna to listen for her faint signal. They expect to hear something around noonish CT, give or take a half hour. Above is the live feed, embedded.
The MAVEN launch is happening now (as of this posting, of course). Above is the live feed. MAVEN is the Mars orbiter that is going to find out why Mars lost all that water. It’s rather important that it launches relatively soon, as that rather big storm that caused trouble in Illinois is pushing winds toward Florida. If NASA misses its window, MAVEN will have to wait two more years before Mars gets close enough to try again.
Good luck, MAVEN!
Ann Leckie has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, a lunch lady, and a recording engineer. The author of many published short stories, and secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America, she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, children, and cats.
What does it mean to be human? It’s a really difficult question to answer, and one that science fiction and fantasy are particularly well-suited to tackling. Not that there’s ever been any sort of simple answer even (especially?) through fiction, but SF&F can present us with a range of characters that test the boundaries of what it means to be a person, and what that might imply about what it means to be human.
Androids and artificial intelligences are a favorite vehicle for this sort of exploration. If you build a machine that looks or acts just like a person, what’s the difference? Is there one? Is that difference important? Why? It was a question I was going to have to consider, a question that was, in some ways, going to be crucial to my novel, Ancillary Justice.
The narrator of Ancillary Justice is the troop carrier Justice of Toren. And also a unit of twenty bodies slaved to Justice of Toren, the ancillary unit Justice of Toren One Esk. My narrator is an artificial intelligence that’s also made up of human bodies. What sort of being is this?
Finally, after 36 years and 12 billion miles Voyager I has left the solar system! Here’s a roundup of the coverage: