The Wow! signal has a storied history in the SETI community, a one-off detection at the Ohio State ‘Big Ear’ observatory in 1977 that Jim Benford, among others, considers the most interesting candidate signal ever received. A plasma physicist and CEO of Microwave Sciences, Benford returns to Centauri Dreams today with a closer look at the signal and its striking characteristics, which admit to a variety of explanations, though only one that the author believes fits all the parameters. A second reception of the Wow! might tell us a great deal, but is such an event likely? So far all repeat observations have failed and, as Benford points out, there may be reason to assume they must. The essay below is a shorter version of the paper Jim has submitted to Astrobiology.
In the early days of space exploration it was the rocky planets, particularly Mars and Venus that held some hope of significant life. Though those with the tools of observation and analysis were pretty negative and life in the rest of the solar system looked impossible. But as our knowledge and tools expanded the icy moons quickly became of interest because as cold region natives know, ice is not a bad insulator and a couple of miles of it would protect a lake. These days it seems pretty clear that Icy Moons often have oceans, seas or lakes inside, and the heat that melts the ice from underneath (from orbital stresses and or radioactive decay) could quite conceivably support life.
The article linked discusses model based research based on data from earlier orbiters and flybys. It shows that notionally their are several mechanisms that could be feeding nutrients and energy sources into the ocean of Enceladus, at a rate suffient to support a significant biome.
There are lots of other interesting articles on space at universe today website, take a look.
A really cool concept. Miniature walking rovers that can explore tiny spaces, a single test to the moon this year with plans for swarms (small ones) in the not too distant future. Tbe video animation from Spacebit is worth a couple of minutes.
…. perchlorates appear to be widespread on the planet’s surface. The fine dust material produced by perchloric acid has been known to cause thyroid problems in people here on Earth.
Just as problematic, … is gypsum…. been known to cause a condition similar to black lung in coal miners in people exposed to it for long periods of time.
… known presence of silicates on the Martian surface—if breathed-in they can cause reactions with water in the lungs and result in the creation of harmful chemicals.
Martian dust could pose health hazards because of the difficulty of removing it from space suits and boots. … fear the dust would build up in air filters and living quarters, adding yet another life threatening element to the list of other known hazards (traveling and landing safely, exposure to radiation and cosmic rays, etc.) for the people who seek to colonize the planet.
You can always find some pretext for why not to do something.
This sort of narrow thinking is why it the Mars colonization effort by somewhat older unworried warriors is a great idea, they will lead the way, they may die earlier…will almost certainly die earlier than they would on Earth but in the big picture they will be immortal.
I think that a commercial fly by of Mars possibly convoying with early colony equipment makes a lot of sense. Drop off a 3D printer to start fabbing buildings or building parts. The fly by would work on the tech of getting there and of living in space for long periods. Multiple (4 in a Bigelow Cross?) inflatable Bigelow modules would make a light weight but spacious habitat that one or two couples could live in for the time needed. I would boost and decelerate the complex with an earth orbital tug and have minimal onboard propulsion since its pointless mass to take with you. With the right kit of science and DIY they would keep busy doing various types of investigation the whole time.
Asteroid capture and exploitation
Refueling / reuse of space side craft
Asteroid mining for space side resources and drop side assets
L point science platforms with robo and human servicing
Low earth orbit hotel/spa/ops-center
4 person large scale spacecraft flyby of Mars
Mars colony robot precursor landings
Mars colony crew of 6 to 8 no return, first Martians
Follow up resource flights to Mars, gradual build up of Mars colony
All possible in the next twenty years, tenish if we really pushed, and I think we could commercial/ kick start/survivor fund the whole bloody thing…
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. The rocket will deliver a science laboratory to Mars to study potential habitable environments on the planet. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
Graphic of the Mars Science Laboratory, an elite six-wheeled vehicle powered by nuclear fuel, is scheduled to launch at 10:02 am (1502 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida atop an Atlas V rocket
The size of a compact car, nuclear powered, autonomous guidance, what’s not to geek love? Of course it’s a full press design very low fault tolerant landing system, albeit really cool, and probably warranted to work for years…exact opposite of the last two plucky cheap little explorers we sent. So I have to hope all goes well. This is not likely to be repeated for a decade if it goes thump.
Good luck Curiosity, let’s just hope you’re no cat.