The Phoenix lander, scheduled to launch this coming August, was almost cancelled by NASA last week, due to budget concerns.
What's worth more than $417 million in the name of space exploration?
The lander will be the best meteorological station that humans have sent to Mars (it is a policy here at the Future Soon to never discount the possibility of alien scientists.) And a lot of the tech on board was put together by the Canadian Space Agency (yes, our northern nation does put stuff in space.)
The hope is that the Phoenix mission will tell us more about Martian atmospheric movement. It will also give us information on where all the water on Mars has gone.
Now, most people wouldn't care about this, but the Future Soon does. Both Chris and I have covered the mission from our Halifax home-base.
However, now that cancellation has been averted, we can go back to worrying about all the other things that could stop this mission.
Let me see.
Explosion on launchpad, explosion above launchpad, failure to either reach or escape orbit, aliens.
Collision in space, passing too close to another gravitational field, solar flare, failure of maneuvering jets to fire, aliens.
Failure to aerobrake in the Martian atmosphere, failure to separate from orbiter, being hit by orbiter after separation, parachutes not releasing, parachute not releasing soon enough, aliens.
Loss of communication with Earth, faulty landing gear, hitting a rock, falling into a chasm, dust storms, aliens.
You get my gist, yeah?
New Scientist - Phoenix lander news
Phoenix Lander Video
Phoenix Mars Mission Home
Phoenix Mars Lidar
From the Earth to Mars: The history of Mars exploration
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Posted by Sterling at 1/31/2007 11:49:00 PM
On January 31st, 1961, Ham the Astro-chimp made history. He became the first great ape in space. He was launched into space in a Mercury-Redstone-2 capsule (MR-2.)
Ham operated a lever system continually throughout the flight; not because he was in control of the spaceship, but because if he didn't do what he was trained, he would receive an electric shock.
He wasn't shocked once.
After reaching an apogee (highest point of arc) of 256 km, the MR-2 began to descend toward the earth.
It wasn't easy.
The spaceship came down hard and fast. So fast, that it overshot its projected splashdown by almost 500 km. in the Atlantic. When Ham's capsule hit the water, it's heat-shield punched two holes into the MR-2.
Ham's ride started to take on water, and rough wave action started to crash against the hull.
Luckily the U.S. Navy was able to scramble a helicopter from a nearby carrier, and Ham was saved.
Ham was the first great ape in space. His test flight paved the way for Alan Shepard to make it to space in May of that year. But not before the Russians in April.
Ham the Astro-Chimp, the Future Soon salutes you. If we had omnipotent temporal power we would have made sure Ham's descendants would have made it to the stars.
Perhaps they still will.
Posted by Sterling at 1/31/2007 05:46:00 PM
Titanus Walleri, the excellent creature pictured above, was thought to have gone extinct 10,000 years ago. That would have meant that humans had to contend with the carnivorous bird that stood seven feet tall and weighed 330 pounds.
Sadly, new research has shown that the "terror bird" actually went extinct about two million years ago.
Posted by Chris at 1/31/2007 01:41:00 PM
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Snakes on the Japanese island of Ishima can't produce venom of their own, but that's not stopping them from stealing the venom of the island's toads.
The toads evolved to have toxins in their skin as a defence mechanism, but the snakes are immune to its effects. So when the snakes eat the toads, the toxins from the toad's skin are stored in glands at the back of the snake's head. The snakes then use the toxin to fight off predators.
Posted by Chris at 1/30/2007 03:50:00 PM
Welcome to the future soon, a blog about science trivia, fact and coolness. Your two kosmonauts of wacky science are Chris Clements and me, Sterling Eyford. Expect random delight as we show you how we think the future should be.
Warning: what we write about may not actually happen, and you may count yourself lucky for it.
The above picture? This is either Sam or Miss Sam. It is a rhesus monkey that was sent 55 miles into space in a Mercury space capsule. The launches occurred in December 1959 and January 1960.
Both Sam and Miss Sam made it back alive.
No word on the status of their relationship
Posted by Sterling at 1/30/2007 03:46:00 PM