Reporting from Edwards Air Force Base — NASA rolled out its next-generation space capsule here Wednesday, revealing a bulbous module that is scheduled to carry humans back to the moon in 2020 and eventually onward to Mars.Unlike the space-plane shape of the shuttles, the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle looks strikingly similar to the old Apollo space capsule that carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon and back in 1969, with Armstrong and Aldrin becoming the first humans to walk on the lunar surface.There is one key difference, however. The test module, unveiled at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, is substantially bigger — 16.5 feet in diameter compared with Apollo 11’s 12.8 feet.Still, cramming six astronauts inside will make it “pretty cozy,” he said.
The craft’s extra girth will allow it to carry six astronauts instead of Apollo’s three.
“This is the same shape as Apollo,” said Gary Martin, the project manager for the test program at Dryden. “But the extra space translates into twice as much volume as Apollo.”
Oooh, I’m impressed! /not!
How many times can the wheel be reinvented?
Quite a few apparently.
Finding ancient meteorites on the moon would be exciting enough, but what they may contain really interests Houtkooper.
Consider simple bacterial life on the early Earth, existing inside a rock which is then blasted off the surface of the planet by a large impact. In theory, some of these samples could have landed in lunar craters like Shackleton. Once there, they would be perfectly preserved in a deep freeze for billions of years. Life carried to the moon in this way would almost certainly be dead, although it is possible that some hardy creatures could survive the journey in a dormant state. As Houtkooper succinctly states, “there could be signs of life from early Earth on the moon.”
Things get particularly interesting when a large impact on the moon by an object around 10 km in diameter is considered. If that were to occur, enough material would be thrown up to create a very thin lunar atmosphere. This tenuous atmosphere could last a few hundred years, just enough time to spark into action any dormant life that had been carried to the moon from other worlds.
So it is possible that, dotted throughout the moon’s colorful history, it may have hosted simple but live alien organisms.
Panspermia has made a comeback in recent months, both as a means of transferring life throughout the Cosmos naturally and artificially.
Viability of the organisms being transported about is the issue.
How can living things withstand the rigors of freezing cold, solar and cosmic radiation?
Here are some articles that might answer some of these questions:
A ~ 10-metre object on a heliocentric orbit, now catalogued as 1991 VG, made a close approach to the Earth in 1991 December, and was discovered a month before perigee with the Spacewatch telescope at Kitt Peak. Its very Earth-like orbit and observations of rapid brightness fluctuations argue for it being an artificial body rather than an asteroid. None of the handful of man-made rocket bodies left in heliocentric orbits during the space age have purely gravitational orbits returning to the Earth at that time, and in an3′ case the a priori probability of discovery for 1991 VG was very small, of order one in 100,000 per anmun. In addition, the small perigee distance observed might be interpreted as an indicator of a controlled rather than a random encounter with the Earth, and thus it might be argued that 1991 VG is a candidate as an alien probe observed in the vicinity of our planet.
I think mainstream SETI is afraid of finding Bracewell Probes, because it shakes them from the comfortable notion that material interstellar travel is impossible and any civilization is a safe thousands of light-years away, accessible only by micro and radio waves.
Adam Crowl does ask an interesting question, “…if it is a probe, then why is it suddenly becoming visible? Based on our primitive attempts at invisibility cloaks using meta-materials I suspect any advanced technological species will be able to remain unseen by primitive eyes… yet here we have a probe making itself blatant. Hmmm…”
Hmmm indeed Adam.
The Benfords — Jim at Microwave Sciences, Gregory at the University of California’s Irvine campus, and Dominic (Jim’s son) at NASA GSFC — believe that advanced societies, if they are to be found, ought most likely to exist toward the galactic center, and probably at distances of over a thousand light years. We’re thus talking, in all likelihood, about interstellar beacons rather than targeted transmissions when it comes to SETI. And if beacons are indeed at play, what can we say about their costs, and do our own standards of terrestrial cost have any application in an ETI context?
The message here is that any SETI search has to make assumptions about the beacon builders, and if we can determine something about the economics of the situation, we may learn how to target our searches more effectively. Here’s the essence of the argument about ETI:
We assume that if they are social beings interested in a SETI conversation or passing on their heritage, they will know about tradeoffs between social goods, and thus, in whatever guise it takes, cost. But what if we suppose, for example, that aliens have very low cost labor, i. e., slaves? With a finite number of slaves, you can use them to do a finite number of tasks. And so you pick and choose by assigning value to the tasks, balancing the equivalent value of the labor used to prosecute those tasks. So choices are still made on the basis of available labor. The only case where labor has no value is where labor has no limit. That might be if aliens may live forever or have limitless armies of self-replicating automata, but such labor costs something, because resources, materials and energy, are not free.
Our point is that all SETI search strategies must assume something about the beacon builder, and that cost may drive some alien attempts at interstellar communication.
SETI always seems to come with a built-in willingness to think the best of extraterrestrial cultures. If an alien civilization is sending out a message, it must be doing so out of altruism. The Benfords, though, are interested in exploring motivations from a different angle. They’d like to relate them to the only case of a technological civilization we know of, ourselves, and speculate based on human history. From that perspective, there are two reasons for sending out messages across vast time scales.
Think about what people do. You can go to the Tower of London and explore the chambers where famous prisoners like Thomas More were kept. Invariably, on the walls, you’ll find graffiti, names written into the stone. People have an apparently robust need to engage in one-way communication, putting a note in a bottle and throwing it. Indeed, the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft are examples of the impulse. Is it likely that any of these tiny vessels will ever be intercepted? Yet putting our names, our stories, our music and our pictures on board outgoing vehicles is a method that resonates. We have a need to encapsulate who we are.
A second reason is the drive to communicate the optimum things about our culture, what Matthew Arnold called “…the best that has been thought and said in the world.” Here the Benfords cite time capsules and monuments as examples of our need to propagate our culture. The contemplation of a legacy is involved here, especially in a scenario where human lifetimes are rising. Here again the communication can be one-way. The statue of King Alfred my wife and I admired in Winchester some years back was not built to impress people within a tight time frame, but to stand as a monument that would reach future generations.
So imagine scenarios like this: A civilization with an ability to plan over millennial time scales foresees problems that are beyond its capabilities. A SETI beacon might encapsulate a call for information and help — send us everything you have on stellar warming…
Here’s another: A civilization in its death throes decides to send out an announcement of its existence. We were here and are no longer, but as long as this message endures, so in a sense do we. And let’s not discount sheer pride of the sort that could keep a beacon in operation long after the beings that built it were gone. Robotically maintained, it might boast of achievements set against the backdrop of the ruin that may eventually attend all technological cultures. Or perhaps we’ll run into interstellar proselytes, out to convert the galaxy to a particular set of beliefs by placing their highest values into their outgoing signal.
I’m glad that finally somebody in mainstream SETI studies have proposed something different to think about when it comes to listening to, or broadcasting signals.
While I feel SETI should do more than just do the radio thing and look for possible Bracewell Probe signals, the Benford Clan at least looked outside the box.
The Monument Beacon theory sounds good, but something else should be added onto that.
If a suspected source is found, perhaps we should train all of our available listening, optical, and any other measuring devices we can muster to locate a Transcension Fossil in its general direction.
Yeah I know, semi-religious technorapture crap and such an object would be hard to find, even if the broadcast signal was strong enough.
But if we were lucky enough to intercept a Beacon in the first place, why not trace it back to the source to see if such things as Technological Singularities take place?
It could explain the Fermi Paradox.
And give us a clue to our ultimate fate possibly.
I had an encounter with an interesting commenter for a couple of days about a post I did about The Galactic Internet and the Cepheid stars. I mentioned SETI and a passing reference to attention should paid to the UFO phenomenon more because it could possibly help with SETI and that the mainstream shouldn’t be so close-minded about it.
Well, you would’ve thought I dug Einstein himself up out of the ground and pissed on the corpse!
In a nutshell, his beef was that the UFO issue wasn’t worth the time because there’s no physical evidence and that it belonged to the fairy, gnome, ghost and whatever superstition you can dream up file. He refused to discuss the post at hand and kept wanting to rant at me about UFOs.
I figured he was some kind of college kid, or maybe even a teacher at a school. At worse, probably a plain ol’ troll!
He raised an interesting point however, “it’s a contradiction to assume that alien technology is millions of years ahead of ours and then expect them to risk their lives by putting their fragile bodies in primitive physical capsules (ufos), when undetectable remote sensing would do the job.”
Why indeed? A pretty good point actually.
Why would an advanced race, unless they were an evolved AI, want to cross interstellar space just to study primitive aboriginals?
Which brings us to this post from UFO Digest:
“The clearest and most succinct summary of reported UFO characteristics I have yet to find was written by the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek in a foreword to the book The UFO Controversy in America (4).
“The reported ability to execute trajectories, often but not always silently, that no known man-made craft could generate or follow; the ability to hover, and then to accelerate to high speeds in the order of seconds (and generally without a sonic boom); on occasion to change shape, and to produce durable physical effects on both animate and inanimate matter. To be, on occasion, unmistakably detected on radar, yet to be peculiarly localized and preferential in their manifestation (that is, their appearance at times and places when and where they would be least likely to be detected, and their avoidance of level flight which would of necessity open them to observation by people along the way). The pattern in the ‘close encounter’ cases is almost universal: a rapid descent to a landing or near landing, a stay of the order of only minutes, and the ascent, at usually a high angle, and disappearance either through distance or by some other means (it is often reported that at a height of a few hundred feet the bright luminosity vanishes). The choice of locale is statistically significant. The close encounter cases simply do not occur on the White House lawn or between halves at the Rose Bowl game, but in desolate spots, generally some distance from habitation and where detection would be least expected. In a small percent of the close encounter cases, robot-like or human-like “creatures” are reported.”
“Dr. Hynek should not need an introduction to anybody who has made even the slightest foray into the field of UFO literature. His own book, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry (3) is considered a classic in this field and many people, myself included, think it is probably the most important book ever written on this subject. The book includes an appendix listing some eighty cases that were carefully selected by Hynek for maximum credibility. Reading these cases it is easy to conclude that the phenomena in question does not move in a way that is dependent on aerodynamics or on any kind of standard propulsion system. Can we create a set of familiar circumstances that would serve an an analog to what has been so consistently reported and ably summarized by Dr. Hynek?”
Now I can’t pretend to know anything about quantum physics/mechanics, like the author here, I’m only a layman. But the world of the very small is an area of nature we have only begun to explore fully and there are many, many unanswered questions on how it works.
But work it does, our computer chip technology and the Internet Google-Plex utilizes some of its principles.
And without it, our present society couldn’t exist.
Hat tip to The Anomalist
Suppose for a moment that life really is rare in the universe. That when we are able to investigate the nearby stars in detail, we not only discover no civilizations but few living things of any kind. If all the elements for producing life are there, is there some kind of filter that prevents it from proceeding into advanced and intelligent stages that use artifacts, write poetry and build von Neumann probes to explore the stars? Nick Bostrom discusses the question in an article in Technology Review, with implications for our understanding of the past and future of civilization…
Bostrom’s idea of a ‘Great Filter’ comes from Robin Hanson (George Mason University), and consists of the kind of transition that a civilization has to endure to emerge as a space-faring culture. The key question: Is the filter ahead of us or behind? If behind, wonderful — we have already passed the test and can look with some confidence to the future. Recent work, for example, indicates that human beings were reduced to a band of as little as 2000 individuals some 70,000 years ago, near extinction. Yet somehow migrations out of Africa began 60,000 years ago, and all the tools of civilization would emerge in their wake.
I was really taken aback when I read this piece from Bostrum. Of all the people who display paroxysms of anthropocentrism and ethnocentrism, he would be the last person I would expect to display such.
I read Paul Gilster’s blog every day for it’s no nonsense science and for the spirited, intelligent commenting that happens there. I think I live there as much as I live here! And I agree whole-heartedly with his commentary at the end.
To add to his commentary I would like to paraphrase a statement from Graham Hancock; ” To believe there is no other intelligent life in the Universe and there are no other great civilizations is be arrogant and stupid…”
Not an exact quote, but the idea is the same.