The other day I came across a story on the internet about a couple of Italian teenagers in the 1950s who used to listen in on the American and Russian space ships as they flew overhead.

They claimed that (among other things) they had heard several unannounced Russian space failures, including one ship that unintentionally left orbit and headed off into space never to return, and a couple where something went wrong and the cosmonauts appeared to perish in orbit.

It was all a little unnerving to think about it too much. Not necessarily unexpected what else we know about the Communist government’s general history and behaviour or the problems with the Russian space program that we do know about.

Overall the story is a good short read though.

Science update

Recent things of note:

  • We’re going to have to wait until 2016 for our next lot of Space porn starring Jupiter. NASA will be launching the Juno mission in 2011, with the probe skimming above the cloud tops. It’s sure to make for some really pretty storm pictures.
  • Guys at Harvard have found a group of genes which seem to be involved in cellular aging in organisms from yeast to mice. Additionally, genetically engineering more copies, or providing drugs that activated the genes and the mice lives 24-46 percent longer. (Cue Morgan quoting “Of course I plan to live forever, but failing that a few thousand years would be fine…”).

And finally a nice little lamentation piece over at the daily galaxy, entitled “What Color’s Your Spaceship?” The problem with science education, from which I gathered the following very good quote:

For a new generation of graduate students the internet is an invaluable resource, a telephone, newsreel and the biggest reference in the world all in one.  But in many schools, where the internet is acknowledged at all it is painted as an evil source of cheating and laziness.  The problem is that kids are smart: for all its problems the internet is the greatest informational archive ever created, and if you tell a kid that using it is wrong then that kid is going to file you under “lying or stupid” and ignore everything you say.


Here are a bunch of space and moon related stories I have seen and liked recently.

First is the suggestion that following the collision between earth and another protoplanet that resulted in the formation of our moon, there may have actually been multiple moons around earth for up to 100 million years.

Next is the story that NASA have managed to recover data from a science mission on the Columbia Space shuttle (which crashed in 1993). A hard disc containing the data from the experiment was found and most of the data was eventually able to be recovered. If it weren’t in somewhat bad taste it’d make a good advertising camapaign for the hardware manufacturer (“Our disks are built so tough they even survive re-entry”).

Next is a story about a NASA mission to send a manned crew to land on a nearby asteriod. Is anyone else thinking Armageddon?

And finally a little closer the the ground, Microsoft has released a kind of inverted google earth. Their program called Worldwide telescope looks at the skies and uses images from a number of different space and ground based telescopes to allow you to zoom in and out to see all manner of celestial objects from the comfort of your home computer. Normally I don’t plug Microsoft programs, but apparently this one is pretty good and quite innovative.

It has a light side, it has a dark side…

 I ran into a rather cool little story that I had not previously been aware of, about how on the Apollo 17 mission one of the fenders had fallen off the moon buggy and they had to repair it using Duct Tape.

It reminded me of a quote I found a few years back that went:
Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, it has a dark side, and it hold the universe together.

Night sky

Last night I stumbles onto a rather neat little online tutorial for orienting yourself to the (admittedly northern hemisphere) night sky. It’s simple, and quite fun.


More from the science desk.

I stumbled upon a number of cool sciency stories this afternoon, and thought I’d package them together to pass them along.

The first relates to New Zealand and the long held belief that New Zealand had never been home to a native land based mammal, until they were introduced first by the polynesians (who bought rats and dogs) and the europeans (who bought just about everything else). There were bats, and seals, but nothing land based. Now fossils have been found which suggest that NZ was once home to a small native mouse sized mammal, which lived about 16 million years ago – Better get your history and biology books out kids and cross out that particular paragraph…

Secondly, earlier this week a telescope in New Mexico caught some damn cool footage of a shock wave spreading out across the surface of the sun. The technical name for the phenomenon is a Moreton wave, however for popular consumption the press releases all referred to it as a solar tsunami. Either way the picture is pretty cool.

Next was an article on slashdot relating to some research on how smell worked. The traditionally proposed model for how it worked was one smell molecule fits one receptor. The new research however was proposing that the receptors worked through some system of quantum electron tunneling, so that it was the nature of the quantum interaction that triggered the receptor (and thus the sensation of the smell) and not the shape of the molecule (thus explaining the previous observation that differently shaped molecules can have the same smell).

Bunnies in space

[No, this post is not dealing with the astronautical talents of Hugh and his associates]

This evening I watched Wallace and Grommit: The curse of the were-Rabbit.

Upon seeing the BunVac 6000 in action I was immediately taken by how cool the rabbits looked floating around in the vacuum chamber, and though that rabbits would really be damn cool in outer space.

Should I ever find myself in a position of owning a space station (make that when I own a space station) I think I shall have to test it out.

I also saw a brief thing on TV this evening about a family that was raising an orphaned baby rock Wallaby, who was also very very cute, and I think they’d go quite well up there too…