Heading for Mars? Not until a lot of work on novel space materials is completed

“This is space. It does not cooperate.” This quote – by stranded astronaut Mark Watney in The Martian – encapsulates the challenge of the new era of space industry and the NASA-led journey back to the Moon and on to Mars, known as Project Artemis. The Martian demonstrated – at least through literature and cinema … Continue reading Heading for Mars? Not until a lot of work on novel space materials is completed

New Russian satellite-killer produces decades of fallout

The International Space Station is going into lockdown every 93 minutes. Satellite operators are scrambling to see if their assets are at risk. All thanks to a “most irresponsible” Russian orbital weapons test. The world’s space agencies and industries went into high alert overnight and ground-based radars had begun issuing warnings about the appearance of … Continue reading New Russian satellite-killer produces decades of fallout

The problem rocket scientists fear the most …

It ain’t rocket science. And that’s the problem! Eager researchers with innovative solutions for the burgeoning space industry often find themselves stumped when faced with the “b” word. That’s b for business. It’s a delicate subject that needs to be confronted carefully and considerately, says University of South Australia (UniSA) Innovation & Collaboration Centre (ICC) … Continue reading The problem rocket scientists fear the most …

Killer asteroids and stargazing

Fred Watson’s been a fixture of Australian astronomy for decades, perhaps best known for his work promoting and explaining science and astronomy on television, radio and through publications. In addition to a long career at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and now as astronomer-at-large for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, he is the author … Continue reading Killer asteroids and stargazing

New insights into the Moon’s evolution

The Moon rocks from China’s Chang’e 5 lander have been analysed, adding to the story of the Moon’s thermal and chemical evolution. More than 50 years ago, the Apollo program brought 382 kilograms of lunar material back to Earth, including Moon rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust. These samples gave us a glimpse of … Continue reading New insights into the Moon’s evolution

A planet with an atmosphere that vaporises rock?

October is planetary science month. That’s when the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences holds its annual meeting, with hundreds of researchers discussing planetary bodies large and small. Want the latest on the search for Planet 9? Here’s the place to find out. (Hint: nobody’s found it.) Wondering what counts as a planet? Forget … Continue reading A planet with an atmosphere that vaporises rock?

A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

Winter is coming on Pluto. And it is a winter, scientists say, unlike anything imaginable on Earth, a winter in which the dwarf planet’s entire atmosphere is expected to freeze out as frost, leaving it nearly as airless at the Moon. Not that Pluto has ever had a thick atmosphere. Its current surface pressure is … Continue reading A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

Blobs in space

Fake muscles, the Blob, and a 3D printing project that aims to turn Moon dust into human habitats are about to head to the International Space Station (ISS).  The uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft, carrying the latest series of space science experiments, is due to launch in a fortnight.  On board is a slime mould, Physarum polycephalum – otherwise known as … Continue reading Blobs in space

Final frontier exam: is it fit for space?

A new network to put space technology through its paces has been set up, to make sure Australian-developed products can withstand the radiation, vibrations, temperatures, and vacuum of space travel. Checking that equipment can cope with cosmic rays, solar winds or sudden radiation showers is critical as companies vie to be a part of the … Continue reading Final frontier exam: is it fit for space?

The surface of Venus is geologically active

Venus’ surface is not a single, solid “lithosphere”, as once thought, but a patchwork of tectonic plates with similar activity to – but not the same as – those here on Earth, according to a new study out today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The study shows that these tectonic plates jostle and … Continue reading The surface of Venus is geologically active

The search for ET is getting (a little) more serious

A new report into possible UFO sightings has prompted important debate among intelligent lifeforms here on Earth. When – and if – Homo sapiens encounter intelligent extra-terrestrial life, the revelation will probably come not with a bang, but with thorough scientific investigation.  A soon-to-be released report into UFO sightings has excited imaginations around the world about the possibility of … Continue reading The search for ET is getting (a little) more serious

SKA’s low-frequency radio telescope promises a first look at the origin of the Universe

Here’s an interesting fact: the big discoveries that some telescopes are famous for are not necessarily what they were built for. Most telescopes will do the things that their designers expected, and you always want an instrument to help you see as much as possible. But then, who knows what you’ll find?  One of the … Continue reading SKA’s low-frequency radio telescope promises a first look at the origin of the Universe