Aerospace

Traveling to Mars is a ridiculous idea outside anything but "adventure" yet the U.S. administration under President Obama scrubbed his predecessor's return to the moon and replaced it with a program bearing his name, going to the red planet.

Whether or not that actually happens, science and technology are using that potential to experiment with growing food in space. 

Half a century of Christmases ago, the NASA space mission Apollo 8 became the first manned craft to leave low Earth orbit, atop the unprecedentedly powerful Saturn V rocket, and head out to circumnavigate another celestial body, making 11 orbits of the moon before its return. The mission is often cast in a supporting role – a sort of warm up for the first moon landing. Yet for me, the voyage of Borman, Lovell and Anders six months before Neil Armstrong’s “small step for a man” will always be the great leap for humankind.

Adélies penguin species may disagree that we're the apex species on earth; they don't spend a lot of time analyzing our poop after all.

But using Landsat satellite images, a team of scholars hope to use poop to sound another warning about clmate change. Unlike "Mission Impossible" movies, not every satellite can see individual creatures, but it can gauge changes by their traces; in this case, pink poo. 
Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors may not be certain (1) man landed on the moon but if photos and broadcasts of that are not enough, he won't be fooled by this picture of an Elf On The Shelf (Jingle, my wife calls him; Kegel the Christmas Elf, as fans of The League deem him) on the International Space Station.
NASA's InSight experiment landed on Mars November 26th after traveling 300 million miles over seven months. Though it is there to analyze seismic activity. its seismometer and air pressure sensor and picked up different vibrations on Dec. 1st. 

The slight hum turned out to be 10-15 mph winds as they blew across Mars’ Elysium Planitia.

We can now hear sound on another planet.

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," said Bruce Banerdt of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in their press release.  

For you and me both.

There's not a lot I can add to that so I will just be awed.

In the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and in a presentation at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Liverpool, a team announced one of the largest 3D maps of the infant Universe.

And along with it almost 4,000 early galaxies, many of which will have evolved into galaxies like our own Milky Way. 


The COSMOS field in the constellation of Sextans, seen in infrared light. Credit:  ESO/UltraVISTA team. Acknowledgement: TERAPIX/CNRS/INSU/CASU

Looking back in time: 16 different epochs between 11 and 13 billion years ago
The P120C solid-fuel rocket motor that will power Ariane 6 and Vega-C at liftoff has been transferred to the test stand for its first hot firing at Europe’s Spaceport.

P120C will replace P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C, which is expected to debut in mid-2019 and comprises four stages. Three stages will use solid-propellant motors and one will use liquid propellants.  The first stage is the P120C, the largest monolithic carbon fiber solid-propellant rocket motor ever built. Two or four P120Cs will also be strapped onto Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff.
Science 2.0 began 11 years ago, the year that the James Webb Space Telescope was supposed to be completed, but there was no real cause for alarm about the delays until 2010, when it was three years late and $1.5 billion over budget. Not many in science communication really cared, though that is easy to dismiss as modern journalists being cheerleaders rather than critical thinkers. Instead, the science community has continued to gush how great it will be as JWST missed milestone after milestone after milestone. 

Even last month, people were still continuing to write sentences like "JWST will be able to..." about 2020. 
A new paper believes detection of atmospheric signatures for a few potentially habitable planets could occur before 2030.

Does that mean life on other planets?

Perhaps. perhaps not. We could be first in the universe, even though mathematically we should not be, just like mathematically light from infinite stars could make our sky pure white even at night. But if we are not first, the challenge becomes how to really detect anything else. We are currently unable to visit exoplanets, and since we determined 15 years ago we couldn't even return to the moon until 2020 (and then the succeeding president scrapped that mission) we are not visiting them any time soon. But we can use telescopes to remotely examine them for so-called biosignatures. 

What started as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in August 2013, has become The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft which will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020