Exploración espacial (Continuación)

Hace más de 50 años (1957), los soviéticos lanzaron el primer satélite en órbita del mundo, superando a EE.UU. en el espacio. Para los estadounidenses, el "momento Sputnik" fue un llamado de atención que empujó a Estados Unidos a aumentar la inversión en tecnología y educación científica. Meses más tarde, EE.UU. lanzó el satélite Explorer 1, con lo que la carrera entró en movimiento. Se animó a los niños a estudiar matemáticas y ciencias, y los conocimientos estadounidenses ayudaron al país ante el desafío.

Pero el ritmo ha disminuido drásticamente desde entonces, y la NASA ha estado tratando desde principios de noviembre de aprestar su último transbordador para el lanzamiento.…  Seguir leyendo »

For centuries, speculation about the existence of life elsewhere in the universe was the preserve of philosophers and theologians. Then, 50 years ago last month, the question entered the scientific sphere when a young American astronomer named Frank Drake began sweeping the skies with a radio telescope in hopes of picking up a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization. Initially, his quest was considered somewhat eccentric. But now the pendulum of scientific opinion has swung to the point where even a scientist of the stature of Stephen Hawking is speculating that aliens exist in other parts of our galaxy.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is predicated on the assumption, widely held today, that life would emerge readily on Earth-like planets.…  Seguir leyendo »

Our space program, once the envy of every nation on Earth, has been showing its age of late. Its ambitions, though laudable, are starting to appear a little outdated. Technologies that once dazzled the masses now seem almost everyday and routine. Visions of new planetary terrain, once the fodder of science fiction, seem somewhat commonplace in light of the discoveries made by robotic spacecraft and the capabilities of other countries. And while the moon remains a fascinating destination, an entire galaxy of other regions - and countless possibilities - is just waiting to be explored.

With a renewed sense of energy and vision, NASA is well-positioned to reinvent itself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le 2 février 2010, l’administration Obama a annoncé une nouvelle politique spatiale. Elle comporte trois décisions essentielles: le subventionnement par la NASA du développement de systèmes privés pour acheminer les astronautes jusqu’à la Station spatiale internationale; l’annulation du programme Constellation consacré au développement des équipements nécessaires aux vols habités vers la Lune; l’abandon du concept de fixation d’objectif de mission pour les vols habités, au profit d’une approche basée sur le financement d’une recherche technologique ayant pour but de permettre une mission qui sera éventuellement choisie plus tard.

La première de ces trois décisions est positive et attendue depuis longtemps. La seconde, considérée en soi, est néfaste mais elle pourrait être bonne si quelque chose de mieux que le programme Constellation était proposé.…  Seguir leyendo »

What do rockets burn for fuel? Money. Money that is contributed by working families who have mortgages and children who need braces. And why do the American people support our efforts in space? Because they still believe, to some extent or another, in that shining dream of exploring other worlds. So it could be said that rockets really run on dreams.

The exploration of space is the grandest adventure challenging the human race. As a filmmaker I have celebrated this greatest of dreams in my movies and documentaries, and I remain as passionate about the discoveries ahead as I was when I was a kid.…  Seguir leyendo »

Our planet has just enjoyed a weekend of rare company. The “wolf Moon”, as it is known to native Americans, has hung huge and full at its nearest point to Earth. Mars, meanwhile, has made its closest approach in six years, its red glow almost as bright as any star. Yet at this moment of tantalising proximity to our celestial neighbours, Barack Obama stands accused of pushing them farther away.

The Nasa budget that he presented yesterday cancels the new rockets that might return astronauts to the Moon and the plans for a manned lunar base as a stepping-stone to Mars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace 40 años, el hombre pisó por primera vez la Luna. Cuarenta años después, las dos grandes potencias que compitieron ferozmente por alcanzar la Luna cooperan todos los días a bordo de la Estación Espacial Internacional. En la actualidad, una tripulación de seis astronautas de distintas nacionalidades vive y trabaja de forma permanente en un inmenso laboratorio, del tamaño de un estadio de fútbol, que orbita 250 kilómetros por encima de nuestras cabezas fruto de la colaboración entre Estados Unidos, Europa, Rusia, Japón y Canadá.

Hoy en día, con la ventaja de la retrospectiva, sabemos que el significado de la conquista de la Luna es muy distinto del que la opinión pública interpretó en 1969.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Silicon Valley we have a saying: launch early, launch often. It’s an acknowledgment that successful, innovative companies are the ones that rapidly try new ideas, see what works, improve their products and repeat. Businesses that launch frequently are also able to take advantage of economies of scale to make launchings faster and easier. In many ways, the key to innovation is speed of execution.

NASA, an agency that depends on innovation, could benefit from the same mindset. To meet its new goals for human spaceflight, NASA must be able to be creative and take risks, or else it will be unable to adapt to new technology and changing political realities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Picture a habitat atop a hill in warm sunlight on the edge of a crater near the south pole of the Moon. There are metal ores in the rocks nearby and ice in the shadows of the crater below. Solar arrays are set up on the regolith that covers the Moon’s surface. Humans live in sealed, cave-like lava tubes, protected from solar flares and sustained by large surface greenhouses. Imagine the Moon as the first self-sustainable human settlement away from Earth and a high-speed transportation hub for the solar system.

We can finally begin to think seriously about establishing such a self-sufficient home on the Moon because last week, NASA announced that it had discovered large quantities of water there.…  Seguir leyendo »

Now that the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings has come and gone, we are faced with the grim reality that if we want to send humans back to the Moon the investment is likely to run in excess of $150 billion. The cost to get to Mars could easily be two to four times that, if it is possible at all.

This is the issue being wrestled with by a NASA panel, convened this year and led by Norman Augustine, a former chief executive of Lockheed Martin, that will in the coming weeks present President Obama with options for the near-term future of human spaceflight.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pertenezco a un grupo -creo que bastante numeroso- cada vez más decepcionado con la política nacional. Ofende a la inteligencia, a la capacidad de razonamiento lógico que caracteriza a los humanos, contemplar como una buena parte de los políticos españoles se sumergen en campañas electorales como la que tuvo lugar hace poco para elegir a nuestros representantes en el Parlamento Europeo y no hablan para nada de política europea, empleando la mayor parte del tiempo en descalificarse mutuamente, ejercicio en el que continúan empeñados. Bien harían estos servidores públicos en seguir la receta que Carlos Fuentes ofreció en uno de sus libros (En esto creo): "La política como costumbre virtuosa, receptiva de los datos de la cultura, la tradición, el respeto del individuo y el vigor de la colectividad".…  Seguir leyendo »

The public meetings and media reports about the Human Space Flight Plans Committee, a 10-member advisory panel appointed at the request of President Obama, indicate that NASA's mission is about to change. It needs to.

For the past five decades, NASA has concentrated on exploration of our solar system. It has done a marvelous job. We have tremendous knowledge about virtually all the nearby planets and satellites, and great detail on the moon and Mars. While much has been learned from the manned space program, the scientific return from robotic spacecraft has yielded much more information about our solar system.

NASA officials believe the manned space program, which is allocated the great majority of the agency's funding, is what attracts public interest and helps support the agency overall.…  Seguir leyendo »

Until the 1950s space travel was a futuristic concept, familiar from H. G. Wells and Jules Verne — and from comics and cornflake packets. But Sputnik, followed by Yuri Gagarin’s (and John Glenn’s) circling of the Earth made it real. The advent of the space age crystallised into reality human fantasies that dated back centuries.

The Moon landings came less than 70 years after the first powered flight — Orville Wright’s “brief hop” at Kitty Hawk — and only 12 years after the launch of Sputnik. Had the space race sustained its momentum, one might by now have expected a permanent lunar base, or an expedition to Mars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Il y a quarante ans, le 20 juillet 1969, Neil Armstrong posait le pied sur la Lune. Ce "petit pas" portait les fruits d'une vision grandiose. A peine huit ans plus tôt, le président Kennedy déclarait au Congrès sa conviction: "Ce n'est pas un seul homme qui ira sur la Lune, c'est le pays tout entier. Car chacun d'entre nous doit se mobiliser pour l'y envoyer."

A l'époque, l'Europe était peu active dans le domaine spatial. La situation a radicalement changé aujourd'hui, notre industrie spatiale est l'une des plus puissantes au monde. Ses applications simplifient notre vie quotidienne et nous fournissent des informations inestimables sur l'évolution de notre environnement.…  Seguir leyendo »

No es lo mismo ir a la Luna que estar en ella. Lo segundo alude a quienes creen en lo primero. ¿Cuarenta años ya? No me toquen las pelotas. Yo tenía treinta y dos y estaba como un queso de mozzarella de búfala. ¿Quién iba a imaginarse que ocho lustros después, podrido por la gusanera de la ancianidad, lo sería de cabrales?

De búfala, decía, porque el paripé del alunizaje me pilló en Italia. Roma era entonces una fiesta. ¿Tanto como el París de Hemingway? ¡Hombre, no se me pongan así! Cada ciudad con su copla. Las chicas se me rifaban, lo cual es de por sí una fiesta, y la mía aseguraba que yo era il ragazzo piú hemingwayano della costa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Michael Crichton escribió en una ocasión que si le hubiera dicho a un médico de 1869 que en cuestión de 100 años el hombre viajaría a la Luna, y después perdería el interés por el satélite, el facultativo le habría declarado de inmediato «demente». En el año 2000, yo cité esta misma anécdota expresando la incredulidad de Crichton ante la dejadez de EEUU con la Luna. Pues bien, ya es 2009 y ésta despierta aún menos interés.

Hoy se cumple el 40º aniversario del primer aterrizaje lunar. Y se nos dice que el hombre regresará en el año 2020. Pero esa promesa fue hecha por el anterior presidente, y bien sabemos que el actual es la antítesis de George Bush.…  Seguir leyendo »

Well, let’s see now ... That was a small step for Neil Armstrong, a giant leap for mankind and a real knee in the groin for NASA.

The American space program, the greatest, grandest, most Promethean — O.K. if I add “godlike”? — quest in the history of the world, died in infancy at 10:56 p.m. New York time on July 20, 1969, the moment the foot of Apollo 11’s Commander Armstrong touched the surface of the Moon.

It was no ordinary dead-and-be-done-with-it death. It was full-blown purgatory, purgatory being the holding pen for recently deceased but still restless souls awaiting judgment by a Higher Authority.…  Seguir leyendo »

How did we allow "vision" and "inspiration" to become dirty words when discussing science? Why are these regarded as fluffy concepts that have no place in the modern world of scientific research? The science journal Nature has carried out an online, international, cross-disciplinary survey of scientists who have published in their journal in the last three years. Of the 800 or so respondents, more than half cite Project Apollo as having directly influenced them to become a scientist. I was stunned. This is Nature-published authors we're talking about, not contributors to the Liechtenstein Journal of Flying Saucers – they're supposed to be a more rational breed.…  Seguir leyendo »

It's a birthright proffered by science and prophesied by “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Galactica” and a thousand other space operas: We’re destined to go to the stars. Our descendants will spread beyond this nondescript solar system and seek adventure and bumpy-headed pals in the stellar realms.

Well, cool your warp jets, Mr. Scott, because we’re not about to breach the final frontier. Piling into a starship and barreling into deep space may long remain — like perfect children or effort-free bathroom cleaners — a pipe dream.

The fastest rocket ever launched, NASA’s New Horizons probe to Pluto, roared off its pad in 2006 at 10 miles per second.…  Seguir leyendo »

A cancer is overtaking our space agency: the routine acquiescence to immense cost increases in projects. Unmistakable new indications of this illness surfaced last month with NASA’s decision to spend at least $100 million more on its poorly-managed, now-over-$2 billion Mars Science Laboratory. This decision to go forward with the project, a robotic rover, was made even though it has tripled in cost since its inception, it is behind schedule, there is no firm estimate of the final cost, and NASA hasn’t disclosed the collateral damage inflicted on other programs and activities that depend on NASA’s limited science budget.

The decision to pour more money into the Mars Science Laboratory, which is scheduled for launching next year, may have been like many I witnessed as NASA’s associate administrator for science.…  Seguir leyendo »