Space Exploration Alliance Blitz 2015

Register Here

[br]The Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) will be holding its annual grassroots visit to Congress, known as the “Legislative Blitz”, in Washington, D.C. from Sunday, February 22 to Tuesday, February 24, 2015. With unprecedented budgetary pressures facing the legislative and executive branches of government, it is uncertain which path our nation’s leaders will take with respect to our nation’s space program. More than ever before, it is absolutely critical that the voices of the space advocacy community be heard in this debate. Come join space advocates from around the country to let Congress know that there is strong constituent support for an ambitious space program. [br]
The Space Exploration Alliance is a collaboration of leading non-profit organizations that advocate for the exploration and development of outer space, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Explore Mars, Inc., Federation of Galaxy Explorers, Moon Society, Mars Society, National Society of Black Engineers, National Space Society, The Planetary Society, Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation, and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.
(Please note that registration for this event closes on February 1, 2015. Due to scheduling requirements, we regret that we will be unable to accommodate any requests to register after that date.)

For more information, please contact Rick Zucker at


Race to Mars lets you attach your name to one of the astronauts in the game for a mere $300

Ever wanted to be in a game, recognizable for everyone ? Ever thought of going to Mars, but not in the peak of health? Or simply tied to Earth with family obligations and other practical considerations holding you back? Then this is the answer to your dreams. A group of Polish Mars enthusiast are crowdfunding a new ‘Tycoon game’ where you can fund part of that game and the first 50 to pledge $300 can be an astronaut, or name a landmark or space company in the game ‘Race to Mars’.

Race to Mars game development explained

Race To Mars is a turn-based, space company simulation game. Become the head of a newly created “New Space” company whose goal is to establish a colony on Mars. You begin as a start-up and develop cutting edge aerospace technologies to reach orbit. Flying beyond the vicinity of Earth, blaze the trail into space and leave the competition far behind on your way to victory.

The game aims at achieving two goals: promoting the outer space industry and satisfying all fans of economy games. Race To Mars combines the realism of a space-port management sim and approachable gameplay. We assure you that both subject enthusiasts and casual gamers will find this mixture highly entertaining. The developers give priority to making an approachable game without compromising its key economic and strategic features.

On the main game screen, there will be the firm’s HQ and additional buildings related to the company’s activities. Most of the buildings will be created during the game, in the development phase of various projects, both major and minor ones. For example, a medium-size launch pad will be developed during R&D activities related to the medium-size rocket.

As an important game element, the player will have to interact with National Space and Air Office, the military, scan new market offers and monitor the activity of competitors. The authors of the game propose a simplified system called “the market”.

Since the developers aim at delivering the best quality, the game is being developed in close cooperation with scientists from a Polish space industry company Also, they are using Unity – the leading multiplatform game engine. Thanks to this, they expect to be able to deliver top quality content.

Nice thing is that even for very modest sums of money you get a lot of goodies (check out the list on the bottom of this post)

Features of the game:
Shape your own path to Mars: Satellites or a Space Station?
Discover more than two hundred pioneering technologies
Fight for a larger budget for your Space Program with the help of your fans and media
Expand your program: profit from commercial, scientific and military contracts
DRM free
Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android editions

The game developers aim to have
– detailed buildings’ concepts and models;
– expanded technology tree;
– expanded and balanced game features;

It is extremely important for them to keep the game as realistic as possible, so most of the money they are trying to raise through kickstarter or other means like Paypal is going to be spent on accurate technology description and achieving balanced gameplay.
Concept by Alicja Użarowska

The group behind this initiative intends to expand the game even further in the happenstance that they receive more than the requested amount of £30,000 ($44,700 / €34,845) . They expect to be able to create the game for different platforms much faster.  And there will be even more space programs and technologies. Plus the game will be translated into more languages.

Anyone pledging over $60 will get benefits and for $200 you start being part of the game. Either as one of the 50 astronauts or one of the 50 space companies and landmarks. A company coming in at $1,000 – 6,000 would have the option to have its space company name connected to one of the space companies in the game and name some landmarks.[br] I am seriously contemplating of getting my name in the game as Mars astronaut. Will you be an astronaut on my team?

The rewards to you if you pledge money to this game [br] £1 is around $1.49  at the moment and about  €1.16

Trojan Asteroids around Jupiter explained

image: Peter Scheirich, 2005

Ever wondered how the Lagrangian points work? Or how the asteroid belt came (and stayed)? I found a great explanation with an even greater image and I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Jupiter and the Sun are the two largest objects in our Solar System. Jupiter orbiting around the Sun, but being as big as it is, also pulling at our star. In this dance of orbits, they create regions where their gravity roughly cancels out. These are the Lagrangian points, created whenever two objects orbit one another.

In such Lagrangian Points the gravity is such that another small object can follow along in the orbit without being pulled in or out. As things aren’t getting pulled out of there, they get stuck in there as well, which created two large clumps of asteroids (and miscellaneous smaller space debris) in Jupiter’s orbit. [brThese are called the Trojan Asteroids. The group ahead of Jupiter is known as the Greek Camp, and the group behind it the Trojan Camp, with the asteroids in each camp being named after famous people in that ancient war. (If  you want to read up on that war of 3,000 years ago I recommend this free translation of Homer’s Iliad or if you are pressed for time you can use the movie Troy with Brad Pitt as Achilles) [br] Together, these two camps have as many asteroids as the Asteroid Belt.

With Lagrangian points other stable patterns are possible, and so happen. A stable 3:2 resonance pattern of asteroids whose motion gets confined to a basically triangular shape by the combined pull of Jupiter and the Sun. Around Jupiter this group of asteroids is called the Hilda Family, and their route forms a triangle with its three points at the two Lagrange points and at the point on Jupiter’s orbit directly opposite it from the Sun.

None of these orbits are perfectly stable, because each of these asteroids is subject to pulling from everything in the Solar System; as a result, an asteroid can shift from the Lagrange points to the Hilda family, and from the Hilda family to the Asteroid Belt (not shown in this image), especially if it runs into something and changes its course.

The reason that Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet is that we realized that these things are not only numerous, but some of them are quite big. Some things we formerly called asteroids are actually bigger than Pluto, so the naming started to seem a little silly. Now our Solar System has, in decreasing order of size, four gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus); four rocky planets (Earth, Venus, Mars, and Mercury); five officially recognized dwarf planets (Eris, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Ceres); and a tremendous number of asteroids. We suspect that there are actually about 100 dwarf planets, but the job of classifying what’s an asteroid and what’s actually a planet is still in progress — see Dwarf Planet if you want to know the details

Ceres orbits in the Asteroid Belt, about halfway between Mars and Jupiter, just inside the triangle of the Hilda Family of asteroids; Pluto and Haumea are both in the distant Kuiper Belt, outside the orbit of Neptune but shepherded by its orbit in much the same way that the Hildas are shepherded by Jupiter; Makemake is what’s called a “cubewano,” living in the Kuiper Belt of asteroids but unshepherded, orbiting independently; and Eris is part of the Scattered Disc, the even more distant objects whose orbits don’t sit nicely in the plane of the Solar System at all, having been kicked out of that plane by (we believe) scattering off large bodies like Jupiter.

But mostly, I wanted to share this to show you how things work in orbit around Jupiter, and in our nick of the Solar System.

Image by Voyager 1, NASA, when it was 4 billion miles from Earth.

The moving picture of the Trojan asteroids comes from the amazing archive at astronomy groups on the internet,  which has many other such pictures, and comes to me via Google+ : [br]+Yonatan Zunger  via  +Max Rubenacker.

Space rocks will have close call with Mars in 2013 and 2014

A newly discovered space rock is apparently on course to have an exceedingly close call with the planet Mars in October 2014, and there is a chance — luckily a small chance — that the comet may even collide with the planet.

The new comet has been given the scientific designations is comet C/2013 A1 [br]The Scottish-Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught discovered her on January 3, 2013. McNaught is a very avid observer of comets and asteroids and he has 74 comet discoveries to his name to date. McNaught participates in the Siding Spring Survey, a program that hunts down asteroids that might closely approach the Earth. [br]He discovered the new comet using the 0.5-meter Uppsala Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, New South Wales, Australia. Once the team knew what to look for they discovered some images of the comet dating from December 8, 2012, made by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.  Because the comet was discovered as part of its survey for asteroids, it bears the name of the observatory, Siding Spring. [br]Incidentally the hunt for space rocks on a possible collision course with earth is mostly done from the Northern hemisphere of Earth, but the Siding Spring Survey used the Southern hemisphere assets for the asteroid hunt.

[br]When it was discovered, Comet Siding Spring was 1076 million kilometers (669 million miles) from the sun. Because of its orbital eccentricity, it is tought to be a new or “virgin” comet, traveling in a parabolic orbit and making its very first visit to the vicinity of the sun. It is expected to pass closest to the sun (called perihelion) on October 25, 2014 at a distance of 195 million kilometers (130 million miles).

[br][br]Less than a week earlier, on October 19, 2014, the comet is projected to cross the orbit of Mars and pass very close to that planet. Preliminary calculations suggest that nominally at closest approach, Comet Siding Spring will come to within 101,000 kilometers (63,000 miles) of Mars. The asteroid is estimated to have a nucleus of  7.5-45 kilometers (5 to 30 miles) in diameter.

There is no need to be overly concerned yet as the present data on the course of this asteroid will be refined over the next 16 months. More obeservations of the path of the Spring Siding comet could bring good news or bad news as recent observations (on February 27, 2013) by Leonid Elenin, a reputable Russian astronomer who works at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, suggested that the comet could pass even closer to Mars. As close as just 41360 kilometers (25,700 miles) from the center of Mars.

As a close approach to Mars would make it a bright object in the sky there is hope that one of our satellites, like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or even a ground based asset like Curiosity can take images of the visit.

Then there is also the small possibility that the comet could collide with Mars, which would give a really big bang with an energy equivalent up to 2 × 1010 megatons. Spring Siding is moving at 35 miles per second, and such a collision could create an impact crater on Mars up to ten times the diameter of the comet’s nucleus and up to 1.25 miles deep. In lay terms a possible crater 75 -450 kilometers wide and 2 kilometers deep.

Many of us will recall Comet Shoemaker-Levy’s plunge into Jupiter in July 1994 which left dark telltale scars on Jupiter’s cloud tops for many months thereafter.

Collision or not, Comet Siding Spring will definitely come extremely close to Mars less than 20 months from now. This will actually be the second close encounter of Mars by a passing space rock within a year, as on October 1 of this year, the Comet ISON is due to pass 10 million kilometers (6.5 million miles) from Mars while travelling towards the Sun. Although the flyby of ISON is already thought to be a close pass, Siding Spring will approach about 100 times closer.