Catch up on more great space stories

If you enjoy the articles on Skymania, you may like to know that I am also a regular contributor to a great and fast-growing website for space enthusiasts called Sen – Space Exploration Network.

How the European Extremely Large Telescope will look. Credit: ESO

While mainly focused on spaceflight, this site, set up by internet entrepreneur Charles Black, also reports on important astronomical news. And it is building a useful library of feature articles about rocketry, the Solar System and the Universe.

My own last stint on the newsdesk covered five interesting stories. The first was about NASA’s plans to build a Mark II version of their rover Curiosity to explore Mars further in the next decade. You can read it here. (Article removed).

Some space scientists were protesting that Mars was getting too much attention at the expense of exploring the outer planets and their moons. Interestingly, the front-runner in a fun poll by Wired to pick a name for the rover is currently “I should be on Titan”.

My next article was about the fascinating results from the twin GRAIL space probes, Ebb and Flow, which together allowed scientists to create a detailed map of the Moon’s gravity field, revealing much about its violent history. You can read it here.

Last night, after that article was written, the two spacecraft ended their mission when they were deliberately crashed into a mountainside in the Moon’s north polar region.

My next piece reported on the plans by a new company, Golden Spike, to develop commercial space flights to the Moon, including missions to land wealthy tourists to walk on the lunar surface.

Led by NASA veterans including President and CEO Alan Stern, the enterprise aims to cut the cost of a two-person trip to $1.4 billion, comparable to that currently of sending a robotic probe. Read my article here. (Article removed).

Fourth news story in my last run was about an exciting proposal for NASA to send a space probe to fly though the jets of ice spray erupting from one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, to collect samples from the ocean thought to be beneath its surface.

This salty ice would be brought back to Earth by the LIFE (Life Investigation For Enceladus) craft and examined for signs that there could be alien microbes swimming about in that underground reservoir. Read my story here.

The fifth and final story in my last stint on the Sen newsdesk was good news concerning plans to build the world’s largest optical observatory on a peak in Chile. The European Extremely Large Telescope came a step closer to reality after a meeting of member states of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) gave full approval. I visited the site of this leviathan last year.

Full funding still needs to be confirmed, but this mighty instrument promises to produce great results including images of alien planets around other stars, views of the first galaxies to form in the Universe, and answers to the riddles of dark energy and dark matter. That piece is here.

There is an interesting new story every day at (NB. Articles are no longer published on Sen, which has changed its focus to building satellites). I’m back on the newsdesk there tomorrow for five more days so do visit to see what other exciting news I can ferret out.

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