Rosetta’s Final Mission

Tomorrow, one way or another, the ESA’s Rosetta mission is coming to an end.  In a final maneuver, the craft will attempt to land on the surface of the comet, following in the footsteps of the Philae lander, though hopefully with more success. The video shows the final orbit plan, and really highlights how amazing mission scientists are to be able to plan a landing site when the comet is rotating so quickly, relative to the craft’s motion. You can follow the link to watch the live broadcast of the event here.  The mission will end around 7:20am EST tomorrow,...

Black Holes ARE Dark Matter?

Dark matter could be almost anything.  With little data other than how much total dark matter mass exists, we can’t decode much about what individual chunks of dark matter might be made of.  I’ve talked before about Massive Compact Halo Objects (MACHOs) and Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), but these are just two possibilities.  Other theorists have talked about Modified Newtonian Gravity (MNG), where gravity may work differently on the grand scale than it does on our small Earth scales.  Or perhaps it’s something I haven’t seen before.  Maybe what we call dark matter is just a large population of ancient black holes....

Review: Planetary

On the heels of my last review, I watched another movie with a space-documentary theme.  Though it started out with the human perspective from space, it progressed into so much more.  This is the TVO documentary called Planetary. It began with Apollo.  Humanity broke the bonds of our world and set foot on another heavenly body.  For the first time, we could look back and see the world as it truly is.  One of my favourite quotes from the movie came up early, though I’m paraphrasing: We are the Earth, and the Earth is all of us.  Seeing the Earth...

Communicating Science

I am a big fan of John Oliver and his HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight.’  Last night the show covered a topic near and dear to me, the publication of science and how it is communicated to the layperson. He raises very important points about how scientists are motivated to produce exciting new research for grants and tenure, rather than replicating existing studies to prove or disprove them.  He also talks about how science is portrayed in the media, and how studies are interpreted without context or fine details. We need science communicators.  People who are scientifically literate and can communicate complex...

New Horizons Loses Contact with Earth on Final Approach to Pluto

On July 4th, for about an hour and twenty minutes, my heart stopped. This was the amount of time that New Horizons was quiet.  No contact, no data, nothing but the lonely black of space.  In this time, the craft did what it was programmed to do.  It transferred control to its backup computer, which told the main computer to enter safe mode and suspend all non-essential functions.  Then the backup computer attempted to re-establish contact with Earth, 5 Billion Kilometres away. Contact has been re-established with the craft and its backup computer has been transmitting telemetry data back to mission...

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Catastrophe After Launch

I was downtown Toronto this morning, dressed in a suit and holding my umbrella to stay dry and navigate the city streets as they were soaked with rain.  I was headed to the CBC building on John street to do an interview about the SpaceX CRS-7 mission that would launch an hour later.  This would be a very important mission, the seventh of twelve ISS resupply missions contracted by NASA. It was also the third attempt at a secondary goal – landing the first stage launch vehicle, the Falcon 9 rocket, upright on an ocean platform, a feat that had...

This Video Will Leave You Speechless.

This incredible video was just released by the National Space Society as the New Horizons team is primed to receive the first wave of data from the distant Pluto system.  It feels more like a movie trailer, except that it is 100% true.  I was left speechless by this amazing video and you will be too. The mission comes to a head on July 14th with the close flyby of Pluto and its five moons, though it’s possible there will be more moons discovered during the flyby.  If you want the latest mission updates and to follow along, go to http://seeplutonow.com/. I...