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    This is a fascinating topic and I'm a thread got started on it. I've always been interested in space and space travel. Wouldn't it be cool that if someday it would be the group from VH Links that discovered the way to FTL speeds! LOL

    Warp 9 Mr. Sulu!

    Now if someone could just perfect the freezing process so I could be frozen for the next couple hundred years and wake up when we have all these great new technologies.
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    oh, i know how to go faster thAan light speed, i just cant afford it..
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaboBrian View Post
    I'm a thread
    You're a thread?


    The threads are coming alive at the Links!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZeoHalen View Post
    You're a thread?


    The threads are coming alive at the Links!
    Damn cold medicine! LOL
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    It's all good!
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  7. #37
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    Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet
    POSTED: 2:10 a.m. EDT, April 25, 2007
    Story Highlights
    • NEW: Planet could conceivably house life outside our solar system
    • NEW: Discovery a "significant step" on way to finding possible life in universe
    • NEW: Planet, dubbed 581 c, orbits red dwarf star Gliese 581
    • NEW: Newly found planet full of liquid water, scientist believes

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- European astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our solar system, and here's what it might be like to live there:

    The "sun" wouldn't burn brightly. It would hang close, large and red in the sky, glowing faintly like a charcoal ember. And it probably would never set if you lived on the sunny side of the planet.

    You could have a birthday party every 13 days because that's how fast this new planet circles its sun-like star. But watch the cake -- you'd weigh a whole lot more than you do on Earth.

    You might be able to keep your current wardrobe. The temperature in this alien setting will likely be a lot like Earth's -- not too hot, not too cold.

    And that "just right" temperature is one key reason astronomers think this planet could conceivably house life outside our solar system. It's also as close to Earth-sized as telescopes have ever spotted. Both elements make it the first potentially habitable planet besides Earth or Mars.

    Astronomers who announced the discovery of the new planet Tuesday say this puts them closer to answering the cosmic question: Are we alone?

    "It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the new body. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions."

    There's still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is learned about it. But as galaxies go, it's practically a neighbor. At only 120 trillion miles away, the red dwarf star that this planet circles is one of the 100 closest to Earth.

    The results of the discovery have not been published but have been submitted to the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    Alan Boss, who works at the Carnegie Institution of Washington where a U.S. team of astronomers competed in the hunt for an Earth-like planet, called it "a major milestone in this business."

    The planet was discovered by the European Southern Observatory's telescope in La Silla, Chile, which has a special instrument that splits light to find wobbles in different wavelengths. Those wobbles can reveal the existence of other worlds.

    What they revealed is a planet circling the red dwarf star, Gliese 581. Red dwarfs are low-energy, tiny stars that give off dim red light and last longer than stars like our sun. Until a few years ago, astronomers didn't consider these stars as possible hosts of planets that might sustain life.

    The discovery of the new planet, named 581 c, is sure to fuel studies of planets circling similar dim stars. About 80 percent of the stars near Earth are red dwarfs.

    The new planet is about five times heavier than Earth, and gravity there would be 1.6 times as strong as Earth's. Its discoverers aren't certain if it is rocky like Earth or if its a frozen ice ball with liquid water on the surface. If it is rocky like Earth, which is what the prevailing theory proposes, it has a diameter about 11/2 times bigger than our planet. If it is an iceball, as Mayor suggests, it would be even bigger.

    Based on theory, 581 c should have an atmosphere, but what's in that atmosphere is still a mystery and if it's too thick that could make the planet's surface temperature too hot, Mayor said.

    However, the research team believes the average temperature to be somewhere between 32 and 104 degrees and that set off celebrations among astronomers.

    Until now, all 220 planets astronomers have found outside our solar system have had the "Goldilocks problem." They've been too hot, too cold or just plain too big and gaseous, like uninhabitable Jupiter.

    The new planet seems just right -- or at least that's what scientists think.

    "This could be very important," said NASA astrobiology expert Chris McKay, who was not part of the discovery team. "It doesn't mean there is life, but it means it's an Earth-like planet in terms of potential habitability."

    Eventually astronomers will rack up discoveries of dozens, maybe even hundreds of planets considered habitable, the astronomers said. But this one -- simply called "c" by its discoverers when they talk among themselves -- will go down in cosmic history as No. 1.

    Besides having the right temperature, the new planet is probably full of liquid water, hypothesizes Stephane Udry, the discovery team's lead author and another Geneva astronomer. But that is based on theory about how planets form, not on any evidence, he said.

    "Liquid water is critical to life as we know it," co-author Xavier Delfosse of Grenoble University in France, said in a statement. "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X."

    Other astronomers cautioned it's too early to tell whether there is water.

    "You need more work to say it's got water or it doesn't have water," said retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran, press officer for the American Astronomical Society. "You wouldn't send a crew there assuming that when you get there, they'll have enough water to get back."

    The new planet's star system is a mere 20.5 light years away, making Gliese 581 one of the 100 closest stars to Earth. It's so dim, you can't see it without a telescope, but it's somewhere in the constellation Libra, which is low in the southeastern sky during the mid-evening in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Even so, Maran noted, "We don't know how to get to those places in a human lifetime."

    But, oh, the view, if you could. The planet is 14 times closer to the star it orbits. Udry figures the red dwarf star would hang in the sky at a size 20 times larger than our moon. And it's likely, but still not known, that the planet doesn't rotate, so one side would always be sunlit and the other dark.

    Two teams of astronomers, one in Europe and one in the United States, have been racing to be the first to find a planet like 581 c outside the solar system.

    The European team looked at 100 different stars using a tool called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher) to find this one planet, said Xavier Bonfils of the Lisbon Observatory, one of the co-discoverers.

    Much of the effort to find Earth-like planets has focused on stars like our sun with the challenge being to find a planet the right distance from the star it orbits. About 90 percent of the time, the European telescope focused its search more on sun-like stars, Udry said.

    A few weeks before the European discovery earlier this month, a scientific paper in the journal Astrobiology theorized a few days that red dwarf stars were good candidates.

    "Now we have the possibility to find many more," Bonfils said.
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    NASA: Good weather for Friday shuttle launch
    POSTED: 2:09 p.m. EDT, June 5, 2007
    Story Highlights
    • NEW: NASA: Favorable weather, no glitches expected for Friday launch
    • NEW: Astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Monday
    • NASA plans to launch Atlantis at 7:38 p.m. ET June 8
    • Crew will deliver a new pair of solar arrays to the international space station

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- NASA planned Tuesday to start a countdown toward the first space shuttle flight of the year as engineers had no major technical problems and the weather forecast looked favorable for a Friday launch.

    There was a 70 percent chance that the weather would be suitable at 7:38 p.m. ET Friday, NASA's first opportunity to launch space shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle will carry seven astronauts on an 11-day mission to deliver a third pair of solar wings, which help power the international space station. They also will take three spacewalks to continue construction of the orbiting outpost.

    There will be thunderstorms Friday afternoon -- normal for a Florida summer day -- but they should move inland by launch time, said Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer.

    "For the coast here, the weather looks reasonably promising for launch," Winters said.

    NASA test director Steve Payne said engineers faced no major glitches.

    Beginning Friday, NASA has four chances to launch Atlantis over five days. If the shuttle hasn't gotten off the ground by June 12, the launch team will have to wait five days to allow an Atlas rocket to try to launch at neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Payne said.

    The forecast for Saturday and Sunday also was 70 percent favorable for a launch, although the weather wasn't as promising on those days at two emergency landing sites in Europe.

    The astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, and the countdown clock was to start ticking at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

    About the only hiccup was the prospect of 569 workers at the Kennedy Space Center going on strike as early as this weekend. The workers rejected a contract offer last weekend from United Space Alliance, the space agency's primary contractor for preparing space shuttles for launch. (Watch how strike vote could add to NASA's headaches Video)

    Kennedy Space Center has a 17,000-person work force, and few of the workers who might strike have any direct role in the final preparations for space shuttle launches. Payne said a strike would not affect a launch and that there are other employees who could fill the roles of striking workers if necessary.

    The launch originally was set for mid-March but was postponed after a freak hail storm caused thousands of dings in the insulating foam on Atlantis' external tank.

    Technicians spent more than two months making painstaking repairs to the tank.

    "We're relieved that we are finally here," Payne said. "It has been a long wait ... and it looks like everything is falling into place nicely."
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    Shuttle docking a 'go' despite gap in heat blanket
    POSTED: 10:47 p.m. EDT, June 9, 2007
    Story Highlights
    • NEW: 4-inch opening not significant, spokeswoman says
    • NEW: Engineers using photos to create 3-D image of gap
    • Atlantis to dock with International Space Station Sunday
    • Three spacewalks planned to install new equipment, retract old solar panel

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- The space shuttle Atlantis is charging toward its Sunday rendezvous with the international space station, apparently unaffected by a small gap in its heat-protecting blanket.

    Atlantis' seven astronauts spent much of Saturday on a mandatory inspection of the shuttle's delicate heat tiles, outer edges and blankets for problems similar to the kind that caused the fatal Columbia accident in 2003. As of Saturday afternoon, no glaring problems were reported.

    But late Friday and early Saturday, the crew spent extra time using a robot arm to look at a gap in a thermal blanket on the left side of the shuttle.

    The gap, about 4 inches by 6 inches, appears to have been caused by air lifting the corner of the blanket up, John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team, said at a news conference.

    "It's not a great deal of concern right now, but there's a lot of work to be done," Shannon said. "Other than that, the vehicle is very clean." (Watch thermal blanket concerns explained Video)

    The area does not get hotter than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit during the shuttle's return to Earth and is not a place where NASA is usually concerned about potentially fatal problems, NASA spokeswoman Lynette Madison said. Still, engineers were using photos to create a three-dimensional model of the gap just in case.

    "They don't think it's much of a concern," Madison said.

    As part of the normal day-after-launch tile inspections, astronaut Patrick Forrester used the shuttle's robot arm and a boom extension to examine its wings and outer edges.

    Atlantis' crew was given an extra half-hour to sleep Saturday morning, then awoke to the song "Big Boy Toys" by Aaron Tippin.

    Atlantis' seven-man crew was closing the gap between it and the space station by about 800 miles every 90-minute orbit. By 2 p.m. EDT, the shuttle was about 4,000 miles away from its destination. Atlantis is scheduled to dock with the space station at 3:38 p.m. EDT Sunday.

    Before the docking comes maneuvering that NASA officials often call a delicate ballet, a procedure that has appeared effortless in 20 previous tries, even though it is risky.

    "Two vehicles weighing 230,000 pounds going 17,500 mph, it's tough stuff," Mission Management Team leader John Shannon said.

    Atlantis commander Rick Sturckow will move the shuttle until it is 600 feet below the station and then make the shuttle turn a backflip in just nine minutes. The last few feet of the docking occur so slowly that Atlantis will get only an inch closer to the station every second.

    Once the shuttle and station connect, they will stay locked until June 17.

    During the 11-day flight, the astronauts will deliver a new segment and a pair of solar panels to the orbiting outpost. They plan three spacewalks -- on Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- to install the new equipment and retract an old solar panel.

    On Sunday, astronaut Clayton Anderson will replace astronaut Sunita Williams as the U.S. representative aboard the space station, and Williams will return to Earth aboard Atlantis. She has spent the past six months in orbit.

    About an hour after launch Saturday, NASA managers said initial checks found nothing to worry about. One piece of foam that appeared to come off the shuttle's fuel tank -- which bore white patches from repaired hail damage that had delayed the flight by three months -- about 135 seconds after launch did not seem to hit the shuttle, said shuttle program manager Wayne Hale.

    "The tank performed in a magnificent way, despite having several thousand repairs to it," Hale said at a news conference. "(The debris) should not be a hazard that late in the flight."

    The first shuttle launch of the year helped put NASA back on track after a run of bad luck and scandal on the ground during the first half of the year.

    In the past few months, NASA has seen the arrest of astronaut Lisa Nowak in an alleged plot to kidnap her rival for a shuttle pilot's affections; a murder-suicide at the Johnson Space Center in Houston; and the derailment of a train carrying rocket-booster segments for future shuttle launches.

    More recently, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has come under fire for suggesting that global warming may not be a problem worth wrestling with. And the agency's inspector general was lambasted at a congressional hearing Thursday by former staff members, representatives and senators for the way he managed his office, treated his employees and investigated complaints.
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    Space station oxygen, water computers fail
    POSTED: 6:34 a.m. EDT, June 14, 2007
    Story Highlights
    • NEW: Engineers aren't sure why computers failed that control water, oxygen
    • Computer failure could extend shuttle Atlantis' mission by at least a day
    • NASA expects problem to be fixed in the next couple of days
    • Astronauts work on solar panels Wednesday; Another spacewalk set Friday

    HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- Russian computers that control the international space station's orientation and supply of oxygen and water have failed, potentially extending the space shuttle's mission -- or cutting it short.

    Russian engineers aren't sure why the computers stopped working. A failure of this type has never occurred before on the space station.

    The station is operated primarily by the Russian and U.S. space agencies, with contributions from the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies.

    "We have plenty of resources, so we have plenty of time to sort this out," said Mike Suffredini, NASA manager of the space station program.

    But the computer failure could extend space shuttle Atlantis' mission by at least a day and, in a worst-case scenario, force the space station's three crew members to return to Earth early if the computers aren't fixed.

    Atlantis' mission had already been extended from 11 to 13 days so that astronauts can go on a spacewalk to repair a thermal blanket covering an engine pod that peeled up during launch. (Watch how the blanket may get fixed )

    Suffredini said he expected the problem to be fixed in the next couple of days. In a worst-case scenario, if at least one of the computers wasn't operating after the shuttle left, the space station's three crew members could return to Earth, he said.

    Thrusters on the docked space shuttle, along with the space station's gyroscopes, have been fired periodically to help maintain the space station's positioning since the computers failed earlier this week.

    The space station needs the maneuvering thrusters controlled by the Russian computers for docking and avoiding space debris.

    Without the Russian oxygen-machine running, the space station has a 56-day supply of oxygen left. "If we are in that position, we have an option to depart," Suffredini said.

    Russian engineers think the computers' failure could have been triggered by a power source. The space station earlier this week got a new pair of solar arrays that were delivered by Atlantis and unfolded Tuesday to help provide power.

    Astronauts venture outside
    During a spacewalk on Wednesday, astronauts Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson started to bring to life a rotating joint that will allow the new pair of solar arrays to track the sun. Astronauts will finish prepping the joint on another spacewalk.

    Forrester and Swanson also helped retract a 115-foot wing of an old solar array that will be folded up into a storage box and moved to another location later this year.

    Only 13 of the array's 31 sections were folded up, so flight controllers and astronauts will try to fold up the rest of the solar wing by remote commands on Thursday.

    NASA managers decided Wednesday to use a spacewalk on Friday to repair a torn thermal blanket located over an engine pod near the shuttle's tail.

    The astronauts will secure the blanket using staples found in the shuttle's medical kit and loop-headed pins that come from the shuttle's tile repair kit. If those methods don't work, NASA flight controllers will have the astronauts sew it into place using a stainless steel wire and an instrument that resembles a small needle.

    Engineers don't think the damaged section of the thermal blanket, which protects part of the shuttle from the blazing heat of re-entry, would endanger the spacecraft during landing. But it could cause enough damage to require schedule-busting repairs.

    NASA has focused intensely on any problems that could jeopardize a shuttle's re-entry into Earth's atmosphere since shuttle damage resulted in the 2003 Columbia disaster that killed seven astronauts.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

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