Science Friday: ‘Space, The Final Frontier’ Edition

Get ready for a very spacey edition of Science Friday this week, with news from Carolyn Porco’s cosmic perspective to planet finding, real Trek tech, and a look inside Mercury. All of this along with our gadget of the week: universal remote. Computer, commence “Science Friday”!

Cassini Watch: Cassini and Trek’s Porco to Provide Cosmic Perspective
When the worldwide film event known as Pangea Day launches this Saturday, May 10, Cassini imaging team leader and Star Trek’s science advisor, Carolyn Porco, will help to provide an inspiring perspective on humanity’s place in the cosmos. Pangea Day is a global event intended to bring the world together through film and will link locations around the world for powerful films, live music and visionary speakers. The entire four-hour program will be broadcast in seven languages to millions of people worldwide on television, on the internet and over mobile phones. For more information about the event and where to watch, see

Pangea Day May 10th — Trailer

Planets By the Dozen
A NASA-supported sky survey set to begin this fall could dramatically increase the number of known planets outside our solar system. Astronomers will start a massive search for new planets by observing about 11,000 nearby stars over 6 years. This number dwarfs the roughly 3,000 stars that astronomers have searched to date for the presence of planets. Scientists estimate that the NASA-funded project, called MARVELS (Multi-object Apache Point Observatory Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-area Survey), will find at least 150 new planets—perhaps many more. via Science@NASA

Artist’s conception of exoplanets around their star

More Real Trek Tech: Space Station Tricorder
On the International Space Station, astronauts are carrying an experimental device that looks strikingly similar to a Trek tricorder to keep track of microscopic life forms aboard the ISS. LOCAD-PTS, short for Lab-On-a-Chip Application Development Portable Test System is the first step along the path to developing something akin to those used by our favorite CMO‘s. But while tricorders could do almost anything from checking vital signs to finding alien life, LOCAD is a little more specialized: “LOCAD is specifically designed to detect and identify microbes on space station surfaces.” via Science@NASA

Astronaut Suni Williams uses LOCAD-PTS aboard the ISS

Iron ‘Snow’ Helps Maintain Mercury’s Magnetic Field
New scientific evidence suggests that deep inside the planet Mercury, iron “snow” forms and falls toward the center of the planet, much like snowflakes form in Earth’s atmosphere and fall to the ground. The movement of this iron snow could be responsible for Mercury’s mysterious magnetic field, say researchers. Mercury, the innermost planet in our solar system, is the only terrestrial planet other than Earth that possesses a global magnetic field. via ScienceDaily

The anatomy of Mercury


NASA Needs Astronauts
So with all that space news are you ready to go to the final frontier yourself? With the impending retirement of the Shuttle fleet and a 5 year gap before the new Orion launch vehicle comes on line, NASA is losing too many astronauts. For the first time in its history, NASA is actually actively recruiting space cadets with a new media campaign. The deadline for applications for the 2009 Class is July 1st. If you think you have the right stuff, there is more info on joining the program at, where it notes the travel requirements thusly “Possible destinations may include, but are not limited to, Texas, Florida, California, Russia, Kazakhstan, the International Space Station and the moon.” How cool is that?

Gadget of the Week: Universal Remote Concept
What if you could control everything in your home with a little handheld gadget? That’s what this universal remote by David Chacon got us thinking about, with its roomy screen — a nerve center right in your pocket. Simply called the Universal Remote, the device would be flash capable. With a touchscreen, the remote would allow you to change your television’s volume to turning on the oven or dimming the lights — and companies could create custom graphic user interfaces for a product, too.
It’s no, "Computer, lights," but it’s a start. See DVICE’s Gallery for more images.

The all in one concept remote

Science Quickies
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.

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Pangea Day, Mother’s Day… man, there’s gonna be a lot of wilted flowers and platicky crap in the landfills after this weekend.

Does the Universal Remote successfully talk to all my gadgets? I thought getting them to talk was the big stumbling block. If this works, then there’s some real life scifi in the offing about the Rise of the Machines. Oh well, there’s a lot of wiggle room when you slap on the word ‘concept.’ I’ll pass on my chance to get on the ground floor.

Maybe Mercury has a magnetic field cause it’s filled with creamy feric nugget…

Snide remarks aside, thanks for the roundup, Kayla!!

Looks like the Lunar breathing system test could have gotten claustrophobic pretty quickly.

Great job, TrekMovie guys! Lots of great stories.

NASA! Sign me the f*** up!

They forgot to mention destinations such as Vulcan and Bajor and my personal favorite: Riza. I wonder if you have to be a SR astronaut to visit those locations.

nasa needs us ! , meh , i would rather join ESA or Roscosmos

I wonder if ever the day will come where we openly travel between other solar systems in short amounts of time to visit the beings of other planets, promote open trade of technology and culture, and live amongst other types of lifeforms as casually as we do with each other and eventually adopt points of interest from each others civilizations.

Then Bush can tell them if they ain’t with us, they’re with the terrorists.

You’se guys should check out the hexagon on Saturn’s north pole, wery-wery strange, like a girl I knew from Moscow.

Another good job Kayla. I just spent untold hours surfing these links.


Assuming the program unfolds as planned, someone already among us in this world is the next person to set foot on the moon, and they don’t know it.

#8. i’ll make sure to start training now, just in case i’m the one.

oops i spelled my name wrong

I always dreamed of being an astronaut as a kid. I remember the 80’s and how the space program was a central part of Americana. There was hope about the future at the time. Even with the Challenger disaster in 86, the future still was bright. What the hell happened?

But I digress….. with the shuttles shutting down in 2010, that gives me what? a year get in top shape and earn a PhD in bio/chem/ physics, and know how to complete a road-runner thrust move.

Yo hablo espanol. Does that count?

On another note….

you’d figure that since this is a Trek board, there would be more people posting in the science column. But NOPE. A column about Kirk gets people all stirred up to 500 posts, yet something reality based gets nada.

Go figure.

Cayse – I hate to tell you this, but an astronaut should be able to spell his/her name correctly the FIRST time. Next. ;-)

Excellent stories Kayla. Please keep up the good reporting.

Can you have pubs on shuttles? If so, I’m in!

I just wanna find out what the big red button does. Can I go? Can I go?

“Lab-On-a-Chip Application Development Portable Test System ”

ok.. locad is the worst name for a gadget ever! do these guys/gals design the name so that it only sounds cool as an abbreviation?

Depends if you’re from the land of chekov or not….

Russian official denies astronaut drank

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s space agency denied Saturday that an astronaut could have flown drunk aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from its Baikonur cosmodrome, reacting to allegations reported by the chairman of an independent U.S. panel on astronaut health.

The panel chairman, Air Force Col. Richard Bachmann Jr., said Friday it was told about multiple instances involving alcohol. One of the two most detailed cases involved an astronaut drinking heavily before flying on a Soyuz spacecraft headed to the International Space Station, he said. He cited unverified interviews, saying it was not the panel’s mission to investigate the allegations.

Despite official denials of drinking before Russian flights to the space station, cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station, which has since been abandoned, were permitted to imbibe moderately. Cosmonaut Alexander Poleshchuk, who flew aboard the Mir space station in 1993, told newspapers of removing panels to hunt for bottles of cognac squirreled away by previous tenants.

Alcohol consumption is forbidden aboard the International Space Station, which has caused some mild grumbling. Cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov returned from an ISS mission in April 2005, and caused a stir when he said the crew should be allowed a shot of wine or brandy daily.

“This should be done only to do one’s work better and relieve the psychological stress,” he said, according to the Russian wire service RIA Novosti.

I wanna join NASA now xD

So the latest theory is that Mercury’s magnetospheres result from some sort of mystical “iron snow” swirling around the planet’s interior?

That sounds almost as ridiculous as the belief that vast, watery lava lakes formed the lunar Maria, or that Mars’ original ocean sprang from the Valles Marineris in one absurdly humongous gout.

Great article this week.

The Universal Remote Concept looks cool except the Internet Explorer icon.


Hm, So i’m happy with this nevertheless not absolutely convinced, therefore i am gonna research even more.