Science Friday: Phoenix (and Trek) On Mars + Aliens On Earth? + More [UPDATE]

This week, we have news of the Phoenix Lander’s astonishingly successful landing on Mars which brought a little piece of Trek along with it to the red planet. This plus how you can go to the moon, orbital skydiving world records, some purported”real” alien footage, and our gadget of the week: Sony Video Glasses! Read on!

Star Trek Lands on Mars!
Hopefully, you have heard the news of the Mars Phoenix Lander’s unprecedented success in its landing on the red planet last Sunday. Well, a little piece of Trek landed along with it. Nestled among the many scientific instruments on the craft is a silica-glass DVD which includes a digital library of literature and art, relating to the Red Planet and its unique influence on our culture and is designed to last hundreds — if not thousands — of years. Among the art is a copy of the Enterprise-D dedication plaque from Star Trek: The Next Generation, since that ship’s home was the planet Mars. Another piece in the collection is a magazine cover painting by Trek illustrator Rick Sternbach. There is also a "Mars Radio" portion of the disc which includes narration by Patrick Stewart. Read More!

One of the first images take by Phoenix. You can see the DVD!

Go to the Moon with LRO
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), slated to launch November 24, 2008, is calling for people to send their names to the moon! Names will be collected and placed onboard the LRO spacecraft for its historic mission bringing NASA back to the moon. You will also receive a certificate showcasing your support of the mission. The deadline is June 27, 2008 for the submission of names, so don’t wait. Thanks, Eric Enderle for the tip! Read More!

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Orbital Skydiver Attempts World Record
French “orbital” skydiver Michel Fournier’s bid for a record-breaking parachute jump from Earth’s stratosphere was aborted Tuesday when the balloon that was to carry him into the far reaches of the sky slipped away from his flight crew. There was no immediate word on how the effort was botched, but his flight crew was attempting to recover the balloon, according to his official Web site. Fournier, 64, planned to start his “Big Jump” at 40 kilometers above the Earth’s surface and land safely — a risky proposition that French authorities have barred on their territory. Thanks to Eric Cheung for the tip!

Fournier intends to break orbital skydiving record

Space Station Toilet Breaks + Guinan has bad advice
The International Space Statoin’s vacuum-based toilet is on the fritz. It is working for ‘number two’ but not number one (if you know what I mean). For that the crew have rigged a ‘urine bypass’ (there’s a phrase we never Geordi use) and have also used the toilet on the Soyez capsule docked with the station. The problem appears to be a Russian built pump and a replacement is headed up with the Shuttle launch this week. On a discussion about this on The View former Star Trek The Next Generation actress Whoopi Goldberg offered the following unhelpful advice: "It’s a million dollars. Stick your butt out the window!"

In space, no one can hear you flush

“Real” Alien Footage?
Jeff Peckman from the Extra Campaign is trying to prove to the world that aliens exist. In fact, they’ve already made their debut appearance on Earth! An infrared video taken by a colleague of Peckman, which will be shown to the media at a later time, is said to prove once and for all the existence of alien life on Earth. Do we buy it? Probably not, but it’s worth a look. See what he has to say in the video below, and see Science Quickies for more news the Extra Campaign is stirring up.

UPDATE: Here it is
Peckman has now shown his video to the press, but he is waiting to reveal it to the public in a future documentary. However an image has been released (below). Read the report at the Denver Post.

Peeping Alien

Gadget of the Week: Sony Video Glasses
Touted by engadget as the device that will make everyone "Star Trek chic", Sony’s Video Glasses which can show full-color video images may just take us one step closer to looking like Geordi La Forge. The prototype supports a QVGA resolution, weighs 120g, is 3mm thick at the lens, and has a contrast ratio of 50:1. The glasses use a proprietary holographic waveguide and an optical engine made up of a LED light source and a transparent LCD panel.

Not quite as sleek as a VISOR

Quote of the week

‘Star Trek’ was on TV, and I was a huge fan of it, so that stated my dream of really wanting to go up there and work there as an astronaut.

– Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide,
who is schedule to launch on the Shuttle Discovery this weekend

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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57 species the Federal Governement knows about? This guy is old there…..(I think it is really only 4-6 at most ;)

BAM!!!! I gotta’ get a pair of those glasses!

Decloaking . . .
Niven’s Ring World around a dead star?
NO more hokey alien vids, please.
The more we see of Mars, the more I’m convinced it should be explored by robots.
Let’s go live on the Moon!
Toilets in space, an endearing problem.
Come on someone hurry up so I don’t get another first.

I’m no balloonist or sky-diving expert, but how the heck do you lose your balloon on a world record attempt?! I mean, didn’t you have the thing strapped down? But, yeah, losing the vehicle that would elevate you to the required height to make your attempt would be a good reason to abort.

Good grief.

I hope we won’t have to bring out our alien friend Vreenak in response to the footage. I bet it’s fake, but I hope it’s not.

Uh oh… the Station’s toilet is broken down! Lol

If the alien video was actually real, that poor guy would be dead or missing already. Actually, it is beginning to happen identically to a certain Stargate Episode in the shows 7th-8th season.

Great article as always Kayla. My whole family is going to the moon!

I was watching one of the Phoenix updates earlier this week on NASA TV and during the Q and A I noticed one of the reporters, Emily Lakdawalla, bore a striking resemblance to actress Laurel Goodwin (The Cage).

Ms. Lakdawalla writes a blog for The Planetary Society’s Website. The landing is an amazing achievement. It was great to see the lander’s first images posted on the Phoenix Website within moments of being shown on the JPL monitors.

The DvD on the Mars Phoenix Lander was a neat idea,,,but,,

how long will a DvD last on another planet,under extreme conditions,dust storms,harsh sun rays,extreme cold,

with no DvD cover !

Why didnt the N.A.S.A budget also cover a two doller DvD cover !

#9 Looking closely, it appears the DVD is covered by plastic, so I’m sure it will be OK.

Buy the DVD! Only $345,567,085,033.95. Please allow 16 years for delivery.

According to the article, the DVD is made from silica-glass and not the polycarbonate substrate (plastic) that earth-bound DVDs are made from. I’m sure it will hold up!

I was thinking of Whoopee’s comment and the movie Outland with Sean Connery, and how they dealth with depressurization, and had a real nice visual :D

I can’t believe the toilet doesn’t work, this thing cost billions! THIS IS A DISASTER!!!


Naturally we ALL have $350 billion dollars laying around the house/dorm room. Though it would be cool to say that you had it. It would definitely be on the “brag” list.

Yay, my name might go to the moon! lol

I recognize that infrared peeping tom. It’s Balok again.

Anyone for some Tranya?

re: peeping alien–


Wait fior it.


#5 I bet it’s fake AND I also hope it’s fake. Just imagine, if this were actually an alien. What kind of a stupid alien would that be, visiting a guy from Nebraska, playing him for a sucker??? If I were an alien I’d go straight to the UN. (^_^)

Alien video >>> FAKE!!!!

About as real as the alien autopsy video…

Notice how the video is not available…it’s part of a documentary that — big surprise — you have to PAY to see!


#21. I know, right? Why is it that aliens, UFOs and the like only seem to visit crazy hicks at night when they happen to have their really low-res video camera on them?

PHOENIX might not find traces of life on Mars. Nobody might ever. Read this:

I’m not so sure about this alien picture. I believe in life on other planets in other parts of the galaxy, but I’m not entirely sure if any of that life has visited Earth.

Okay Science lesson:

Mars has too much Iron
All of the rocks are red from rust. All the oxygen is tied up in rusty rocks.

That’s why rocks in Arizona and Australia (& elsewhere) are red.

Now, if they can figure out how to smelt Iron on Mars, then the oxygen will be released and maybe you can have water.

Not until then.

I still say the best bet is to build the Niven engine from “World Out of Time” where Niven builds a huge fusion tube in orbit around Uranus and burns the atmosphere for fuel. Niven moves Uranus into Earth orbit, uses it as a tractor to move the Earth into orbit around Jupiter because Sol is dying. It’s a good read. I imagine Niven wrote the story before everyone knew about Jupiter’s deadly radiation field.

What’s this have to do with Mars? Simple, move Venus. Venus is too close to the sun and does not rotate. Move Venus into orbit around Mars, above the plane of Earth’s orbit and while opposite Earth for our safety. Then, create a double planet Venus/Mars system similar to the Earth/Luna system, but in reverse. Mars will rotate with Venus as its moon and strip away Venus’ atmosphere. Venus in turn will cool off allowing hydrogen to separate from sulfur and form water instead of sulfuric acid rain. Two planets for the price of one. Impossible you say?

The more realistic model would be to crash comets into Mars as they did on Enterprise, but would YOU trust any government or corporation that could move asteroids? Anyone can see a planet move. Asteroids are too small and wily to keep track of.

Hydrogen? you say? There’s no Hydrogen on Venus! Take it from depleted Uranus, duh!

It’s likely a fake or just an aberration of photography, sort of like the ‘face on mars’ or the profile of Jesus on a train station sidewalk. However, if we did get proof of aliens, keep in mind that they would have to be so advanced that we might not be able to fathom their motives or even recognize them as otherwordly. In fact, an alien showing up in some dudes house in Nebraska might be more likely than them landing on the white house lawn. While Star Trek aliens look and think mostly like we do, REAL aliens would certainly look and behave in ways that we might find totally preposterous.

#27. Good point, although it is hard to do so, we shouldn’t think of aliens so terracentrically.

#26. That’s some interesting science fiction there; I like it. But, I’d be happier reading your post if it wasn’t preceded by the words, “science lesson”. For example, yes Mars is red because it has a lot of iron oxides (rust), but iron cannot rust without the presence of water. This does not necessarily tie up all present oxygen within the rust, but denotes the presence of both water and free oxygen, and displays a change of Fe2+ to Fe3+

The first time they tried to send my Analog cover to Mars, 1996, it was on a Russian lander that wound up at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Chile. Now I can see that cute little DVD sitting on the deck of the Phoenix. Yay! – Rick

As for the BEM video in Denver – It’s amazing to me that people keep falling for this kind of crap. Great, somebody cobbled together a rubber head with blinking eyes. Hollywood does it all the time, and we oughta know. :) Another example of a goofball looking for his fifteen minutes of fame.

What really gets me about supposed “aliens” is that the basic body parts are -so- similar to ours, as if they developed from the same type of aquatic lineage as us, have all the sensory stuff clustered in the head end in the same places, have bilateral symmetry, have eyes that blink, and have four limbs same as our fishy fin ancestors. What’s so sad is that the folks who come up with this stuff and who say they believe are -astoundingly- unoriginal. True, the “recreated” video also being shown is an admitted pretend alien, but it shows what can be done on a shoestring budget over a couple of hours. Like #27 said, real critters from distant worlds are going to be very different.

Do Aliens Exist? Probably…it’s an awful big universe for us this planet to be the sole repository of life…Nature is not known for being that inefficient (and no, I don’t mean in an intelligent design sort of way, I mean the universe’s natural state is usually efficient.)

Are they here? Probably not…one, FTL propulsion seems to be extremely difficult to attain based upon our current understanding of the universe, if not impossible, and two…who would want to visit this primative, ugly rock to begin anyways…I’m doing everything I can to leave!

(Oh yeah, and thanks to the uproar the cake article caused, that last comment is partially a joke…partially.)

#26: Huh?

“Move Venus into orbit around Mars, above the plane of Earth’s orbit and while opposite Earth for our safety”

All orbital planes must pass through the center-of-mass of the system, therefore “above the plane of Earth’s orbit” is not an orbit.

The mass of Venus is considerably greater than that of Mars. Therefore, even if you could move planets around, the resulting dual planet would likely orbit a point within the surface of Venus.

Mars’ orbit (where this little feat of engineering is to take place) is further from the Sun than Earth’s, therefore, it’s period is considerably longer. It wouldn’t stay on the opposite side of the sun (you might try something at a Lagrange point, +/- 30 degrees around Earth’s orbit…)

Water ice has been observed on Mars for decades. We don’t have to “smelt iron” to make water.

How do you intend to move these planets, anyway? The energy requirements are (wait for it)….ASTRONOMICAL!

I think you could use a few more science lessons before you preach to others.

– Harry

It’s a bit pointless to add a dvd with things from earth on. The whole thing is going to freeze over in a 100 days anyway.

Better spend the weight and money on something that can really be used

3rd time?

Harry, it’s a joke. Everything I’ve ever posted here is non-serious. Kayla got it.

Azimov isnt the only fiction out there.

So where did the first two posts I posted go?

Like #27 said, real critters from distant worlds are going to be very different.

Well, that’s not exactly what I meant. Aliens wouldn’t HAVE to be different looking at all from humans. If they are advanced enough to travel to Earth at all (either through ‘nuts and bolts’ technology or dimensionally or some other way we’re not smart enough to imagine) then it goes without saying that they could appear as pretty much whatever, however, and wherever they choose–and those choices would be based on an alien logic and motive that we could scarcely relate to.

That alien looks like someone wearing a punisher Tshirt!

These aliens can travel through space and they land on Denver because it’s “closer to outer space”. And he thinks that makes perfect sense.


so let me get this straight,,

an Alien with super intelligence that is able to travel millions of light years to earth in some kind of craft that has a never ending fuel tank, aviod the deadly raidaition of deep space, comes though Earths burning heat as he slows down in our atmosphere, is able to land not once,,,not twice,,,but many times without his craft being seen by anyone or any radar in any airport or military base,is able to leave that craft unprotected many times, is able to walk around streets of a town without being seen, without any helmet or spacesuit of any kind,,,,runs up to a house and,,,

Prevs though some dorks window

Gees I thought “First Contact” would be more,,
“Ship lands on white house lawn”,,sort of thing with the speech of,,”We come in peace”

Where’s Sen. Vreenak when you need him for that alien video?

#34 “It’s a joke”


The thought crossed my mind as I was hitting the enter key last night. I have to deal with people who really believe that kind of stuff far too often, I guess I’m a bit over-sensitive.

I took Kayla’s post to be a less-rude correction.

Sorry I over-reacted, Guy.

– Harry

You know, that video is suppose to be infrared, but of all the infrared video I’ve seen, there’s never been any sort of facial features such as eyes, heat sources appear white. But some alien races could have lower body temperature than humans, BUT they would just be more difficult to see, and not have eyes.

When filmed on an infrared camera, I mean.

10,000 years in the future when aliens have landed on Mars: “D— it! My DVD player is Region 000001, this is a Region 1 DVD!”

#31 — Space travel is not just dependent upon thrust and velocity.

As Trek has pointed out there are things like wormholes which may allow for travel from point A to B and there could be a way of *simulating* a wormhole or “folding space” (as in the Dune books).

The biggest vanity of man is to assume that alien technology must be limited to man’s capabilities — or what man can dream up.

I would never say never about aliens being here — but this video is F-A-K-E. You can tell this supposed to one of the “greys”, but it’s not even a good fake of one of those!

I was at least hoping to see some good CGI…

#18-#20. THX

LOL!! Thanks for brightening my rainy day (here in Toronto).

Regarding Guina… uh, Whoopi Goldberg’s sarcastic pseudo-funny wisecrack about how to solve the toilet problems, you’d think she would know better.

If they opened a “window” they would all die or at least be in deep doody. Duh, they’re in space, dear. You know how that works… Didn’t you used to be on a SciFi show of some sort, some minor television programme, um I think it was called Star Track, no Star Trek. That’s it!

Sorry. I know, I’m just as bad as she was. Seriously though, I certainly hope no one gets their information from these women. They are sadly lacking in knowledge (or maybe they have really dumb researchers to blame).

Oops. Just checked the spelling of her name and saw the link there saying the same thing I did. Great minds yada yada, fools blah blah blah…


#13. Fred

Yeah, didn’t they also cover that in “Total Recall”? (When Ronny and Arnold and Rachel fall down the tube and land outside the dome on the side of the cliff on Mars?)


That ‘alien’ looks like one of the locals in my brother-in-law’s trailer park……….

………wait – that IS my brother-in-law………..!

These are the basic facts according to the UFO disclosure project, who have over 400 government, military, and intelligence community witnesses testifying to their direct, personal, first hand experience with UFOs, ETs, ET technology, and the cover-up that keeps this information secret.

1. UFOs and ETs are real and the governments have covered it up and are sitting on advanced technology that is being trickled out very slowly into military uses.

2. No evidence that Aliens pose any threat to us. However they are concerned with the threat posed to ourselves and other species when we develop further. They don’t want us weaponizing space. So no phaser banks or photon torpedos. Sorry guys.

Interesting eh?

Why is it that aliens always look so stupid on home video and the guys who are seeing then are just a bunch of…. you know?

As Vreenak would say: “It’s a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaake”.

Just this time it isn’t even a good one. Maybe Garak should try to make one?