Science Saturday: Moon Base + Commercial Mars + SETI On Hold + LeVar @ NASA + Universal Translator/Browser

While Kayla is busy in Germany, your humble editor takes on Science Saturday starting off with renewed hope for a Moon Base. We also look at commercial plans for manned trips beyond Earth, visit NASA with LeVar Burton, find out why SETI has is putting aliens on hold, get ready to say goodbye to Endeavor, and see how Google turns your browser into a universal translator.


Moon Base Bill Introduced

As we have reported here before, the Obama Administration has scrapped  NASA’s Constellation project, including a mission to return to the Moon. The new plan for manned spaceflight was to put the focus into creating new technologies to send humans beyond the moon to asteroids and Mars. However, this plan has been controversial with some space enthusiasts as well as members of congress with districts impacted by the Constellation cancellation. And one of those house members (Bill Posey R-FL) has introduced the "Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act," which is also being referred to as the "Back To The Moon Bill." The bill attempts to reverse the Obama administration and change NASA’s priorities by law stating:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall plan to return to the moon by 2022 and develop a sustained human presence on the moon in order to promote exploration, commerce, science and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations. The budget requests and expenditures of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be consistent with achieving this goal.

So far the bill has only four co-sponsors and it is unclear if it will make it out of committee to revive a full vote. If it does it would also need to make it through the Senate and be signed by the president.

Bill introduced to bring back the Moon Base plan

Commercial Trips to Moon and Mars?

While the US government debates over where to send humans next, private companies are already making their Moon and Mars plans. Space Adventures, the company that first pioneered space tourism with Dennis Tito in 2001, is mapping out a tourist Trip around the moon. The price? Only $150 million, but Space Adventures tells they have already signed up one passenger and are looking for just one more. The mission will use a Soyuz spacecraft commanded by a Russian cosmonaut. 

Space Adventures nine-day trip around the moon plan

Moon not good enough for you, want to get your a– to Mars? In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX co-founder and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk spoke about sending a man (or woman) to Mars, watch the interview below.

Speaking of space tourism, Miles O’Brien (the space journalist not the space engineer) has put together this video on the 10th anniversary of that first space tourist.

Final Endeavor Launch delayed – Burton on hand to inspect

The final launch of Shuttle Endeavor was scheduled for Friday, however it was delayed due to concerns over the shuttles heating system. As part of NASA’s examination of the problem, the shuttle’s external fuel tank will be drained of its oxygen and hydrogen propellants. A new launch has not yet bet set, but it will be no earlier than Monday, May 2nd. For it’s 25th (and final) mission Endeavour is carrying the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. It will be attached to the International Space Station and detect anti-matter and dark matter, which will help scientists better understand how the universe began and evolved.

"Endeavors Final Flight" video examines Shuttle Endeavor’s career

Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Levar Burton was one of the dignitaries on hand for the launch on Friday. Burton participated in a NASA Livetweet event, including a number of pictures of his time. Here are just a couple.

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Burton inspecting Shuttle Atlantis in the Orbiter Processing Facility

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LeVar hangin’ with a space suit

Budget Cuts Force SETI To Shut Down – seeking new donations

The SETI Institute (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) announced this week that federal and state cutbacks at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory have forced a "hibernation" for the Allen Telescope Array, which they use to listen for alien signals from space. SETI is asking for public donations in order to help return the ATA to operation. 

Video of the Week: V’Gers Ready To Go Interstellar

More than 30 years after they were launched, NASA’s two Voyager probes have traveled to the edge of the solar system and are on the threshold of interstellar space. This week NASA Science released a video about the next step for the fully functional (and soon-to-be inter-stellar) probes.

Gadget of the Week: Google’s Universal Translator Browser

Our gadget of the week isn’t new, but a new feature for Google’s Chrome Browser, which now includes speech to text and translation – in other words: a Star Trek-like universal translator. This video from Tech Harvest demonstrates.

Science Bits:

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Levar Burton at NASA when something goes wrong with Endeavour… hmm, I can hear Riker already:

“Geordi, what the hell happened?!”

By the way, $150 million isn’t a bad price tag for going to the Moon… “if you have the means, I highly recommend it. It is sooo choice.”

The moon is fine, if we can turn a profit. Seriously, we need the power of GREED to get to space. The “human adventure” stuff will come in time. And if we do build a moonbase, it’d dang-well better have more than one cabana. Sheesh.

Don’t know if I wanna be around in a trillion years. Already feeling kinda crotchety at 48.

EU, Superlaser? Why do these two things not seem to belong in the same sentence?

Anyway — Thanks, Anthony, and best wishes and a safe return to Kayla.

Well. VGER is almost out of here. But don’t worry. In a couple of hundred years it will be back looking for us. The Creater.
I say. Lets get back to the Moon.
I say. 150 Million for the Moon. Hmm. Anyone have 150 million I can have.

Go Space X! With it’s Falcon 9 and follow on Falcon Heavy (most thrust since Saturn V and Energia) can get us back on track sooner than we all expect.

Elon Musk really is our Tony Stark.

Heck, Iron Man 2 was filmed in Musk’s rocket factory. (served as Justin Hammer’s facility)

Thanks for the WSJ Video post, Anthony – Good stuff.

Mr. Musk was in Iron Man 2 as well. Tony Stark complimented him on the Merlin engine that powers the Falcon rockets.

But Congress is never going to let NASA buy Falcon Heavy for its manned program. Too many Congresscritters demanding NASA keep paying exorbitant prices to the same old players who happen to be in their districts (mostly Utah and Alabama). Falcon Heavy offers 117,000 lbs to orbit for $100 million and needs no NASA money upfront. The Space Launch System is twice as powerful but well over a billion dollars a flight and requires at least $15 billion out of NASA over the next six years just to build it. Guess which one Congress is demanding NASA use.

@ #3 CmdrR: It will definitely take the power of greed to get any government to fully support a space program anymore. If anyone has seen the movie “Moon”, I can only hope that the moon itself can provide some sort of resource that will attract attention to get us back there permanently.

I honestly can’t believe I agree with a Republican politician on the direction of the country’s space program, but I hope Bill Posey’s bill gets passed. I’d love to see a live transmission of humanity going back to the moon. (especially with today’s video technology!)

On SETI: Its going to be ok. Eventually a billionaire philanthropist who lives on a plane will discover a scientist at SETI named Ellie Arroway and he will be so impressed that he will fund SETI for another 4 years. So it’ll all be ok.

… wait, what do you mean that was a just a movie?

Actually, it was a book first… ;)
The film was good, but the book was better.

That picture looks more like a moon outhouse than a moon base.

#9: Oh, I knew about the book (I’m a Sagan enthusiast. I think “The Demon Haunted World” should be required reading for every high school student) but for some reason when it comes to Contact I think of the movie first. i suspect this has everything to do with Jodie Foster knocking it out of the park as Ellie Arroway.

@ 11: “Leftist scum”? Really? Who says that? Apparently you do. Hyperbole, here lie so…