Welcome back folks! Science Thursday again. We have exciting news about Philae, Elon Musk, and Europa, but first, we have to get started with everybody’s favorite encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Galactica! …I’m just kidding, that’s not even everybody’s favorite in the fictional work in which it was created.
Wikipedia! The site we all have actually learned something from, but are warned against by our teachers. (I think I’ve learned more real things from wikipedia than the teachers who warned me actually taught me…weird…) Wikipedia is turning on HTTPS encryption on all of its web traffic. This is good for you and me, because we both know that our wikipedia search history is a little whacky. This will hopefully prevent big brother from misinterpreting my interest in hydrazine as a plot to blow something up. Just to be clear, NSA employee reading this, I have no plot to blow anything up. So now feel free to wiki the most weirdest things in your head and not worry about prying eyes, except anybody who can see your computer screen, because they might think you’re weird. It’s ok though. I don’t think your weird. Well, I might. This is the Internet after all.
Apparently Jupiter’s great red spot is shrinking? Over the past hundred years, the massive storm on the jolly red planet has been subsiding. (Why is Jupiter jolly? Because of it’s astrological significance. Which is always 100% accurate.) The planets massive superstorm has actually disappeared before in the 1600s according to the Universe Today article, but reappeared in the early 1700s. If it does disappear again in our lifetimes, I know my elementary school classmates and I will be doubly gipped on planetary knowledge gained in primary school, what with Pluto being fired and all. “When I was a kid sonny, there were 9 goddamn planets, and the big one had a giant spot in the middle!” “Mommy, Grandpa is talking all crazy again…” Something like that.
Really exciting news. Philae is alive!!! The little lander made contact with its earthlings over the weekend after a couple of month’s hibernation on the surface of Comet 67P-C/G. According to Wired, the lander made contact with ESA controllers on June 13 with a strong signal, and again on the 14th with a weaker signal. The controllers have been working the last few days to try and figure out just what science they want to do with the lander now that the little guy is talking again. While there is reason for celebration, there are also more hurdles that have to be overcome for the team. With the comet approaching the sun, dust and gas might obscure the flight path of Rosetta, which acts as a relay antenna for the lander.
From the Elon Musk department, SpaceX is building the hyperloop. Well, when I say building, I mean prototyping. SpaceX will build a short (1 – 3 miles) test track in California, where the company is based. The train will have the potential to carry passengers at speeds over 760 miles an hour, and, well, still isn’t planned for commercial implementation. Two companies, named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop Technologies (this begs for a press conference mistake…”The winner is Hyperloop…uhh…something with technologies….dammit I always get these two confused…”) are bidding to make the actual cars. According to Elon Musk, SpaceX’s focus is still spaceflight and eventually sending humans to Mars. (Like Mark Watney!!!)
NASA has given the go ahead for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, which scientists believe could harbor life deep within its oceans. The planet has an icy crusts, underneath which scientists believe lies liquid oceans. The mission could lift off as early as 2022, depending on funding and hardware selections.
In space events in history, this week was the anniversary of two female firsts in space flight. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first female cosmonaut, and first female in space. On this day in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American in space, flying aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Interestingly enough, Tereshkova was not the first Russian female thing into space, as the dog Laika launched in 1957 was female. Likewise, Ride was also not the first American female mammal in space, as both monkeys Able and Baker – and possibly other American space animals – were female.
Here is an article explaining why we should build swimming pools on the Moon. That’s it for Science Thursday. Thanks for reading.