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Space Exploration & Developments

Date Tuesday - March 29, 2016
Host George Noory
Guests Robert ZimmermanOpen Lines

Space historian Robert Zimmerman reported on current space exploration and technology stories. Just breaking today was the news that a mysterious object, probably a comet or asteroid, had burst into Jupiter's atmosphere. The discovery was made and recorded by an amateur in Austria, and Zimmerman remarked that amateur astronomy is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and such finds more commonplace. He was critical of the billions being spent in NASA's Orion space launch system program, when private companies have demonstrated they can build the same things for about 10% of the cost, and in just 20% of the time that NASA is taking.

Elon Musk of SpaceX is likely planning to do a demo launch of an upgraded Falcon heavy rocket this year, he said, adding that we could be entering an era where private companies will be putting space stations in orbit, and sending their own vehicles to the moon for tourism and construction. A European/Russian partnership, ExoMars, has sent a lander/orbiter to Mars that is due to arrive in October. The Russians are hoping to break their Martian jinx, as all their other missions to the Red Planet have failed, Zimmerman noted. There's also a NASA mission called Juno that is heading to Jupiter, and will be the first exploration there since the Galileo spacecraft, he detailed.

There are a number of orbiters currently around Mars, and new photos of a massive dune field taken by Odyssey are particularly fascinating, he commented. Cassini has been orbiting around Saturn for more than a decade, and observing its curious moons, including Titan, with its strange weather patterns that occur in minus 200 degree temperatures, and Enceladus, which apparently has molten lakes under its surface. Regarding new technology, Zimmerman suggested that solar sails, which glean energy from light, could be a particularly innovative and useful approach for space-based projects.

The last hour of the show featured Open Lines.

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