In the Heart of the Virgo Cluster : The Virgo Cluster of Galaxies is the closest cluster of galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy. The Virgo Cluster is so close that it spans more than 5 degrees on the sky - about 10 times the angle made by a full Moon. With its heart lying about 70 million light years distant, the Virgo Cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies, contains over 2,000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group of Galaxies surrounding our Milky Way Galaxy. The cluster contains not only galaxies filled with stars but also gas so hot it glows in X-rays. Motions of galaxies in and around clusters indicate that they contain more dark matter than any visible matter we can see. Pictured above, the heart of the Virgo Cluster includes bright Messier galaxies such as Markarians Eyes on the upper left, M86 just to the upper right of center, M84 on the far right, as well as spiral galaxy NGC 4388 at the bottom right. via NASA

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A young star takes centre stage

With its helical appearance resembling a snail’s shell, this reflection nebula seems to spiral out from a luminous central star in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image.

The star in the centre, known as V1331 Cyg and located in the dark cloud LDN 981 — or, more commonly, Lynds 981 — had previously been defined as a T Tauri star. A T Tauri is a young star — or Young Stellar Object — that is starting to contract to become a main sequence star similar to the Sun.

What makes V1331Cyg special is the fact that we look almost exactly at one of its poles. Usually, the view of a young star is obscured by the dust from the circumstellar disc and the envelope that surround it. However, with V1331Cyg we are actually looking in the exact direction of a jet driven by the star that is clearing the dust and giving us this magnificent view.

Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, Karl Stapelfeldt (GSFC), B. Stecklum and A. Choudhary (Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Germany)
Source: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1509a/

Mass Effect-ish image tweeted by Producer

For full article visit PCgamer.com, written by Ian Dransfield

It’s a photograph taken by a NASA astronaut, apparently, but when it’s tweeted out by the producer on Mass Effect 4 and done so just over a month before E3, the biggest gaming expo of the year, people start talking…

And the teasing continues… Shocking. Dirty bastards.

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ESO 498-G5

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of the spiral galaxy known as ESO 498-G5. One interesting feature of this galaxy is that its spiral arms wind all the way into the centre, so that ESO 498-G5’s core looks like a bit like a miniature spiral galaxy. This sort of structure is in contrast to the elliptical star-filled centres (or bulges) of many other spiral galaxies, which instead appear as glowing masses, as in the case of NGC 6384.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 May 4

An Unexpected Aurora over Norway

Sometimes the sky lights up unexpectedly. A trip to northern Norway to photograph auroras was not going as well as hoped. It was now past midnight in Steinsvik, Troms, in northern Norway, and the date was 2014 February 8. Despite recent activity on the Sun, the skies were disappointing. Therefore, the astrophotographer began packing up to go. His brother began searching for a missing lens cap. When the sky suddenly exploded with spectacular aurora. Reacting quickly, a sequence detailing dramatic green curtains was captured, with the bright Moon near the image center, and the lens-cap seeking brother on the far right. The auroral flare lasted only a few minutes, but the memory of this event, the photographer speculates, will last much longer.

With the 2015 Humans 2 Mars Summit approaching, we’d like to briefly recognize an esteemed interviewee in ‘Fight for Space’ whose credentials we would have to create an entirely new film to expand upon – Dr. Robert Zubrin.


Zubrin - president of Pioneer Astronautics and The Mars Society; founder of Pioneer Energy; senior engineer at Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin; author of over 200 non/technical patents and 5 books - effectively changed the way we viewed the “progress” NASA has made regarding human spaceflight since the return of the last-on-the-moon Apollo 17 astronauts. 

Robert, at age 5, experienced the launch of Sputnik and the K-9 Laika to orbit, which essentially lofted him into a trajectory of enthusiasm and inspiration for space exploration, dreaming of what it would or could mean for humanity. Enamored with science fiction literature, Zubrin saw these historic endeavors as stepping stones toward science fiction becoming fact within his lifetime. At 9 years old, John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Speech” solidified his passion. The Moon by 1970, Mars by 1980, Saturn by 1990, and Alpha Centauri by the year 2000. These were realistic achievements seemingly within our grasp with a committed effort to developing a spacefaring culture, and he was witnessing it unfold in front of his youthful eyes.

However, upon reaching the Moon (before 1970), the Nixon Administration closed the book on these space faring ambitions, which, to teenage Zubrin, was analogous to Columbus returning from the New World and having Queen Isabella and Ferdinand direct Columbus and his crew to “burn the ships.” Robert was crushed. Temporarily accepting defeat, he continued his passion for science through teaching and academia, Zubrin eventually recommitted to his goal of space exploration by pursuing graduate school, earning advanced engineering degrees, became an aeronautical engineer, and the rest is not only history, it’s a large part of Robert’s influence regarding his involvement with achieving humans to Mars as the national imperative for the human advancement into space. 

In the video below (courtesy of the Nation Space Society), Zubrin expands upon this by addressing the importance of space exploration from the point of view that our options are limited to either a closed or open future for humanity, asserting, 

The space program makes this statement loud and clear: we’re not living in the end of history, we are living in the beginning of history; and freedom, rather than something that must be ended, it should be something that must be liberated everywhere and for all time. This is what we stand for, this is the fight that we fight.

Robert Zubrin embodies the advocation of our explorative and curious nature, and it’s in that single statement (and the above interview) why he is a true ambassador in the #FightforSpace. A more insightful interview series with Zubrin was conducted by MoonandbackGuy (parts 1, 2, 3) which compliment the above clip.

Making his mark on the literary world, Zubrin, after several years of campaigning for his proposed ‘Mars Direct’ program outline for humans to Mars, published a book which encapsulated our future in space from a purely scientific and engineering point of view on the basis of the scientific method, unbiased of politics or pandering; that book is ‘The Case For Mars: The Plan To Settle The Red Planet And Why We Must’. The forward by Arthur C. Clarke says it all.

Zubrin’s ‘Mars Direct’ approach (condensed and full report here via The Mars Society) was proposed to NASA and Congress as a means of efficiently achieving human presence on Mars with the goal of settlement within a decade. It was bold, it was farseeing, and it was - and is - feasible with technology and hardware that’s been available to us ever since our initial “giant leap” to the Moon. Unfortunately, the redefined Space Exploration Initiative “90 Day Report” was stuck with a $500 billion price tag - envisioning the development of oversized Star Trek-like hardware and redundant technological systems to appease their constituency - and it was DOA by the legislators responsible for approving it. 

‘Mars Direct’ employs a Lewis & Clark in situ approach to Mars colonization by using the native Martian resources available (living off the land, so to speak), bringing propellant for fuel, launch vehicles to the surface and in orbit, inflatable habitation, rovers, and recycling water, among much else in the plan. 

Its overall premise is explained further in an article dubbed ‘The Promise of Mars’ by Zubrin for the National Space Society’s ‘Ad Astra’ Magazine (June 1996). Excerpt below: 

Humanity needs Mars. An open frontier on Mars will allow for the preservation of cultural diversity which must vanish within the single global society that is rapidly being created on Earth. The necessity of life on Mars will create a strong driver for technological progress that will produce a flood of innovations that will upset any tendency towards technological stagnation on the mother planet. The labor shortage that will exist on Mars will function in much the same way as the labor shortage did in 19th-century America; driving not only technological but social innovation, increasing pay and public education, and in every way setting a new standard for a higher form of humanist civilization. Martian settlers, building new cities, defining new laws and customs, and ultimately transforming their planet will know sensuously, and prove to all outside observers, that human beings are the makers of their world, and not merely its inhabitants. By doing so they will reaffirm in the most powerful way possible the humanist notion of the dignity and value of mankind. Mars beckons.

Following the success of ‘The Case for Mars’, a documentary film was published which extrapolates on this from an armchair perspective. ‘The Mars Underground’ (trailer below) is, to date, still extremely relevant, as NASA’s current outline for Mars exploration is hardly reminiscent of our Apollo-era commitments of the 1960′s –

Speaking as a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and former Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Space Society, Zubrin presented on the current development of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and the steadily developing launch capabilities of Space X, delivering another impassioned speech on the current efforts of humans to Mars (or lack thereof) at NASA Ames Research Center’s Directors Colloquium on July 14, 2014, which you can view in full here.

From the childhood dreams fueled by science fiction and political risk taking beyond typical short term “return on investment” strategies, Zubrin witnessed one of the greatest eras of human achievement spark and whither in front of his eyes. This rise and fall of hope and inspiration with space as the backdrop continues to burn brightly, ensuring his ‘Mars Direct’ approach will be achieved within his lifetime, as our future depends on the flourishing of humankind amongst the cosmos sooner rather than later.

Whether it’s Mars Direct or a similar alternative, one thing is quite clear: NASA’s current path to Mars is riddled with variable shifts in the legislative wind as yet to be determined along NASA’s 2030 “vision.” The currently developing Space Launch System has yet to secure funding for what’s being proposed and promised to the public. The vehicle is being built for customers and clients to be named later, with payloads to be determined upon the completion of SLS in its entirety. 

Watch ‘The Mars Underground’, then get yourself a copy of ‘The Case for Mars’ and ‘Entering Space’ to gain a sober perspective on where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how long we’ve been capable of getting there (recommended reading from MOTHERBOARD: ‘The Right-Wing Mars Guru: Is Robert Zubrin America’s Best Hope for Colonizing the Red Planet?’). When you begin to grow disappointed and angry, don’t fret. With pioneers and advocates like Robert Zubrin leading the charge and putting forth positive alternatives which keep out planned obsolescence, it’s never been a better time to demand more from Congress and #FightforSpace.

It’s time to demand more than words. The world doesn’t need another “Moon Shot”…it deserves an ambitious and achievable “target” in space. 

Thank you for your commitment, advocacy, and inspiration, Dr. Zubrin.


We’ll see you all at #h2m2015, where Explore Mars Inc. is presenting us with a launch event at George Washington University to premiere (among a few clips) an exclusive 15 minute feature of ‘Fight for Space’ along with a live Q&A with Director Paul Hildebrandt and PR/Social Media Coordinator Rich Evans on May 4th, 2015 from 6:30pm - 8pm EST. This event is free to attend courtesy of Endeavorist.org, with which we owe great thanks.

Register for the event and the summit here.

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(via Apollo Moon Missions: Prototype of the J. A. Maurer 16mm | Lot #52051 | Heritage Auctions)

Apollo Moon Missions: Prototype of the J. A. Maurer 16mm Data Acquisition Camera with Archive of Related Photos. An early prototype of the legendary “DAC” as carried on Gemini and both the Lunar Module and Command Module of all the Apollo lunar missions

An Unexpected Aurora over Norway

(via APOD; Image Credit & Copyright: Tommy Richardsen )

Sometimes the sky lights up unexpectedly. A trip to northern Norway to photograph auroras was not going as well as hoped. It was now past midnight in Steinsvik, Troms, in northern Norway, and the date was 2014 February 8. Despite recent activity on the Sun, the skies were disappointing. Therefore, the astrophotographer began packing up to go. His brother began searching for a missing lens cap. When the sky suddenly exploded with spectacular aurora. Reacting quickly, a sequence detailing dramatic green curtains was captured, with the bright Moon near the image center, and the lens-cap seeking brother on the far right. The auroral flare lasted only a few minutes, but the memory of this event, the photographer speculates, will last much longer.

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No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive

“If your experimental results, no matter how sacrosanct or robust the theories underlying them have proved to be in the past, are in conflict with the best available theories out there, then it’s the theories that need revision, not the experiment. And various teams have all claimed to have detected this thrust using such a device.

So let me ask you this, aspiring (or armchair) scientists: what would be the criteria you’d demand as the extraordinary evidence necessary to convince you that this is real?”

NASA Spaceflight has claimed to have vetted the EM Drive in a vacuum, and found there is still an anomalous thrust/acceleration on the order of 50 microNewtons for the device. While some are claiming this means things like warp drive and 70-day-trips-to-Mars are right on the horizon, it’s important to view this from a scientist’s point of view. Here’s what it will take to turn this from a speculative claim into a robust one.

Republicans On Science Committee Slash NASA's Budget To Stop Climate Change Research

Republicans On Science Committee Slash NASA’s Budget To Stop Climate Change Research

Like the villain in a movie, Republican lawmakers have made it clear to scientists at NASA that if the agency continues to gather data on the Earth’s changing climate, they would make them suffer. NASA politely told them to shove it, and here comes the political retaliation.

The Republican-dominated House Committee on Science, Space and Technology – a group of conservatives assembled specifically…

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Comet Churyumov Gerasimenko in Crescent

Image Credit: ESA, Rosetta, NAVCAM; processing by Giuseppe Conzo

Explanation: What’s happening to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko? As the 3-km wide comet moves closer to the Sun, heat causes the nucleus to expel gas and dust. The Rosetta spacecraft arrived at the comet’s craggily double nucleus last July and now is co-orbiting the Sun with the giant dark iceberg. Recent analysis of data beamed back to Earth from the robotic Rosetta spacecraft has shown that water being expelled by 67P has a significant difference with water on Earth, indicating that Earth’s water could not have originated from ancient collisions with comets like 67P. Additionally, neither Rosetta nor its Philae lander detected a magnetic field around the comet nucleus, indicating that magnetism might have been unimportant in the evolution of the early Solar System. Comet 67P, shown in a crescent phase in false color, should increase its evaporation rate as it nears its closest approach to the Sun in 2015 August, when it reaches a Sun distance just a bit further out than the Earth.