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Asteroid studies and the asteroid belt presents a wealth of science and evolutionary prospects. This post is really about self sufficient homes and the ability to correspond to the nearest neighbour, the neighbourhood and it's opportunities...
Lincoln Brewster / Today is the day
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The Kuiper belt (pronounced /ˈkaɪpɚ/, to rhyme with "viper"), sometimes called the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, is a region of the Solar System beyond the planets extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 55 AU from the Sun. It is similar to the asteroid belt, although it is far larger; 20 times as wide and 20–200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies (remnants from the Solar System's formation) and at least one dwarf planet – Pluto. But while the asteroid belt is composed primarily of rock and metal, the Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (dubbed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water. Since the first was discovered in 1992, the number of known Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) has increased to over a thousand, and more than 70,000 KBOs over 100 km in diameter are believed to reside there. The Kuiper belt was initially believed to be the main repository for periodic comets, those with orbits lasting less than 200 years. However, studies since the mid-1990s have shown that the Kuiper belt is dynamically stable, and that it is the farther scattered disc, a dynamically active region created by the outward motion of Neptune 4.5 billion years ago, that is their true place of origin. Scattered disc objects such as Eris are KBO-like bodies with extremely large orbits that take them as far as 100 AU from the Sun. The centaurs, comet-like bodies that orbit among the gas giants, are believed to originate there. Neptune's moon Triton is believed to be a captured KBO. Pluto, a dwarf planet, is the largest known member of the Kuiper belt. Originally considered a planet, it is similar to many other objects of the Kuiper belt, and its orbital period is identical to that of the KBOs known as " Plutinos". The Kuiper belt should not be confused with the hypothesized Oort cloud, which is a thousand times more distant. The objects within the Kuiper belt, together with the members of the scattered disc and any potential Hills cloud or Oort cloud objects, are collectively referred to as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs).
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Mimicking Nature, Water-Based 'Artificial Leaf' Produces Electricity
(Sep. 24, 2010) — A team led by a North Carolina State University researcher has shown that water-gel-based solar devices -- "artificial leaves" -- can act like solar cells to produce electricity. The findings prove the concept for making solar cells that more closely mimic nature. They also have the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than the current standard-bearer: silicon-based solar cells.
The bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused with light-sensitive molecules -- the researchers used plant chlorophyll in one of the experiments -- coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite. The light-sensitive molecules get "excited" by the sun's rays to produce electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow, says NC State's Dr. Orlin Velev, Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Materials Chemistry describing this new generation of solar cells.
Velev says that the research team hopes to "learn how to mimic the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy." Although synthetic light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally derived products -- like chlorophyll -- are also easily integrated in these devices because of their water-gel matrix.
Now that they've proven the concept, Velev says the researchers will work to fine-tune the water-based photovoltaic devices, making them even more like real leaves.
"The next step is to mimic the self-regenerating mechanisms found in plants," Velev says. "The other challenge is to change the water-based gel and light-sensitive molecules to improve the efficiency of the solar cells."
Velev even imagines a future where roofs could be covered with soft sheets of similar electricity-generating artificial-leaf solar cells.
"We do not want to overpromise at this stage, as the devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology," Velev says. "However, we believe that the concept of biologically inspired 'soft' devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies."
Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Chung-Ang University in Korea co-authored the study. The study was funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.
NC State's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is part of the university's College of Engineering.
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The potential for creating artificial atmospheric lighting is obvious, it would aswell be an open account of our activities upon the asteroids...
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'Coreshine' Sheds Light on the Birth of Stars: Astronomers Discover a New Phenomenon in Molecular Clouds
(Sep. 24, 2010) — Science is literally in the dark when it comes to the birth of stars, which occurs deep inside clouds of gas and dust. These clouds are completely opaque to ordinary light. Now, a group of astronomers has discovered a new astronomical phenomenon that appears to be common in such clouds, and promises a new window onto the earliest phases of star formation. The phenomenon -- infra red light that is scattered by unexpectedly large grains of dust, which the astronomers have termed "coreshine" -- probes the dense cores where stars are born.
Stars are formed as the dense core regions of cosmic clouds of gas and dust ("molecular clouds") collapse under their own gravity. As a result, matter in these regions becomes ever denser and hotter until finally nuclear fusion is ignited: a star is born. This is how our own star, the Sun, came into being; the fusion processes are responsible for the Sun's light, on which life on Earth depends. The dust grains contained in the collapsing clouds are the raw material out of which an interesting by-product of star formation is made: solar systems and Earth-like planets.
What happens during the earliest phases of this collapse is largely unknown. Enter an international team of astronomers led by Laurent Pagani (LERMA, Observatoire de Paris) and Jürgen Steinacker (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany), who have discovered a new phenomenon which promises information about the crucial earliest phase of the formation of stars and planets: "coreshine," the scattering of mid-infrared light (which is ubiquitous in our galaxy) by dust grains inside such dense clouds. The scattered light carries information about the size and density of the dust particles, about the age of the core region, the spatial distribution of the gas, the prehistory of the material that will end up in planets, and about chemical processes in the interior of the cloud.
The discovery is based on observations with NASA's SPITZER Space Telescope. As published this February, Steinacker, Pagani and colleagues from Grenoble and Pasadena detected unexpected mid-infrared radiation from the molecular cloud L 183 in the constellation Serpens Cauda ("Head of the snake"), at a distance of 360 light-years. The radiation appeared to originate in the cloud's dense core. Comparing their measurements with detailed simulations, the astronomers were able to show that they were dealing with light scattered by dust particles with diameters of around 1 micrometre (one millionth of a metre). The follow-up research that is now being published in Science clinched the case: The researchers examined 110 molecular clouds at distances between 300 and 1300 light-years, which had been observed with Spitzer in the course of several survey programs. The analysis showed that the L 183 radiation was more than a fluke. Instead, it revealed that coreshine is a widespread astronomical phenomenon: Roughly half of the cloud cores exhibited coreshine, mid-infrared radiation associated with scattering from dust grains in their densest regions.
The discovery of coreshine suggests a host of follow-on projects -- for the SPITZER Space Telescope as well as for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is due to be launched in 2014. The first coreshine observations have yielded promising results: The unexpected presence of larger grains of dust (diameters of around a millionth of a metre) shows that these grains begin their growth even before cloud collapse commences. An observation of particular interest concerns clouds in the Southern constellation Vela, in which no coreshine is present. It is known that this region was disturbed by several stellar (supernova) explosions. Steinacker and his colleagues hypothesize that these explosions have destroyed whatever larger dust grains had been present in this region.
Obviously the advancing knowledge of terraforming planetoid surfaces with atmospheric science that creates light in the atmosphere would prove the need for a star producing light and warmth would not be a prerequisite for creating a proper balanced breathing zone for colonists.
Protection from asteroid strikes, comets meteors and other unseen objects from space, not least terrorist nuclear weapons, lasers and sonic and magnetic weaponry, will be an essential step towards becoming a sensible trustworthy collective group species. Hopefully the generations of weaponry that private programmes have produced could be rounded together and used for peaceful protective reasons, it does worry me to think what sort of terrorism will surface from people who at the end of their lives, with the resources they have available decide that they will cause destruction with it, it is what has been happening with the worlds licenses and contracts for hundreds of years now, democracy has yet to show a total control of it's ethical fundamentals, with many egotistical characters pulling the wool over peoples faces for their own gain in an unsustainable way. Obviously many are 'unaware' of such treacherous characteristics in people who smile when the camera looks, but, the stars do not lie and it would be catastrophic to be denied a thoroughly enticing advance into an era where we live for a million years because of our medical knowledge. Even as i say this i envisage someone wanting to stop everyone else from being part of this conceptual ascendancy, particularly with the devil gone, other idiots will try to become revered in equally emphatic ways, our hope is that good triumpths over evil stupidity and that we win the war on terrorism well into the desk conspiracies of leaking government hardware resource to selfish greedy crookery in their crevices, at the start of the space race they will scramble to the weakness's of old prejudices and lost pride in humble nobility.
The worry of terrorist activity moving into out of space really at this era is cemented in the knowledge that they themselves will be helpless against the effects of cabin pressure sickness that occurs below ground in an unsustainable way to surface dwelling people. Of course, building habitats and small cities on planetoids, moons, asteroids and controlled orbit platforms still has it's worries to translate to an evolutionary phasiology that many do not want, perhaps will not survive and will not think worth the effort, much like early pioneers from Europe to north America disease is rife among the colonists particularly damaging to child birth and their mortality rates. It is an honor and something that I beleive many involved with the space personel sector will feel a duty to help secure more space for our race to grow into, in good time, a time that does not bring us catastrophic illness because of planet contamination from over zealous missions to space, but, an exercise in moral judgement that translates to the worthiness of our ascendancy into space.
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It is a credit to the people who campaigned and continue to campaign against nuclear weapons so vehemently testifying that we do not want to let the judgement of our integrity and ability to solve problems as an advancing and maturing race fall into the hands of privateering nuclear bandits, many of whom who have not done their research properly, on account of our complete race and much in secret away from the many many people who could actually work on solutions to problems in much larger controlled trustworthy ways for the emancipation of what seem to be bounds of prevention, but, actually are another member of our race equal tasking proliferation.
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New Map Offers a Global View of Health-Sapping Air Pollution
(Sep. 24, 2010) — In many developing countries, the absence of surface-based air pollution sensors makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to get even a rough estimate of the abundance of a subcategory of airborne particles that epidemiologists suspect contributes to millions of premature deaths each year. The problematic particles, called fine particulate matter (PM2.5), are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, about a tenth the fraction of human hair. These small particles can get past the body's normal defenses and penetrate deep into the lungs.
To fill in these gaps in surface-based PM2.5 measurements, experts look toward satellites to provide a global perspective. Yet, satellite instruments have generally struggled to achieve accurate measurements of the particles in near-surface air. The problem: Most satellite instruments can't distinguish particles close to the ground from those high in the atmosphere. In addition, clouds tend to obscure the view. And bright land surfaces, such as snow, desert sand, and those found in certain urban areas can mar measurements.
However, the view got a bit clearer this summer with the publication of the first long-term global map of PM2.5 in a recent issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. Canadian researchers Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, created the map by blending total-column aerosol amount measurements from two NASA satellite instruments with information about the vertical distribution of aerosols from a computer model.
Their map, which shows the average PM2.5 results between 2001 and 2006, offers the most comprehensive view of the health-sapping particles to date. Though the new blending technique has not necessarily produced more accurate pollution measurements over developed regions that have well-established surface-based monitoring networks, it has provided the first PM2.5 satellite estimates in a number of developing countries that have had no estimates of air pollution levels until now.
The map shows very high levels of PM2.5 in a broad swath stretching from the Saharan Desert in Northern Africa to Eastern Asia. When compared with maps of population density, it suggests more than 80 percent of the world's population breathe polluted air that exceeds the World Health Organization's recommended level of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Levels of PM2.5 are comparatively low in the United States, though noticeable pockets are clearly visible over urban areas in the Midwest and East.
"We still have plenty of work to do to refine this map, but it's a real step forward," said Martin, one of the atmospheric scientists who created the map."We hope this data will be useful in areas that don't have access to robust ground-based measurements."
Take a deep breath. Even if the air looks clear, it's nearly certain you've inhaled millions of PM2.5 particles. Though often invisible to humans, such particles are present everywhere in Earth's atmosphere, and they come from both natural and human sources. Researchers are still working to quantify the precise percentage of natural versus human-generated PM2.5, but it's clear that both types contribute to the hotspots that show up in the new map.
Wind, for example, lifts large amounts of mineral dust aloft in the Arabian and Saharan deserts. In many heavily urbanized areas, such as eastern China and northern India, power plants and factories that burn coal lack filters and produce a steady stream of sulfate and soot particles. Motor vehicle exhaust also creates significant amounts of nitrates and other particles. Both agricultural burning and diesel engines yield dark sooty particles scientists call black carbon.
Human-generated particles often predominate in urban air -- what most people actually breathe -- and these particles trouble medical experts the most, explained Arden Pope, an epidemiologist at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and one of the world's leading experts on the health impacts of air pollution. That's because the smaller PM2.5 particles evade the body defenses -- small hair-like structures in the respiratory tract called cilia and hairs in our noses -- that do a reasonably good job of clearing or filtering out the larger particles.
Small particles can make their way deep into human lungs and some ultrafine particles can even enter the bloodstream. Once there, they can spark a whole range of diseases including asthma, cardiovascular disease, and bronchitis. The American Heart Association estimates that in the United States alone, PM2.5 air pollution spark some 60,000 deaths a year.
Though PM2.5 as a class of particle clearly poses health problems, researchers have had less success assigning blame to specific types of particles. "There are still big debates about which type of particle is the most toxic," said Pope. "We're not sure whether it's the sulfates, or the nitrates, or even fine dust that's the most problematic."
One of the big sticking points: PM2.5 particles frequently mix and create hybrid particles, making it difficult for both satellite and ground-based instruments to parse out the individual effects of the particles.
The Promise of Satellites and PM2.5
The new map, and research that builds upon it, will help guide researchers who attempt to address this and a number of other unresolved questions about PM2.5. The most basic: how much of a public health toll does air pollution take around the globe? "We can see clearly that a tremendous number of people are exposed to high levels of particulates," said Martin. "But, so far, nobody has looked at what that means in terms of mortality and disease. Most of the epidemiology has focused on developed countries in North America and Europe."
Now, with this map and dataset in hand, epidemiologists can start to look more closely at how long term exposure to particulate matter in rarely studied parts of the world -- such as Asia's fast-growing cities or areas in North Africa with quantities of dust in the air -- affect human health. The new information could even be useful in parts of the United States or Western Europe where surface monitors, still the gold standard for measuring air quality, are sparse.
In addition to using satellite data from NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) that flies on NASA's Terra satellite and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies on both NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites, the researchers used output from a chemical transport model called GEOS-Chem to create the new map.
However, the map does not represent the final word on the global distribution of PM2.5, the researchers who made it emphasize. Although the data blending technique van Donkelaar applied provides a clearer global view of fine particulates, the abundance of PM2.5 could still be off by 25 percent or more in some areas due to remaining uncertainties, explained Ralph Kahn, an expert in remote sensing from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and one of the coauthors of the paper.
To improve understanding of airborne particles, NASA scientists have plans to participate in numerous upcoming field campaigns and satellite missions. NASA Goddard, for example, operates a global network of ground-based particle sensors called AERONET that site managers are currently working to enhance and expand. And, later next year, scientists from Goddard's Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York will begin to analyze the first data from Glory, a satellite that carries an innovative type of instrument -- a polarimeter -- that will measure particle properties in new ways and complement existing instruments capable of measuring aerosols from space.
"We still have some work to do in order to realize the full potential of satellite measurements of air pollution," said Raymond Hoff, the director of the Goddard Earth Science and Technology Center at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and the author of a comprehensive review article on the topic published recently in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. "But this is an important step forward."
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Automotive X-Prize Embodies Administration's Focus on Innovation
September 17, 2010 at 8:37 AM EDT
OSTP Director John P. Holdren yesterday participated in an awards ceremony for the Progressive Automotive X Prize, a public-private challenge in which a total of $10 million in prizes was awarded to three teams that created production‐capable vehicles with energy-efficiency equivalence ratings of at least 100 miles per gallon.
Established automakers, start‐ups, universities, independent inventors, and even a high school team were among the 111 teams that entered the competition, which was sponsored in part by the Department of Energy. Dr. Holdren announced the winning team in the “Alternative, Side-by-Side Seating” class: The Mooresville, N.C.-based “Li-ion” Team, short for lithium ion, which is the kind of battery that powers this elegant, all-electric vehicle.
In tandem with important aerodynamic features that enabled it to achieve 182 MPGe in on-track testing, this vehicle also accelerates from zero to 60 mph in just 14.7 seconds and boasts a range of more than 100 miles in realistic driving.
As Dr. Holdren noted during the ceremony, the Progressive Automotive X Prize embodies much of what President Obama has said over the past year about the value of using prizes and challenges as a way of tapping the ingenuity of citizen solvers to meet the many challenges today facing the Nation.
“The President knows that the challenges we face today—challenges relating to energy, the environment, agriculture, and national security—are simply too big for government or the usual private-sector problem-solvers to solve alone. We need all hands on deck,” he said. “That is why it is so inspiring to see that the teams honored here today are entrepreneurs outside the circle of “usual suspects” in the auto industry. One telltale sign of that is that the Li-ion Motors team is from North Carolina—which no one can really think of as a suburb of Detroit.”
In September 2009, the President announced his Strategy for American Innovation, in which he called upon agencies to increase their ability to promote and harness innovation by using tools such as prizes and challenges to solve tough problems. In March 2010 the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum to all agency heads affirming the Administration’s commitment to this approach and providing a policy and legal framework to guide agencies in using prizes to stimulate innovation to advance their core missions.
And just last week, the White House unveiled Challenge.gov, a new online platform where entrepreneurs, innovators, and citizen solvers can compete for prestige and prizes by providing novel solutions to tough national problems, large and small. Check it out, and see if there is a problem you might be able to solve!
Congratulations to the Li-ion team and all the Automotive X Prize winners celebrated today.
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These scenes are not meant to be offensive, please consider them with temperance.
A clear example of security issues and appropriate behaviour.
The Nuclear equasion is a very neive assumption that detonation energy is a mature controlled approach to ensuring safety, my opinion says that it is just a smoke screen for an International traffic in arm's regulation [I.T.A.R] loop hole clause to let terrorist money into space. Obviously the government affiliates that favour dodgy backstreet deals such as high ranking administration officials and minister cabinet members will continue to slip into the hands of lucrative opportunistic dishonesty. As a working/middle/aristocracy class man due to inherit the next 50 year era of science, sociology and economic policy, it worries me to think where the stocks of nuclear bombs are being exported to during our expansion into space, onto planetoids, moons and asteroids, meteors and comets. It is one of the reasons I'm certain magnetic teleporting technology will prevail among the time consumation technique of launching, launch codes and ballistics.
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A nuclear approach to planetary and space rock protection...
Obviously simple gadgetry will be available, but, obviously the neccessity for a government compulsory network of security will be sufficient to encourage public application standards to a space community to conform to planetary standards [which as of now still loiter in flimsy international scholarship].
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Written on April 12, 2010
Big and Small Asteroids and Their Formation
The solar system is thought to of formed from dust grains and eventually built up into planets. On the way to making planets some dust grains only formed up to a small size (compared to a planet) and remain at this size today. These rocks are called asteroids.
If it wasn’t for these rocks the planets would not have formed as they would have had nothing to form out of but unfortunately these rocks just didn’t disappear and were leftover from the formation process. Most of these asteroids are between Jupiter and Mars and are in the asteroid belt. It is thought that Jupiter formed these bodies by causing collisions with its massive gravity. Because of these collisions bodies kept breaking up into smaller rocks and these would collide with others and prevent the formation of one single large object. Jupiter has a lot to answer for when it comes to asteroid formation!
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Unfortunately these asteroids don’t stay in the orbit between Mars and Jupiter but can cause us some hassle. Collisions between asteroids in the asteroid belt and the complex interactions of gravity of the planets and asteroids can cause an asteroid to come out of the asteroid belt and fly in a different trajectory. When these asteroids get closer to Earth they are called near Earth objects (NEO) which also includes comets and any other pieces of space junk that can be a danger to Earth.
These rogue asteroids mostly tend to avoid hitting the planets causing impact craters and, mass extinctions, poor old dinosaurs. There are many more smaller asteroids than larger ones, the largest being Ceres with a diameter of 913 km, pretty big!
Ceres was called a dwarf planet that was lowered in status to an asteroid some time ago. It is in the asteroid belt and contains almost a third of the belts total mass. Recently it has been seen to be spherical unlike the other asteroids around it which are an irregular in shape. If you were to land on a Ceres you would probably find a mixture of water ice and various hydrated minerals such as clay. It is also thought to have a Rocky core and icy mantle beneath this mantle could be water and all the hope for life that that gives.
No space probes have been to Ceres but there is a mission that is on the way at the moment. This is the dawn mission which should reach Ceres in 2015 after passing by the asteroid 4 Vesta in 2011. It will enter orbit around Ceres at about 6000 km and then reduce its orbital distance to about 700 km taking about 12 months to do this. This is called the Dawn Mission and it will be quite an interesting time when it starts to send back information.
Asteroid can be classified into various types so that scientists who enjoy looking at rocks can chat about them.
C-type- carbonaceous types, dark (reflective), primitive
S-type- Stony or Stony metallic, more reflective, more red, fragments
E-type- highly reflective, enstatite (magnesium silicate MgSiO3), fragments
D-type- (dark type) dark, red, primitive
M-type- (metallic type), mostly iron and nickel, fragments
P-type- (pseudo M type), metallic component
These are only a few types of the classified asteroids and are not the only way to classify them either. A primitive asteroid is one where collisions have not changed the composition or surface features much. These are quite useful asteroids and some have been found on Earth giving us indications of what was around at the time of the formation of the solar system.
Astronomers have noticed, while spending sleepless nights looking through their telescopes, that different classes of asteroid occupy different parts of the asteroid belt. This is because of the distance from the Sun. Obviously if you get closer to the Sun it is hotter and further away it is cooler and this means that elements that melt at lower temperature are not found further away from the Sun but only the elements that can survive the heat of the sun are found.
Asteroids aren’t just balls of rock that are perfectly spherical. Some asteroids are called binary asteroids and orbit each other they are much more common than previously thought. It is quite easy to see the larger asteroids but what about the smaller asteroids? There are a few techniques that are used to work out what shape an asteroid is and are used independently or together. Obviously a spacecraft flyby is first on the list but to have a probe passing by every single asteroid would be just a little bit uneconomical. Radio transmitters used together with telescope dishes like the one in Arecibo give some very detailed information and then there is radar techniques as well that can be used to image the asteroid.
It has been found that most asteroids are rubble fragments bound together by their own gravity. This means that between the rubble fragments there are cavities. C-type asteroids for instance may be 80% porous.
There has actually been a landing an asteroid. The Eros asteroid was approached by the NEAR spacecraft. Eros was the first near Earth asteroid that was discovered. The NEAR spacecraft was sent to intercept Eros and orbited it which was a fine feat in itself but at the end of the mission it was decided to try and make a landing on the asteroid. This was carried out and some great pictures were returned.
Asteroids can be larger pieces of rock that are totally boring but on the other hand they can be very interesting libraries of information of the early solar system. One day of course we will be mining the asteroids for minerals, rock and perhaps water as well for use as a propellant. They can also be used for living on as most of them are porous and have caves and their services will protect the inhabitants from radiation.
For now though we are looking and you can look to as the pictures and information from the asteroids and solar system flood in. Go take a look!
The oort cloud itself represents what I would consider to be the complete picture of our home when all is enhabited with home around our star. The billions of oort cloud rocks would be home to many many humans.
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