Space Features of the Week (26 October)

We  have been somehow spoiled in the last years by a few amazing achievements, but let’s not forget that space remains as extreme a challenge as ever. These last days news are here to prove it (as if it were even needed).

ESA’s EXOMARS crash and its causes


This is obviously the most crucial information right now, after the disappointment of ESA’s probe land crash of last week. While it’s still uncertain what has happened exactly, there are hints it might have been a (software) bug. “Unlike the British-led and ESA-operated Beagle 2 mission, which disappeared during its landing on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, Schiaparelli sent data to its mother ship during its descent. Preliminary analysis suggests that the lander began the manoeuvre flawlessly, braking against the planet’s atmosphere and deploying its parachute,” wrote Nature. It might not look that way, but if this is true, it’s actually good news, because it will be easier to fix. Read the story here.

Space X, more details about September’s accident


Another space disaster, this time on Earth – and it’s Space X. Again, while it remains unknown what caused the explosion of Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral just before a routine pre-flight ignition test, the fact itself is worrying. After all, this is the second Falcon 9 rocket failure in 15 months, which raises questions about the whole private space programme. The Wall Street Journal talked about operational issues as one of the possible reasons.

No Dark Energy, then?


After what has been said and written (even in SF, mind you) on dark energy, this may well represent a surprise, but it is what a new study now seems to suggest. “It is quite possible that we are being misled, and that the apparent manifestation of dark energy is a consequence of analysing the data in an oversimplified theoretical model — one that was in fact constructed in the 1930s, long before there was any real data,” declared Sarkar, one of the scientists that recently challenged its existence. Not everybody is convinced by this interpretation though, and there have been immediately a few replies.

I won’t go into many details, since the topic is quite technical and not easy to be summarised in a few sentences, but the whole debate is fascinating and intriguing. talked about it on this post, and it’s well worth a reading.

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