Faces from Earth

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Welcome to Faces from Earth!

Our First Galactic Ambassador


Image: Launch of Pioneer 10. Credit: NASA
The early 1970s was an exciting time for lunar and planetary exploration. On the Moon, Apollo was still placing pairs of astronauts on Earth’s natural satellite to collect hundreds of pounds of lunar surface material and other priceless data. The Soviet Union was conducting a quite successful automated survey of the Moon with their two Lunakhod rovers and returning small but still valuable samples with their Luna series of landers.


The United States Mariner 9 and the Soviet Mars 2 and 3 probes were circling the Red Planet, returning the first in-depth images and data about that world which showed that Mars was not the dead and merely cratered realm that earlier flyby missions with their limited coverage had led scientists to believe. There was also excitement about an upcoming mission named Viking to place two robot landers on Mars to search for life there.

Closer to the Sun, the Soviets had finally succeeded in landing intact and functioning on the hellish world of Venus with their Venera probes. America was preparing a probe named Mariner 10 that would not only flyby Venus and return the first close-up images of its thick and cloudy atmosphere, but proceed on to Mercury and reveal what that little world really looked like.

The outer solar system had not been neglected in NASA’s plans for deep space exploration. The agency was preparing a modified version of its original Grand Tour plan, which would have sent two nuclear-powered probes past every world from Jupiter to Pluto in the summer of 1977.

No human vessel had ever visited the celestial realm where the gas giant planets dominated, or even crossed the Planetoid Belt which lay between the small and rocky terrestrial worlds of the inner solar system and the Jovian behemoths. Space engineers and officials realized they needed a precursor mission to pave the way for the success of these later more sophisticated machines. Two aptly named craft called Pioneer – coming from a long line of automated explorers going back to the earliest days of the Space Age – were designed and built for this task.

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 September 2012 16:38

Cosmos & Culture: A Review

cosmos_cultureIt is often difficult to get a wider perspective on existence, especially when you and the rest of your species have been stuck in one place for all but the smallest and most recent of times. This has certainly been the case with the species known as humanity. While a few ancient philosophers guessed that we live on a world surrounded by an immense amount of stars and space, it has only been in the last few centuries that both the scientific and general communities came to accept this state of existence as a fact. It has been an even shorter period of time – mere decades – since we have sent our mechanical emissaries and a relative handful of actual humans into the nearest regions of our cosmic neighborhood.

Why are we fascinated with a realm that is unimaginably vast, difficult to attain, and even dangerous? Does that which occurs in space affect life on Earth, and in what ways? Are there other intelligent beings in the Universe and what may result if we should ever encounter one another? What will be the fate of all life far down the cosmic road?

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 July 2011 00:18

The Pros and Cons of METI

starchild_logoSETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has been conducted by a variety of professional and amateur scientists since 1960 (or 1924 if you want to count a campaign that year which listened for any radio messages from the presumed natives of Mars). SETI primarily involves the passive listening or looking for transmissions from alien civilizations. More recent SETI projects have also attempted to detect the massive technological activities of really advanced societies in our galaxy and beyond or any probes that might be lurking in our Solar System quietly monitoring humanity.

Our present level of space technology does not allow us to directly explore even the nearest star systems. As for the numerous if often sporadic SETI programs that have been operating around and even beyond our globe for the last fifty years, they rely heavily on either an alien society deliberately signaling us or we get lucky enough to pick up a stray transmission from one of them. Throwing in the fact that our Milky Way galaxy holds hundreds of billions of star systems has some scientists advocating a less passive approach to learning if Earth is the only planet with intelligent life or not in the Cosmos.

Dubbed METI, for Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligences, this concept involves transmitting our own messages and beacons into the galaxy to alert alien societies to humanity’s presence to make it easier for them to find us and respond in kind. As might be imagined, there has been plenty of debate over whether METI is the right way for humanity to find alien intelligences or if it will only make a malevolent species aware of Earth as a target of conquest and destruction.

In order to make some determination whether METI is humanity’s path to becoming a productive and progressive part of the galactic community or the route to our doom, let us look at the pros and cons of what also goes by the name of Active SETI.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 17:40

Why Do We Fear Aliens? Part 2

For those who may still wonder and question just how much weight the words of the famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking hold for the concept of alien intelligences and their potential reactions to encountering humanity, consider this: A new science fiction film coming out this November titled Skyline has recently premiered its theatrical trailer, which you can view here:

The trailer begins with the line: “On August 28th, 2009, NASA sent a message into space farther than we ever thought possible... in an effort to reach extraterrestrial life.”

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 September 2012 16:39

Why Do We Fear Aliens?

Several months ago, the famous British physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking shared his views on extraterrestrial intelligences (ETI) with the intelligent beings of the planet Earth. This was done in no small part as a way to gain publicity for his new television science series, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, video clips of which may be seen here: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/stephen-hawking/

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 September 2012 16:38
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