The Many Planets of TRAPPIST-1

Wherever you see an alien planet in sci-fi films or television, there's always something weird going on in the sky. How else would you know you're not looking at Earth? So in everything from Avatar to Star Wars we get double stars, panoplies of moons, other planets in the same system---so many disks visible even... Continue Reading →

Dawn: Exploring Vesta and Ceres

When I was young, Ceres and Pluto were the biggest blank spots on the map of the Solar System. Most of the other interesting places had been long since explored, from Mercury all the way out to the moons of Neptune, but when I opened my astronomy books to the two minor planets, I saw... Continue Reading →

Space Navies in Sci-Fi

Space navies are among the great tropes of science fiction. Countless works transplant the traditions, tactics, and structures of maritime forces to space opera settings: Star Trek has Starfleet, Space: Above and Beyond has the equivalent of World War II carrier battles, and of course Warhammer 40,000 goes full-on Age of Sail with floggings and... Continue Reading →

The Decline and Fall of Mars One

Sometimes, the underdog really does win against the odds. Sometimes, a small, plucky band of visionaries, armed only with a dream, really can rise to dizzying heights and reshape the world into something better. Sometimes, the success is so profound and transformative that later generations think it was inevitable all along. Mars One was not... Continue Reading →

The X-20: America’s Space Fighter

Everyone knows space fighters are an absurd idea, right? It's practically the first rule of hard science fiction: this isn't Star Wars you're writing, so no fighters, period. They make no economic or military sense, and they're exceedingly small and vulnerable, and they're not nearly as maneuverable as you'd think because space has no air... Continue Reading →

Icy Mysteries of Europa

I originally had another topic planned for today---it was written and scheduled, and of course I will still upload it at some point---but then my area had a rare winter storm, blanketing everything in ice and snow, and I thought to myself that it would be appropriate to do a blog post on Europa, one... Continue Reading →

The Cosmic Weirdness of Neutron Stars

Space is rather more prosaic than we usually see in fiction. Star Trek postulates a galaxy stuffed to the brim with exciting bumpy-forehead humanoids; we're much more likely to find pond scum. The more nightmarish sci-fi visions are probably off the table, too---a lifeform from a totally different planet would be unable to parasitize a... Continue Reading →

Polyus: The Soviet Battle Station

I would like to begin this post by acknowledging a grave failure: a recent shortage of Soviet-related posts. It is simply an intolerable situation. The Soviet space program is a cornerstone of this website, but the last time I wrote anything about it was in November! So, to rectify this, I will today discuss one... Continue Reading →

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