Jumbled Thoughts - 1 Feb 2013

Jumbled Thoughts covers all the little stuff which doesn't merit its own post. Anything goes!

First off, congrats to South Korea for becoming only the eleventh country to launch a satellite into space using an entirely home-built system.  I suspect that most of the world is happier about this than the news about Iran launching a monkey.  Maybe not the monkey, though.

Also, a big congratulations is in order for the team that just successfully drilled through the antarctic ice into Lake Williams.  Recent troubles for similar projects highlights how difficult carrying out tasks can be at the bottom of the world.  To top it all off, it sounds like initial samples are even showing signs of life.  Definitely exciting stuff!

I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for asteroid 2012-DA14 when it passes by Earth next month.  This 50-meter rock will come closer to the Earth than any other recorded asteroid (except the ones that hit us!).  Although there is zero chance of it striking the planet, it will pass between us and some of our weather satellites.  Talk about cutting it close!  If you have even a small telescope, this guy ought to be visible.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.  I still remember hearing the news break on the radio.  I didn't follow space terribly closely back then, but the stunned voices told me all I needed to know.  Accidents like Columbia, Challenger, and Apollo 1 are stark reminders that space exploration is a dangerous affair.  In all the glamour we see, it can be easy to forget that astronauts lay their lives on the line for every mission.  No human has ever died in space, but at times we've paid dearly for the privilege of going there.