Jumbled Thoughts - 6 July 2013

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

First off - sorry about the absence.  Had a bit of minor knee surgery that kept me away from the computer this week.  Let's check out what I missed...

We should never forget that launching stuff into space is a tricky business, and Russia has been unluckier than most.  Their unmanned Proton rocket exploded Tuesday during launch.  The rocket was tasked with boosting a trio of Glonass satellites into space.  This failure was just the most recent setback for the Glonass program, which is the Russian equivalent to America's GPS system. 

SpaceX, on the other hand, seems to be having no end to their success.  They've once again launched their vertical take-off and landing rocket, the Grasshopper, to new heights.  After climbing more than 325 meters into the air, the Grasshopper hovers stationary before gracefully descending back to the launch pad.  Although this test looks quite similar to past tries, it's the first to use the rocket's full suite of navigational sensors for precise flying.  Check out the video above to see the launch in action.

Finally this week, what would happen if we landed on an asteroid?  NASA is thinking about doing just that, so the question isn't as far-out as it might appear.   According to one set of researchers, it might trigger an avalanche!  Material on the surface of a small asteroid is likely quite loose and disturbing one area of it could have drastic consequences all over the surface.  How'd the scientists deduce this?  The old-fashioned way - by running a bunch of experiments.  What's not so antiquated is how they ran them: inside a diving airplane to simulate zero-gravity.  That's the same method used to train astronauts.  Pretty neat!