|Artist's rendering courtesy of NASA. |
|So this is what the flying saucer (a.k.a. the LDSD) will look like in action.|
Last year, after too many years seemingly spent in aimless loitering, NASA got a sense of direction and started actually doing things again. It announced plans to go lasso an asteroid and then go to Mars. It launched Orion, the spacecraft that it's hoped will one day take astronauts to the Red Planet. Suddenly, NASA was functioning as an actual space program again instead of as the glorified earth-science program it was threatening to become.
And the thing is, apparently, those bold steps toward going where no one has gone before weren't a fluke. So far this year, NASA has continued to do things and work on projects based on getting astronauts to new places in space. Considering this -- and the fact that Congress actually didn't cut the agency's budget this year -- it looks like this habit of space-focused activity will continue. Here are five NASA projects that are solid proof there's some actual life in the space agency:
5. The one where they've got a real flying saucer. Yep, NASA is testing a flying saucer. Of course, the agency doesn't call it that. (After all, that would be playing right into the hands of all those people who swear they spotted a coffin in NASA's Mars video feed, thus proving that there's a fairly high chance aliens have come from Mars, according to those who spotted the alleged coffin anyway.)
While the craft, which is due to be tested in June in Hawaii, looks a lot like the type of spaceship green men crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, decades ago, the actual NASA name for this saucer-shaped craft is "Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator." NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been charged with this project. By the time all the kinks are worked out, this type of vehicle will be able to take heavy payloads, including astronauts, to Mars. But first NASA has to confirm that this doughnut-shaped craft can reliably fly.
The craft is slated to undergo its second round of flight tests from June 2 to June 12, weather permitting, from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai. And once those tests are over, we're one step closer to a world where flying saucers are definitely a thing.
4. The one where they're scheduled to discover alien life by 2025.
Yep, just last week, NASA's chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, said that she fully expects NASA will find evidence of alien life within the next 20 years. "We know where to look. We know how to look," Stofan said during a panel discussion Tuesday when she talked about aliens and NASA's search for signs that they exist. (Some might argue the flying-saucer-like LDSD is pretty good evidence that they did exist, they crashed in Roswell and the government is finally cracking their alien technology. But we digress.) "In most cases, we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it."
However, she was quick to back away from the obvious conclusion people were jumping to, specifying that NASA is expecting to find microbes, not little green men. While we found this particular caveat a little disappointing, NASA has gone from being the space agency that was trying to get an astronaut into low-earth orbit a few decades back to the space agency that is confidently expecting to find tiny, microbe-size alien life, and it thinks that's going to happen by 2025. More »