Plans to spring-clean space junk orbiting Earth could result in the loss of irreplaceable historical artefacts, warns Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Adelaide. The researcher, who has previously called for space junk to be World Heritage listed, says it's time to assess the value of some of the millions of objects currently orbiting Earth.

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Space junk ranges from tiny scraps just millimetres in size to whole satellites. While some space junk undergoes an "automatic clean-up regime" by burning up when it re-enters the atmosphere, other items need to be physically removed.

Current proposals include using ground-based lasers to put objects off orbit and speed the rate of their burn-up, sending out 'space tugs' as roving garbage collectors or using tethers to rope and haul in bits of space debris.

Among the items that should recognised for their heritage value are the Vanguard One satellite, launched in 1958 and the oldest human object in space, and FedSat, the Australian designed and built satellite.

Preserving items like these could provide evidence of a nation's presence in space or help reconstruct a history of space exploration, says Gorman.

Via ABC News. Image.

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Britain’s Defence Intelligence Staff have come up with "a reasonably justified explanation" to solve the mystery of UFO.

After a four-year inquiry, they have concluded that most sightings can be explained by a little-understood atmospheric phenomenon.

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Glowing "plasmas" of gas are created by charges of electricity. Air flows then sculpt the plasmas into round or cigar-shaped objects which appear to fly at extraordinary speeds through the sky.

Such plasmas can play tricks on the mind, creating vivid impressions. In addition, because plasmas are electrically charged, they can change shape or colour if hit by another energy source, such as a radio signal sent by a UFO spotter. "This has led ‘ufologists’ to imagine that an ‘alien response’ is being given to their signals," the report adds. As a result, UFO witnesses may not be mad but instead suffering from "extended memory retention and repeat experiences" induced by the plasmas.

The report goes on to recommend that the findings on UFOs could be developed for "novel military applications", adding that Russia is already investigating such weapons.

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It has been a bad year for fans of UFOs and green invaders. Last month, Special effects expert John Humphreys claimed he was one of the hoaxers behind the Roswell incident, footage supposedly showing an autopsy on alien corpses in 1947.

Related: UFO landing pad, Gallery of UFO images and US government documents (more UFO pics), British SF series UFO.

Via BBC news and The Times.

Tomas Saraceno will be at theThe Curve 11 May 2006 - 16 July 2006, Barbican Art Gallery, London. His long-term project draws on Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, and artistic disciplines in order to create a floating Utopia that would drift among the clouds to solve the world's exploding population problem.

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A few decades ago, some architects had a similar vision of suspended or moving communities: Superstudio's City of the Hemispheres and Archigram's moving units, Seaside Bubbles and Yona Friedman's spatial cities. Friedman developed his principles shortly after the Second World War, a period in which acute housing shortage and urban rebuilding had to be addressed. The architect proposed huge structures, supported on columns, in which residents could build their own dwellings. He later developed manuals in the form of comic-books that enabled people to take decisions about the design of their own living environment (audio interview of the architect in french.)

Via archinect.
The Telegraph.

US ethicist Patrick Lin, of the The Nanoethics Group in Santa Barbara, believes that we will need an intergalactic police force to keep order in space and protect the interests of the vulnerable.

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Commercial space travel is becoming a reality, says Lin, and the public needs confidence that governments, scientists and astronauts are considering the consequences of exploring space.

For instance, we need a fair process for commercialising or claiming property in space to avoid the kind of "chaotic land-grab" that occurred with internet domain names. There are legal disputes already. Despite UN treaties declaring space as commonly-owned, he says lawsuits have been filed to lay claim to asteroids.

Lin says it is important to have a justifiable reason for exploring space. "Are reasons such as for adventure, wanderlust or 'backing up the biosphere' good enough to justify our exploration of space?"

Lin says issues such as polluting space, the proliferation of military technologies in space and the safety of space travellers should also be considered. "Have we learned enough about ourselves and our history to avoid the same mistakes as we have made on Earth?"

Finally, some critics suggest it may be better to spend money on alleviating poverty and hunger, providing access to clean and affordable water and energy, and addressing other issues including human rights violations.

Via ABC news. Image.

In order to help alien visitors to land their UFO's safely in the Netherlands, Martin Riebeek in collaboration with the Dutch city of Houten (near Utrecht) have imagined to create an UFO landing pad on the roundabouts at the exit of the A27 highway.

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On the eastern roundabout, a UFO platform will be built with light green reflecting, artificial coating. In the middle, a big red "U" (for UFO) has the role to greet alien cultures politely.

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On the western roundabout, the light of the six meter high traffic tower will change its colour as soon as traffic on the highway has low intensity. Then the UFOs will know that they can start their landing. The intermediate 300 meters will be lit with blue lights on both sides of the road, much like the ones at airports.

See also St Paul UFO Landing Pad in Canada (via Google Sightseeing.)

Via information aesthetics.

Malaysia's National Space Agency is holding a conference to consider Muslim astronauts pray in space as the country prepares to send its first citizen into orbit.

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NASA's first astronauts

Three of the four astronaut candidates selected so far are Muslims. Two will eventually be trained and sent into space by Russia.

Performing ablutions for Muslim prayers with water rationing in space and preparing food according to Islamic standards will be among issues discussed.

The astronaut will also visit the International Space Station, which circles the earth 16 times in 24 hours, so another thorny question is how to pray five times a day as required by Islam. Muslims also have to turn towards Mecca to pray and working out which direction that will be while hovering above the earth might be challenging.

Related: Prayer rug that indicates the direction it should be turned, and some London jail toilets face away from Mecca.

Via Off Center < Space Travel.

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